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When is it time to replace my roof?

Determining when to replace a roof generally has several key signs to aid you. Firstly, you need to determine some basic information about your roof. For example:

  1. What type of roof (material) do you have?
  2. When was the last roof replaced?
  3. What direction do the portions of your roof face?
  4. Is the roof leaking?
  5. Are your neighbours with similar homes having their roofs replaced?

Most residential homes in the GTA have asphalt shingle roofs. However, many homes have other materials installed such as: cedar shingles/shakes, metal, tile or flat roofing.

The life span of the above materials ranges widely. Since 90% or more roofs are asphalt shingles, we will focus on those details.

Older asphalt shingles are quite different than those made today. The shingles you have on your home are probably “organic” or “felt based” shingles. This refers to the construction of the asphalt shingle. Simply put, a layer of felt paper is sandwiched between two layers of asphalt. The coloured granules are then embedded to the top surface. As for today, the exact same process is used with one exception. Instead of the felt layer, a layer of woven fibreglass is used.

What’s the difference? Simply put, over the life of the roof, fibreglass shingles tend to last longer based on the two main advantages of the fibreglass mat. The other advantage today is that higher quality modified asphalt is used on the sealant strips. This prevents shingle blow off in later years.

  1. Fibreglass is more flexible than felt
  2. Fibreglass will not absorb water as felt does

Older asphalt shingles that were professionally installed should have a life span of 15-25 years. However, there are many reasons these roofs fail prematurely. These are as follows:

  1. Non or under ventilated attic/roof deck
  2. Poor installation
  3. South facing roof surfaces (experience more U.V. rays)
  4. Low slopes

Generally, your asphalt roof will need to be replaced if you observe the following:

  1. Missing shingles
  2. Loss of granular surface
  3. Curled or buckled shingles

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Roof Maintenance

Proper roof maintenance will ensure a long trouble free roof life. Many roofs problems are generally caused from a lack of maintenance to key areas of the roof. Most roof leaks occur where there are penetrations from the roof deck. They can be as follows:

  1. Chimneys
  2. Skylights
  3. Roof vents or plumbing flashings
  4. Roof / wall flashings

General maintenance should be done at least annually. I always suggest that early fall is a good time before our harsh winters. If you have a new roof, most maintenance won’t be required for 5-7 years. The following checklist will provide a simple guideline for areas to check but always consult a professional:

  1. Check shingles for granule loss
  2. Check all flashings for worn or missing caulking
  3. Clear debris from around vents, skylights and chimneys
  4. Cut back overhanging braches from trees
  5. Clear gutters and downspouts of debris

A significant source of pre – mature roof damage arises from animals using your roof as a means of access. They will often try to nest in or around your roof. Birds, squirrels and raccoons are all commonly seen scouring residential roof tops. The best defence is to have any overhanging trees cut back. This will also aid in the amount of maintenance in clearing gutters. Also consider Smart Screen gutter guards. They will eliminate the need for routine gutter cleaning.


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Ice Damns

Have you ever experienced a roof leak in the dead of winter? This unfortunate and sometimes costly experience is a severe nuisance. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked… “How is my roof leaking? It’s snowing not raining?”

There are a few reasons why a roof can leak in winter. Mainly a roof will leak in winter when an ice damn forms. Ice damns start and grow for the following reasons:

  1. Heat loss / poorly ventilated attic / roof deck
  2. Clogged eaves troughs / gutter / downpipes
  3. Extreme weather changes

The main culprit is heat loss and or poor ventilation of the roof. The ice damn will start at the eave or gutter. Generally what happens here is that heat loss, due to an insufficient amount of insulation, warms the underside of the roof deck and melts the snow that has accumulated on the roof deck. The melted snow travels down slope were it re-freezes when it gets to the overhang or soffit of the home. It re-freezes as ice since the soffit is exterior and is of ambient temperature. If the situation continues, more and more ice will build eventually pushing back and upward under the shingles. At this point, the heat loss thaws the ice and water starts to migrate to the interior of your home. If the gutters and or downpipes are clogged with debris and ice, the melt water cannot drain away freely. What can further accelerate an ice damn are extreme temperature changes. Constant freeze thaw cycles can turn mild ice build up into huge insurance claims.

Battling with old man winter and ice damns

Simple maintenance can serve as huge advantage when preparing for winter. Below are the best ways to defend against ice damns and possible damages to your home:

  1. Always ensure that your gutters and downpipes are clear and free flowing
  2. Consult a professional to ensure that your roof is properly insulated and ventilated
  3. When re roofing, use ice and water membranes with drip edges at all eave areas

With the above mentioned maintenance and service, you will have the best defence against ice damns.


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