If you’re squeamish about heights, don’t worry. You can do a thorough inspection from the ground using a pair of binoculars.

Or, you can get up close and personal with your roof using a ladder. However, there’s no need to get up on your roof just yet. The less you walk around up there, the better for your roofing — and the safer for you. Work your way around your house, noting any potential problems.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Missing or damaged chimney cap. (OK, that’s technically not part of your roof, but since you’re looking anyway.)
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

If you find piles of colored grit from asphalt roof tiles in the gutters, that’s a bad sign — those sand-like granules cover the surface of roof shingles and shield them from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Check the age of your roofing and see if it’s nearing the end of its life cycle.

Easy Fixes for Roofing Problems

Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. Check for popped nails that need to be hammered back in place.

If you’re comfortable working on a roof, then it’s not too difficult to replace shingles and caulk flashing yourself. Cost: $24 for a bundle of shingles, $6 for roofing caulk. Allow a half-day to make a few shingle repairs.

Metal and vinyl flashing around chimneys, skylights, and attic vents that has separated needs to be resealed with caulk. However, flashing and vent boots that are beginning to rust or deteriorate should be replaced.

Cost of Professional Repairs

Contact pro roofing companies and seek at least two bids for repair work. You can use a handyman for minor fixes and possibly shave costs, but the person should be bonded, have proof of liability, and have workman’s compensation insurance.

Some costs for common repairs include:

  • A few broken or missing shingles: $100-$150.
  • Large repairs (10-by-10-foot section of roofing): $100-$350 asphalt; $200-$1,000 wood.
  • Replacing flashing or boots around chimneys, skylights, and vents: $300-$500.
  • Repairing flashing in valleys: $15-$25 per running foot.

Clearing Your Roof of Moss

Moss eradication begins in the fall. Apply a moss killer intended for roofs (granules for lawn-use contain iron which will stain a roof).

In the spring, use a broom to remove remaining dead moss. Spread moss killer along the ridge of the roof and on any remaining green patches. Cost: $20 for moss killer to treat 3,000 sq. ft. of roof. Allow about three hours to sweep the roof, clear the gutters, and apply the granules.

Be Alert to Early Signs of a Roof Leak

A yearly roof checkup is great, but problems can occur at any time. Early signs of trouble include:

  • Dark areas on ceilings.
  • Peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs.
  • Damp spots alongside fireplaces.
  • Water stains on pipes venting the water heater or furnace.

If you find worrisome signs, especially if the roof is old or there’s been a storm with heavy wind or hail, get a professional assessment. Some roofing companies do this for free; specialized roof inspectors, like those who work through the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association, charge about $175.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

Replacing Your Roof

If your asphalt roof is 15 years old or more, it may be due for replacement. The national average cost for a new asphalt shingle roof is $18,913, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, of which you’ll recoup $12,777 at resale (67.6%). For high-end materials, such as standing-seam metal, the national average cost jumps to as much as $34,495.