While it may be a clichÃ©, it's entirely true that few things are more important than keeping a solid roof over your head. And like any other aspect of a building's structural composition, your roof has a life span that is dictated by time, wear-and-tear, and environmental conditions.
On average, a roof that is properly maintained lasts longer and is less vulnerable to leaks. If damage from the sun, wind, snow and rain are left unchecked, the result will be leaks and serious damage to other parts of the building, like the faÃ§ade, the stairwells and the windows. While leaks normally start slow, they can create ideal conditions for rot, mold, and fungus to grow in attics and wall framings, which is not only costly to eradicate, but can also pose a dire heath hazard for residents. Given the high stakes, it's important to know what type of roof is over your head, its current condition, and the terms of its warranty.
For most buildings, and depending on which system is used, a roofing manufacturer will normally give a 20-year warranty, although some will give 10-, 15- or 25-year terms. Regardless of the length of the warranty, the reason for the respective period of time, explains Abe Grossman, regional sales manager for the Bayonne, New Jersey-based Garden State Services, LLC, which serves the tri-state area, "is that most roofs are built to last for longer than the warranty stipulates. "If they give a 20-year warranty, that means it will probably last for 30 [years] because these roofs are tested, and no manufacture is going to stick their necks out," says Grossman. Some companies like CertainTeed, for example, have several roofing products for which they offer 50-year or lifetime warranties, but it depends on the product and the type of roofing material being installed.
While some industry experts recommend hiring a specialty inspector or reputable roofer to examine a roof every year or two, this job should really be done twice a year, usually in the spring and fall - after the ice thaws and again before the snow starts. Ice causes building materials to expand and contract, which can weaken seals and lead to leaks. Heavy snow, on the other hand, adds weight, which may also cause problems if roof surfaces warp and buckle under the load. Both scenarios are hard to avoid, and can seriously compromise a roof's integrity.
The best way to preserve a roof is to conduct biannual inspections to check for damage and take preventive steps before bedrooms turn into pool rooms. "When it comes to roofs and leaks, you have to be a detective, like Colombo, and keep asking questions," Grossman says.