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Roof problems and how to spot them

Although you might not ever think about your roof, it’s vital – integral – to your home. As the saying goes, ‘If you have a family that loves you, a few good friends, food on the table and a roof over your head, you are more blessed than you think’. But what if the roof over your head is at risk? When you buy a home, it’s crucial to check out the roof, making sure there are no issues or potential issues. These could include gaps where the weather, birds or insects can get in or structural problems.
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most common roof problems and how you can use a home survey to spot them in time.

Poor installation

A roof that hasn’t been correctly installed is more likely to see problems sooner rather than later. The issues arising from poor installation are usually related to the weather. For example, incorrectly placed tiles could leak water. Misaligned gutters could redirect rainwater into areas it shouldn’t be, as could poorly-placed flashing.
Home surveys are an excellent way to check for any kind of faulty installation on the roof. These are generally visual and can be seen from the ground outside or inside the loft.

Water damage

A roof’s function is to transport the weather away from a home’s interior. In the UK, it’s arguably most important for protecting us from the ever-present drizzle, come summer or winter. Water damage indicates that the roof is failing in this regard. As the water comes through the roof, often resulting from storms or poor installation, the damp can weaken walls, ceilings or floors and lead to health hazards. Water damage is one of the most important to address quickly. It’s not just affecting the roof, but potentially the whole house, meaning the repair costs would constantly increase over time. Allowing it to get out of control could even be dangerous for the occupants. More detailed home surveys, such as a Level 2 or Level 3, are more likely to pick up on water damage from the roof. Surveyors will enter the roof when it’s safe to do so and use equipment such as a damp meter and torch to examine for water damage. Sometimes you can visually see it in ceilings, floors and walls, too.

Trees and overhanging branches

One of the most catastrophic incidents when it comes to roofs is a falling branch or tree. As you can well imagine, these will crash down, dislodging tiles and leaving the house wide open to the elements. If it comes down with enough force, it could even smash straight through the tiles and into the home below. Overhanging branches can also cause other problems. They can rub against the roof tiles, wearing down the top layer. After being worn down, the tiles will be much more susceptible to damage from the weather. A home survey report will include details of overhanging trees and branches along with some advice on what to do. They’ll usually recommend inviting an experienced, qualified and insured tree surgeon to remove any branches that might pose a threat. In extreme conditions, it might even be necessary to chop down the entire tree, although you might need permission from the council.

Improper ventilation

Roof ventilation is part of what keeps the temperature and humidity in a house regulated. Houses built since the 1980s have a gap near the ridge (at the top) and the soffits (at the base) to vent the rising warm air. If these gaps get clogged up or aren’t installed correctly, the temperature and humidity in the roof will become more and more extreme. The unregulated conditions can lead to a build-up of mildew and mould, damage to roof components and even a potential increase in energy costs. Older houses may not have a lining below the main coverings, which will allow wind to blow through any gaps. Properties re-roofed prior to the 1980s may not have had ventilation provided, but increases in insulation levels since that time have resulted in more condensation issues.

During a home survey, the surveyor will enter the roof (if it’s reasonable and safe to do so) and inspect the structural and damp-proofing components they can see. They won’t touch any insulation or any of the occupant’s belongings, though. At this stage, the surveyor may notice issues with ventilation. The main signs are mould to the underside of the roof lining, evidence of drips on the insulation.

RICS home surveys and roof problems

At GB Home Surveys, our RICS regulated inspections include checking the roof. For a quick roof examination, checking for things like damp or roof tile damage, we’d recommend a Home Survey Level 2. If it’s a more detailed structural inspection of the roof you’re after, a Home Survey Level 3 is the way to go. For more details on the RICS home surveys, including how roofs are inspected, check out these summaries:

RICS Home Survey Level 2 overview
RICS Home Survey Level 3 overview

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