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Home maintenance tips for roof repairs: From squirrels to leaks

A roofer works on a new home July 29, 2002 in Niles, Illinois.
A roofer works on a new home July 29, 2002 in Niles, Illinois.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

There's nothing like owning a home. Mortgages and taxes may leave a dent in the pockets of homeowners, but at least they don't have to worry about surprising rent increases or loud neighbors above their heads. And a homeowner can do whatever he or she wants with the property -- rent it, paint it, rebuild it. However, owning property comes with new responsibilities. There is no such thing as calling the landlord's maintenance man to fix pipes, work on a stove or handle flooding. And bigger responsibilities outside of the property should be something homeowners are prepared to tackle.

First home maintenance issue: Roof repairs

Gwen and Richard wanted their roof repaired primarily because of the furry friend who'd found her way inside, made a nest and was getting ready to have baby squirrels. When the married couple of 33 years decided they wanted a pet, rodents weren't what they had in mind.

And as dog owners, putting squirrel poison down was out of the question, especially after the Rogers Park tragedy that killed three dogs. And considering squirrel poison is illegal in North America, according to Pest Control Products, had they gotten caught then a fine would be likely.

But with the Humane Society suggesting things like reversing the vacuum cleaner blower, placing rags soaked with cider vinegar and keeping the lights on to get the squirrels out, that wouldn't have changed the damage that was already done. The couple needed to repair the damage that the squirrel had done to their roof. But they also needed to get on the same page before calling a construction company to do the repairs.

The following are tips for homeowners who want to get their roofs repaired for various reasons.

Tip One: Have the same repair goals in mind before contacting a construction company. Gwen wanted to use the roof repair as an opportunity to also insulate the attic and get cubby holes for her shoes and a walk-in closet. Richard just wanted an electrician to check the wiring to make sure no squirrels chewed on them. He also wanted someone to install metal flashing in spots where squirrels could enter. With both of them having different goals in mind for repairs, this affected the pricing estimate.

Tip Two: Research the reputation of the construction company and look for customer reviews on sites, such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Keep in mind that angry customers are sometimes the most vocal and more likely to comment, but companies may also encourage their satisfied customers to leave comments, too, to balance it out. Pay attention to the amount of BBB claims from accredited roofing contractors and how many were resolved. If a company managed to work out any possible issues whether privately or through a third-party site, that's a pretty good indication of their customer service behavior.

Tip Three: Roof repair estimates aren't one size fit all. The repair depends on the hourly rate of the workers, the size of the repairs and the materials (ex. undercoating) used to repair a roof. No home is the same: one house can have a pyramid roof while another has a gable roof. But most importantly beware of cheap pricing from newbies. It is indeed possible that someone who is new can do a good job, but become very familiar with their warranty policy and how quickly they'll fix repairs should weather damage or other unforeseen circumstances happen. Many talented workers deserve a shot, but a roof is such a pricey and important part of a house so choose the workers with ultimate financial care.

Tip Four: Consider whether you really need a professional roof repair or if this is a DIY project. If you've got a ladder and a hose, chances are high that with two people you can figure out how to fix stuff like leaking roofs. Run a hose across different sides of the roof and have someone inside keep tabs on where the water is coming from. The person on the roof should look for any damaged, curled or missing shingles. Uncurling a shingle with a hair dryer may be simple enough, and then just add roof cement to keep it in place. Replacing shingles by removing the loose shingle and nailing in a new one only requires a trip to a hardware store. For projects that are a little more advanced (ex. replacing chimney flashing), that's up to the homeowner to decide whether he or she wants to do that alone.

Tip Five: Decide whether you want special features with a roof repair. Options include ridge vents, gutters and downspouts, skylights and solar tubes, water diverters, snow guards or brackets, turbine vents and/or heat tape. Ridge vents provide uniform cooling along the entire roof deck, according to Lowes. Gutters eliminate leaks, clogs and warping that can lead to water damage, according to Home Depot. A downspout is a pipe that carries rainwater from the roof to the ground. And for the homeowners who are interested in living a green lifestyle, skylights and solar tubes add natural light into a home. Products like SolaTube aren't solar tubes but do add natural light into a home — just without the glare and light inconsistency. For homeowners who want to have furniture in their attics, solar tubes can also affect whether furniture fades.

Whether homeowners want roof repairs because of a pest control issue; remodeling requests; simple leak repairs that they're not comfortable doing on their own; or added perks to help decrease electricity bills, having all of these goals prepared before contacting a roof repair professional will make the job much easier for the professionals and the consumers.

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