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Dealing with a damaged roof can be stressful. But knowing what to expect and how to handle different situations can make the repair or replacement process much simpler. While holes and leaks are usually obvious, there are many other types of roof damage that homeowners often overlook. Even minor damage can quickly become severe if left untreated.

But how do you know if your roof is truly damaged? How do you prevent roof damage from happening in the first place?

At Baltic Roofing, we’ve repaired and replaced a lot of different roofs around Chicagoland. During that time, we’ve seen many different instances of roof damage. Some of them occur naturally with time. Others can be prevented with proper maintenance.

In this guide, we’ll walk through how to spot the 10 most common types of roof damage, how to fix them, and how to keep them from happening in the future.

Most common types of roof damage

Depending on where you live, your roof may be more susceptible to some types of damage than others. However, these are the 10 most common types of roof damage for most areas across the United States. Some may appear more minor than others upon first glance, but ignoring even small damage can compromise your roof over time.

1. Wind damage

Tornadoes are a frequent occurrence in the Midwest. However, even the average windy day can produce powerful gusts of wind that may cause serious damage to your roof.

If your roof has wind damage, you might notice tears or cracks in your shingles. In some cases, you may notice some shingles that curve up at the corners or some that are missing altogether. This type of gap in your roofing materials can leave your roof vulnerable during harsh weather.

While there is no way to stop wind from hitting your home, you can prevent damage by investing in a roofing material with a higher wind rating. However, even the highest quality materials can fall apart if not properly installed. In fact, improper installation is the top reason roofs fall apart from wind damage.

Luckily, most wind damage is easy to repair. Typically, you will only need to replace a few of the affected shingles to bring your roof back up to code. However, continued exposure to the elements may leave you with a full replacement project if those shingles aren’t repaired soon enough.

2. UV and heat damage

If your roof has heat or UV damage, you might notice warped or buckling shingles. A detailed roof inspection may reveal heat blisters — small bubbles or holes in the surface of the shingle. Since your home’s roof is constantly exposed to the sun’s rays, it is particularly susceptible to UV damage.

To prevent damage from UV rays, be sure to replace any shingles that are missing granules (the minerals embedded in asphalt shingles). The main purpose of granules is to provide a layer of protection against UV rays. Any spot on your roof that’s missing granules due to recent impact is vulnerable to heat damage. In just a few months, the sun can warp the asphalt in that spot until it becomes a leak.

Other times, if you don’t have proper roof ventilation, the heat inside your house may cause damage to your roof. If this is the case, you may notice an excessive amount of heat near the top level of your house or warped shingles that resemble UV damage.

If your roof is being affected by excessive heat inside your home, you will need to install better roof vents to allow hot air to escape as it rises. An attic fan may also help create better airflow.

If your roof is already damaged by heat, the integrity of the shingles may be compromised. A detailed roof inspection can help determine whether or not a full replacement is necessary.

3. Leaks and water damage

If nothing else, your roof should protect you from rain and other types of precipitation. But over time, water can erode small spots of damage and destroy underlying materials. Wood and water don’t mix well, and the longer the leak goes on, the worse it becomes not just for your roof but virtually every other part of your home.

The signs of a leak are usually pretty evident:

  • Drips from the ceiling (especially during storms)
  • Dark spots on the ceiling
  • Dips in your shingles

However, you may not notice early stage water damage or leaks without a detailed inspection. Water can damage more than just your roof. It can also get into your walls, creating mold and moisture problems if not properly treated.

Just like many other situations, you can prevent leaks by proactively repairing damaged shingles. If you are already dealing with a roof leak, a roofing contractor can usually just repair the damaged area. However, if the leak continues for too long, you may need to replace the entire roof decking, underlayment, and shingles.

4. Damaged flashing

Roof flashing is the metal that seals valleys and penetrations in your roof (chimneys, skylights, roof vents, etc.). Roof flashing protects your home from rain that could seep in between cracks and joints.

Even something as small as a tear in the sealant or a tiny puncture in the metal can create a bigger problem over time. Otherwise, you may notice warped materials, corrosion, or cracks. With metal flashing, you may also see rust due to age or dents caused by hail.

Usually, it takes a while for flashing damage to become urgent. But it’s best to conduct a roof inspection so you can repair the issue quickly and properly. Despite what some DIY amateurs might suggest, you should never try to fix broken flashing by simply adding more caulk. This will only provide a temporary fix, if it helps at all.

Most of the time, an experienced roofer will need to replace the flashing and a few shingles around it to make sure the repairs last. That said, installing high-quality flashing in the first place can help prevent excessive deterioration over time.

5. Hail damage

While hail damage may appear to be a minor problem within a roof inspection, it can quickly expose your roof materials to harmful weather. If there was a recent hail storm in your area, it’s a good idea to get a roof inspection to understand the extent of the damage from an expert’s point of view.

