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How To Clean Your Roof And What To Watch Out For

Feb 9, 2008
Your roof is dirty, you can see black stains, moss, and lichen or maybe some other type of fungus. Now the question is "how do I clean it?"

While driving in your car you see other buildings with similar problems, so you know that the situation on your roof is not an isolated case.

How can something grow on your roof? Quite simply, all it takes is food, water and air. The food, depending on your roofing material is: for asphalt roofs, the limestone filler used to thicken the shingles, for wood shingle roofs it is just the wood. As you probably noticed, your roof is clean on some sides but dirty on others, this because the shaded parts or north facing roofs hold moisture longer because of lack of direct sunshine providing water for this growth problem. If you notice long black streaks or stains, your roof is infected with black algae, if you can see flowering growths that could be either lichen, moss or a combination of both.

The life of your roof shingles can be cut in half, if you do not address this problem. Asphalt shingles fall off because as the fungus grows and thickens it raises the shingles, popping out the nails. The surface, as it becomes thinner will start to crack and curl, making themselves victims of heavy wind. Cedar shingle roofs, when covered with growth hold water, rotting the wood because they never dry out.

There are three options when it comes to roof cleaning. You could have the entire roof replaced with new shingles, buy a specialized roof cleaning product and tackle the job yourself or seek out a roof cleaning company.

Replace it - If you have that kind of money, great! Here is the bad news, even though the new shingles on the market are algae resistant, buyer beware! Read the warranty they only guarantee them for an average of 10 years, it takes that long before visible signs, from the ground, confirm that algae is present. If you have the money and want to buy yourself 10 years of a clean roof, go for it.

Roof cleaning companies - There are professionals out there who can safely and effectively clean your roof but make sure that you ask about their insurance coverage, this is a specialized insurance and very costly. A professional company should be able to provide local references and have a portfolio of pictures from completed jobs. Always check the product that they will be using, it should read "environmentally safe", not just "bio-degradable", there are products that will clean without causing damage to your plants or lawn.

Clean it yourself - Dangerous work! But achievable if you consider yourself the "handyman" type and the most cost efficient solution. Buying the right product is the trick; don't even consider bleach it is a disaster waiting to happen buy a product specially designed for roof cleaning. Don't fall for the "just spray it on and nature will clean it" product sales pitch, that's BS, it might work but it would be years before it would be clean and you would have to keep reapplying it. No, there is only one way, get up there, stage the roof safely along the bottom even if it is walk able the roof will become incredibly slippery, spray the product on, usually through a "garden style" sprayer, take out a medium bristle scrub brush and scrub the infected area keeping the area moist while scrubbing then take a regular garden hose and wash it off, it may only become 80% clean at first but all the loose, dead fungus will wash off with the next rain.

After you have successfully cleaned your roof, had it cleaned or replaced it, I have one very important suggestion. Apply a strip of zinc flashing across the ridge line; it is the only protection your roof will have against fungus growth. The effectiveness of zinc is easily proved, just look around any metal object on your roof, pipes, copula, or chimney and you should notice that the area below it is clean. The way it works is quite simple, when it rains, metal ions wash out of the metal and coat the roof below it, and the metal ions will not allow growth to occur. Zinc has the best run-off of all metals and is the most cost efficient; you may know that zinc is used on boat bottoms and around boat props to keep algae from growing. I recommend that the zinc should be at least 3 1/2" wide, zinc has a run-off coverage area of about 10 feet for every inch the zinc is wide. The zinc remains actively releasing ions throughout its life. John Redihan
About the Author
John Redihan is the founder of Wash Safe Industries of Brewster, Ma. Wash Safe manufactures roof cleaning products , purchasing the correct cleaning product can make the difference in how clean your roof comes out, zinc roof flashing is also available through Wash Safe
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