Saturday, January 14, 2006


Of all the surprises at a home inspection, needing a new roof seems to catch the most people off guard. It can be hard to see, and most homeowners don't pay attention to it until it leaks.
The surface that you see from the ground is the roof covering. It comes in many materials with the most common being asphalt shingle. These can last anywhere from 15 to 40 years depending on the type. The most common of these are the standard three tab shingle that lays very flat, and an architectural grade that are layered to give the appearance of slate. The more expensive (and longer lasting) architectural grade are difficult to analyze from the ground but the three tab can show their age as the photo shows. Curling, cracking, and very dark areas (where the surface granules have worn off) will all indicate an older roof.
Slate and wood shingle roofs will need an expert to judge, but they also need periodic maintenance so the homeowner may be able to put you in touch with the person that takes care of the roof.
The costly part of the roof is under the covering, the roof deck. It can be large pieces of plywood (4'X8' sheets), planks, or as in the case of a wood shingle roof, nothing at all. If you are in the attic, look at the roof. If it's very discolored (mildewed), or you can see the backs of the wood shingles, this can indicate a more costly job either now or in the future depending on the condition of the top of the roof material.