Whether your roof is brand-new or years old, here are some tips to keep it in the best possible shape for the longest possible time.

A new roof is an expensive proposition — $18,800 on average for composition shingles (according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report) and as much as $36,000 for high-end materials. Once you’ve made that kind of investment, you’ll want to protect it. And even if your roof is years old, keeping it in good shape will prolong its life and prevent you from having to replace it prematurely.

Here’s what we suggest you do to get the most out of your roof.

Clean the Gutters

Ruined paint on siding and a wet basement are often problems caused by clogged gutters, but it might surprise you to learn that the overflow can also go upward. When leaves pile too deeply in gutters, those leaves can act like a candle wick carrying water into the roof sheathing. This can rot the sheathing and even rot roof rafters.

Fixing that kind of damage could run into the thousands of dollars, but you can avoid it by cleaning your gutters each fall and spring. Do it yourself in a few hours if you’re comfortable working on a ladder, or hire an experienced professional from Arocon to take care of it for you.

Remove Leaves

If you have a simple peaked roof surrounded by low landscaping, your roof probably stays clear of leaves on its own. If your roof is more complicated or if towering trees are nearby, piles of leaves probably collect in roof valleys or near chimneys. If you don’t remove them, they will trap moisture and gradually decompose, allowing moisture to accumulate in your roof — or worse, create fertile ground for mold and weeds to grow.

If you have a low-slope roof and a one-story house, you may be able to pull the leaves down with a soft car-washing brush on a telescoping pole. You can also use a specialty tool like a roof leaf rake, which costs about $20. A leaf blower gets the job done too, especially on dry leaves, but you or a professional needs to go up on the roof to use it.

If leaves are too wet or too deep, you might need to wash them off with a garden hose. Don’t use a pressure washer, as this can force water up under the shingles.

Trim Overhanging Branches

A little prevention in the form of tree-trimming goes a long way toward keeping leaves and debris off of your roof and keeping your roof damage-free. Abrasion from limbs and leaves that touch your roof can eventually damage shingles, especially in high winds.

Overhanging branches also give squirrels and other rodents access to your roof. They can build homes in accumulated leaves and can gnaw on your roof and siding. Branches need to be 10 feet away from your roof to keep these pests at bay. If that’s not possible, wrap the tree trunk with a sheet-metal bank to prevent them from climbing the tree.

Trimming large branches that hang over the roof is a job for a professional, though, or you might cause more damage than you prevent.

Prevent Ice Dams

If you’re plagued by ice buildup on the roof, removing some or all of the snow between storms might stall leaks into your house. Don’t try to pry off ice that’s already formed, as this could damage the roof. Use a roof rake to dislodge snow within three or four feet of the gutters. Get a telescoping pole and work from the ground, if possible. If you must be on a ladder, work at an angle so the falling snow doesn’t push you over.

Inadequate insulation causes air to leak into your attic, increasing the risk of ice dams. A qualified professional from Arocon can help you find the right insulation solution for you and your home.

Look and Listen

After every big rain, wind, or hail storm, give your roof a quick check to make sure everything is still intact. Specifically, look for curling, loose, or missing shingles and damaged flashing around vents, chimneys, skylights, and other openings.

If you can, get into your attic during the daytime and look for sunlight coming through the roof boards. Look and listen for signs of water. Keep those ear perked for the sound of water dripping or wind whistling.

If anything seems amiss, call Arocon to inspect your roof ASAP. Most problems are fairly easy to fix, but if you put them off and water gets in, the damage and costs will escalate.

TIP: You don’t have to climb a ladder to inspect your roof. You can use binoculars!