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What to Know About Cleaning Your Roof


August 3, 2018

While our focus at West Michigan Roofing is on installation and repairs, we do have our opinions on maintenance practices that can affect your roof. Every year, we get questions ranging from, “Will you wash my roof?” to “I had someone clean my roof, and they ruined the shingles. Can you fix it?”

Should I have my roof cleaned?

We don’t offer cleaning services ourselves, but as roofing professionals we can tell you that it has to be done a certain way, and by certain people, or this intended home improvement measure will likely end in disaster.

First things first:

Is Roof Cleaning Necessary?

It depends on what’s going on with your roof. Are your shingles looking a bit dark or not as uniform as they used to be? An inspection by a professional can determine if your roof is indeed “dirty”—whether with algae, mold, moss, or environmental debris—or if there may be something else causing the discoloration, such as balding shingles.

Many homeowners would prefer to keep a spotless exterior for optimal curb appeal, but if there is no risk of damage from your roof’s current state, you may want to avoid having it washed. As we’ll cover later, it’s also important to consider the age of the roof.

Finally, certain products can be installed on the eaves of your roof to help prevent unsightly streaks or discoloration from happening. This may be better over time than regular washing.

How Often to Have a Roof Cleaned

There is no hard and fast rule that you must have your roof shampooed every X number of years. Depending on your roof’s materials and the climate and weather, it may not be necessary to have it cleaned. There are instances when a roof is dirty to the point it could turn into damage, and your homeowners insurance may require you to have it cleaned to maintain your policy.

Consider your roof’s age before you have it cleaned. For a 20-year-old system, the stress on the materials, however small, could accelerate its death by 5 years. If it’s a 12-13 year old roof, and the job is done correctly, you will get better results without causing untimely wear to the materials.

Is It Okay to Pressure Wash a Roof?

No; we do not recommend using a pressure washer on your roof. And if someone you’ve hired shows up with a pressure washer, don’t let them near your roof. While pressure washers are great for cleaning other surfaces, you almost certainly will cause damage here.

A sprayer for cleaning a driveway or deck will blast water differently than the one used for cleaning a roof. The spraying equipment for roofs will oscillate, meaning the water spins in a pattern, rather than being delivered in a direct blast. Even with the more gentle pressure of the oscillation, the right setting needs to be used; if not, granules can still be blown off the shingles, reducing the lifespan of your roof.

Again, a roof shampoo should NOT be done by the same guy who’s washing your deck—unless they switch equipment. A legitimate service needs to have the right equipment to clean effectively without causing damage to your home.

Can I Clean My Roof Myself?

Under no circumstances would we recommend it. Can you wash your roof yourself? Well, you may have the capacity to do so. But should you? No. This is not a DIY project, and it is not a summer chore to keep your teenage son busy.

Picture this: You’re up on a ladder, high off the ground. The cleaning solution, when mixed with water, becomes extremely slippery—to the point of mimicking a slip and slide scenario. We don’t have to tell you that slippery conditions and heights do not go together; the situation can quickly turn dangerous.

With roofing services, the liability and risk is so much higher than in other trades since you’re up in the air. Don’t risk your or your loved one’s life or wellbeing to save the $500-$600 to hire a professional.

This is not a job for an amateur; it needs to be done by a trained professional, with the right equipment and safeguards in place.

Can You Recommend a Roof Shampooing Service?

Over the years, we’ve learned not to make these kinds of referrals; there can be such a range of experience even with a single business, and we don’t want to steer our customers in a direction that does more harm than good. So no, we won’t recommend any particular service provider. As with any other home service, this is a “buyer beware” scenario; remember, this work is being done on a key structural piece of your home. 

Instead, we DO recommend that homeowners and property managers perform their due diligence in researching companies before hiring them. Look them up online; read multiple reviews; call their insurance companies to make sure their coverage is valid and updated.

As always, don’t immediately go with the least expensive price, as you get what you pay for. A low price often means they do not have the proper insurance and are not a true company, but a DBA.

Finally, before you jump into shampooing: If you’re worried you may end up disappointed with outcome, we recommend asking a professional to come and clean a section as a test—such as part of your garage—and see if you’re happy with results. At that point, you can decide whether to go through with rest.

Good luck!