Roof Overhangs

Roof Construction Solid State Inspections Inc

Our roof is the first line of defence in protecting our homes from the deterioration effects of driving rains, icy snows, and UV glaring sun. Roof design is critical to the performance of the building envelope and a well designed roof needs to look pleasant, be leak free, support gutters, provide roof ventilation, and help protect our home from rain and sun. Our roof overhangs play a critical roll in helping perform these roof functions.

What is the Purpose of Roof Overhangs?

Roof overhangs provide many roles:

  • Visual Appeal - Visual appeal is not part of a home inspectors primary concern in a home inspection but it is for our clients. Sloped roofs with overhangs are a traditional home appearance in Western culture (among others) and for good practical reasons, not just aesthetic.
  • Protect The Walls From Rain - The top of the wall is the most difficult area to protect from water ingress as most exterior siding materials rely on overlapping material to protect the building and there is no overlapping material at the top of the wall. (see our article on exterior siding materials here)
  • Protect The Walls from Sun - The Sun's UV rays can do a lot of damage to the exterior of a home. Roofing material is designed to best withstand the rays of the sun and roof overhangs will act like a sun-hat for your building providing additional shade for the walls. This shade effect also helps to keep your home cooler in the summer.
  • Roof Ventilation - As heat rises in homes, it can become trapped (along with damaging moisture it carries) into the attic space of the home. Attics need ventilation to release the heat and moisture and roof overhangs typically provide the lower/cooler part of the air circulation through soffit venting in the underside overhangs. Warmer air then can rise out the roof vents higher on the roof.
  • Structural Integrity - Roof overhangs can provide some clues about the integrity of the roofing system. Signs of movement in the overhangs could indicate major structural issues in the home which would need further investigation.

What Does a Home Inspector Look For With Roof Overhangs?

First, not all buildings have roof overhangs and that is not a bad thing if the building is built right. On very tall buildings like high rise condo's, the benefits of roof overhangs are very low as the surface areas of the walls are so high. That said, roof overhangs are a great system for homes 3 stories and under to provide some protection to the home. 

Home inspectors are looking for:

  • Ventilation - Some older homes had either no ventilation in the soffits or very minimal ventilation. Combined with other ventilation means and in attic inspection, it is a common recommendation in these homes to improve attic ventilation.
  • Gaps in Material - Pests can enter attics and homes in very small gaps of material. Home Inspectors will look for spots where soffit materials may be loose and recommend maintenance.
  • Roof Drainage - Roof overhangs most often have gutters on the down slope sides. These gutters need to be well attached to the overhangs with correct numbers of downspouts. Occasionally, roof overhangs may slope differently than the main roof area and gutters are often missing in these areas. (see our article on gutters and downspouts here)
  • Window and Door Flashing - Roof overhangs provide protection to the sides of the building enough that windows or doors near the overhang don't require flashing above them. However, windows lower down do require flashings which are often missing and suggested as an improvement in a home inspection

Final Thoughts

As home inspectors in Metro Vancouver, one of the first things we look at when we arrive at a house or condo is how the home will perform in our rainy winters. Roof overhangs are an excellent method of providing additional umbrella rain protection and make a great building feature. If you are looking for a new home, always call in an expert home inspector to help you understand your purchase so you know what you need to do to keep your home safe and solid for the long term.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.