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As spring lurks just weeks away, you're likely anxious to enjoy the sun-filled days. But don't neglect your home maintenance duties. Spring is the best time to assess the condition of your roof.

Many houses across the country are reaching the age in which a new roof is needed, due to the housing boom of the 1960s and '70s, particularly in states like California.

The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends you examine your roof system every spring and fall so you can nip any potential problems in the bud. Spring is a particularly good time because you can monitor whether the winter weather caused any damage.

You'll want to begin by cleaning your gutters. Keep the following ladder safety tips in mind:

  • Make sure the ladder is on solid, level ground.
  • Secure the ladder at the top to keep it from slipping.
  • Inspect the ladder, rungs, and rails for damage.
  • Extend the ladder at least 3 feet beyond the gutter and angle it 1 foot back from the house for every 4 feet of height.
  • Always use both hands.

    Once you're on the ladder, you'll want to keep an eye out for the following:

  • Any buckling, curling or blistering of the shingles.
  • Loose material or wear around chimneys and pipes.
  • Excessive amounts of shingle granules in the gutter. The granules provide the shingles with extra weight and protect them from ultraviolet rays.

    In addition, check things out inside your house. Look for cracked paint, discolored plasterboard and peeling wallpaper as signs of damaged roof areas.

    If you've done your check and find signs of damage, it's best to call in a professional roofing contractor to determine if either repair work or a new roof is in order. NRCA recommends you:

  • Make sure the contractor you are considering has a permanent place of business, an operating telephone number, tax identification number, and business license, if required.
  • Review copies of the contractor's liability insurance coverage and workers' compensation certificates. Make sure the policy is in effect during the time the work will be done on your roof.
  • Try to find a contractor or company with a verifiable record. Get references and call them. Also, ask for a list of completed projects.
  • Call the state licensing board to find out if the contractor is properly licensed and bonded.
  • Get a proposal in writing and make sure complete work descriptions are written out. You'll want to look for approximate starting and completion date, and payment procedures.
  • Determine whether the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations, such as NRCA.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor you are considering.
  • Review any roofing warranty that is offered, keeping an eye out for any revisions that would void it. Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, there's a good chance it is. Professionalism and quality workmanship should weigh as heavily as price.

    Most new roof systems are designed to provide useful service for about 20 years. Some roof system types, such as slate, clay tile and certain metal (e.g., copper) systems, can last longer.

    Actual roof system life span is determined by a number of factors, including local climatic and environmental conditions, proper building and roof system design, material quality and suitability, proper application and adequate roof maintenance.

    Roof warranties vary. NRCA advises you to take a close look at your warranty to see specifically which responsibilities and financial obligations manufacturers will assume if their products fail to function within the guaranteed time frame.

    If you're planning on selling your home soon and it's at least 15 years old, you should invest in hiring an independent home inspector to take a look at your roof. That will prevent any surprises down the road. At that point you can decide whether you'll make the repairs yourself or factor the need for a new roof into negotiations.

    Likewise, if you're buying a home, make sure you hire an independent home inspector to perform a home inspection. The peace of mind will be well worth the cost.=

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