Roof Inspection Checklist for First-Time Homebuyers

Few decisions in life are bigger than picking out your first home or new place of business. When you’re out shopping, you’ll come across several properties with their unique charms and quirks. 

Yet no matter how appealing a property might seem, closing on a building with major roofing problems is a horrible decision. For instance, if unchecked, a few missing shingles could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. 

Moreover, roofs’ biggest issues stem from internal, structural issues. Many of which are invisible to the untrained eye. For this reason, we recommend that all potential property owners (first-timers or not) conduct a thorough, professional roof inspection before closing.

In the meantime, you’re free to check on some things yourself. For tips on how to conduct your preliminary inspection, read on:

Ask About Your Roof’s Age

You might not know enough about roofing to hold complex conversations, but asking your realtors the right questions saves you a lot of trouble. Firstly, it’s important to determine your roof’s age before you close on a property because older roofs usually have more problems than newer ones because of wear and tear.

Keep in mind, however, that roofing materials’ lifespans vary greatly. For instance, in one of our old blogs, we wrote about metal roofs’ lengthy lifespans, and we’ve even touched on the drawbacks of low-grade asphalt shingles.

If your prospective roof is old, feel free to ask your realtor any pressing questions you might have about the roof’s maintenance. If a roof is old and seems poorly maintained, that’s a clear sign to stay away.

Where Are The Warranty & Insurance Papers?

Ask your realtor if the roof’s insurance and warranty papers are up to date. Dealing with insurance companies can be a hassle. Having all your documentation on hand makes things easier. Keeping up with warranties is especially important because once they expire, you may pay a large sum for something that your warranty might have covered in full.

Also, take note of which realtors provide you with this documentation quickly. We urge our readers to prioritize realtors who show them a high level of preparedness and professionalism. Quickly acquiring your insurance documents means you can relay information to someone who can inspect the roof professionally.

Is Anything Growing on The Roof?

If you’re allowed to take an up-close look at the roof, you should keep an eye out for mold, moss or algae growing on the shingles. These three things, if left unchecked, can quickly compromise your roof’s health. Ironically enough, these things are all caused by the same thing: excess moisture retention. In moist conditions, these microorganisms thrive. Mold, moss, and algae are telltale signs of subpar roof maintenance.

Later in the blog, we’ll cover some other things that can negatively affect a roof’s moisture levels. Also, if you’re on the roof and not quite sure how to spot mold, moss or algae, here are some pointers. Moss has a green and spongy-looking appearance. Algae eats away your roof’s materials and this makes algae somewhat easy to identify. If you see long, discolored streaks on the roof, you should book a professional inspection to confirm whether it’s algae or not.

In contrast, mold is far less subtle. Mold leaves unsightly brown, black or dark-green blotches on your roof. If that’s not bad enough, mold gives off a foul odor after a while.

Depending on how much damage your roof sustained from mold, algae or moss, you could need one of three things: 

  1. A long, thorough cleaning
  2. Some minor repairs
  3. A full-on roof replacement

When dealing with moss, mold or algae, you can’t budget for it without knowing the full picture. Scrubbing shingles that need to be replaced is waste, and so is getting a full roof replacement when you don’t need one. To avoid such errors, we recommend getting a professional inspection. The insight from your inspection could save you hundreds of dollars. Regular inspections can make roof maintenance far cheaper for you in the long run.

Are Shingles Cracked, Loose or Missing?

If nothing is growing on your shingles, you should consider yourself lucky. However, that’s not the only way shingles can reveal your roof’s problems. Cracked, loose or missing shingles are no laughing matter. If they’re left unaddressed for too long, they’ll worsen every problem your roof faces moving forward. 

Shingles crack due to “thermal splitting”. This is particularly common in areas with extreme temperature swings. In certain cities, shingles expand due to heat in the morning and afternoons. Then, they shrink in the nighttime because it’s so cold. 

Over time, the constant wear and tear splits the material and leaves “cracks” in the shingles. If the cracks get too big, your roof’s underlayment will be more susceptible to damage. Keep in mind that some cracks are invisible to the untrained eye. So, it’s wise to make sure that you get a professional inspection to uncover every single crack on your roof.

As for loose shingles, they can stem from many different problems. Sometimes, poor maintenance reduces a shingle’s lifespan significantly. Other times, the shingles on a well-maintained roof start to get shaky. In our line of work, we’ve seen many customers deal with loose shingles because their roofers botched their repairs and installations.

If your roof shingles aren’t properly fastened from the beginning, your roof will be susceptible to wind damage. If you need a professional to check the condition and quality of your last installation, look no further than us.

What About The Gutters?

Gutters either make or break your roof’s health. If they’re not cleaned regularly, built-up debris soaks up extra moisture from rainfall, and it’s only a matter of time before the soggy debris wreaks havoc on your roof. Clogged gutters are a breeding ground for mold and algae, and constantly forgetting to clean your gutters gives the bacteria plenty of time to reproduce – and it does so rapidly.

If possible, ask your realtor how recently the property’s current gutter system was installed. If your realtor is unable or unwilling to provide any information concerning the gutters, feel free to take a look for yourself. The first thing you’ll want to look for is whether the gutters have any stains. This is a telltale sign that the gutters have stayed clogged multiple times in their lifespan.

While you’re inspecting the gutters, pay special attention to the gutters’ coating. Is it chipped and worn out? If so, the gutter may be nearing the end of its lifespan. In this instance, we insist that you ask your realtor if they can produce any warranty papers for the gutter system. Also, if you notice anything odd with the gutters’ structure, e.g. bad alignment, severe denting, etc., a professional inspection lets you know whether any of these issues are a big concern or not.

Do Trees Hang Over Your Roof?

Although trees make your yard more attractive, overhanging trees compromise your roof’s health for years to come. Not only will fallen leaves pile up on your roof and in your gutters, but overhanging trees give pests easy access to your roof. 

Birds, mice and squirrels can all wreak havoc on your roof. Birds’ droppings are highly acidic and will eat through your shingles if they’re left uncleaned. In addition, it isn’t uncommon for birds to get stuck in your gutters’ downspouts and worsen the clogging and moisture buildup.

Mice and squirrels can chew clean through your shingles.


As we’ve mentioned before, several factors determine whether a property’s roof is a dealbreaker or not. Although the questions and points raised in this article aren’t a comprehensive list, they should help guide your decision-making. We advise all buyers to remember that their roof makes up a large amount of their building’s value. If you want to protect your investment, it starts and ends with a healthy roof. So, feel free to lean on our 30 plus years of experience in both residential and commercial roofing; book your inspection today.

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