Typically, roofers will mark hail damage with chalk circles so they are easier to see in photographs. Otherwise, they may only appear to be small dark spots on asphalt shingles. With a cedar shake roof, hail damage may look like a large discolored crack. On a metal or synthetic roof, they may be even harder to spot. However, if you find dents or scratches in other items on your property (mailboxes, cars, roof flashing, vents, etc.) from a recent hailstorm, it’s likely your roof is damaged as well.

Hail damage often destroys part of the granule layer on your shingles. This can leave your roof exposed to UV rays and water. Over time, this will wear a hole in your roof and create leaks.

Most hail-damaged roofs only require small repairs. However, if your roof has more than 8 damage spots per 100 square feet (1 roofing square), your roofer will usually recommend a full replacement.

While there’s no way to prevent hail from damaging your roof, you can purchase roofing materials rated to withstand higher impacts. A thicker asphalt shingle with extra tabs or layers may offer more protection against hail. However, because synthetic roofing is engineered to handle higher impacts, this type of material is typically considered better for areas with more frequent hail storms.

6. Structural damage

The three main structural parts of your roof that may be susceptible to damage are the fascia, soffit, and plywood decking. Over time, rain and heat will cause these parts of your roof to decay. Most of the time, if these structures are totally compromised, your roof will require a full replacement.

Fascia

The fascia is the outward-facing board that runs along the edges of your roof, underneath the gutters. Its primary function is to connect the perimeter of your roof to the rafters, which in turn support the entire structure. Since the fascia faces toward the outside of the roof, damage is usually easy to spot. You may see rotting wood, rusted metal, or that some pieces are missing entirely. While your roof likely won’t collapse immediately, a damaged fascia can put the integrity of the whole structure in danger.

Soffit

The soffit is the metal piece attached underneath the rafter tails running at a right angle to the fascia. Its main purpose is to provide proper ventilation throughout your roof and attic space. While a damaged soffit may not always indicate structural damage, any missing or damaged pieces will need to be replaced to prevent heat and moisture buildup.

Plywood decking

Plywood decking is the base of your roof that supports the shingles and underlayment. This is the surface roofers use to secure your shingles in place with nails or roofing staples. This part of the roof rarely needs to be replaced unless previous damage has left it exposed to the elements. However, plywood decking may naturally deteriorate over time.

The most obvious sign of compromised decking is roof sagging. If you look at your roof from a ladder, you may see a slight dip in the shingles. This means your decking is no longer supporting your shingles in that area. In worse cases, it may be totally deteriorated. While it isn’t always a sign of immediate collapse, it may not be far off either.

In other cases, you may not know if your plywood decking is deteriorated until the old shingles are removed during a roof replacement.

Sometimes, if the damage isn’t widespread, you can simply replace the damaged section of plywood decking. However, you will need a professional roofer or a structural engineer to determine the extent of the damage. In any case, repairs may not be the wisest long-term solution. A full replacement of the roofing materials and underlying structures will give you better peace of mind in knowing that your roof is secure.

7. Fungus and debris

If your roof is in a shady area or your gutters aren’t properly cleaned, moisture problems can quickly develop for your roof. Over time, lack of maintenance and poor drainage can cause an older roof to grow moss and lichen. Sometimes, the growth may be superficial. But more often than not, these grow underneath your shingles and may even eat away at the plywood decking. This kind of damage will deteriorate your roof and make it susceptible to further damage from water or heat.

You can prevent some of this damage by cutting down tree limbs that create too much shade on your roof. Aside from that, keeping your gutters clean from sticks, leaves, and loose granules can help ensure proper water runoff.

If you currently have fungus or moss growth on your roof, you will want to have it removed as soon as possible. If it is superficial, you may be able to remove it yourself with gloves and a scouring pad. However, if the fungus is toxic or the damage is widespread, you may need to have a professional roofing company remove the old materials and replace them.

8. Ice dams

Ice dams are common in many parts of the country, especially the Midwest. Usually they are easy to see, with large icicles hanging over your gutters or large sheets of ice covering the edge of your roof.

Other times, ice dams may be hidden under thick layers of snow. This kind of ice dam can be particularly dangerous. The heat inside your house may melt some of the snow without melting the ice dam. This leaves your home with a large pocket of water trapped under a layer of snow and ice that sits on your shingles. Over time, the weight of this water can cause serious damage to your roof and even leak into your walls and electrical systems.

But the main reason ice dams are dangerous for your roof is because they don’t allow water to drain properly. After a big snowfall, you might have an ice dam that prevents melted snow from draining through your gutters.

