Beginning Roof Maintenance

Updated – August 2015

Man inspecting a roofAs students head back to school, you know that fall is not far off. If you live in an area where there are lots of trees and vegetation, it is important to ensure your roof is properly maintained and drains are free of debris. Roof drains are a vital part of roof construction that allows rainwater to be evacuated, separate from but in addition to gutters and downspouts. Over time, roof drains can get clogged. When this happens water can back up and overflow the flashing, resulting in water damage inside the home, often in the attic. This problem is magnified even more if the water freezes during the colder months and creates an ice dam that will not only cause leaking into the roof, but also cause structural damage as it will warp the roof deck and even trusses. If this occurs, water can even penetrate ceilings and run down interior walls, creating a water damage nightmare. Yet this can be avoided by using specific Construction Equipment, a ladder to access the drains, and regular flushing to enable drains so that they function properly.

Options for Drain Cleaning

Roof drains are frequently built into flat roofs as a way to connect the roof to a pipe outlet. They are also built into slope style roofs as well, although less frequently. Besides periodically checking for and removing clogs, over time drains may even need to be replaced once they become old or rusted. The best way to maintain the roof and its drainage system is to inspect it using your telesteps or extension ladder. If it appears to be clogged, we recommend removing surface debris first before proceeding with any of the following cleaning options:

  • Using a Snake or Electric Eel: Most clogs can be eliminated by using a plumbing snake or Electric Eel that is fed down slowly to the clog to break it up and push it through the outlet pipe’s end. If the clog is large or dense, you may have to repeat this procedure several times. (See Equip Supply’s extensive selection of drain cleaners under Plumbing in the Tools section of our website.)
  • Hose Flushing: Lighter and looser clogs may be removed by simply taking a hose, inserting it part way into the system and running water through the drainage pipes forcefully. Monitor the water carefully as it may backup initially onto the roof. If it looks like the backup is slowing, the water pressure is likely working to loosen the clog and will eventually dislodge it, with the water and debris running out the pipe outlet.
  • The Pipe Brush Method: Another way to clean a roof drainage system is to use a pipe brush, pushing it downward until the clog dislodges. Some homeowners prefer this method since there’s no water that backs up as can happen with the water hose method.
  • Routine Roof Drain Cleaning: By routinely cleaning the roof drain of all leaves and debris (including rodent nests), the likelihood of an actual clog developing is reduced. We recommend cleaning the drain thoroughly on a monthly basis during the fall and spring using the construction equipment and method you most prefer. We also recommend checking and potentially cleaning the drain during the winter months if you experience large snowfalls and ice buildup. Every three months thereafter should be sufficient to keep your roof’s drainage system properly maintained and in good working order.