by Michael Chotiner of The Home Depot
Roof assessments are among the most valuable observations a home inspector can provide for a prospective home buyer in the pre-purchase inspection report. Authoritative judgments about if and when a roof may need replacement can have a significant impact on price negotiations and/or the buyer’s planning.
The primary reasons for replacing a shingle roof include:
Re-Roof or Repair?
It may make more sense to address leaks and localized cosmetic issues on a spot-repair basis if the roof isn’t too old and replacement costs aren’t adequately covered by the warranty. At the same time, a new roof may be a better financial option than annual repair bills as new problems continue to arise.
If the homeowner chooses re-roofing, a contractor may offer to provide a quote for replacing the gutters and downspouts along with their re-roofing proposal. These projects can go hand in hand, but they don’t necessarily have to.
What Homeowners Should Know About Gutters and Downspouts
As with roofing, the primary reason for replacing gutters and other drainage accessories is that they are damaged beyond repair. Another good reason is that the existing roof drainage system was not properly designed--for example, if the troughs and downspouts are too small for the volume of runoff from the roof.
Most roof drainage systems that have been on a home for more than a few years show signs of deterioration and/or deteriorating functionality. Common signs include:
None of the issues listed above—either by themselves or in combination with others—is necessarily an indication for gutter replacement. The best ways to approach repairs and choosing who should perform them may depend on the material the gutters are fashioned from. And, of course, it’s prudent to do a little troubleshooting to determine the cause of any particular problem, if possible.
Specialists Recommended for Steel and Copper Gutter Installation
When the gutters in question are made from steel or copper—as they are on many older, upscale houses—it’s best to consult a sheet metal contractor with the experience, tools and equipment for making appropriate repairs and/or replacement of sections. Where steel gutters show rust spots, the rust can usually be neutralized and the gutter repainted, with little loss of strength or rigidity.
More Homeowner Tips
Sagging gutters are most often easily repaired by replacing the original fasteners with better ones. Gutter screws hold much better than smooth spikes, and various brackets can be added to beef up a weakened fastening system. A sagging gutter can usually be straightened and set back in place at an effective drainage pitch with improved fasteners, as long as the fascia is sound. Gutters age over time with humidity and temperature swings, just as a roof’s shingles do, so keep them clean and unclogged to reduce extra weight in them.
For conventional open troughs, clean leaves and other debris at least twice annually, in spring and in fall. Check and adjust the fasteners while you’re at it.
Sizing Gutters and Downspouts
Seepage inside basement walls, a depression in the soil directly below the gutter, and eroded or collapsing soil within 5 feet of the foundation walls can indicate issues that may require redesign or replacement of the roof drainage system.
Some of the causes include:
InterNACHI member Bud Coburn of Action Plus Home Inspections offers an informative tutorial on his website about how to properly size gutters and downspouts, as well as other aspects of a roof-drainage system design. Visit https://actionplushi.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/how-to-size-gutters-and-downspouts/ to read more.
If an inspector’s observations about roofing and roof drainage systems point toward replacement, the client may be interested in reading The Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction by Steven Bliss, which lists a number of questions to consider when evaluating a roof warranty:
In addition to the terms of a manufacturer’s warranty, homeowners should evaluate their installer's warranty against defects in workmanship and adherence to code standards.
Author Michael Chotiner is a DIY expert who writes about home improvement projects for roofs and other external areas of the house for The Home Depot. Michael is a career carpenter and has owned and managed his own construction business. Visit The Home Depot online to find out about their available roofing services.