A (Good) Roof Over Your Head Requires Maintenance


By Bill Primavera

 The Home Guru


Lately we realtors have been showing more homes in the lower priced range and, unfortunately, a growing percentage of those are vacated through foreclosure.  In some cases, the roof of the structures may have been in marginal shape and, now, without a watchful eye on its condition, it can quickly do damage.

“A good roof is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” says Mark Franzoso, owner of Franzoso Contracting, located in Croton-on-Hudson.

Franzoso, whose business is known for its quality window replacement and roofing, is among an elite group of installers with special certification from GAF, the nation’s leading manufacturer of roofing materials, so he knows something about that vital skin above our heads that is the main defense between us and the elements.  “Defective windows can wait for replacement, but a defective roof can’t wait,” he asserted with emphasis.

Most people don’t want to think about roof maintenance until it becomes imperative, and I have reason to know. On the very first weekend that we occupied our antique home, there was a torrential downpour and our roof leaked to the point where we had to gather every vessel we could find to catch the water that was leaking from my daughter’s bedroom ceiling. Needless to say, I was annoyed with the seller whom I called to complain, but only after I had called a local roofer.

At the time, to save money, I chose just to have the existing roof covered with a new layer of shingle.  I was told by the roofer at the time that this was not a good decision, but it was all I could afford after coming up with the needed down payment and closing costs.

“We don’t recommend re-covering old roofs,” agreed Mark Franzoso, “because that can reduce the expected life of a roof from 30 years to 15 years.” Further, he said that of the 450 roofs his company replaced in 2009, only 10 of those were second layers.

Seven years ago, I’ve replaced the roof once more, and by this time it really needed it. I was starting to see the tell-tale signs of roof problems from the inside, so I spent the extra bucks to have the roofer go down to the rafters and furring strips to remove all the original wood shingles and the two layers of asphalt above them. The roofline probably looks straighter than ever in its history.

I was advised at that time to inspect my roof for signs of damage once a year, but I really hadn’t done it until I started writing as the Home Guru. Now I feel a moral obligation to do all kinds of maintenance steps that I write about.  It can be a pain.

This past year, I made some major changes to protect my roof, the main one being the removal of several very old sugar maples that were overhanging portions of the house. That can cause a myriad of problems, from falling branches to falling leaves which clog gutter systems, causing water to backup into the attic and living space.

Actually, my gutter systems were totally clogged, but I forgot about them until I started seeing water in the basement. A service person confirmed that the gutters were so full that rainwater was just pouring directly from the roof into my foundation. After a thorough cleaning out of the gutters, the water now flows as it’s supposed to and is directed away from the house. And my basement is dry as a bone.

From the inside, warning signs of roof problems can include dark areas on ceilings, peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs, and damp spots alongside the fireplace. Outside and with the aid of binoculars, signs to look for are streaks that would be an indication of mold, algae or fungus.  If left unchecked they can eat away at the roofing material. For permanent protection from this problem, some homeowners install zinc strips along the ridge of the roof that form zinc oxide when rainwater runs over them and, as the water rolls down the roof, it carries a protective coating that prevents growth from occurring.

When shingles are missing because of storms or wind gusts, it’s important to replace them to avoid water damage and rot. If you’re brave enough to mount your own roof (my roof pitch is so steep that I’d never try), owners can fix some damage themselves. This is done by loosening the first row of good shingles above the damaged one, then using a pry bar or putty knife to pull away the adjacent shingles so that the good ones are separated from the damaged one.  Gently rock the damaged shingle back and forth to remove it, and then replace it with a new shingle.

Other warning signs of trouble include cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing, shingles that are buckling, curling or blistering and worn areas around chimneys, pipes and skylights.

If any of these worrisome signs are discovered, a homeowner should get a professional assessment, either from a roofing company that does it free or from a specialized roof inspector who works through the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association. The latter will charge for the service.

Costs for roof repair can range from $10 for just a squirt of roofing mastic into a gap alongside the chimney flashing to $1,000 to fix a leak in a roof valley.  If a storm causes a leak to appear, homeowner’s insurance will probably cover the repairs.  But insurance may not cover problems that stem from a worn-out roof or lack of maintenance.

The cost of re-roofing, that is, stripping off old roofing and starting over, typically costs from $3.00 to $4.50 a square foot, depending on the area of the country and the quality of the materials. Franzoso recommends better quality materials because “it can make the difference between a guarantee of 30 years to a lifetime guarantee.”

If a homeowner chooses to cover an existing layer of shingle, it could cost as low as $2.00 a square foot.  But that won’t allow new flashing or better underlayment. “Besides that, potential buyers may interpret the two layers as a sign that other home improvements were also done on the cheap,” Fransozo observed.

As part of a new roofing project, there are features that could make a home more environmentally friendly, some of which may qualify for a federal tax credit to offset the cost. And, roofing material that’s more resistant to fire or damage from wind may qualify a homeowner for an insurance discount as well.

If you find that it’s time to have a roof assessment done, you can call Mark Franzoso at 914- 271-4572.


Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (PrimaveraPR.com). He can be emailed at  bill@PrimaveraHomes.com or reached directly at 914-522-2076.

Follow him on Twitter for housing market updates at Twitter.com/HomeGuruNY.