Roof Inspections

Don't underestimate the importance of this yearly checkup for your home.

Your home’s roof is its first line of defense against storms and extreme weather, be it a foot or more of snow dropping from the sky overnight or high winds that tear through the town. When homeowners place blind faith in their roof and neglect it completely until the first sign of a leak appears in the ceiling, they could already be facing much larger problems—unwanted structural issues, mold growth, or damaged insulation, for starters. Spare yourself a headache down the road by having your roof periodically inspected.

When to Schedule Roof Inspections
After a hailstorm or other significant weather event, most homeowners recognize the need for a thorough roof inspection to determine whether their roof suffered damage. But that shouldn’t be the only time you consider your roof’s health.

Perhaps the most vital time of year to have your roof inspected is the fall, before the cold of winter sets in. Timing is key. Frigid temperatures can compromise the success of new roof installations and such repairs as shingle replacement because new shingles can’t seal down properly when it’s too cold outside. Moreover, attempting repairs on icy roofs can be treacherous, so roof problems uncovered too late in the season may have to wait until spring to be fixed. Another argument for a fall inspection is the fact that certain roof repairs should be initiated in the fall so they can be completed the next spring—for example, treatment for moss and lichen. The solutions used for either of these invaders can require an extended amount of time to work, sometimes up to 180 days. If moss or lichen are discovered during a fall roof inspection, there’s still a chance to get at them before cold weather sets in. Then, the treatment can be working during those long winter months, and the dead lichen can be swept or rinsed off in the spring.

Homeowner Inspections vs. Professional Inspections
Most homeowners can spot obvious roof problems, such as missing or flapping shingles, without climbing on the roof. Other types of damage, however, are not as visible to the untrained eye, which is why it’s important to get a professional opinion. If your roof is relatively new (less than five years old), shows no signs of interior leaks, and hasn’t been exposed to major weather events since the last time it was inspected, you can probably get by with a visual inspection from the ground and a quick check for leaks in your attic. In any other case, however, a comprehensive roof inspection should be completed by a roofing professional who knows what to look for.

For seasonal roof inspections, especially if your roof is more than 10 years old, call a reputable roofing contractor to come out and take a look. If you’re going into a roof inspection thinking that your roof has been damaged in some way, call your insurance company—they might cover the cost of repairs. Your agent will arrange for a qualified roof inspector to examine the roof and make a determination.

What to Expect from Professional Roof Inspections
A roof inspector will be looking for leaks, unusual wear and tear, damage caused by windblown debris, organic growth issues, and problems that may have occurred during shingle installation or subsequent repairs. Ultimately, a roof inspection gets broken into four facets: structure, materials, interiors, and workmanship.

Structural Inspection: 

The inspector will check for uneven roof planes and signs of sagging, in addition to examining the condition of the soffit, fascia, and gutter system. Masonry chimneys should be inspected at this time for cracks, crumbling grout, and damage to chimney caps. The inspector may also check the venting in your attic; improper venting can lead to heat and moisture buildup that reduces roof life and increases the risk of ice dams forming at the roof’s edge.

Material Inspection: 

Here, the inspector will be looking for loose, missing, or curling shingles; stains; moss; rust; and missing flashing or fasteners. Shingle aggregate that has settled in roof valleys or on the ground at the bottom of gutter downspouts is a sign that the roof could be near the end of its useful life. The inspector will also check the rubber boots and seals around vent pipes, looking for gaps or deterioration.

Interior Inspection: 

Because roof leaks ultimately damage your home, the inspector will check interior ceilings, the attic, and interior walls for water stains, mold, rot, and other signs that water is making its way into your house.

Workmanship Inspection: 

A thorough inspector will examine your roof for problems in workmanship that could increase the risks of leaks or other roof damage in the future. Incorrect flashing around roof penetrations—including vent pipes, skylights, and chimneys—would all be red flags.

Roofing Analysis

After the inspection, you’ll receive a detailed report about the condition of your roof and what repairs, if any, are necessary to keep it in good shape. If repairs are necessary, schedule them as soon as possible—before the snow flies, if you can. That way, when snow blankets the neighborhood, you can be confident that your roof is in good shape.


