Roof Inspections: Useful Information Guide

Roof Online Staff

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A roof inspector performing a roof inspection on a modified bitumen roof.
A roof inspection in progress. A trained roof inspector knows what to look for and where to look.

Note on Finding a Roof Inspector

If you are a homeowner, property manager, or commercial building owner and you need to have a professional roof inspection performed, you should hire a credentialed roof consultant. We can’t stress this strongly enough.

Roofing contractors will usually offer free roof inspections as a part of their marketing strategy. While these inspections can sometimes provide useful information, roofing contractors have a definite conflict of interest when it comes to performing roof inspections for people they view as potential clients.

After all, they are hoping to get you to hire them to address whatever issues they report. And since they know a lot more about roofs than you do, they can exaggerate issues or even report problems that don’t exist, and you’d have no way of knowing. If you were able to tell whether or not the reported issues were legitimate, you’d be able do your own inspection. Again, the problem here is the conflict of interest inherent in free contractor roof inspections.

The exception to this would be a roofing company that performs roof inspections as a separate service, and has strict, transparent rules in place that make inspection clients off-limits to the contracting side of the business for at least one year. These inspections will not normally be free. Companies that do this are fairly uncommon, but you can find them. They will generally advertise this policy on their websites.

Another problem with contractor roof inspections is the recommendations regarding materials and products that usually appear in the inspection report. Virtually all commercial roofers have financial relationships with roofing manufacturers and roofing suppliers. This frequently leads to the roofers becoming, in effect, salesmen for the particular products offered by the manufacturers who certify them, or the suppliers who give them discounts for helping them get rid of unwanted inventory.

Credentialed roof consultants, on the other hand, have a fiduciary obligation to you as a client and will not tell you that you need a new roof or extensive repairs if they don’t actually believe that you do. IIBEC consultant and quality assurance members are not allowed to have financial relationships with manufacturers or suppliers, and will only recommend materials or products that are in your best interest, not theirs.

Although IIBEC is our top recommendation for finding a roof inspector, IIBEC members are typically involved with large commercial roofs (but not always!) and tend to charge by the square foot for large roof inspections. Rates of 1 to 2 cents per square foot are common, but they will typically have a standard minimum inspection fee as well, usually from $500 to $1,000. Because of this, their services may cost more than a single-dwelling homeowner will want to spend.

The following organizations are also respectable, have certification programs for their inspectors, have a code of ethics, and have searchable directories of trained inspectors:

1. General: “Roof Inspections: A Closer Look” is an informative introductory article for property managers available at the FacilitiesNet website. 

2. General: A good general roof inspection and maintenance manual for low-slope roofs is available on the Firestone Building Products website.

3. General“Integrity Testing for Roofing and Waterproofing Membranes” is an excellent article that explains low and high voltage testing, flood and spray testing, capacitance testing, infrared thermography, and nuclear meter testing. The article was produced by the Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences

4. Asphalt Shingle RoofsROOFER: Steep Roofing Inventory Procedures and Inspection and Distress Manual for Asphalt Shingle Roofs from the US Army Corps of Engineers’  Engineer Research and Development Center. Available for download at the Defense Technical Information Center website.

5. Built-Up Roofs: ROOFER: An Engineered Management System (EMS) for Bituminous Built-Up Roofs is an extremely detailed and valuable resource put together by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.

6. EPDM RoofsROOFER: Membrane and Flashing Condition Indexes for Single-Ply Membrane Roofs – Inspection and Distress Manual from the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center. Available for download at the Defense Technical Information Center website.

7. Hail Damaged RoofsMastering Roof Inspections: Hail Damage, Part 1 at the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors website is worth taking a look at. This hail damage inspection guide has eleven more parts, which can be accessed from this page. The focus is on steep-slope residential roofing.

8. Masonry: “Facade Conditions – An Illustrated Glossary of Visual Conditions” is an excellent resource available on the New York City municipal website. Describes and explains (with pictures) typical deficiencies found during inspection of brick, mortar, concrete, terra-cotta, stone, brownstone, and more. 228 pages of clear, pertinent information.

9. Metal Panel RoofsROOFER: Inventory Procedures and Inspection Manual for Metal Panel Roofing is a detailed and valuable resource put together by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.

10. Modified Bitumen RoofsMembrane and Flashing Condition Indexes for Modified Bitumen Roofs: Inspection and Distress Manual from the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.

11: Slate Roofs: Mastering Roof Inspections: Slate Roofs, Part 1 at the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors website is a good place to start. There are twelve more parts in this slate roof inspection guide, and they can be accessed from this page.

12. Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofs: This spray polyurethane foam roof maintenance manual provides inspection guidelines and a lot of pictures. Put together by the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance.

13. Thatch Roofs: The Inspection & Condition Assessment page at the website of the Conservation of Traditional Thatch Group has a basic checklist.

14. Tile RoofsMastering Roof Inspections: Tile Roofs, Part 1 at the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors website is worth taking a look at. This tile roof inspection guide has five more parts, which can be accessed from this page.

15. TPO RoofsTPO (Thermoplastic) Rooftop Guide/Inspection Checklist – by Carlisle SynTec Systems.