Roof care and roof maintenance

This article is about a subject that is not on the average homeowners list of priorities, roof care or roof maintenance.  The attitude "out of sight, out of mind" is well and truly adhered to by most homeowners and building managers. Don't wait until the roof starts leaking, you may be up for big dollars then! Apply a bit of care to you roof and you will not regret it.

Table of contents for this roof care page.
DIY or not | Walking on a roof | Gutters, downpipes, box gutters and hip roof valleys. | Adding extras, TV aerials, Satellite dishes etc. | Solar systems, roof collectors. | Roof penetrations |

Intro to roof care

For general roof safety issues please read this page, it is not long, it won't take up too much of your time but it is important.

Try to have a look at your roof at least once a year, or after any significant bad weather event.
Pick a good dry time to do it so that if you do find something that need repairing you can get it done easily before the onset of bad weather.

DIY roof care or get someone else to do it

Don't go on a roof if you feel even a little bit apprehensive about doing so. Get someone else do do it. It is no big deal, some people are comfortable with roofs, some are not.
At the same time, if you decide to get someone else to do the work, read the rest of this page as some prior knowledge of a subject is a great thing when hiring or choosing a person to do work for you.

To get up onto most house roofs you will need a ladder. Like most things in DIY there are a few basics to know if you have never done it before. On new ladders there are usually a lot of printed instructions, load ratings and disclaimers, but if you pick up a hire one, or a used one then they could be missing. Take a look at my page on ladder handling and safety if you are new to using ladders.

If your roofs are fairly steep, that is so steep that you find it hard to stop sliding a touch while walking on the roof, consider making a cat ladder.

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Walking on a roof

The basic principal when going onto a roof for any reason, (after safety of course), is to not make matters worse. That is don't damage the roof in any way. why make more work?

metal roof tiles
Roof care - Metal roof tiles damaged by people walking on the unsupported part of the material. That is between the battens instead of on them.
  • Don't jump from one roof surface to another. This can create damage in the roof material.
  • Likewise don't jump into a box gutter. Gently does it.
  • Always stand or walk on the underlying roof supports.
  • This is especially so on metal roof with flatter pitches.
  • With some metal roofs like corrugated iron, if you must stand between the battens or purlins, then stand on the overlapping joints where there is a double thickness.

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Gutters, downpipes, box gutters and roof valleys.

These are the main problem areas and mainly they stem from not being clean and allowed to do their job properly

a dirty roof
Roof care - Leaf mulch on a metal roof. If it is left like this it will stain the paint, eventually it will rust out the roof and fixings. Overhanging branches will abrade the surface of any roof covering. Overhanging trees like this often provide easy access for vermin to get into the roof space. If you don't want possums or rats in your roof, cut back the trees.

  • We all like trees around where we live, but try to them at a reasonably distance from the house. Trees drop leaves that clog up gutters and valleys. Overhanging branches should be cut back.
  • Remove all leaf mould, tree branches, tennis balls, beer bottles etc. that happen to be up there. This is particularly important in the valleys. Water backing up in a gutter can cause unsightly stains on the outside of the house, but water backing up in a blocked valley can cause an overflow into your house,
  • If any part of your roofing is metal, be aware that leaf mould retains moisture for long periods. This extends the time that moisture is available for forming rust.
  • Get a garden hose onto the roof and wash the lot down. Pay particular attention to the downpipes. Make sure that they are unobstructed and clear flow of water comes out of the bottom.
  • You should already know if there are any problem areas of leaky gutters etc so now that they are clean look at them in detail.
  • Use the recommended sealer for making any joints in modern roofing flashings etc.
  • Use NON-ACIDIC CURE silicone for the modern "Zincalume based metal roofing products.
  • ACIDIC CURE silicone like wet area silicone, glass silicone, should not be used on steel roofs!
  • If you have to re seal any leaky joints clean off all the old silicone etc. with scraper and wire brush and try to start clean surface.
  • Don't go for the quick fix of gunk on top of gunk.

