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Roofing 101

If you’ve been thinking about installing a new roof or wondering if you need to repair your roof, here’s the 411 on roofing.

Your Roof’s Function

Your roof is the first point of contact your dwelling has with the elements. A good roof is just as essential as a safe foundation. As a well-designed foundation secures the building against destruction starting at the bottom, similarly a good roof affords protection for the building itself and what the building contains and prevents deterioration starting from the top. Having a sturdy, well-functioning roof is essential for ensuring that those inside are in the most comfortable, safe and well-protected space.

Your roof also serves an important function in your home’s insulation system. The vast majority of a home’s heating and cooling costs are due to a loss of heat during the winter and a loss of cool air during the summer. Most of this loss happens through the roof. By installing a proper layer of insulation, the heat exchange through the roof layers can be dramatically decreased. An insulated roof may decrease a home’s heating and cooling costs by as much as 40 percent.

Common Roof Problems

A failing roof may happen slowly: a clogged gutter can push water under the shingles of a roof, soaking the plywood support underneath causing buckling. Shingles may have poor connection points and allow rain to leak in. The waterproof barrier may be of poor quality and allow moisture to deteriorate the trusses holding up the roof. Ventilation may be poor, allowing moisture to build up in the attic and creating a matted insulation layer that stops functioning. Or a failing roof can occur suddenly: a branch or tree that falls on the roof and damages a section may cause minor tears or major holes. 

Based on Helping Hands Restorations’ experience in the field, the following are the most common causes of premature roof failure:

Lack of Maintenance

The failure to find and correct minor roof deterioration in the earliest stages is probably the greatest cause of premature roof problems. This is particularly true in the cases of low-sloped roofs.

The best preventive maintenance that one can do is to hire a Roofing Contractor to perform semi-annual inspections and roof tune-ups to identify and solve problems as they occur. Roofs get more abuse from the elements than any other part of the building. Just like periodic maintenance of your car will increase its lifetime mileage, preventative roof maintenance is a key element to saving money on your roof by providing a longer life cycle.


Extreme weather incidents such as severe storms, high winds and heavy rain can dislodge shingles, but even everyday weather has a negative effect on a roof. Summer sunshine reflected off the roof can cause the roof’s temperature to rise, and the arrival of a cold front or a thunderstorm causes it to drop rapidly. The shock of such expansion and contraction places a strain on the support structure as well as the cladding, causing fatigue and deterioration.

Water Damage

Water damage is the most common cause of roof problems. Research has shown that an inadequately ventilated roof area prevents air movement, which increases the moisture content in the air. Moisture causes corrosion, deterioration of insulation materials, and expansion and contraction of the wooden support structure, which impairs the performance of shingles or other roofing materials. The resulting gaps cause the roof to leak, which results in more damage.

Wind Damage

Roofing materials are subject to damage from strong winds and flying debris. Generally, roofs are not designed to withstand winds of hurricane and tornado intensity. However, roofs may also be damaged by winds of moderate intensity, with gusts that may reach 50 to 75 mph. The primary cause of wind damage is from the partial vacuum created by wind blowing over the edge of the roof. Nature tries to neutralize the low-pressure area by bringing in air from a higher pressure area, usually from inside the building. This air pushes upon the bottom side of the roof assembly and, over time, loosens fasteners and breaks the adhesion making the roof susceptible to damage from the next moderate or strong wind. To counteract the effects of wind-uplift forces, the roofing and insulation should be adequately fastened to the roof deck, and a securely fastened perimeter detail should be provided.

Improper Design

Troublesome and costly roofing problems are often the result of faulty initial design of the roof system. Design deficiencies are costly to correct, and usually can only be corrected during the roof replacement. However, unless design deficiencies are discovered and corrected during the re-roofing, the problems related to them will most likely reoccur. Some examples of faulty design are:

  • Weak roof structures that deflect excessively under load, causing splitting of roof membrane.
  • Inadequate roof slope, sagging roof structure, or insufficient number or location of drains, resulting in ponding water.
  • Inadequate provision for expansion and contraction at changes in deck material or direction, causing membrane splits.
  • Incompatible roof materials – i.e. the use of asphalt to adhere to a torch-on material.

