A gravel roof, also called a tar and gravel roof or built-up and gravel roof, needs regular maintenance to extend its lifespan. We recommend that at least once a year the following two minor upkeep projects be undertaken:
1) Keep an even and solid top layer of gravel over the roof surface. Gravel protects the built-up roof underneath from damage by ultra-violet rays in sunlight. If the built-up roof surface becomes exposed, it accelerates the deterioration of the roof. Redistribute or add gravel where necessary if you see gaps, like in the photo below.
2) Blow off any leaf debris. Because a gravel roof has minimal slope, rain does not consistently wash down any leaves that fall on it. Minor areas of ponding on the roof create rings of leaf piles. As the leaves accumulate and decompose, their acidity will also accelerate deterioration of the roof surface. Once enough organic debris builds up, moss, weeds, andfungi start growing on the roof.
We suggest that you have a professional roofer do this maintenance. The roofer can also do any minor repairs to perimeter flashing and roof penetrations that may be necessary, and advise you as the roof approaches the end of its life.
But, should you decide to tackle this project yourself, be VERY careful! Most homeowners consider a steeply sloped roof to be unsafe, because of the potential of slipping and falling down and off the roof. But low-slope and flat roofs are actually more dangerous. It’s easy to walk off the edge of the roof if you are not paying close attention to where you are in relation to the edge, especially if you are walking backwards while doing the maintenance chores.
Also, see our blog posts What is "ponding" on a flat roof? and What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?
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To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
• Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?
• Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof?
• What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?
• What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?
• What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?
• What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer?
• What causes a sagging roof ridge line?
• Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof?
• Is an attic required to have a light by the building code?
• How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?
• Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?
• How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles?
• What are the common problems with attic insulation?
• What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof?
• What's the average lifespan of a roof?
• Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings?
• Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?
• What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?
• Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?
• What can I do to prevent roof leaks?
• Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)?
• Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?
• What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?
• What causes a lump or dip in the roof?
• If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?
• How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?
• How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home?
• What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?
• Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof?
• How can I make my roof last longer?
• What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?
• How can I find out the age of a roof?
• Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?
• Should I buy a house with an old roof?
• What are those metal boxes on the roof?
• What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?
• Why do roof edges start leaking?
• Why do my dormer windows leak?
• Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?
• Should I put gutters on the house?
• How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?
• What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?
• What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?
• Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?
• How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?
• Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?
• What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?
Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.