8 Ways to Maintain an Asphalt Shingle Roof

Asphalt shingles roofing construction

Asphalt shingles are durable and can last up to 25 years. But there’s a catch. You have to perform seasonal maintenance, and as your home’s most expensive replaceable component, don’t you think your roof deserves a little TLC? Discover eight ways you can maintain your asphalt shingle roof and show it a little love. 

What Are Asphalt Roofing Shingles?

roof and shingles
Photo Credit: S.Buckalew / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Shingles have come a long way since the earliest versions of asphalt-soaked cotton in 1901. Today, four out of five homes use asphalt shingles, making it the most popular residential roofing material in the U.S.

Asphalt shingles comprise fiberglass or cellulose mat, asphalt, and mineral granules. Each shingle is a small, flexible, rectangular piece of material installed in overlapping rows to keep out water.

The affordable material accommodates different styles and holds up well to the elements, making it a superb choice for your next roof replacement. There are three dominant styles of asphalt shingles – three-tab, architectural, and designer shingles – all offering distinct characteristics.

3-tab Shingles

Photo credit: pointnshoot / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Three-tab shingles have a uniform flat appearance and look like traditional shingles. They are the cheapest asphalt shingle roofing option comprising an outer layer of asphalt, adhesives, and granules with a fiberglass backing. 

Compared to other asphalt roofing options, three-tab shingles have a short lifespan, lasting between seven to 15 years. They are prone to weather damage and can only withstand winds up to 60 mph. 

Architectural Shingles

Photo credit: Pxhere

Architectural shingles create a layered, textured aesthetic and are thicker and more substantial than three-tab shingles. These shingles last between 18 to 20 years, come in a variety of colors, and can withstand strong winds up to 120 mph. 

Designer Shingles 

Photo credit: Pxhere

Designer shingles are the largest of the three options and imitate the appearance of luxury roofing materials like clay or slate tiles.

Designer shingles are the most expensive asphalt variety, costing double the price of three-tab shingles. However, they are more weather-resistant and last up to 30 years

What Causes Damage to an Asphalt Shingle Roof?

Your roof protects you from harsh weather, but long-term exposure takes a toll on the longevity of your roof’s materials, and damage comes at it from all sides, including: 

  • Strong, sustained winds
  • Sunlight
  • Rain, snow, hail, or ice
  • Biological growth like moss or algae
  • Tree branches and organic debris
  • Poor installation
  • Inconsistent maintenance
  • Improper ventilation

Why You Should Maintain an Asphalt Shingle Roof

It is easy to ignore your roof until it is leaking and becomes a big problem. Oftentimes roof damage sneaks up on you, and by then it is usually too late to repair. Replacing your roof is costly. Luckily, maintaining your roof is inexpensive, relatively easy, and ensures your warranty remains in good standing.

A well-maintained roof will increase your comfort and be more durable. When your roof is in optimal condition, you can rest easy knowing your home’s structure is also protected. Your roof does more than just protect your family, it also protects your home’s value. 

And if those weren’t enough reasons to dig your ladder out of your garage, most insurance companies expect you to maintain your roof. If you neglect your roof and it is in poor condition, your insurance company can require you to replace your roof or rescind your coverage.  

How to Maintain an Asphalt Shingle Roof

Routine maintenance begins with a roof inspection and an understanding of roof safety. If you aren’t comfortable working inside your attic or from a ladder, leave the work to a professional roof services company. Additional roof maintenance tips include trimming tree branches, monitoring moss, and more. 

1. Inspect Your Roof

Photo Credit: mokee81 / Canva Pro / License

Did you know regular inspections can save you money long-term? Professional roofing contractors recommend performing biannual roof inspections in the spring and fall when the weather is mild

The obvious culprits that lay damage to your roof are wind and rain, but remember, ultraviolet light also wreaks havoc on your asphalt shingles. Be sure to check for areas of cracking, fading, staining, or buildup. 

It is always a good idea to have a roofing professional inspect your roof, especially as it gets older, to prevent potential problems. The average homeowner spends just $215 on a professional inspection, a lot less than costly repairs or a complete roof replacement due to neglect. 

2. Clear Gutters and Downspouts

Leaved in gutter
Photo Credit: Pixabay

You might wonder what your gutters have to do with asphalt shingle roof maintenance. Clogged gutters can overflow, leaking water underneath your shingles and onto your siding or brick. 

Gutters collect water and direct it away from your house. Clogged gutters lead to more than just puddles, causing bubbling wall paint, rotting wood, and roof leaks

If you would rather not have bugs and debris washing up your gutters and downspouts, maintain your pipes by clearing them out in the spring and fall. Also ensure all gutters, downspouts, and soffits are firmly attached and level. Many homeowners invest in gutter guards to keep their systems free of debris and plant matter year-round. 

3. Trim Tree Branches and Remove Debris

Photo credit: Pxhere

Overhanging branches can spell disaster for your roof, especially in the winter when limbs are brittle and weighed down by ice and snow. Keep branches trimmed and away from your roof and the sides of your home. 