Flashing Failures

The function of flashings is to provide a watertight junction between roofing materials and roof projections or other parts of the structure, and between roof sections. Flashings should be designed to furnish service for as long as the materials used on the roof. Flashings are the most vulnerable part of any roof. Their importance and the importance of maintaining them properly cannot be over-emphasized.

Not everyone is a Roofer, so how do you, as the Homeowner, recognize a damaged roof?

Obvious signs like buckling, cracked or missing shingles, worn-looking shingles and leaks into the interior are all indications of a deteriorating roof. What’s not always obvious are other signs of an inadequate roof like a higher-than-average electrical bill (indicating a poor roofing ventilation system), cracked or blistered exterior paint (indicating high humidity due to poor ventilation), interior mold or mildew growth (possibly due to excess moisture underneath the roof layers), water damage or stains in the attic or on ceilings following heavy rain, snow or ice (ice blockages or dams possibly caused water to leak under the shingles). If you live in an older home, and the roof hasn’t been replaced in 20 years, you may be in the position to install a new, upgraded roof.

Roof Repairs

A roof is in use from the moment it is installed. Subjected to the above-mentioned problems, the roofing materials begin to deteriorate immediately.

Repairs should never be postponed, and biannual roof inspections help the homeowner ensure that problems are not aggravated by lack of attention. For homeowners without a roof maintenance program, Helping Hands Restorations will conduct an inspection at no cost, followed by a report and a free, no-obligation quotation for the necessary repairs. Repairs may simply entail replacing a few shingles, or if the damages are extensive, a full roof replacement may be recommended.

Repairing Shingle Roofs

Roofs occasionally develop leaks caused by cracked or missing shingles or shakes, or a blistered and cracked section of a flat roof. Often, the best way to identify a leak in the roof is from water damage on the internal walls. Shingle roofs are simple to repair; first, locate the leak, then isolate the source by marking the damaged, curled or missing shingles, and then replace them. If the leak is close to a joint such as a chimney, breaks in the caulking or flashing may be the culprit. Shingles that are lifting or curling can easily be reattached in warm weather with asphalt roof cement or compound; in cold weather, the shingle must be warmed and softened using a propane torch flame, then straightened before reattaching it.

Shingles that are torn, rotten or missing must be replaced. If an area of roof shows signs of rot, it may be necessary to replace the entire section. Damaged shingles need to be removed carefully, and loose or brittle cement must be scraped out. Protruding nails should be removed, and new shingles should be placed carefully and aligned with the adjacent shingles. Overlapping corners should be fastened into place on top of the new shingles, and any remaining gaps should be filled with caulking or spray foam insulation material.

***Note: Some roofing manufacturers may not grant a warranty to a roof that is partially replaced, so be sure to ask your Helping Hands Restorations representative about the pros and cons of a full or partial roof replacement.

Replacing a Roof

Roof replacement or remodeling occurs when the damage is too great to repair a section of the roof, the roofing materials are old or outdated, or the homeowner decides to renovate the building. Methods of re-roofing include the “tear-off” and “lay over” methods, and the choice of method depends on the roofing material used originally, the condition of the old roof, the accessibility of the existing roof’s interior and the extent of the damage. In some jurisdictions, roof replacement requires a permit similar to that needed for installing a roof on a new home. Building codes in certain states allow only a single lay-over to be conducted, although for practical purposes a lay-over can be done up to three times.

Tear-Off Method

Depending on the roofing material used, it may not be feasible to lay new shingles over the old. While this is usually the less expensive route, it is not necessarily the best decision. In the tear-off process, the old roof is removed in its entirety. This enables the roofing contractor to examine the inner section of the roof and evaluate the condition of the trusses or rafters. He can also make any necessary flashing repairs and identify condensation or other moisture problems in the attic. For homeowners who select a long-lasting roofing material such as asphalt shingles, this process provides the opportunity to install new waterproofing underlayment to protect against future leaks, and it allows the contractor to correct any ventilation problems that may result from an old, inferior roof.

