The roof of your home has a tough job protecting you from the wind, rain, heat and cold of Bay Area climates. Unfortunately, most homeowners don't pay much attention to their roof until the winter rains set in and they discover a leak; the roof then demands immediate attention. By periodically inspecting your roof, however, you can correct minor problems before they become serious enough to cause damage. Understanding the structure of your roof is the first step toward diagnosing possible problems.

  • A typical roof begins with a framework of rafters which supports a roof deck (sometimes called a subroof). The roof deck provides a nailing base for the roof surface material, and usually has both sheathing and underlayment.

  • The material used for the roof surface must be able to withstand wind, rain and sun. A wide variety of roof surface materials are available to protect your house from the elements.

  • Overlapping layers of asphalt shingles, wood shingles, shakes or tile usually cover the traditional sloping roof. Flat or low-sloping roofs are most often surfaced with alternating layers of roofing felt and asphalt, with a layer of gravel on top.

Locating a roof leak can be cone from both the inside and the outside of your home. Beginning on the inside, check the attic for water stains, dark-colored areas or wet wood, moisture and soft spots which may indicate dry rot. Mark them with colored chalk so you can find them easily later on.

To check the roof structure from the outside, stand back from the house and look at the lines of the ridge and rafters. If either of them are sagging, call in a professional contractor - you may have a structural problem.

You can make temporary repairs to a leaky roof even when it's raining. From the inside - the attic is a good place - drive a nail or poke wire up through the hole to direct some of the water into a bucket directly below. Using a putty knife or caulking gun, apply special roof patch liberally to the hole from the inside. When the roof is dry outside, slide a temporary shingle - a 2-foot square of galvanized sheet metal - under the row of shingles above the missing or damaged shingle. This will protect your roof from further damage until you can do permanent repairs.

When calling a roof contractor, choose carefully. Try to get referrals from friends, the Better Business Bureau or contact Herman Sun. Putting a new roof on your home can be an expensive, messy, though necessary, procedure, which requires the work of competent professionals. It's also worth the cost when done right, as it adds comfort, beauty and value to resale of your home.