What Does A Home Inspector Look for on the Roof?

As part of a home inspection, an inspector will climb to the roof for a visual inspection. Your roof is made up of various components that work together to protect your house. 

However, knowing exactly what those parts are and how they affect your house might be tricky. What’s the difference between flashings and soffits? What makes a valley at risk for leaks?

Here are terms to help you understand what your inspector is looking at when they’re on your roof.

Shingles

Close up of a roof with arrows pointing to a valley and shingles.
Shingles and valleys help channel water off a roof.

Shingles are one of the most common roof covering in the United States. They’re made of materials including wood, metal, plastic, slate, flagstone, however the most popular are fiberglass-based asphalt shingles. Shingles are flat and often rectangular in shape. They’re installed overlapping and are designed to channel water off the roof.

Most shingles are installed on top of asphalt felt paper, which helps prevent leaks. It’s the oils in the asphalt paper and shingles that helps protect the roof. Over time, heat from the sun softens the oils which are then washed away by rain. 

Eventually, the oil loss causes the asphalt shingles to shrink, exposing the underlying roofing elements to water, which can cause damage to a home’s interior.

Valleys

A valley is where two roof slopes meet and form a ‘V’ angle. When it rains or when snow melts, water is channeled in the valleys to flow off the roof. Because of their role in funneling water, valleys are at risk for leaks.

Close up of a stone chimney emerging from a red tile roof. Metal strips of flashing are around the base of the chimney.
Flashing are thin strips of metal surrounding roof features, such as a chimney. It helps direct water away from critical areas.

Chimneys

A chimney, which is usually made of masonry – like bricks – is a pipe that conducts smoke and hot, toxic exhaust gas from a fire or furnace upwards to be ventilated. Chimneys are usually vertice to ensure the gases rise upwards. The part of a chimney that extends above a roof is called the “chimney stack.” An inspector will look for cracks, gaps or loose masonry.

Flashings

Roof flashing is used to direct water away from critical areas, such as where the roof meets a vertical surface, like a wall or dormer. Flashing is a thin metal, typically made of galvanized steel. You’ll find it surrounding roof features including chimneys, vents or skylights.

Gutters

Gutters are the narrow troughs installed on the edge of a roof that collect rain water or snow melt and funnels it toward a downspout. Your home inspector will visually inspect the gutters to ensure they’re adequately sized for the house and are free from rust, cracks or holes.

Downspouts

Downspouts collect water from the gutter system and funnel the water downward and away from the home’s foundation. An inspector will make sure the downspouts are free from rust, cracks or holes. An inspector also will check to make sure the downspout deposits water far enough away from the foundation.

Close up of a roof area with arrows pointing to a chimney, fascia, soffit, eaves and gutter.
Your roof is comprised of a number of elements all designed to protect the home and help direct water away.

Eaves

Eaves are the edges of a roof overhanging the face of the wall. They typically project beyond the side of a building. While used to give a home architectural detail, eaves are important for water removal. Because they extend beyond the home’s walls, they’re designed to throw water away from the building.

Fascia

On your home’s roof, the fascia is the board running along the roofline. It typically holds the gutters in place and acts as a finishing edge or trim connecting the ends of the rafters and trusses.

Soffits

Found under the eaves of a roof, a soffit bridges the gap between a home’s siding or masonry and the roofline. Derived from French, soffit means “something fixed underneath.” It’s usually made of aluminum or vinyl, but can also be fiber cement, wood or steel.

What Happens After an Inspection?

After a home inspection from Detailed Inspection Service, you will receive an inspection report. The report, which conforms to the laws of the State of Illinois and the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors, will include a description and rating of all of the above-mentioned areas of your roof.

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