How I Inspect A Roof

Updated: Apr 12, 2019


Roof Inspection Methods

Hey Guys, this is my first blog about roofing, and I thought I’d start with the way I inspect a roof. Later I'll deal with what I look at during a roof inspection.

So, to get started, there are several way to inspect a roof, but there is no “Perfect” way. Let’s look at the different inspection methods and the pros and cons of each.

Overview

I can hoist the old trusty ladder off of the truck and climb on the roof, or I can view the roof from the ground using binoculars, or I can use my drone.

Walking the roof:

Very few home inspectors actually walk on a roof, but I do when I can.

Pros:

Clambering (whenever I hear that word I’m reminded of “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges, when he says that he's too old and too fat to clamber up that tree) up on the roof provides the best view of the roof, bar none. After all, I can actually squat down, touch and closely examine the roof covering (usually asphalt shingles) and other roofing components.

Cons:

  • Walking on the roof damages it by wearing away the granules on the shingles (more on that in another blog), and may void the warranty.

  • Safety. Walking on a roof is inherently unsafe. Whether to walk or not to walk is solely up to the inspector. Factors that may influence that determination are:

  • The age of the roof.

  • The roof pitch, or the steepness of the roof. Anything greater than a 4:12 pitch stretches my comfort level. I’m not a mountain goat.

  • Weather / temperature. Very cold weather make shingles brittle, and very hot weather make them soft. Walking on a roof in these conditions will likely cause damage to it. Wet conditions can also make a roof more dicey to walk on.

  • The condition of the roof. This is closely related to the age of the roof, but if a roof has been leaking for a long time the roof deck (the wood (OSB) sheets that are beneath the shingles) may be rotted. This is a good example of rotted roof decking. I didn't walk this roof!


Binoculars

Using binoculars to closely examine a roof from the ground is a very common way home inspectors do a roof inspection.

Pros: Binoculars provide an excellent close up view of a roof and many details and flaws can be seen from this method.

Cons: Some sections of the roof simply can’t be seen from the ground due to irregular roof shapes or small back yards that don’t allow me to get far enough away from the roof to see it.

Also, flashing and roof penetrations can be really difficult to see from the ground.

Drone

Using newer technology (no one is really going to call a drone ‘new technology') can enhance roof inspections.

Pros:

Drones allow the me the opportunity to get a great bird’s eye view of the roof. A skilled operator can get an overall view from altitude as well as fly within feet of the roof to closely examine areas of the roof that seem questionable, including the condition of the roofing material, roof penetrations and flashing. And, drones don’t damage the roof as there is no physical contact with it.



Cons:

  • Wind and rain are not ideal conditions to fly in. Because drones are light they are highly susceptible to wind, especially when trying to get close to the roof to examine a certain area. Drones aren’t waterproof, and they can be damaged or ruined if they get wet.

  • Trees – YIKES! Here in the greater Atlanta area we love our trees, but they can be real trouble when using a drone in close quarters.

  • Like binoculars, drones don’t allow me to touch the roof. It’s amazing how much we rely on the sense of touch, isn’t it?

So, which method do I use? All 3, depending on conditions. I really like my drone because of the advantages it offers, but I will also walk a roof if it is safe to do so. And, I do have a good pair of binoculars so that I can really zoom in on a certain area if I need to when walking and using the drone are not good options.


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