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Protect your home's roof

Updated August 16, 2012

A good, solid roof protects your home from the weather, seals in warmth and helps raise your property's value. Here are a few tips for protecting this major "investment." The best way to keep a roof in good condition is by keeping the gutters and roof clear of leaves and debris, which can cause deterioration.

Checking a roof

Check your roof for wear every one to two years by crawling inside the attic on a sunny day, and looking for holes where the sun is shining through. With a shake roof, small rays of sunlight are normal; the shakes will normally expand when they get wet, filling any gaps. Minor holes can be filled with a few new shakes or strips of composition roofing.

After checking the attic, climb on top of the roof to look for missing or worn pieces. If most of your wood shakes are crumbling or badly split, chances are you need a new roof. Composition roofs may need to be replaced when most of the shingles have curled or look worn down, missing their covering of small pebbles.

While on the roof, make sure that the metal flashings around the eaves, chimney and drain pipes are tight against the surface. If they aren't, bend and nail them back in place.

If you do need a new roof, download a copy of "What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor," a free booklet that offers hundreds of tips for choosing a reputable roofer, at cslb.ca.gov.

Skylights

When ordering a new roof or browsing through local building supply stores, many homeowners are attracted to skylights. But because they vary greatly in style, price and quality, Building and Safety warns against them.

Ideally, a skylight should fit perfectly between two ceiling rafters. But often, the skylight is off-size, which means rafters must be cut for the piece to fit. City building inspectors report that it's difficult even for professionals to install a skylight perfectly, so the project often leads to roof leaks. Leaks can be hard to pinpoint and repair, as rainwater often runs to another part of the attic before soaking through the ceiling.

Homeowners who would still like a skylight should first gain approval from the City's Planning Division, which will review the request based on the quality, dimensions and appearance of the skylight.

Once Planning approval is granted, the homeowner must then obtain a building permit and request regular inspections from the City's Building and Safety Division to ensure that their skylight is installed safely.

Attic vents

Homeowners should also be cautious about the installation of rotary attic vents. Rotary vents are globe-shaped, metal pieces with fans inside that are installed on a roof to help draw heat from an attic.

Homeowners should gain City approval and a building permit before installing this type of vent. In most cases, the City's Planning Division will ask the homeowner to install another, less obtrusive type, such as a vent that allows heat to escape through holes in the home's eaves.

Bird stops

When buying a new vaulted type Spanish-tile roof, make sure your roofer includes "bird stops" in your written contract. Bird stops are screens, made of the same material as the tile, that keep birds from making a home in the small nooks under curved Spanish tiles.

Bird stops are required by the City for vaulted type roofs, and are automatically installed by most roofers who use Spanish tile. However, a few roofers have been know to leave the bird stops out of their paperwork, later sending an additional bill for the bird stop material and labor. You can save time, and possibly money, by making sure bird stops are included in your contract before you sign it.

Before signing a contract, make sure that your roofer has a valid California contractors' license and a Cerritos business license. Also, remember that all roofing repairs and replacements require a City building permit and that all work, when completed, must be checked by a City inspector.

Avoid roofing scams

Homeowners should beware of door-to-door salespeople who offer to apply a protective coating to their roof. These salespeople simply spray a cheap petroleum-based substance that washes off in the first rain and does nothing to improve their roof. The salespeople typically charge hundreds of dollars for this worthless "service."

Call City Hall

If you have questions about any type of home improvement project, please call the City's Building and Safety Division at (562) 916-1209. City staff can advise you on the requirements of your project and offer tips and booklets to help you get the job done well.

An attractive roof and driveway can enhance the appearance and value of your home. Here are a few tips on maintaining these often overlooked features.

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