The best way is biannual inspection of the roof. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends this. The best times are autumnal fall and late spring. Winter is the harshest on roofs. There are many in the roofing business who will offer free inspections with a written estimate detailing the necessary repairs. It is part of their business strategy to create good will.
Once a leak is noticed do not delay for a moment because in no time it can cause damage to anything under the roof – walls, floors, ceilings, furniture and personal items. A tiny leak can soon swell into a big one compelling the owner to replace the entire ceiling.
The most common cause for leaky roofs are not always asphalt shingles but faults in the flashing round chimneys, vents, fans and the skylights. Poke around the lining roof valleys as well as the eaves for telltale signs. Exposure to wind and rain often causes the caulking (the compound used with flashing or the rubber for sealing pipes etc) to become dry. The ultraviolet rays of the sun add to the mayhem. The dried out stuff begins to crack and crinkle and loosen the seal s inviting water to seep and drip in.
This type of problem can be easily tackled with asphalt cement at nominal cost. The repair will last through three trouble free years. If the flashing is replaced then for ten years the owner need not worry. Rusted flashing that has begun to corrode can also be a source of worry. These can be cleaned and repainted with a type of paint that is resistant to rust. But the flashing and vents that have been badly damaged should be discarded and replaced.
As with everything in life – old age is one of the main reasons for leaky roof. Age makes the asphalt shingles curl and crack causing tears. The mineral granules wear off and expose the black asphalt. This is a sure sign of total replacement. If only a handful of shingles are damaged a temporary repair will suffice. But if one out of five or at the most ten shingles are showing signs of decay then the entire roof needs replacement.
There are other criminals who work at the roof – broken branches and debris cause injury to the roof. The tree branches should be trimmed at least 8″ away from the house. Leaves are innocent looking killers. They pile up and prevent free flow of water – in fact they trap it. Wood frames and sheathing quietly begin to rot. Gutters choked with leaves and debris causes the water to back up with a reverse negative impact on the roof. Gutters and downspouts require regular inspection.
Another enemy is ice that gathers on the eaves. It makes an ice-dam. Apart from starting off leaks it can bend the framing system. Use eave-heating system to prevent it. Heated wires are strung over the overhang to prevent freezing. It is worthwhile to invest in this if the particular region is prone to excessive freezing.
The best answer to all these problems is the hiring of a professional. But a personal knowledge of the matter will enable the owner to take up small repairs. Also it minimizes the chances of being taken for a ride by a dishonest person.