Roofing horror stories—trust me, we’ve heard quite a few. From the roofing remodel that collapsed after a night of heavy rain to the roofer who removed a vent pipe—and then didn’t bother to patch the hole—there’s definitely a lot that can go wrong with a roof.

Of course, those are some of the most extreme cases. Most homeowners won’t experience the trauma of a roof collapse or major impact. Still, it helps to keep an eye out for potential problems. Building experts say one reason roofing issues get out of control is that homeowners simply don’t know what to look for. And when that happens, it can often take roofers several rounds of costly repairs before they finally locate the source of the issue.

By educating yourself about some of the most common problems, you can avoid the worst headaches, heartbreaks, and potential money pits. To get you started, here are some of the most common issues seen on rooftops—and what you can do about them.

inspecting your home roof

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You Slacked Off On Regular Maintenance

Be honest: before today, when was the last time you thought about your roof? It’s a common enough situation for homeowners. Roofs are really easy to forget about—until something goes wrong, that is. But your home’s roof is actually a complex system, all of it working to protect you and keep you dry. It takes experienced roofers years to understand the ins and outs of all the different roofing designs.

Still, even if you know very little about building design, there are some common issues you can catch by performing a routine visual inspection once or twice a year, and especially after big storms. In particular, be on the lookout for ponding water—pools that collect on the surface of your roof. Also be aware of cracked, broken, or missing shingles or tiles; and dented, rusted, or missing flashing—the metal sheets that cover seam between the roof and the chimney and other protrusions. These issues all warrant a repair.

Sneakier signs of damage? Look for peeling paint on your soffit and roof overhangs, a common symptom of moisture. Also, discolorations, mold, and sagging ceilings visible from the attic ceiling—all of which indicate you may have a leak. You should also check (and clean!) your gutters at this time. As tedious as cleaning the gutters may seem, your drainage system is a necessary safeguard against excess moisture. Keeping water flowing here protects your siding and keeps your roof in tip-top shape, so the health of your exteriors absolutely depends on it.

Your Roof Has Design Flaws

This one is a little bit more serious. Occasionally roofs leak, sag, or even collapse due to structural deficiencies. Sometimes these issues can be difficult to detect without a thorough investigation, even by experienced roofers.

On the other hand, design issues also occur when inexperienced or careless roofers and builders remove important structural components in the process of making remodels. In one case, for instance, a contractor thoughtlessly removed steel brackets designed to support the roof’s decking while making changes to the drainage system and gutters. That turned a once-healthy roof sour in a matter of days.

In the vast majority of cases, however, roofing design flaws don’t require massive reconstruction. A standard reroof with a knowledgeable professional is usually enough to iron them out.

Your Roof Was Hit By a Sudden Storm or Other Weather Event

Wind lifts and impacts cause immediate, severe damage to your roof, often requiring an urgent repair from an emergency roofer. In fact, this is where some homeowners can get into trouble, since fly-by-night roofers, or “storm chasers,” as they’re known in the roofing profession, often show up right after storms to scam unsuspecting households when they’re most vulnerable. They often perform the work for cutthroat rates, do the job shoddily, and then skip town before the roof starts to cave. You can avoid problems like these by looking for a contractor with a local office when you make any repair.

Wind lifts, too, can usually be prevented with proper inspections. Typically, these occur because of degraded or improperly attached flashing. Or it may be that a contractor skimped out on adhesive or nails to finish the job faster. In either case, be aware of some of the warning signs of shady contractor behavior: workers who ask for full payment up front, don’t answer your calls promptly, or can’t provide references and licenses.


Your Roof Was Impacted by Weather Over Time

Not all weather damage announces its presence with flashing lightning and whooshing wind—some take their toll subtly, over the span of months or even years. Hail, in particular, can cause imperceptible divots on roof surfaces that leave homeowners vulnerable to leaks and moisture over time. The important thing is to scope out hail damage right away, because home insurance policies may not cover you if too much time has elapsed.

Another cause of slow-moving damage is exposure to UV rays. In climates with extreme sunlight, exposure to UV radiation can degrade shingles over time, requiring more frequent repairs and replacements. If this is a problem for your area, you can right the issue by purchasing UV-resistant materials in your next replacement, or covering your existing shingles in a UV-resistant protective coating.

Your Contractor Did a Bad Job

As a homeowner, you put a lot of trust in your contractor’s know-how and expertise, but unfortunately, not all of them deserve it. While the vast majority of roofers are honest, experienced professionals, you should definitely take some precautions to protect yourself. A roofer who comes recommended by a friend or an acquaintance is usually the safest bet.

Don’t have any friends with roofers in their pasts? Ask your potential candidates to provide their own references—and follow up on them. Always take at least three bids on every project. It will help you gauge the average costs in your area. And don’t go with someone just because they give you the lowest bid—often, you get what you pay for. You can avoid the majority of disasters by applying a little roofing know-how!