Roof Cleaning: Save Money and Protect Your Home

It’s Summer and that means that most of us at least do a ‘health’ check on our roof and gutters to make sure that we’re on top of our home maintenance before the rains of fall begin and we find ourselves stuck in winter purgatory. It’s crucial to complete these maintenance items if you want to prolong the life of your roof; there’s a lot of elements working against you and the integrity of the roof on your home. Remember, regular roof cleaning protects your investment longterm. 

Everything from algae to moss, lichen, rain, wind, and even tree branches pose a threat to your humble abode. It’s crucial to make sure that you do a regular roof inspection every year between spring and fall. We know better than anyone how high roof replacement costs; our contractors at Columbine Roofing focus on trying to educate homeowners to ensure that they’re better prepared to care for and maintain their roof over its lifetime.

Prevention is key, but in some cases, even prevention won’t stop the growth of moss, lichen, and algae on your roof. Cleaning your roof is one of the important items that you can do to ensure that you’re caring for your roof properly. This should be handled by a professional roofing contractor who provides a roof cleaning service, but a skilled handyman could easily handle his/her own process.

Before you embark on this roof cleaning/home improvement journey, there are a few things that you need to know so you don’t damage your roof, home, or yourself during the roof cleaning process. Be sure to follow these steps to avoid roof damage or personal injury.

How Do Roof Stains Happen and How Can I Stop Them?

Roof stains are unsightly and can make your home feel rundown. They are caused by roof damaging organisms like algae that thrive on the organic compounds found in an asphalt shingle roof and the underlying roofing materials.

When it comes to roof staining, we all need to realign our expectations. It’s not really ‘staining’ so much as it is an infection of your roof caused by bacteria, fungus, lichen, or moss. If you don’t take immediate steps to eradicate the existing problem, your roof, and your pocketbook will quickly suffer. This is why prevention and regular roof maintenance is so crucial.

Preventing Growth of Moss, Lichen, and Algae

In order to protect your roof from moss, lichen, and algae, it’s important that you know what they are and how they spread. Algae and moss are slightly similar but require different approaches.

Black streaks on a roof are often confused as mold or mildew, but these roof stains are really algae. Algae forms where there is regular moisture that doesn’t dry out on roof surfaces. You may find algae growth and stains are a regular problem in coastal areas. The most common type of algae found on roofs is blue-green algae. These organisms protect themselves from damaging UV rays by creating a dark pigmented sheath around their colonies. The one thing about algae – if you can see its effects, it’s likely been there for months.

Algae spores are carried by the wind or even animals and can spread quickly from one roof to another.

Moss is a non-vascular plant that gains water through its leaves, unlike most other plants that carry water into their systems through the roots. This is why moss thrives so well in moist conditions. Unlike algae, moss isn’t just unsightly, it can actually cause damage to your roofing shingles. Moss causes leading edges to lift or curl, increasing the chance of wind damage during a weather event. When you neglect moss growth, it can also cause lateral water movement that causes moisture damage to the roof deck or even leaks in your roof system.

The best way to combat moss and algae on your roof is to use a 50/50 mix of laundry strength liquid chlorine bleach and water. Apply with a garden sprayer and leave on your roof.  No need to rinse, the chlorine will evaporate and all that will be left is a salty residue that won’t damage your landscaping. The algae will disappear and wash away with the next rain. Moss will loosen with time and can usually be removed with a leaf blower. If you’re dealing with a severe case, it may take several treatments to remove all of the moss.

Your first ‘don’t’: Never use a pressure washer to clean off an asphalt shingle roof. This can loosen the granules and cause premature failure of your roofing system.

Once you remove the existing moss, algae, and lichen from your roof, you can prevent regrowth by using strips of zinc, copper, or lead flashing.

Cleaning Your Gutters

Cleaning your gutters is probably the single most important thing that a homeowner can do to protect the integrity of their roofing system.

Columbine Roofing understands cleaning gutters is probably the least glamorous responsibility that a homeowner has. Despite that, it should be done twice a year to ensure that you are maintaining your roofing system responsibly. Not maintaining this regularly can spell trouble for your home in several ways. One, overflowing gutters can cause damage to the edge of your roof and the fascia (the board that is behind your gutters), leaving you susceptible to water damage. It can also cause damage to your home’s foundation. When water pools it has to go somewhere. That can include sitting next to your foundation or seeping into your basement.

You should aim to clean your gutters twice a year, once in the spring and the fall. However, if your neighborhood has a lot of big trees, you might have to pay closer attention and clean your gutters more frequently.

Cleaning your gutters is an easier job when they’re dry. If you do it when the wet weather is here, you have a mucky and difficult job ahead of you. Be sure to check your gutters before a big storm is forecast, otherwise you might be facing a bunch of pooled water along your foundation.

When you’re ready to clean your gutters, there’s some safety precautions you must take. First, don’t clean your gutters while standing on the roof. You’re taking an unnecessary risk by doing so. A ladder is the perfect tool for the job. Another safety #protip: don’t reach out more than you can safely do from the ladder. It’s tempting to keep reaching as far as your body can go so that you don’t need to move the ladder, but resist the urge. Keep your waist between the rails to prevent falls or the ladder from slipping. Don’t attempt to be a contortionist; the risk isn’t worth it. You’ll be moving the ladder around a lot, possibly on unstable ground. Don’t be afraid to grab someone to be a spotter if you need to.

If you’re using an extension ladder to clean your gutters, you can get standoff stabilizers to prevent the ladder from resting on the gutters themselves and causing damage.

Start at the downspout and use either your gloved hands or a garden trowel to muck out the gutters. Place a tarp underneath the ladder and move it as you go along to catch debris and sediment.

Do’s and Don’ts of Roof Cleaning

Some final thoughts from Columbine Roofing will help you stay on top of your roof maintenance and keep your roof installation problem-free for years to come:

  • Don’t walk on your roof. Leave it to the professional roofing contractors
  • Do trim nearby tree branches to protect your roof from debris and moss growth
  • Don’t pull up roofing shingles to look for a leak. You will just cause more damage.
  • Do check for sagging or roof depressions. These are indicative of problematic areas that need to be addressed.
  • Don’t pressure wash your asphalt shingle roof. It will cause damage to the shingles and is a huge component behind premature roof system failure.

Roof Cleaning and Maintenance from Columbine Roofing 

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