Moss Treatment and Control Advice & Service Page

 Updated 11 / 2014

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Here in the Great Northwest moss build-up on roofs is a huge problem. It is very unsightly and will shorten the life-span of your roof. Here's some advice you can consider to clean your roof w/o causing more damage than the moss would cause leaving it there. Pressure-washer damage is a common mistake Homeowners make all too often.

If you are not able to do this cleaning work yourself and you happen to live in the Portland, Oregon Metro Area you can call me to help, but I did not write this page to sell this type of work. I have more than enough work replacing gutters.

What causes moss growth on roofs? Disclaimer
Why is moss bad for roofing? How does moss damage composite shingles?
What's the wrong way to clean roofs? How does moss damage metal roofs?
What is the right way to kill and remove moss How does moss damage wood shakes?
How does DMR kill or remove moss safely? How does moss damage roofing tiles?
What would that cost? Thatch roofing?

What causes so much moss growth on roofs here in the N. W.?

(a) As you may have noticed most of the moss build-up on roofs is seen on the North facing sides and where there are shade trees near the house which drip sap and drop other debris on the roof. Moss spores are tiny and will travel great distances through the wind, so there's no way to avoid it. Thick layers of moss will trap moisture like a sponge for a long time, but on the other sides it may not get a chance to build up thick like it will on the Northern sidse, unless there are some shade trees near by.

Moss is not a fungus that likes darker areas, but the North facing sides of the roof and heavily shaded areas grow more moss because the lack of direct Sunlight exposure doesn't have a chance to dry it out. Like any plant it needs moisture to survive. The heat of direct mid-day sunlight will dry it out to the point it cannot survive without frequent rain, which is why we see a lot more moss in this area than other parts of the country.

Moss needs to feed on the decomposing dust and tree debris that gets trapped on roofs, which is another reason you will see a lot more moss on the roof under an overhanging tree that has littered the roof with it's fall-out and sap, so if you look around you will see a direct correlation.

Why is moss bad for roofs?

It is true how the UV rays of the Sun is one of the main causes of aging any roofing material, and some people think it's actually good to have a heavy layer of moss to shield their roof from exposure to the elements. Some even jokingly say the moss is the only thing holding their roof together. This of course is not true. Moss growth is clearly more detrimental than it could help on most any surface. It is one of nature’s ways to help recycle in life. It works to eat away and decompose what it resides on to break it back down the the Earth without a trace given enough time.

I think we've all seen these sort of quaint looking roof covered in thick layers of moss. This shed roof was let go so long it had ferns growing in the heavy blankets of moss near the bottom edge where most of the rain water would settle and able to feed off the decomposing wood under the shingles. The shed behind it had been covered with a blue tarp to prevent leaks, but had suffered enough Sun and wind to shred it. The foundation as you can see has been compromised as well.

It may look charming to walk through a forest with huge draping coverage of moss on tree trunks and branches, but that is an unhealthy sign in a forest, and the best reasons for forest fires to cleans them of these infestations. The Forestry Department in the areas of Oregon and Washington have begun to realize how they've done more harm than good to fight forest fires over the last century by not allowing the natural sterilization and thinning of diseased trees to take place. Moss will attack sick trees. In more extreme cases you will even see ferns growing in the thick moss growth up in the trees and even on roofs that were left too long this way, as seen above. So, in general moss is a sign of there being something wrong. Very dirty if nothing else.

How does moss damage composite shingles?

Some feel that moss is a great way to shade your roof from the harsh rays of the Sun, but Mother Nature works hard to recycle everything it can in several different ways. Not only through breaking it down with the Sun's UV rays, but also with corrosive oxidization, and bacterial decomposition, not to mention erosion.  The tiny roots of the moss dig into the roofing shingle surface and loosen the sand to lift it off the petroleum material under it. They also work up under the overlapping shingles, splitting them apart. Moss will also hold moisture against the shingles and flashing like a sponge, causing the bacteria growth to rage and decompose your roofing. Asphalt shingles are very resistant to this sort of decay, but everything has limits and eventually will cause leaks. Heavy moss growth can eat up 5 to 10 years life span from your roof if left treated, yet in many cases cleaning the roof can cause more damage than the moss if done the fast easy way with a strong pressure washer. So let me be perfectly clear on this issue: Never let anyone get up on your roof with a pressure washer to clean off your roof! I'll explain why below.

