My own asphalt shingle roof is way beyond needing replacement, yet it shows no visible signs of granule loss or obvious visible damage

New inspector with roof condition question, (yes I have already completed the roof inspection course.)

My own house roof, asphalt shingle, residential grade, was installed in 1981. It shows little or no granule loss, is not curling, does not have buckles or obvious visible damage. It doesn’t leak and it has a 12:12 pitch, (that’s why I haven’t gotten around to replacing it, every year I think next year for sure.) It is super brittle on the west facing side.
My question is, if I were inspecting this as someone else’s roof, maybe I might notice how brittle it is but maybe not. (walking on it is out of the question with the steep pitch.) I’m wondering without visible damage, are there other reliable clues it is well past its expected life? Course materials don’t recommend a ‘brittle test’. Is a 'brittle test to the west fascia edge a good routine idea?
If I describe a roof condition as appearing to be in good condition with no substantial granule loss and little sign of damage, and it happens to be a roof like mine that is very old but doesn’t show it, am I liable for not seeing that it is in need of replacement?

The only “brittle test” would really be to walk the roof, which you cannot, so as long as you note that you weren’t able to walk the roof due to height or pitch, and describe the roof exactly as you have already, you’re good man.

Limited visual inspection, you can’t always see brittle and because of the pitch you can’t really feel it either.

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With experience you can easily tell an asphalt roof that’s 40 years by looking at it. You do need to be able to see it. Do you have pics of your roof that is brittle?

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Morning, David.
Hope this post finds you well.

If you could, upload an image of your current roof covering so other inspectors can use it to copy and paste that image into their reporting software so they can render points of interest and install arrows and pointers at defects and deficiencies to illustrate to you, and other members, what to look for on older shingle roof coverings.

What comes to my mind first and foremost, Wide slots.
As well, Overall Shrinkage. Clawing as opposed to cupping/curling.
Cracking Damaged Worn Torn Mastic or sealants. Flashing corrosion.

Recommend: Powerful zoom camera or binoculars.

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IMO, yes you are. There are more ways to check for brittleness than walking on it and I find it hard to believe that there weren’t more indications than:

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I think I can link some photos this afternoon.

It is not your job to determine how long anything will last. If it is “performing as intended” it is fine. Your insurance company will love the liability you just created. You may even get sued in some jurisdictions.

Walking on a roof you deem unsafe (for any reason) is never required. If you damage anything during an inspection other than just turning something on (as required in your SOP) you bought it.

Read the SOP (again). Memorize it.

I looked more carefully, comparing a small area completely sheltered from rain to the rest of the roof. We had hail and sleet yesterday so didn’t haul the tall ladder out. My one gentle suggestion for improvement to the internachi materials is the lack of analysis of subtler, less obvious problems: the course materials have a couple photos of badly damaged shingles that a child could identify, and some good photos of slightly buckled areas. Photos of ‘middle aged roof shingles’ and how to interpret more subtle damage would have been helpful.

To my roof, (again, I haven’t gotten the tall ladder out yet)

I observed that the roof had 3 tab asphalt shingles in need of prompt replacement. The design is hip style with cathedral ceilings, attic space was limited to the small pyramidal area. There were 2 missing shingles on the north hip section, each of those could create an active drip at any time. The roof shingles overlapping fascia all around the house showed some broken lower edges. Also, installation of a metal fascia flashing is recommended to prevent leakage behind the gutter. There was moderate moss observed, especially on the north east corner. Regular preventative treatment to eliminate moss growth is recommended because any moss buildup can shorten the usable life of the roof. There was buckling observed on a 3 square foot area at the northwest hip section. There were some broken corners of a few shingles observed, this was another sign that the roof was deteriorating from age, replacement is recommended.

  1. Take InterNACHI’s video roof courses (not the written course) to really learn about roofs.
  2. Doesn’t sound to me like your roof needs replacement. Steep roofs shed water fast and there’s less time for water to find its way through the roofing materials.

The problem with brittle shingles is that they are less wind resistant. They break instead of bending and then recovering their shape. If they are strongly bonded they won’t bend enough to break, and if they have not suffered thermal cracking below joints in the shingle course above, they are good quality shingles and there’s no need to replace them.

An inspector needs to have a reason to say a roof needs replacement and shingles being brittle alone isn’t a good reason. They can be identified as old and brittle but most important is if they are adequately protecting the structure at the time of the inspection, and if there is some indication that they may soon fail to do that. Badly cracked or split, distorted, displaced, poorly installed, etc. are indications that the roof may need to be replaced soon. Uniform granule loss is not.