The roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements. Take care of it and it will take care of you.

Nipping problems in the bud can also save you big bucks in the cost of emergency repairs — which average $1,000, for things like leaks and ice dams. And in a worst-case scenario where you’re forced to replace the roof prematurely, you could be on the hook for $8,000 or more.

Fortunately, a roof is a pretty basic structure. That’s why aesthetics is the main reason for full-scale roof replacements.

“Old and aging roofs can be unsightly, and many owners simply
no longer like the way their houses look,”
said Reid Ribble, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Still, damaged roofs are a common source of insurance claims, and the “claims can run in excess of $15,000, depending upon the location and size of your home,” said Mark Friedlander, director of corporate communications at the Insurance Information Institute.

Here are five ways to keep your roof in good shape for the long term:

  1. Keep an eye out
    Most roofs don’t require regular servicing the way a furnace and other major systems in the home do. But it’s important to be on the lookout for early signs of failure, such as loose or missing shingles and an excess of wind-driven debris, especially following storms, when falling branches puncture many roofs. These visual inspections can be done by homeowners from the safety of the ground; use binoculars if your home has multiple levels.
  1. Know the flash points
    Most leaks occur at transition points in the roof — for example, where the roof meets a chimney or skylight, or the valley where two sections of sloped roof meet. If you see any signs of wear and tear at these spots (or water damage inside the home), bring in a professional for a complete inspection.
  1. Prepare for wind and hail
    These two weather events are the most common causes of roof damage, affecting roughly 1 in 50 homeowners, with more than $10 billion in annual property loss, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Make sure you’re clear on the terms of your homeowners’ insurance policy.If you live in a high-risk state (Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri top the list), your insurer may require higher deductibles for wind or hail damage.
  1. Defend against ice dams
    Homeowners in cold climates will be familiar with the pile of snow that sits at the edge of many roofs. Ice dams, as they’re known, happen when snow on the upper section of a roof melts faster than the snow over the unheated eaves. Over time, the ice can back up under the roof shingles, leading to serious leaks during the spring thaw. Dams are the result of inadequate insulation in the attic.Paying a pro to insulate an entire attic averages around $1,500, but the project will cost less if only spot insulation is needed. Another solution is to install a heated cable along the edge of the roof to melt lingering snow.
  2. Don’t wait too long on a replacement
    Most asphalt shingle roofs will last about 20 years. Pushing it much farther than that is risky, since an old, failing roof can lead to many other problems, from water damage to cracked foundation walls. The cost to fix those kinds of issues could be far greater than what you’ll spend on a new roof.

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