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Home Inspection and Your Roof

A roofing system is probably the most important portion of a home next to its foundation and structure. The roof covering is the first line of defense against the weather and the elements. A properly installed roof with a premium grade shingle can last up to 30 years. Metal and tile roofs can last up to 50+ years.

As a home inspector in Buffalo, NY, I have seen a lot of roof covering defects. Some of these defects coincide with a single layer showing wear or damage. Repairs can often be done or in some cases a full new roof covering is recommended.

Most of the defects I find with roofing systems (namely asphalt shingles) are related to multiple layer roofs. When a 2nd or 3rd layer of roof covering is installed over the worn and aged layer, this can be cause for concern.

The first concern is the dead load upon the roof structure. Can this structure support the extra weight of the additional shingles? Imagine adding 2 feet of snow on top of that!

The second concern is that normally when an additional layer is placed on top the shingle, the warranty becomes null and void in most cases. Why, you ask? Longer nails are needed to secure the shingle. The mounting surface is sometimes uneven because of the worn or curled shingle beneath it. Multiple roof coverings tend to wear quicker than a single layer due to the shingles holding heat longer and not breathing like they are designed. When inspecting roof systems, there have been a few instances when the second layer looks perfect. Even in these circumstances, I will always inform my clients of the potential for future concerns.

So you ask yourself, how do I know if I have multiple layers? First, look at the side edge of your home. Can you count the shingle layers? Next, look at the drip edge. Is there more than one layer? Look at your chimney and plumbing vent flashings. Can you see galvanized or plastic flashing or is it tar and sealant flashed? Tar covered flashing can be an indicator of a multiple roof system.

Here is my advice to any homeowner who does not know how many layers of roof covering are present on their home. Have a qualified unbiased professional, such as a home inspector, perform a visual assessment. If you do have multiple layers of roofing, plan on a total tear off when the roof has expended its lifecycle. In addition, for any roof system you should as a homeowner be doing semiannual walkaround visual roof inspections to ensure nothing seems awry. You can then make necessary repairs immediately upon discovery. I hope this helps out some homeowners with their future and current investments!

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About the Author

Scott Mack CPI, Mack Property Inspections
141 Fernald Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14218

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