What is a Roof Inspection?

Eric Tallberg

One of the more effective measures in roof maintenance is frequent roof inspection. This comprehensive inspection should be undertaken by an experienced professional roofing contractor, or a licensed home inspector. Generally, a roof inspection is carried out with a visual inspection of all aspects of the roofing construction, from both the interior and exterior of the structure.

Chimney surfaces will be inspected during a roof inspection.
Chimney surfaces will be inspected during a roof inspection.

Proper roof installation is, of course, one of the most critical aspects of building construction. A well-constructed roof assures the longevity of the structure, as well as the comfort of the structure’s occupants. It is also the most exposed aspect of any building, and competent roofers are well aware of the construction techniques and materials necessary for a roof to stand up to weather and abuse. Part of any roofing project involves the implication that frequent and competent roof inspections will be undertaken on a regular basis.

Regular roof inspections can help prevent the need for costly repair work.
Regular roof inspections can help prevent the need for costly repair work.

As a rule, a roofing inspector will begin the roof inspection by locating the various dormers, chimneys, crickets, gutters, and any flashing points needing special attention. A closer inspection may be made, especially of the condition of the roof surfacing material — with binoculars for a difficult, higher pitched roof — or by actually accessing a lower pitched, or a flat roof. Obviously the exterior inspection will focus on the condition of the roof surface, exposed flashing, gutters, and chimney construction.

A proper roof inspection is also undertaken from inside the structure, as well. Inspection of eves, interior chimney surfaces, fasteners, roof braces, and support materials, such as the condition of the plywood sheathing for a wood roof, is often an indication where closer exterior inspection is needed. A proper roof inspection will take from three-quarters of an hour to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of the roof.

Some common problems addressed in a roof inspection are blistering due to trapped water vapor, open laps around flashing due to poor adhesion of membrane to metal flashing, splitting of roof surface material, deteriorating or loose flashing, and fastener issues. Older roofs are inspected for brittleness and surface deterioration, while newer roofs are notable for showing settlement problems that are easily corrected. Crumbling chimneys and loose or defective gutters are also included in the issues to be addressed in a roof inspection.

Roof repair need not be extensive or costly if proper roof inspections are carried out on a regular basis. Having a roof inspected is intended to detect and repair small defects before they become big problems. Catastrophic roof failure essentially dooms a structure, no matter how well the rest of the building is constructed.

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Discussion Comments


@Feryll - I think there are many people out there who do roof inspections as a part of a total house inspection. These people may specialize in some other area of home repair, but not actually have a roof inspection certification. This is why you have such a big difference between what one inspector does and what another one does when it comes to inspecting a roof.

When you have a house inspection done, check that the person doing the inspection is certified in every area that he inspects. Otherwise, you might end up with an electrician inspecting your roof. And you will end up paying for what he doesn't know about roofing.


We hired a general house inspector to look our house over before we made the purchase. Basically, we wanted to make sure the house wasn't falling apart, so we wouldn't be trapped in a money pit once we signed all of the papers.

The inspector did a good job in the sense that he pointed out some things that needed to be repaired and he reassured us that there weren't any major problems that were going to bankrupt us.

Looking back, here's the strange part. He went under the house and examined the crawl space fully, but he never went on top of the house. He went in the attic and showed us where there had been some leaks, but he couldn't be sure whether they were current. Shouldn't he have at least climbed a ladder to do a quick visual roof inspection?

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