Roof Inspection: How to Identify Early (and Overlooked) Signs of Damage

Posted by on Mar 15, 2023

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While roofs often come with guarantees that span decades, they don’t last forever. Knowing exactly when a small crack might develop into a minor leak and then a major repair can be a difficult guessing game. In most homes, shingles, caulking and gutters deteriorate over years and decades. 

After a major storm is often a smart time to check on the structural integrity of your roof. Even if you haven’t had a major storm or don’t live in an area where they occur, checking in on your roof at least once a year makes sense. 

You may not want to walk around on a pitched roof to investigate. Consider calling up a professional roofer to take a look around. DIYers who have a sturdy ladder, good balance and a passion for home inspection can take a look from the side and check if they may need to get a professional to make some small patches or even an estimate for a new roof. Homeowners who want to learn more about the cost of a home assessment can get more information at

Just to reiterate that warning: Don’t walk on your roof to investigate unless you’re very comfortable with the approach. If you do go up on your roof, hook yourself in. Falling off a roof is no joke. 

Here are several signs that your roof may need repairing.

Missing Shingles

This may seem like an obvious point, but check if any shingles are missing. If they are, definitely get the area covered and repaired. Don’t think “Well, it’s just one shingle, what’s the harm?” It can lead to much more expensive repairs than just a shingle replacement. If you’re particularly handy, you may be able to replace a shingle yourself. 

The granules may look like a design elements, but they’re created to protect shingles and keep the roof weatherproofed. Not only does it protect it from wind and rain, but also sunlight baking on the shingles. When they start to disappear, it’s also an indicator that the shingles are starting to disintegrate. Dark spots on the shingles are also signs that the shingles are losing functionality. 

Also check if the granules are washing away from the surface of the shingles and running through the gutters or downspouts. The loss of granules may not be obvious until you check your splash blocks. 

Shingle Curling
Shingles go through a lot of expansion and contraction with changes in temperature over the seasons. As a result, some of the corners may curl up. It can start even in the first years after a new roof is installed. Then it may calm down as the roof settles. 

After a dozen or so years, the curling can return, a sign that the shingle connection to the roof is starting to break down. If you see curling on an older roof, it may be time to start considering replacement.

While it may seem like cracked shingles are the result of sun or water damage, wind and age are often reasons for the splits. These cracks can quickly lead to shingles getting pulled up and the elements seeping in the opening. The top seam of an a-line roof can be particularly susceptible to shingle snaps given that the tiles are bent over to cover the angle where the two sides of the roof meet.

Popped up Nails
A roof can have thousands of in it to hold down all of the shingles. A popped up nail isn’t necessarily the sign of a bad installation, but the natural result from expansion and contraction. When nails start to loosen, it’s possible for leaks to develop under the shingles. 

The nail pops may almost look like bubbles or peaks in the roof. They’re best viewed when looking up the pitch. These structural issues can be difficult to fix without pulling away sections of shingles. 

As the years wear away the material, any location where a base nail wasn’t properly installed or has popped from expansion and contraction can grow into a potential leak area. When these are discovered, they should be caulked over. 

Soft Metals
The gutters and flashing can get dented by hail and other storm impact. These dents and bends can lead to holes and and openings that will allow moisture into the attic. 

Hard Metal
If you have a metal roof, check if the wind has blown up some of the panels and they need to be reattached or replaced. Hail can also cause dings on a metal roof. If your house has survived a difficult hail storm, you may want to use chalk to help accentuate the dings so they’re more noticeable. 

Missing Caulk
Caulk may be applied to a roof in numerous areas. For example, the edges of a box vent will typically be smoothed over with caulk to keep the area from allowing in rain or snow. As a roof ages, it’s not uncommon for the caulk in these areas to disintegrate and wear away over years of exposure. These areas can certainly be re-caulked to keep the roof in working order, but as the roof ages and the caulk wears away, it’s a sign that other problems may also soon appear.

If you’re able to see the webbing of an asphalt shingle it’s often a sign the material is coming apart. This is typically seen through divots in the shingles. 

Old patches
While not necessarily a problem sign in and of themselves, special attention should be paid to any area where a satellite dish or other antenna has been installed and removed. If these are properly covered, they holes created by these attachments will fail sooner than the rest of the roof. 

Insurance considerations
If you have an insurance policy that covers storm damage to your roof and you need to get it replaced, check how long the window is for you to get that done. If a huge storm rips through a large swath of your town, hundreds of homes may need to be repaired and roofers can be backed up for months (or even years). You can have a contractor come out and put up temporary fixes and tarps as a band-aid until long-term fixes can be applied. 

Hiring a Roofer
After a big storm, a lot of contractors may come to your area or put up ads looking for work. It may make sense to wait for a local roofer who is familiar with the town codes as well as weather patterns and how those may impact a home. You also know that they will still be in the area if a problem occurs.

Even a contractor from a town or two over may find excuses not to show up for a repair.

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