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Springtime is Roof Inspection Time

Winter's icy blasts are a distant memory but it's smart to prepare before Ole Man Winter comes back to haunt you again, with a damaged or leaking roof. Now is the time, as the days get hotter and longer, for homeowners to do their springtime roof maintenance or repairs before leaks get worse in the fall. Before purchasing a home, home buyers also need to be vigilant for damage that could signal major repairs.

What's a dead give-away that your roof needs fixing? Not every leak is going to be obvious. Look for discolored walls or ceilings that indicate the past presence of water. But it takes more than a casual glance around living areas. You or your home inspector are going to have to get hot and dirty. Take a flashlight into the attic and check for darkened areas on roof trusses or ceiling joists. Follow the telltale trail off to the side to identify where the leak is coming from.

Your next inspection is from the outside. Look for roof shingles that are curled, bent or missing. How old is the roof? Does it look battered? If you thought this was going to be cheap or easy, think again. Eventually, your roof must be replaced--it's just a matter of time. But don't wait until late fall to start shopping around with roofing companies or you'll have to get in line behind your fellow procrastinators.

Gutters require year round attention, too, not just a leaf cleaning in the fall. Check the gutter sections to make sure they're connected to each other. If they aren't, glue back the seams back together with a silicone caulk. Check downspouts and diversionary pieces that carry water away from the foundation to make sure they are free of obstructions and properly connected.

Flashing should be carefully inspected for breaks, chips or decomposition, and repaired accordingly. Flashing is the metal stripping that forms a barrier around chimneys, roof vents, or skylights.

Don't try any death-defying feats of courage on the roof, especially if yours has a steep pitch. Hire a roofing company or home inspector to do it for you, if you're not comfortable with the heights or the footing. And make sure to wear work gloves and safety glasses while working in the attic to protect against fiberglass insulation or other hazards.

Sources used to create this article include Nick Harder and the Knight Ridder News Service.