 Foundation Inspections

Signs of Foundation Problems

Foundation problems may mean expensive repairs. Here’s what to look for to keep small concerns from becoming big headaches.

Knowing the early warning signs of foundation troubles can head off problems that ultimately could cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The sooner you identify potential problems, the easier -- and less expensive -- it is to fix them.

The 4 Basic Indoor Warning Signs

Houses settle over time, and a little unevenness isn't cause for panic. At the same time, you'll want to be alert to these warning signs that more dramatic changes are taking place:

  1. A door begins to jam or fails to latch.
  2. Cracks appear in walls, especially over doorways, windows, or where walls meet ceilings.
  3. Cracks open in vinyl or ceramic tile over a concrete floor.
  4. Windows that used to open and close easily suddenly begin to stick or won't close completely.

Check the Outside

Moving outside, check to see if your foundation is straight by sighting down the length of your foundation wall from each corner. The walls should be basically straight, both up and down and from side to side. Check for leaning walls with a level.

A bulge or curve in either a block foundation or a poured concrete wall could signal that the foundation has shifted, or that the soil around your foundation may be expanding and contracting, putting pressure on walls.

Probe Concrete for Weakness

If your house has a poured perimeter foundation and the concrete appears to be chipping and flaking, poke it in a few places with a sturdy screwdriver. The concrete should be so hard that you can't damage it.

If you manage to chip it or break a piece off, the concrete could be deteriorating because the mix contained dirty or salty sand, or too much water. This problem, common in homes built in the early 1900s in some parts of the country, has no remedy short of a new foundation.

Checking Structural Components

Foundation systems have other members besides the perimeter foundation wall. In your basement or crawl space, look for posts and concrete supports, or piers. Posts should stand straight and be firmly planted underneath the beams they support. Bottoms of posts should rest firmly on concrete piers.

You shouldn’t find puddles or see framing that’s wet. Check for rot by probing wood posts with a screwdriver or awl.

Puddles and other signs of moisture in a crawl space may indicate poor drainage around the perimeter foundation. Be sure that gutters aren't plugged, and that soil slopes away from the foundation at the rate of 6 inches for every 10 horizontal feet.

Reading Foundation Cracks

As concrete cures, it shrinks slightly. Where the concrete can’t shrink evenly, it tends to crack. Concrete and block foundations usually have at least a few cracks. The trick is recognizing which are insignificant and which are serious. Here’s a list from least to most serious:

  1. Hairline cracks in the mortar between concrete blocks are rarely worth worrying about.
  2. Cracks at an L-shape section, such as where a foundation steps down to follow a hillside, are probably shrinkage cracks, especially if they meander and taper down to a hairline. These aren’t a structural issue, though you might need to plug them to keep the basement or crawl space dry.
  3. Stair-step cracks in masonry joints are a bigger concern, especially if the wall is bulging or the crack is wider than ¼ inch. A plugged gutter or other moisture problem outside is probably exerting pressure on that part of the wall.
  4. Horizontal cracks are most serious. It may be that water-saturated soil froze and expanded, pushing in and breaking the foundation. Or, you may have soil that expands when damp and shrinks when dry. The bad news: You probably need a whole new foundation.

Getting a Professional Opinion

A structural engineer can determine whether any of these warning signs point to normal settling or to structural damage. Expect to pay $500-$700 for a structural engineer to inspect your foundation and provide an evaluation, and as much as $2,000 for a full set of drawings for an engineered solution.

What Does Fixing a Foundation Cost?

These are several methods for fixing foundation wall problems, including:

  • Bolting on steel braces ($500-$70 each, spaced about 6 feet apart along the wall) or using epoxy to glue on straps of carbon-fiber mesh ($350-$450 each, similarly spaced).
  • Underpinning the foundation with helical screws or concrete piers. Installation costs $1,200-$1,500 per pier, with one every 6 to 8 feet.
  • A whole new foundation, which can run up to $40,000.

If you find small cracks (less than 1/16-inch wide), paint over them with a concrete waterproofing paint (about $25/gallon). Then check periodically to see whether the paint has cracked, which means the gap is opening up under pressure.

Article from House Logic 


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