Most homeowners don't pay muchattention to their roof until rain or melting snow starts to leak through it—thenit demands immediate action. But ifyou periodically inspect your roof, youcan correct minor problems beforethey become serious enough to causedamage.Understanding the structure ofyour roof (see below) is the first steptoward diagnosing possible problems.On the facing page, you'll find directions for inspecting your roof from theinside and outside. If your inspection indicates that repairs are necessary referto pages 31-38.CAUTION; Tile and slate roofs areextremely slippery, and the materialscan break easily; metal and plasticroofs also tend to be slippery. If yourhouse has one of these out-of-the-ordinary roofs, it's best to leave inspection and repairs to a professional roofing contractor.A roof protects a house from damageby the elements, especially water.Roofs are designed to shed water; theparts comprising a roof combine to direct water off the roof and away fromthe house.
Anatomy of a roof
A typical roof (see illustration at right)begins with a framework of rafterswhich supports a roof deck (sometimescalled a subroof) consisting of sheathing and underlayment. The roof deck,in turn, provides a nailing base for theroof surface material.
The roof deck.
Though the type of roofdeck used can vary depending on theroof surface material, most decks haveboth sheathing and underlayment.Sheathing, the material that provides the nailing base for the roof surface material, ranges from solid plywood to fiberboard to open sheathing(used with wood shakes).Sandwiched between the sheathing and the surface material is theunderlayment, usually roofing felt. Aheavy, fibrous black paper saturatedwith asphalt, roofing felt is thick enoughto resist water penetration from outside,yet thin enough to allow moisture frominside the attic to escape.
The roof surface.
The material on theroof must be able to withstand wind,rain, snow, hail, and sun. A wide varietyof roof surface materials is available—the different types are discussed atright and on pages 31-33.The surface of the roof is often broken by angles and protrusions, allof which require weatherproofing—usually provided by the flashing. Madefrom malleable metal or plastic, flashing appears as the drip edge along theeaves and rakes of a roof, the collarsaround ventilation and plumbing pipes,the valleys between two roof planes,and the "steps" along a chimney ordormer. Less obvious flashing also protects other breaks in the roof, such asaround some solar panels and skylights. At the roof edges, metal, wood,or vinyl gutters catch water runoff andchannel it to the ground via the downspouts, which direct water away fromthe house and into the soil.
Types of roofing materials
Roofing varies widely in size, shape,and material. Traditional sloping roofsare usually covered with overlappinglayers of asphalt shingles, wood shingles or shakes, or tile, though you canfind such roofs covered with slate, aluminum, or galvanized steel.Flat or low-sloping roofs are mostoften surfaced with alternating layers ofroofing felt and asphalt, with a layer ofgravel on top. These are known asbuilt-up, or tar-and-gravel, roofs. Someflat roofs are covered with insulatingPolyurethane foam.