Spring can be a temperamental season, seesawing back and forth from sunshine, steady rain, and overcast days with cooler temperature. Before you bravely take on the task of cleaning the gutters, take the time to find out how well the roof and gutter system survived winter. Preparing your roof and gutters for spring is more about assessment than maintenance. Think of it as a blueprint for how to best repair, clean and maintain your roofing system throughout the rest of the year.
Thoroughly Inspect the Roof
If you start with some light roof maintenance, it will help you accomplish two tasks at once. First, it will remove any residual debris from winter storms, etc. that might end up back in the gutter system after cleaning the gutters later in the spring. Second, a detailed inspection will reveal any signs of roof fatigue, damage or decay to the roof caused by factors such as seasonal changes, storms, and intense wind activity.
While lightly sweeping away twigs, leaves, pine cones, etc. pay attention to the roofing tiles in particular and the overall condition of the roof in general. You are looking for any surface damage that should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent moisture infiltration. Potential problems could arise if:
- There are missing roofing tiles
- There are water stains on the roofing tiles
- Roofing tiles have curled corners, are “bald” where protective granules have been worn away, or are cracked
- Mold, mildew or algae appears and is allowed to build up
- Flashing (metal sheets placed around a chimney, vents, sunroof, etc. to protect from water damage) has rust spots/shows signs of advanced rusting or is loose
- Rot has set in
- Roof underlayment and/or the roofing tiles start to buckle
When the damage is slight and you’re an accomplished do-it-yourselfer, doing your own repairs can save you money. However, extensive damage such as advanced mold growth or dark stains indicating possible long-term moisture buildup will most likely require a consultation with a professional roofing contractor.
Check the Ceilings inside Your Home
Stains on roofing tiles can be a sign of leaks, but it is often difficult to locate the source since roof-related leaks can take several months to actually appear. One of the first places they do make themselves known is on the ceilings of the rooms inside your home. If you see watermarks on a bedroom ceiling, the leak is probably due to some type of roof damage.
What are the Soffit and Fascia Up To?
While soffit and fascia might appear to be more cosmetic than functional, they do play an important role in a roofing system’s ability to protect your home from the elements. Soffit closes off the underside of a roof’s overhang. Fascia covers up the ends of a roof’s rafters. For both soffit and fascia ensure, there are no gaps where insects, birds, and animals can enter; no signs of rot; and no “blisters” or peeling paint.
Thoroughly Inspect the Gutter System
The most efficient way to inspect the gutters is from a ladder. Looking at them through a pair of binoculars will tell you some important things such as they’ve started to sag or are sporting “tiger stripes,” but not everything. By examining the type of debris that has accumulated in the gutters over the winter months, you might discover:
- Grains of grit – roofing tiles have become worn and might need replacing
- Wet debris – standing water mixes with debris, weighing the gutter system down
- Plant growth – silt and moisture created a great environment for seeds to grow
- Objects – toys, balls, etc. that add weight to the gutters causing them to sag
- Tiger striping or other types of stains indicating moisture damage or leaks
Also examine gutter sections for cracks, holes, and separated seams. Ensure all hardware is in good condition, and that brackets, nails, and/or fasteners are not loose or missing.
Downspouts can really take a beating during winter storms. Check to see that they are still firmly attached to the house and are dent-free.