Removing snow off your roof eaves after a heavy snowfall (if at all possible) is a reliable way to prevent ice dams. Otherwise, you can help the snow melt more evenly by creating proper ventilation — which also prevents excessive heat from building up inside your roof.

That said, if you are currently dealing with an ice dam issue, don’t use salt to remove it. This will corrode the shingles. Use calcium chloride to melt the ice without damaging your roof. Otherwise, it may be best to call a professional roofer if you can’t reach your roof safely.

9. Age (wear and tear)

Eventually, every roof will need to be replaced. It’s only a matter of how long the roof can last. The average lifespan of an asphalt roof is about 12-20 years, though materials like synthetic shingles may last up to 50 years. While it may cost more up front for a higher quality roof, it may provide a better return on investment in the long run.

If you don’t know the current age of your roof, the most reliable way to find this out is by looking up your home’s building records. Assuming the contractor who installed the current roof pulled the right permits from the city government, there should be a public record of the roof’s installation. If your roof is nearing the end of its expected lifespan, you may want to consider a replacement in the near future.

Studies have shown that 80% of all roofs need replaced prematurely. Waiting too long to replace your roof can cause damage to other parts of your home or make for a more expensive project when replacement becomes urgent.

10. Improper installation

According to a study from Texas Tech University and Haag Engineering, the number one reason that asphalt roofs fall apart due to wind damage is improper installation. Even if you pay for higher quality materials, your roof may still fall apart shortly after installation if it isn’t done properly.

To make sure your new roof is installed correctly, be sure to review the previous work of the roofing contractor you want to hire. Look for a well-established reputation of good quality workmanship and longevity before you sign a contract.

Otherwise, you may end up with a cheap contractor that only tries to win your business by offering the lowest bid. If this is the case, they are most likely cutting corners to save money on the project in other areas. Roofing isn’t a simple trade. If a cheap contractor hires inexperienced laborers, they may not have the proper skills to install your roof correctly so that it stays around for many years to come.

How to fix your roof

If you are currently dealing with a damaged roof situation, you will want to fix it as soon as possible. If you haven’t had to fix a roof before, here are a few basic steps to start the process.

Get a professional roof inspection

Different types of damage call for different repair jobs. But the only way to determine the current state of your roof is to have it inspected by a reputable roofing specialist. If you suspect the structural integrity of your roof is damaged, hiring a professional roof inspector is by far the safest option for your home. Aside from that, a roofer can usually spot more subtle types of damage because they know exactly what to look for. They will usually compile a report with detailed photographs and recommend the best options for repair or replacement.

File a claim with your insurance

If your roof was damaged by a sudden accidental, unexpected event, you may be able to use your homeowner’s insurance policy to pay for repairs. If this is the case, you will want to call them to file an insurance claim immediately after the roof inspection is complete. Most insurance policies have a statute of limitations that requires you to file a claim within 1 year of discovering roof damage. If you wait too long to file a claim, your insurance company may deny you proper coverage.

That said, your insurance most likely won’t cover damage from improper installation or poor maintenance. If you live in Florida or California where hurricanes or fires happen frequently, that kind of damage may not be covered under general homeowner’s insurance. You may need a different type of insurance for this. Otherwise, if you have to pay for it out of pocket, it may be wise to finance the cost of the project with your roofing company.

Hire a trusted local roofing company for the repairs

To give your new roof the best chances of longevity, be sure to hire a trusted roofing company to complete the job. Many small-time contractors don’t make it past year five because they don’t take good care of their customers. Most of the time, it can be hard to tell if their word is as good as their work.

Storm chasers, people who show up to sell roofing jobs right after a major storm, are also common in the roofing business. If you hire a storm chaser, they may do poor quality roofing work that falls apart shortly after installation (if they don’t run off with your money first).

The most reliable way to guarantee a good roofing job is to hire a local roofing company with an established reputation for high-quality workmanship. This roofing company should be one that you trust to have your best interests at heart. When researching, look on review aggregator sites like Yelp, Angi, or Google Maps to see how people in your area have rated their work, their prices, and their customer service. Above all, the roofer you choose should provide you with the best quality roof for your home. While it may cost a little more money, the peace of mind is often worth the investment.

Final thoughts

With proper maintenance and forethought, you can prevent a lot of things from damaging your roof. However, some types of roof damage are unavoidable. Either way, knowing what to look for and how to handle the situation can make repairing your roof a lot less stressful.

It also helps having someone to support you throughout the repair process. At Baltic Roofing, we know what to expect and what to look for. When you hire us for your roof repair or replacement project, we’re dedicated to helping you get the best roof possible for your home. We provide quality roofing that adds tangible value to your home. Check out our portfolio of work around Chicagoland.

See how our roofing work can provide you with peace of mind for years to come. If you believe your roof is damaged, contact us today for a roof inspection.

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