Your Place: How to check asphalt-shingle roof for winter weakness

If it's snowing this morning, do not attempt to do what I'm about to tell you.

If it's not snowing, then it's time - some would say it's way past the time - to check out your roof before the start of meteorological winter Monday.

Winter weather can be especially hard on roofs. Identifying potential weaknesses in yours now can save you money in the future, the experts say.

If your roof has asphalt shingles - I just looked up and down my street, and every house has them, including mine and my garage - the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association recommends a roof audit.

Here is what you need to do, the association says:

Keep all gutters and roof surfaces clear of fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other debris, so that water will drain freely.

Never paint or coat asphalt roofing materials to change the color or give your roof a "new" look. The use of paint or coatings may void the warranty and affect performance.

Never allow water from a downspout to pour directly onto a roof below. Connect the downspout from an upper story to a lower-level gutter with drains on the lower roof.

When removing leaves or snow from a valley or other roof areas, proper care must be taken to avoid damaging the roof.

Make the inspections from the ground or through upstairs windows, where the roof surface can be observed.

Flashings are the most vulnerable points of a roof. Therefore, inspect the underside carefully at all flashing points for evidence of leakage, such as water stains.

Whenever a new element is added to the roof, make sure that proper flashing procedures are followed to maintain the integrity of the roofing.

If you notice any obvious signs of damage, including missing or loose roof shingles, impaired flashing, and obstructed gutters or roof vents, contact a professional roofing contractor to perform a full assessment of the roof.

Make sure a contractor carries both liability and workers compensation; ask to see a certificate of insurance. or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.