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Adding extras, TV aerials, Satellite dishes etc.

An awful lot of roof care problems are caused by guys fixing extras on a roof and not really having enough training or inclination to do the right thing. If you are getting a job done on a roof it would be good to inspect it before paying for the service and if any damage has been done get them to fix it.

  • Fixing of satellite dishes and aerials should be done through the roof material and into something solid in the supporting structure. NOT JUST TO TO THE ACTUAL ROOF CLADDING. I am talking about quite small ones here, large dishes need special strengthening.
  • When drilling for fixings especially though metal roofs make sure that all the swarf is cleaned off the roof surface. Steel filling on a steel roof rust and then the roof surface itself can get rusty.
  • Extreme care should be taken drilling through cement or terracotta tiles. If they get cracked they should be replaced.
  • It is a good idea to have a rubber/EPDM gasket in between the metal fixture and the roof surface. In metal roofs it will stop galvanic corrosion by incompatible materials and on rigid surfaces like cement tile the give in the gasket stops potential cracks.
  • If at all possible any fixing screws, bolts or clips should be fixed through the high point of the profile, that is the crest and not the valley. THIS IS BASIC. So many times plumbers in particular put a hole through the low point of say a cement tile because it is convenient for them.
  • I have already said leaf mold helping the growth of rust, but what about this. I once had to replace a section roof because the owner had put a black poly blanket type water heater thing for a backyard spa on his roof.  the metal roof was sweating and rusting away happily for a few years until the inevitable happened.

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Solar systems, roof collectors.

While doing an annual roof clean it is plain silly to forget the glass surfaces of the solar collector panels or tubes.

Dust builds up on the surface of them and so it is logical while you are up there to give them a clean with water. You paid good money for the solar system and to keep it working in top condition is so easy.

If you have a mains pressure water tank up on the roof, there will be a pressure relief valve attached to it. This is set so that if the pressure of the hot water builds up in the tank it will blow off and release the pressure.
These things work for years without attention, but in rare cases they stick after time with the result that the pressure gets too much for the tank and so it splits. When on the roof give the valve a few tugs to release it and to re seat it. Make sure that it is not sticking and sealing properly.
If it is dribbling water through a faulty seal, replace the whole valve for peace of mind. They are a lot cheaper than a new tank.

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Roof penetrations

roof penetration
Roof care - A flexible "Dektite" fitting around a vent pipe.

The point where pipes and services come through a roof surface are called penetrations. You will have vent pipes for for the waste water system, maybe water pipes for solar hot water, you may have skylights, chimneys etc. Check around the top sides of all these for signs of water ponding. The water should flow easily around them and not leave a pool trapped. Check that the flashing are in good condition and that any sealant used looks OK.

The fitting in the photo may still be waterproof, but I'd be flicking the silicone seal to see that it is still stuck down. When I see overuse of sealant like this I am always suspicious. This one I would remove, clean the roof and the gasket and if it was OK I would replace it with just smear of silicone where needed, at the top end. These things in this small size are so cheap that it is probably better to replace it before the rubber boot perishes,

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Small pieces of metal waste and dust left after the process of drilling through metal.
Ethylene propylene diene, an elastomer rubber like product used much in roofing for membrane coating and seals. Used as a seal under approved roofing screws.
An Australian product name used here for any type of pipe roof penetration seal.
Refers to the fact of water forming a pool rather than flowing away. Ponding should not occur on a well designed and built roofing system.
In the context of this page, some sort of compressible material to form a waterproof joint, or to isolate dissimilar materials to prevent galvanic corrosion.

Quick Illustrated Roofing Glossary Pages.

Types of roofs
Roof Features
Roof Framing
Roof Trusses
Roof Coverings



Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
You must check your own local conditions.
Copyright © Bill Bradley 2007-2012. All rights reserved.
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