Pocket guide: what you need to know about roofing

These crucial parts of your house need to be regularly maintained and inspected, as neglect can lead to expensive repair bills or more importantly, major damage and potential danger such as flooding or even fires.

But what do you look for, how often and what happens when you spot a problem?

Here are a few tips for ensuring your gutters and roof tiles – and therefore your house – don’t end up causing you major headaches.

The major hazards
Davyn Edwards from RACV’s service delivery provider says that poorly maintained roofs, gutters and downpipes regularly result in ceiling leaks, which can cause long-lasting damage.

“If gutters are not cleaned out regularly, a build-up of leaves and debris can cause gutters to overflow which can cause water to flow into ceiling spaces and down internal walls,” he says.

Likewise, cracked or broken roof tiles can lead to the roof leaking. When a damaged tile is caught early, it is generally easily repaired or replaced without causing further issues. But when the problem is left to develop, it can have serious consequences that are costly and time-consuming to fix.

How often should you check?
Every house is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all timeline outlining how often you should perform a check-up on your tiles and gutters.

Davyn recommends having your gutters inspected at least once a year – but more often if there are a lot of tall trees around your property, or your neighbour’s property, as this is more likely to cause a rapid build-up of leaves or debris.

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Clearing out your gutters is essential for keeping your roof watertight

Given this year’s winter has been particularly wet and cold right across Australia, spring is a perfect time.

Having your gutters professionally inspected will also allow your tradesperson to check for other common problems such as holes.

The age of your house also has an effect on how often the roof should be inspected.

“A roof inspection every couple of years, especially if your home is quite old, can help identify any major issues you may have,” advises Davyn.

“This can include cracked or damaged roof tiles, damaged roof sheets and guttering.”

Common gutter problems
Whether you or a family member is able to inspect your gutters, or you need to call in a professional tradesperson, there are some common problems to keep an eye on.

Gutter problems are extremely common. In fact, Archicentre, run by the Australian Institute of Architects, found that almost half of all homes they inspected had gutters that needed repairing or replacing.

Aaron Flavell, general manager home services at RACV, says that some gutter problems are minor and can be easily repaired.

3 money saving tips

  1. If you discover a small hole in your gutter that has not yet caused further damage, this can often be repaired with a simple patch available at your local hardware shop. 
  2. Minor rust damage can also be easily removed with a wire brush. This is important as when rust grows, corrosion can completely damage galvanised steel gutters. 
  3. Some roof tile cracks can be repaired at home, or are an easy job for a tradesperson.

Aaron says that telltale signs of major guttering faults include water stains on internal walls, ceilings and around windows.

“If you notice water stains inside your house, you must take immediate action to prevent the problem from spreading further and potentially causing irreparable damage,” he advises.

Water stains themselves can be removed, but the gutter might be dealing with a substantial build-up of debris, significant rust or holes.

The best way to avoid this major damage is to ensure your gutters are regularly inspected and maintained.

On the roof
There are many different types of roof tiles, each of which may be susceptible to damage in different ways. Concrete, clay and terracotta remain some of the most common types of roof tiles used in Australia.

“Like damage to gutters, cracked roof tiles can lead to significant water damage to your roof and cause internal problems to doors, windows and ceilings,” says Aaron Flavell, general manager home services at RACV.

Aaron says all types of tiled roofs require ongoing maintenance, and that some insurance companies will not cover roof damage or loss caused by water, placing onus on the homeowner to ensure that the roof is regularly inspected.

Some roof tile cracks can be repaired at home, or are an easy job for a tradesperson.

It is vital that the cracked tile is cleaned using a toothbrush or wire brush to remove debris from within the crack, and that the tile is allowed to dry for at least 24 hours from this point to allow residual water to be absorbed. Silicone caulking and repair cement are two of the more common products used to repair cracks in tiles.

For more significant damage, or to replace a tile, you are best placed to call a tradesperson. It may cost a little short-term but with a little care, will likely save you a lot of money long-term.

What are you most concerned about regarding roofing? Let us know in the comments section below.