Roof inspections can be done by homeowners, and/or by qualified professionals. With a pair of binoculars or a ladder you can probably spot obvious problems yourself, like broken shingles or mold. If you think your roof has been damaged, check with your insurance company to see if you have coverage, in which case the insurer will work with you to arrange for an inspection.
If you're not covered, or if you see signs of wear and tear and want a professional inspection, make sure you use a qualified inspector. You can find top quality roof inspectors using the form on this page.
A roof inspector will provide you with a written estimate so you can decide on a plan of action.
"When should I have a roof inspection done?"
If you are buying or selling a home, roof inspections are part of the process. Beyond a home sale, if you suspect damage, get an inspection right away and be sure to call your insurance company to see if they can cover some of the damage.
For general maintenance, homeowners should visually inspect their roof once or twice a year. The driest parts of the year – spring and summer – are best for inspections; fall is the final crucial time to get ready for winter. Don't wait until the rains arrive.
If you have an algae, mold or lichen issue, fall is when you should begin the work since many treatments can take up to 180 days to be effective. Depending on the type of chemical solution needed for the job, if applied in the fall it will be working during the winter months, and be rinsed or swept off in the spring.
"What are roof inspectors looking for?"
In a routine inspection, inspectors will look for: adequate ventilation, proper insulation, missing shingles/tiles, condition of roof shingles (cracking, curling and buckling), chimney work, adequate flashing, moisture, rot and mold, leaks, gutter problems, weather-related damage, ice dams.
"What is a roof certification?"
A roof certification is a written opinion issued by a Licensed Roofing Contractor, which verifies the condition and life expectancy of a roof. It is most frequently used in home buying and selling. Sellers are often advised to provide a roof certification to the buyer as part of the sales process to give buyers a peace of mind.
If a roof’s condition is questionable, sometimes a bank or insurance underwriter may decline a loan or homeowner insurance policy on a home until they have received a roof certification.
A certification will also include a list of exclusions or pre-existing conditions that are specifically not covered (such as severe weather). The inspector will assess the condition of your roof, and cover items in any typical roof inspection: the type of roof material, age of the roof, the pitch (the steepness factors into future costs), number of layers of shingles, previous repairs, what repairs are recommended.
If repairs are needed, they must be resolved before a certification can be issued. Once fixed, the certification will cover future costs related to the specific repairs made. The certification will then be a declaration that the roof is free of defects and will estimate its life expectancy.
If repairs were made prior to the inspection, find out if the certification contains a dollar limitation for any future issues related to those past repairs. It’s important to note that a roof certification is not warranty against future unrelated repairs such as roof leaks.
A roof certification period is normally good for one or two years, though possibly up to five years depending on local laws and customs.
"Are roof certifications covered in a home inspection?"
A home inspector will always assess the general condition of a roof, but will not be as thorough as a roofing contractor hired to certify the condition of a roof. Further, roof certifications are not typically included in a regular home inspection – they must be explicitly requested.
The need for certification may also be influenced by the state of real estate market: in a seller’s market, buyers mostly won’t make the demand for one, but in a buyer’s market they are more commonly requested.
When the condition of a roof is questionable, sometimes a bank or insurance underwriter will require a certification for home loans or homeowner insurance.