Buying A Home? Learning To Read Roofs Can Save You Time And Money

21 January 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


A home's roof can tell you much more about it than you might think. It's normal for every home to have several inspections before it's sold, but as a buyer it never hurts to know what you're getting into before you start negotiations. If you know how to read a house's roof, you'll be able to tell right away what problems the home might have -- even ones the seller might not know exist.

Picking Up On Signs Of Structural Damage

Though structural damage often occurs underground, its effects can often become most apparent when you look at a building's roof. Before you even begin to inspect the elements of the roof itself, it's a good idea to take a step back and look for problems with the home's walls or foundations that may be evident in the shape of the roof.

Stand relatively distant to the house so that you can more easily make out the general shape of the roof and its planes. Is each section of roofing straight, or does it curve slightly? Does it appear to sag in the middle or droop on the edges? Foundation and wall damage can cause the affected walls to sag, which makes the roof the sag by extension. By taking the time to do this quick visual check, you may save yourself from buying a compromised home.

You can also find signs of structural damage in the roof itself by examining its shape. On each side, is there anywhere that the shingles appear to sink into the roof or bow outward? Unevenness or large patches of shingles that seem sunken in can be a sign of rot in the house's supporting beams, which could be dangerous if not quickly diagnosed and fixed.

Spotting Evidence Of An Ill-Maintained Roof

If the previous owner of the home you want to buy didn't put in enough maintenance over the life of the roof, it may put your health and budget at risk. Untreated damage on a roof can lead to mold growth and water damage throughout the home, which in turn can make you sick and make it highly difficult to insure your house. Insurance companies will generally also charge more to cover water-damaged houses.

To visually inspect a roof for problems, you need to focus on the minute details. Are any shingles broken or missing? If so, make sure to ask how long they've been that way. Without shingles, the roofing underneath is highly vulnerable to leaks and other weather damage. Curled or cracked shingles are just as bad, signifying that water has long been able to get into the home.

Often neglected, but highly important is the roof's flashing. Every pipe, vent, or skylight ought to have solid flashing surrounding it in order to prevent water from leaking into the home. If flashing looks broken, old, or just isn't there at all, a roof inspection is entirely unavoidable. In fact, 95% of roof leaks are caused by damaged or missing flashing.

When walking inside the home during a tour, be sure to notice any strange smells. Mold is typically characterized by a musty odor. Last but not least, keep a lookout on the ceilings of the rooms as you tour for any water stains, which will appear as yellow or light brown markings where leaks have made their way into the home.

Handling Questionable Roofs

If the roof has any of the aforementioned problems but you still want to purchase the house, it's a good idea to request a professional inspection be done by the seller. After the seller has the home inspected, you should have a professional roofer explain each discovered problem to you and provide you with a rough estimate of the costs of the roof repairs.

Even if you decide to buy a home with a faulty roof anyway, one more inspection may be necessary before you close. Typically, insurance companies will perform their own inspection of your home, especially if there has ever been water damage. This second pass is an excellent way to ensure you know exactly what you're buying, and it also means you can get an accurate estimate on your insurance premiums if you choose to close on the property.

If your dream house has a shaky roof, it's important to know how serious the problem is right away. Don't start negotiations blind; learn to pick up on the messages a home's roof is sending and you might be able to save yourself not only money, but also a few unpleasant surprises.