Lay-Over Method

This process is best used when a roof is being replaced or remodeled for mainly aesthetic purposes. Provided that the original roof is intact or needs only minor repairs, the wooden supports pass inspection for rot and moisture, and they are deemed strong enough to support the additional weight, a new roofing material may be laid over the old. If the lay-over process is selected, it is advisable to install a full underlayment over the old roof before adding the new, or existing damage such as rot and moisture could spread to the new roof.

How much does a full roof replacement cost?

Replacing your entire roof is not an insignificant cost and it should be the homeowner’s responsibility to speak with a reputable roofing contractor to gain a full understanding of all the options. In 2016, a standard 2,200 to 3,400-square-foot roof replacement cost $5,000 to $12,000 or more for architectural asphalt shingles. Roofers charge for their work using what are known as “squares.” One 10-by-10-foot patch of roof makes a square. The average residential roof needs between 22 and 34 squares to be replaced.

Another avenue for roof replacement or repair, which unfortunately many homeowners are unaware of, is using your homeowners insurance policy to pay for the damages. The reason you have homeowners insurance is specifically for the damage you sustain in a wind or hailstorm. Your damages could be substantial, meaning so would your out-of-pocket expense. So, if your insurance company’s obligation is to replace the roof and have you pay only the deductible, it’s worth checking into. For example, if the cost to replace your roof is $10,000 and the type of insurance you have is a replacement cost value policy, the insurance company will pay the full $10,000 less your deductible. If you have a $1,000 deductible, you will end up with a new $10,000 roof and pay only your $1,000 deductible.

Helping Hands Restorations specializes in insurance claims and we handle the entire process from start to finish. Our knowledgeable claims specialists offer assistance in submitting a claim, perform an on-site damage assessment with the insurance adjuster, and perform emergency & permanent repairs billable to the insurance company. If you’d like to learn more, read our blog “Understanding the Storm Damage Insurance Claims Process” by visiting HERE. You can also learn more about Helping Hands Restorations’ Insurance Claims Assistance by clicking HERE.

Maintaining Your New Roof

Maintaining a roof means cleaning it regularly, conducting biannual inspections and ensuring that necessary repairs are performed as soon as possible. Preventative maintenance can stop small, easy-to-fix problems from becoming costly repairs, will prolong the roof’s life span and will add to the home’s investment value.


A dirty roof is unsightly and can reduce the home’s curb appeal and resale value. Moss, algae and mold grow regularly on roof tiles and discolor them; bird droppings, mud and dust will also accumulate. Roofs should be cleaned annually, either by a professional roofing contractor or as part of your regular home maintenance program.


Regular roof inspections allow the homeowner to identify potential problems before they become more serious. Inspections should take place at least twice annually, during the spring and the fall, and should include:

  • Checking the interior and exterior of the roof for signs of moisture, worn spots, deterioration or aging of the sealant, changes in insulation quality and substrate firmness;
  • Checking flashing for any loose attachments, missing fasteners, moisture and corrosion, cracked or aging sealant;
  • Checking the roof penetration areas, such as pipes and other items inserted through the roof membrane, for the integrity of the seal around the entry point.

Maintenance Programs

A comprehensive maintenance program provides for two to four scheduled roof inspections each year, in return for one annual payment or a monthly premium. Some programs provide for ad hoc inspections after extreme weather events, while others offer these inspections at an additional cost. Debris removal may be included in the maintenance agreement, because it will be impossible to inspect the roof while debris is present. The contract may include cleaning and minor repairs, or the homeowner may receive a cost estimate for the repairs after the inspection. A roof maintenance program can save homeowners up to 50 percent over the life of a 30-year roof compared to replacing it every 15-20 years. Contact Helping Hands Restorations today for more information about our annual maintenance programs or to schedule your FREE, no-obligation inspection.