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Clean gutters can help roof longevity but sweeping not always recommended

VICTORIA - Roofs are one of the most important features of a house, and one of the most expensive, which is why homeowners look to prolong the life of their roof with maintenance. But some maintenance may actually damage it.

Tom Williams, president of Aerial Roofing in Victoria, says some minor care and cleanup of a roof is important, but caution is required to avoid removing the granules that protect shingles on asphalt roofs.

"Homeowners will go up and sweep their roof," says Williams. "But they could be sweeping the granules off the asphalt and when it is exposed to the weather it breaks down faster."

Removing debris and cleaning gutters can maintain the integrity of a home's roof. Williams says getting rid of pine needles and leaves in roof valleys, the intersecting points between two different planes of the roof, keeps water flowing into the gutters.

"Properties with big trees can generate a lot of debris," he says. "The roof can get caught up with that. Debris can create dams that will cause water to move left and right instead of free flowing, which can cause leaks."

Homeowners should also be aware of moss buildup around protrusions from their roof like chimneys, skylights and plumbing.

"Homeowners should remove the moss around those protrusions so the water can flow down into the gutter and off the roof instead of backtracking, and getting in those holes," says Williams. "But you have to watch with moss removal because it can destroy your roof. Power washing and sweeping removes the granules and exposes the asphalt."

Dallas Huber, president of Dynamic Roofing in Regina, agrees maintenance ensures homeowners get the most life out of their roof.

Huber says depending on the kind and quality of the shingles most roofs installed in the last 20 years have a lifespan of 20 to 50 years, but older roofs, such as those constructed of cedar shingles common in the 1970s and '80s, may have a lifespan of between 15 and 20 years.

Late summer weather in the Prairies can mean hail, which can cause serious damage to a roof because it removes the granules from the asphalt.

"Weather is the biggest thing that can damage a roof, along with improper ventilation. If you don't have enough vents to cool it you're basically baking it from the inside and out."

According to Huber, homes erected in and before the '80s may not be built to the current code, which has standards regarding how many vents are required to adequately cool a roof.

"Adding sufficient vents and making sure there are proper vents can prolong the life of a roof," says Huber. "Proper ventilation includes making sure the soffit area under the roof is not blocked. Vented soffits and ventilation is a big key to adding life to your roof."

Homeowners who are in the market for a new roof may be overwhelmed with the selection of roofing professionals, but Williams says there are some basic things they should ask before hiring a roofer.

"People should do their due diligence when shopping for a roofer," he says. "Looking into their standings with the Better Business Bureau along with their liability insurance is an important step.

"Homeowners also shouldn't feel embarrassed to ask for customer references, and not just from their favourite customer. References can help answer questions about what the company was like to deal with and what kind of service they provided."

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