Roof certifications are not stipulated in all purchase contracts. For example, many years ago, when I stopped by to supervise the placement of signage for a listing of a house near the Cherry Hills neighborhood of Denver, I looked up to catch a neighbor, this little old lady, dashing across the street. She was screaming and frantically flailing her arms. She demanded, "How can you sell this house without a new roof!"
Because regulations do not require that sellers replace failing roofs. Some cities have truth-in-housing guidelines and regulations governing repairs before resale, but Denver is not one of them. Besides, it was a seller's market. It could be raining into the living room through a hole in the roof the size of a basketball hoop, and home buyers in seller's markets wouldn't blink an eye.
What is a Roof Certification?
Roof certifications are separate from a home inspection. Home inspectors, for the most part, do not perform thorough roof inspections. Instead, roofing inspectors climb up on the roof and issue reports on:
Condition of roofing materials
Ridges, caps and drip edges
Soundness of drains, downspouts, and gutters
Flashing around roof pipes, chimneys, vents, valleys and mounting of HVAC units
If the roof does not require repairs, the roofing company will then estimate the remaining years of life for a roof and certify its inspection. The certification is good for two to five years, depending on local custom.
If the roof requires repairs, after the repairs are performed, the roofing company will then issue the roof certification.
Factors Influencing Roof Certifications
Roof inspectors will take into consideration the following:
Type of Roof
Common types of roofing materials are:
Clay or concrete tile
Metal or steel
Tar and gravel
Age of Roof
Roofing companies say that wood shakes often require more repairs if they are older than 10 years. Tile roofs, as long as nobody has walked them -- because weight can cause them to crack -- can last 50 years or more. Composition shingle roofs are often warranted for 20 to 40 years, depending on the quality of the material.
The steepness of a roof is known as its pitch. The higher the number, the steeper the roof. To calculate pitch, measure one horizontal foot of the roof, following a level horizontal line. Now measure how much higher the roof is at that point, known as the rise of the roof, along a vertical line. If the roof rises 4 inches per foot, the pitch is 4; if it rises 12 inches per foot — a 45 degree angle — the pitch is 12, generally the steepest you’ll find.
Note that many roofing contractors will charge extra to work on a roof with an extreme pitch.
Number of Layers
Some cities have enacted ordinances regarding the number of layers that are allowed on a roof before a complete tear-off will be necessary. In California, it's common to see composition shingles placed directly over wood shake.
Previous Roof Repairs
Although not all states require seller disclosures, if a seller does not disclose previous roof repairs, many roofing companies will refuse to honor the roof certification. Roof inspectors will want to examine a previous repair to make sure it was done correctly and won't cause future problems.
Exclusions to Roof Certifications
Most roofing companies will not honor claims due to natural disasters or severe weather -- and these conditions include high winds -- in addition to damage caused by foot traffic or improperly installed skylights or solar panels. Natural disasters, however, are generally covered by either a homeowner's insurance policy or a flood insurance policy.
How Roof Certifications Help to Sell Homes
The basic purposes of a roof certification are to:
Inform a buyer about the condition of the roof
Disclose its remaining life expectancy
Make repairs, if necessary
Many sellers are advised to provide a roof certification to the buyer as part of the sales process. Roof certifications give buyers peace of mind. If sellers refuse to provide a roof certification, and the roof is older, home buyers might decide to pay for their own inspection and make it a contingency of the contract.
In closing, some controversy exists over whether a roofing inspector should also be allowed to perform roofing repairs because of possible conflicts of interest. If a seller is unhappy with the recommendations made by a roofing contractor, I would advise the seller to obtain a second inspection and submit both inspections to the buyer.