Your home inspector – or the inspector working for the person planning to purchase your home – may come back with a written report that recommends repairs because of a leaky roof. These kinds of recommendations are common, because the roof is one of the biggest components of a building and it is also the one that is most exposed to the elements. Relentless weather year after year takes its toll on a roof, and even with routine maintenance they can develop weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Sometimes shingles on a roof will be missing or turned upward, which allows moisture to get beneath them and migrate into the house. The flashing around roof vents and chimneys may also be in need of replacement, or the caulking and sealing may have developed a crack in it that’s letting water get past.
In more serious situations a fallen limb may have actually punctured the roof, or the contractor who installed the roof may have failed to follow proper procedure. Or it could be that the existing roof is just getting old, and after decades of doing its job it’s time to retire that roof and replace it with a younger one.
The first step is to hire a skilled and experienced roofing contractor, who will climb on the roof and conduct a closer investigation to determine the root of the problem. Once that is done you’ll have a better idea of the extent of the problem – which will likewise determine the extent of the repair. Some repairs can be quickly and affordably done with the right kind of caulk, a few extra shingles, or some new flashing. A severely damaged or outdated roof may need to be completely removed – and before installing the new roof you may have to repair the supporting infrastructure underneath.
Get recommendations for roofers in your area, check their credentials, and then compare their bids. Are they insured and bonded, in case a member of their crew is injured while on the job and to ensure that they will not simply start the job and then skip town at your expense? What quality materials will they use? Some shingles are rated to last 20 years, for example, while higher quality and more expensive shingles may be expected to last twice that long.
Keep in mind that when a crew is dismantling an old roof, they have to dump the debris somewhere. So negotiating for the safe handling and removal of this debris – including roofing nails that may wind up littering your driveway and puncturing automobile tires – is an important step when hiring a contractor. You also want to make sure that the roofer takes care not to damage landscaping features like plants and flowerbeds.
What about damage to the interior of the home? If there is a telltale leak that tipped off the inspector to the problem, for example, then after the roof is fixed the interior damage needs to be addressed. That can involve removing old, damp insulation materials, rotten wood, or checking any electrical wiring that may have been exposed to water. Then you’ll also need to patch the leak and repaint the area.