Keep Tabs on Your Shingled Roof

Think of your asphalt shingle roof as an intricate system comprised of many layers, all working together to help move water away from your building. You may assume all is well if there are no signs of water leaks, but ignoring your roof can lead to serious and expensive problems. That’s why routine inspection and maintenance are essential to maximizing its longevity and minimizing the risk for unseen dangers like mold and rotting wood. 

Look Up

Keeping tabs on your roof is as easy as looking up. While safely on the ground, try to look at your roof at least once a week and after any storms. The idea is to spot signs of trouble so they can be fixed before turning into major construction projects. Even if your building is tall, you should be able to notice things like missing shingles or debris. 

Ventilation is a critical component of a healthy roof system. A properly ventilated roof will allow moisture to escape and keep the shingles and roof deck cooler, which can extend their lifespan and avoid materials failure. “If you look at a large roof assembly and notice that shingles are deteriorating faster in a certain area, it’s usually an indication that the roof is not getting enough ventilation or getting too hot. Heat and moisture are the enemies of roofing materials,” said Ward Durant, a senior risk control specialist with Brotherhood Mutual. 

Another critical issue to look for is whether the shingles can quickly dry. “When roofs stay wet for too long, it can cause the shingles, fasteners, and even the wood underneath them to wear out more quickly,” offered Durant. In addition to checking the roof, he routinely advises that you check gutters for obstructions and trim overhanging trees that can prevent the roof from drying. “A typical roof should be dry within two to three hours of receiving direct sunshine,” he said. 

While on the ground, start your visual inspection at the top of the roof and work your way down. Some issues that should be addressed immediately include missing shingles, gutters blocked by debris, and valleys that are full of debris. Some less obvious issues include mold or moss growing on your shingles. While this might not seem like a big deal, Durant advises, “It can grow enough that it will raise the level of the shingle, breaking its seal, and allowing wind-driven rain to get underneath the shingles.” 

When to Call the Pros

While frequent visual inspection of your roof from ground level is good practice, there comes a point when it’s time to hire a professional to take a closer look and to make repairs. A licensed roofing contractor can thoroughly inspect your roof to find small issues that could lead to much bigger problems without repair. They have the equipment to work safely at height and have the training to use the correct methods and materials to make lasting, water-tight repairs. 

If you have traditional asphalt shingles, it’s a good idea to begin professional roof inspections about halfway through their life expectancy. For most roofs, this can occur approximately 10 to 15 years after installation, then annually after that. It’s best practice to get an annual inspection in the spring. This can catch winter damage and prep the roof for warmer summer weather. An even better option is to have a bi-annual inspection – once in the spring and once in the fall. 

Professional roofing contractors will also look at how the shingles are performing. “They’ll check for signs of abnormal wear and inspect areas that are more prone to wind-driven rain to make sure the shingles are solidly adhered,” explained Durant. Additionally, a contractor will inspect the valleys and ?flashing assemblies. “These areas are prone to leaking, and flashing typically requires resealing during a normal lifespan. It’s important to keep a close watch on these areas.” 

Steeples are a feature unique to ministry buildings, but they can cause problems. “We’ve seen them installed over the top of the existing shingles, which can lead to leaks or early roof failure,” said Durant. Additionally, condensation inside steeples can keep the roof wet. This reduces its longevity and can cause the steeple attachments to corrode, which can lead to failure during high wind. 

During the professional inspection, a licensed roofing contractor will typically check the following:

Shingles for signs of wear, which can include cracking, loss of coating, holes, or tears.

Caulking or sealant around exposed fasteners, transitions, or electric service.

Flashing to make sure it's installed properly and not corroded or cracked.

Drip edge to make sure water sheds properly off the roof and into the gutter.

Weather seals on roof penetrations like vent pipes for restrooms. These rubber boots can dry out and crack, creating leaks that can go undetected for months or years.

Gutters for debris and other obstructions.

Time to Replace

Like any building component, a roof will eventually need to be replaced. If your roof is past its prime, it’s best to replace it before it fails, potentially leading to much more expensive repairs. Since roofs are installed as systems, not just the shingles, it’s important to hire a certified roofing contractor trained to properly install all the components of the roof, including drip edge, membrane underlayment, flashing, and shingles. 

Durant advises against installing new shingles over old, which is sometimes done with a three-tab system. It can reduce cost, but it misses several critical steps of a water-tight installation. Also, a second layer of shingles places additional weight and strain on your building. Durant recommends starting fresh so you know the condition of your sheathing and can install new flashing, underlayment, and drip edge. 

Another benefit of starting fresh is knowing that your roof deck is sealed properly. This can help keep your building dry in cases where you lose some shingles during a storm. Properly installed underlayment helps keep out wind-driven rain. 

Roofs can be expensive to replace, but a leaky roof can cause structural damage to your building and create mold hazards, adding significant additional repair and clean-up costs. 

Durant offers a final thought, “Regular inspection and maintenance are going to help a roof last longer and will be cheaper in the long run than ignoring it. Spending a little time and treasure on your roof now can leave more for ministry in the long run.”

Metal Roof Basics

Metal roofs are becoming a popular choice for ministries. When properly installed, metal roofs can withstand higher wind speeds and are less susceptible to hail damage. Although they have a higher initial cost, they can last nearly twice as long as premium asphalt shingles. Just like asphalt shingles, metal roofs still require regular inspection and maintenance.  It’s important to keep debris off metal roofs and to look for any signs of loosening or lifting of the metal panels, especially near the corners. Also make sure to inspect the screws and washers that fasten the panels to the roof, tightening when necessary to keep them watertight. 

Quick Visual Inspection

It's easy to do a quick visual inspection while safely on the ground. Here's a handy list to help you get started:

Peak and Ridge Vent

  • Are there any missing shingles?  
  • Does the ridge vent look well-secured?

Roof Protrusions (plumbing vents, attic vents, etc.)

  • Are they broken?  
  • Are they well-secured?

Roof Deck

  • Is it wavy, bowed, or drooping in one area? This could indicate wood rot caused by moisture.


  • Are any damaged or missing?  
  • Are the edges  noticeably curled?  
  • Do you notice any small bumps caused by protruding nails?  
  • Do you see any gaps between or under the shingles?  
  • Can you see wood?  
  • Is there mold or moss growing on the shingles?
  • Valleys (where two roofs meet)
  • Are these areas full of debris like leaves, pine needles, seeds, or sticks?


  • Are they full of debris?  
  • Do you notice vegetation growing in them?  
  • Do your gutters drain well away from your building’s foundation?  
  • Are they secured to your building and in good condition?

Additional Resources

Posted February 2023
The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.