Well, spring is still a little ways off in most areas of the country, but it's never to early, or late, to look at your roof for signs of problems. Most homeowners don't and probably shouldn't spend much time on top of their house. The less foot traffic the better for the life of any roof system. Things to look for, from the ground, for potential problems are,
- missing shingles on the roof
- shingle pieces on the ground
- excessive granule accumulation at the ends of your down pipes
- cupping or curling of the shingles on the roof
If you think that you may have a water stain on your ceiling, try taking a lead pencil and make very light reference marks along the edge of the mark, then you can see if its expanding (which would indicate an active leak) or maybe just bleed through of an old stain.
If by chance you want to venture up on the slippery slope of your house, use caution. Gravity will always win. Have someone around in case you have a problem or need help and if you think there are roofing issues, roofing companies are more than glad to come out and give you an evaluation of your roofs condition. If you don't know where to find a QUALITY roofer, check with the local roofing supply houses (not the big box stores) or use the shingle mfg websites to find qualified installers. The biggest mistake most homeowners make when choosing a contractor is not paying to much for a new roof but choosing the wrong installer to put on the new roof system.
For those of you who will get up on the roof to do repairs, please DON'T use roof cement (you know, that black stuff) or silicone to caulk. Roof cement will crack when exposed to UV rays unless you include a webbed ply to hold it together. Silicone will set up to well and will pull itself away from the weakest substrate. Use a exterior caulk designed to flex when applied to dissimilar surfaces. Go to the store and get a tube of tri-polymer (Geocel) or a rubber based caulk. Put it on the shelf and save it for a emergency repair.
Also, if you don't have a extra bundle of shingles stored in a crawl space or the garage, go to the shingle store and pick up a bundle close to your existing roof color, and keep it handy for emergency repairs.
Remember to be carefull when working up on a roof of any kind.