While nature-related debris is more prevalent in some areas than others, homeowners should plan to clear debris from the surface of their roofs bi-annually. Removing debris keeps your gutters working smoothly and protects the granules of your asphalt shingles, ensuring the longevity of your roof.  

Remove organic debris with a leaf blower. Blow air down your roof to move the debris to the ground, ensuring you do not blow debris and air underneath your shingles. Doing so can cause your asphalt shingles to lift, exposing your roof’s underlayment, and leading to leaks. 

4. Seal Flashing

Flashing keeps your roof watertight, comprising thin strips of metal running along the edges and joints of your roof. Flashing also covers the areas surrounding penetrations like pipes, vents, and skylights. 

Designed to divert water from areas your asphalt shingles cannot cover, flashing can rust, crack, lift, or separate. It is also the weakest point of your roof. During your biannual inspection, be sure to caulk any gaps in your flashing with a waterproof sealant. 

5. Monitor Moss Growth

Monitor Moss Growth
Photo credit: Derek Harper / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Moss is no fairytale, no matter how pretty it may be. It damages many roofing materials, including asphalt shingles. Moss is a sponge, retaining water that will eventually lead to lifted shingles, exposed underlayment, and leaks.

Avoid shingle-rot by regularly inspecting and cleaning moss growth. A professional roof cleaning company can make quick work of your moss problem, however, it is also possible to remove the moss yourself with a light spray and cleaning solution.  

Long-term moss prevention in moist areas like the Northeast requires a biennial application of zinc sulfate powder sprinkled on your asphalt roof. 99% zinc sulfate does not stain roofs, corrode aluminum or galvanized steel, and is safe for plants. However, the solution is deadly to moss and can last up to two years between applications

6. Clean Dirt and Algae

Like moss, algae loves the northern hemisphere for its shade and moisture and will damage your shingles if left untreated. Damage from algae weakens the structural integrity of your roof and its ability to reflect sunlight.

Algae are easy to spot, leaving unsightly dark streaks across your roof’s surface. The living organisms love to feed on the limestone in your asphalt shingle granules, causing them to lift and detach.  

While asphalt shingles do not show signs of dirt as easily as other roofing materials, it is always beneficial to clean your roof twice a year with a combination of low pressure and a concentrated solution of chlorine bleach and water or a store-bought chemical roof cleaner.

7. Complete Repairs ASAP

Photo credit: pointnshoot / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

You always hope your next roof inspection will go smoothly and your roof receives a clean bill of health. However, if you identify any problems or concerns during your biannual inspection, contact a professional roofer to complete your roof repairs as soon as possible. 

Some common repairs include:

  • Flashing replacement because of corrosion
  • Gutter or downspout caulking
  • Single shingle replacements (Note: Shingle replacements will never be an exact color match to your existing roof)

8. Monitor Humidity Levels

Did you know the air in your attic affects your roof? Proper attic ventilation not only cools your home and reduces moisture levels. The air also helps fight mold and mildew and prevents ice dams on your roof. 

Perform a biannual interior inspection, checking your attic roof vents to ensure they are free of insulation, insect hives, and rodent nests. Also, be sure stored items are not blocking vent access. 

FAQ About Maintaining an Asphalt Shingle Roof

What are the signs my roof needs to be replaced? 

Roof damage can sneak up on you. Watch for these stealthy signs it is time to replace your roof:

• Damaged, loose, curled, mossy, or missing shingles
• Damage or discoloration around vents, chimneys, or skylights 
• Sagging areas 
• Visible leaks or water damage
• Grit (flakes of asphalt shingles) in your gutters
• Your roof is over 20 years old
• Neighbors are having their roofs replaced

How do I clean my shingles?

A professional roofing company can make quick work of your inspection and cleaning. However, if you’re feeling brave and want to tackle the job yourself, follow these simple rules. 

• Always use a low pressure under 1,000 psi
• Pre-soak all vegetation surrounding your house with water
• Use a higher concentration cleaning solution designed for roofs from your local store and a 50/50 mix with water in a garden sprayer
• Start high on your roof and work your way down
• Always double-treat algae

How do I remove moss from my asphalt shingles? 

Moss growth can lead to long-term structural damage and leaks. There are three methods you can use to remove moss from your roof. 

1. Scrub the moss off with a soft-bristled brush
2. Clean your roof with a high-concentrated cleaner and low-pressure spray
3. Kill moss with a 50/50 mixture of water and chlorine bleach

Get Professional Roof Maintenance and Roof Repairs

Preventative maintenance goes a long way in preventing emergency roof repairs. If you find yourself in need of a roof inspection, repairs, or even a cleaning, contact a local roofing professional to learn about options available in your area.

Main Image Credit: valentynsemenov / Canva Pro / License

Kimberly Magerl

Kimberly Magerl is a writer and data analyst specializing in home improvement, DIY, roofing, and solar technologies. She enjoys growing vegetables in her garden, getting outdoors, and transforming her space with DIY projects. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.