Same roof before and after Client installed our metal parts when reroofing

It is common to see roof valleys build-up with debris for several years. Moisture is then held in suspension, causing that debris to decompose into mud under the dry surface debris you can see on top. It will decompose to the point you will have plants begin to grow in that mud. Roof valleys and other metal flashing areas are the #1 source of roof failure and leaks.

If the roof is not too old, these areas can be repaired in many cases without replacing the whole roof, but few Roofing Contractors will admit this. Their motivation is to sell you a whole new re-roof job and make more $.

What are the wrong ways to clean roofs and must be avoided?

A Pressure Washer
This is the most commonly used, but make no mistake; a pressure washer is death to your roof or siding! It is true that most Contractors will use a commercial strength pressure washer to quickly and easily blast off moss, mildew, dirt, and of course larger debris that may have collected on your roof.  It will clean off your roof, , but it is far too harsh and will cause more damage than what they are cleaning off could do. Here's why it is a very harmful way to clean a roof:

Normal house-hold water pressure is around 150 psi (pounds per square inch pressure) or less. The problem with pressure washers is how they are designed to deliver 3,000 to 4,000 psi concentrated into a narrow blast, which will dislocate a good 30% of the sand off your shingles. That sand is there to shade the petroleum material those shingles are made of from the attack of the Sun . Pretty much any roofing material is not designed to withstand more than a 100 mph wind storm, yet that high pressured water blast would certainly simulate a great deal more and it will force water into places that can cause a good deal of water damage on your home.

Even if it does not cause water damage when you let them remove so much of the sand off your shingles, it will leave them exposed to the UV rays of the Sun. Then the Sun will rip the shingles to shreds within 5 years or so. This is a good example of how the medicine can be worse than the disease. You are far better off to just leave the moss there. Even though the moss will slowly eat away at your shingles the loss of sand will allow the Sun's rays to destroy your roofing within 5 years or less. DO not subject your roof to this sort of harm no matter how safe they claim it is. Trust me when I say they are not going to responsibility for shortening the life of your roof

Bleach
Chlorine may be an effective way to kill moss, and anything else it comes in contact with. It was designed for the Army for use in chemical warfare, but even diluted it is a very harmful poison to you and the environment, let alone to the person applying it, so we do not recommend using bleach on roofs to soak into our ground water. Chlorine was one of the deadliest chemical weapons of that era. Even if it does kill the moss it will not remove that moss or make it so loose it blows off your roof, so you would still need to have someone scrape it off. It may also discolor your shingles. It's a rather costly solution as well.

Detergent
Soap may help a bit to loosen it up, but it would still require a great deal of elbow grease to remove the moos. You will not want to be up there on your roof with it all wet and soapy adding to your risk of sliding off the roof. It is not going to solve the issue with just a simple application. It's also bad for the environment as well. We have a great deal of it soaked into our soil already over the last century from normal laundering of our clothes, making it hard to acquire good clean drinking water these days and screwing up our eco system, so I recommend against detergent as well.

Powder Moss Treatment
It is an effective and inexpensive way to control the moss growth is to get a few canisters of moss killing powder sold at your local hardware stores. I thought this was a good idea until I was informed by a State Agency that I was not to offer this service without being licensed as a pesticide expert. That shows how this is a very harmful product to use.

It is best to wet the roof just before sprinkling on the powder. This help keep the powder from getting blown off the roof from just a light breeze long before it had a chance to work it's magic. You do not breath it in as well, so a face mask is well advised. You may want to very lightly wet the roof again right after applying it to help keep it in place and spread it around, but not too much or you will just be rinsing the powder off your roof and drive it into your gutters and ground soil from there without gaining the benefit.

Several different companies make those powders. I don't think it much matters which brand you use. They are easy to apply if your roof is not steep, but it will not remove the moss build-up and depending on how much tree coverage you have near your house it has to be re-applied each year or so. Long term this could be more costly than the one time expense of a copper ridge cap, than to hire a licenses pesticide contractors to apply this to your roof over the next decade+. Although, after it washes off your roof and kills all the trees near your house you will wind up with much less of a moss problem.

Many people think it is the mild detergent in this powder that kills the moss, so they think they can just sprinkle laundry detergent on their roof, but it is actually the zinc phosphate that does the trick. Zinc is an inexpensive metal compared compared to copper, which has shown to have an effective anti-fungal property in the same way. It should only take a half hour to treat a low slope roof on most houses, but a steep roof may be too dangerous for a Homeowner to attempt.

