Roof with Damaged Vent

Summertime Roof Checkups in Western NY

Everyone knows that winters are brutal on our roofs here in Western NY, but now that it’s summer (almost) I wanted to report on a few common problems that I often come across when inspecting roofs.  Hamburg and East Aurora are two of areas that I see with the worst roof damage.

I advise my clients to at least look at their roofs each summer, and if anything looks questionable to have the problem repaired or examined by a good roofer.  Roof problems tend to become bigger issues quickly, and can lead to failure of the roof structure, lead to water damage and will eventually lead to mold growth in the home.

Without further delay, here are a few of the problems I encounter on a regular basis:

#1 Loose Shingles

This is not surprising to anyone, but strong winds and ice build-up tend to damage singles.  Have them replaced as soon as you notice them in order to prevent those downstream issues we discussed above.

#2 Ice Dam Damage

You may have seen the giant sheets of ice that resemble glaciers on the bottom edges of roofs.  Here in snow country, when snow starts to pile up on the roof, warm air from inside of the home tends to escape wherever it can.  Often times this is through recessed light fixtures, bathroom fans, attic entrances or other area.  This warm air melts the snow, then it re-freezes, and this process continues from December through March (or April or May?).  The result is that this sheet of ice can directly damage the roof, but the melting that occurs under the ice sheet typically causes more damage as water can’t easily escape and often finds its way into the attic. Wikipedia has a good write-up on ice dams. on If you see ice dams forming, try to figure out where air may be escaping from the home and seal those areas tightly.  If you are contemplating a roof replacement, consider having a product known as Ice & Water Shield installed over the entire roof.  This product provides a thick, rubber layer that is impervious to water.

#3 Chimney Problems

Older chimneys, common in the city of Buffalo, often have problems that really should be taken care of but at the same time don’t mean despair.  My advice is to take chimney problems seriously, but there is no need to freak out over them.

Missing Chimney Caps: This is the metal item that is meant to keep water and animals out of the chimney.  They are cheap insurance against a few nasty issues.

Old and deteriorated brick or mortar: When chimneys get old, this stuff happens.  If the house is 120 years old, it would be wise to have a brick mason examine it to determine what fixes may be needed to restore the chimney to its glory days.

Potential chimney problems should be taken seriously – repairs can be expensive, and deteriorating chimneys can lead to serious injury.  This chimney safety checklist provides good information that can help you better assess your chimney.

#4 Roof Penetration or Flashing Issues

“Flashing” is the term used to describe the waterproofing hood that allows plumbing vents, bath vents, chimneys and other items to protrude from a roof yet keep water outside where it belongs.  Installation issues are common and can lead to water finding its way to the basement of a 2-story home (this happened to me). 

If you see nail heads when looking at flashings, make sure they are covered with a good roofing caulk in order to prevent water from using that nail as a pathway into the attic.  Also make sure that any gaps on the bottom edge of the flashing are well sealed.  Bats can make use of a gap as small as 3/8″, and take up residence in your attic.  (if you do find bats, please contact a good bat exclusion company to properly seal the hole so that bats can escape yet can’t get back in.) New York State has fantastic information on bats available here.

Lifted Shingle Allows Bats to Enter Attic
This lifted area of shingles was found to be a bat superhighway

#5 Ventilation Problems

Many homeowners don’t realize the importance of air flow in attic spaces.  When an attic is well ventilated, dampness is allowed to dry out and mold is prevented.  Your roof will last longer and the home will be healthier.  

Roof vents are commonly installed on the soffit, gables, ridge vent and surface of the roof.  A house does not need to have all types of vents, but it is important that if unfinished attic is present in the home that it is ventilated.  The main purpose is not to keep the attic cool – it is to remove moisture from the space, in order to prevent condensation and damage to the attic and roof structure.  The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturer’s Association has published an excellent article on the importance of attic ventilation.

 

#6 Unexplained Problems

The picture at the top of this article shows a plumbing vent pipe flashing that is missing the white PVC pipe that normally would be sticking out of the top.  Instead of a pipe, you can see that a rag has been put in its place.  What is this all about?  After searching in the attic, I found that the pipe had been cut away inside of the house.  Instead of removing the flashing, filling the hole in the roof sheathing, and replacing shingles, they took the easy way out and stuffed the hole with a rag.  This is another situation that will for sure lead to water entering the house.

Wrap-up

 Today it is wet and dreary outside, but soon it will be bright and sunny.  Take the opportunity to assess the health of your roof.  Have any problems corrected professionally before they become serious!  If you are buying a home and would like to schedule a home inspection, contact us at your convenience.

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About the Author:

Bradley Beck

Bradley is owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC.  He lives just south of Orchard Park, in Western New York’s Southtowns, and inspects homes throughout the Buffalo area.  He is a member of ASHI and is a Certified Professional Inspector with InterNACHI.

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