METRO DETROIT — Most people have heard the expression, “At least you have a roof over your head.” The part that people forget is that the roof over their heads may be in dire straits.
Now is as good a time as ever to discuss roofs and chimneys. The National Roofing Contractors Association organizes National Roofing Week, which took place from July 6-12 to make the public more aware about the maintenance of their homes and businesses.
“We started it this year as a way to let people know about the importance of their roofs,” said NRCA Executive Vice President William Good. “Too often, roofs are ignored until they leak — and often, at that point, they have to be completely replaced. We also wanted to tell the story of the good work professional contractors do in their communities every day.”
The NRCA wants home and businesses owners to be more aware of the maintenance and restoration of roofs and to be able to call the right person or company to properly address any concerns.
Sometimes, the signs are literally falling right in front of you.
Chuck Smith, the owner of Multi-Roofing Systems in southeast Michigan, has 40 years of experience in the roof business. Smith said crumbling brickwork “is kind of a bad job” because it has varying levels of need based on visual signs, like stains on the brick or mortar falling out.
Aside from brickwork, shingles and their discoloration have been a major point of emphasis.
Smith said there are two styles of shingles that sit upon rooftops: architectural shingles (also called “dimensional shingles”) and three-tab shingles.
One way architectural shingles differ from the traditional three-tab shingle is in appearance. Architectural shingle tabs have various sizes and shapes that offer a more dimensional look to them and can make a roof look more distinct.
Architectural shingles weigh more and cost more than three-tab shingles. However, they are meant to last longer — decades in certain instances — and help improve or maintain home values. Three-tab shingles are on the decline in popularity, Smith said.
Still, many people have different kinds of roofs, and problems can occur no matter what kind of shingles were installed.
“Over the years, I’ve seen more and more roofs become discolored a lot more frequently than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Smith said. “It’s probably acid rain or dirty rain. They do have some washout that you can wash your roof (with) and clean it up, but it won’t remove it all.
“It’s just more polluted nowadays, and you can see it on a white roof, especially.”
Joan Crowe, a director of technical services for the NRCA, said algae often cause discoloration.
“Algae is an aesthetic problem and typically not a performance problem,” Crowe said. “However, if cleaning the shingles is desired, NRCA does not recommend high pressure or power washing, or using solutions with high concentrations of bleach. Shingles may be washed using a sponge or hand-held sprayer and a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water, or mild detergent, followed by a thorough rinsing with water.
“Keep in mind that this is only temporary; the algae most likely will reappear.”
Crowe added that it’s illogical to associate broken shingles with discoloration, as they are unrelated issues. Broken shingles should be replaced.
Pjeter Dema is the owner of Detroit-based PD Roofing Inc. He has worked in the industry since 1986, and his contracting company serves the tri-county area.
Dema said that old-style shingles discolor a little more than newer shingles, which are designed to resist discoloration.
“Age is an issue, obviously,” Dema said. “If you have a house that is surrounded by trees, trimming the branches and exposing the roof to sunlight will help prevent discoloration from occurring. (In the) long-term, it depends on age.”
The role of chimneys may be forgotten, too, in the overall structure of a healthy roof.
Dema said that paying attention to the chimney is especially important when it comes to older houses — 50, 60 or 70 years old. The mortar between bricks may be crumbling, and if it’s not maintained, leaks could occur that require a big renovation project.
Smith advised home and business owners to check their chimneys every five years, at least. Having a chimney cap installed can improve durability.
Sometimes, there isn’t much else to do than call a contractor such as Smith or Dema — who both agree, along with the NRCA, that calling a professional company to inspect a roof is the best way to go, in terms of safety and precision.
“A licensed contractor with a good reputation would be a good investment on the condition of the roof,” Dema said. “Insurance companies are doing their own inspections, and if they see a roof that is showing signs of aging, they will press the homeowners to take care of the roof or would cancel their policy.”
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