Another concern is do not to use that type of powder on a roof that has copper gutters. I have personally seen evidence of a chemical reaction that dissolved holes through the floor of the copper gutters. It will turn the inside of the copper gutters a hot pink if it is causing that sort of adverse reaction. The only viable option for roofs with copper gutters is to have copper ridge and hip covers installed if you want to prevent moss growth. I have not seen a powder like product made with copper in it in stead of the cheaper zincoxcide.

Zinc Metal Strips
Pure zinc metal strips will help keep the moss growth down. Although, it may not be advisable to poke hundreds of holes in your roof to attach them. It has proven to not be effective enough in our area. It is only effective about 4 to 6 feet down the roof. This one narrow gray metal strip is unsightly enough, so few Homeowners are willing to have several mid-strips strung across their roof to keep it free of moss, as seen below. This would also mean there would be thousands of new nail holes punched through the shingles to hold the additional zinc strips in place. Exposed nails are a serious problem. Zinc is a very soft metal that's barely stronger than lead. These strips would commonly become dislodged in high winds, becoming an eye sore with curly strips dangling down the roof.

The worst part is how these strips would curl up and troth water within a couple years like a tape measure blade. They will dip in a few places where you will see clean streaks down the roof where those dip points are, but that makes the roof look even more noticeably messy with such uneven clean streaks.

Here's a couple shots I took of a house where they had attached a top and mid strip of zinc on their roof. If you click on these pictures to see them larger you can see better how they were still not effective enough to keep the moss from forming on the roof. Perhaps it looks even worse now. Besides the look of that mid strip; they now have those irregular streaks you can see where the roof is clear of moss.

Also, this zinc is not able to remove the moss that is there. Being such a soft metal zinc is not good as a ridge cap, but a zinc galvanized steel sheet metal can be used effectively for a temporary solution, but you will need to make sure it gets replaced before it starts to rust, or you will have unsightly rust stains on your roof. See below for how to safely remove moss off roofs.

What is a long term low maintenance solution?

A Copper Hip and Ridge Cap w/other Copper Roof Flashing

This shows copper roof flashing kits that range from drip-edge, T-edge metal, W-valley, and ridge cap bent in solid 20oz copper sheet w/stainless steel fasteners or copper nails for as little as $12 sq' + crate and delivery charges if needed. Although, small quantities can run as much as $15 to $20 sq'; like a custom chimney flashing kit.


I realize copper is a bit more costly initial investment, but if you have copper gutters this may be your only option for a lasting trouble free solution to moss growth, since many of the roof treatments can harm copper gutters. These can be re-used over again when re-roofing is required; making it a one time purchase. A copper ridge cap may also increase the resale value of your house more than the cost difference, and is an excellent option for several reasons:

(a) A sheet metal ridge cap can seal the top ridge of the roof better than ordinary shingles , shakes, or tiles, and last longer against the harsh elements: sunlight, rain, corrosive oxygen, and high winds.
(b) These ridge covers have enough copper surface to be more effective against moss growth further down the roof line than zinc strips shown above.
(c) If made w/several bends and a support board inside it is strong enough to stand on without denting, as seen here to the right.
(d) Copper will tarnishes to an unobtrusive flat brown within a few months of exposure, unlike galvanized steel.
(e) If attached w/stainless steel screws and rubber washers every 2' on each side (which I supply with each order) these can be gently removed and re-used after a re-roofing decades later.

The 10' long sections should overlaps about 4" to 6", so this needs to be factored in when ordering a set of ridge caps. They should not be caulked or soldered together, or they will be very hard to remove to be reused after a reroofing. This also allows for the expansion and contraction that is likely to be different than your wood structure they are mounted on. It should come down at least 7" to 12" on each side. The more bends it has the stronger and straighter it will appear after it is mounted. There are several ways and designs to form these that can add a decorative touch to your roof, but curves are not so easy to form and would add to the cost substantially.

Hidden Ridge Venting:

This is also a better way to incorporate a hidden ridge vent as well. There are numerous different companies making ridge vent material that is usually covered by roofing shingles, and can be covered with copper just as well, but they make for a rather soft mount. Here is better screened roof vent design for you to consider:

This shows a Client installed 24"W copper, SS screen, and aluminum flashing parts for a better hidden ridge vent when reroofing his house in Fall City, WA

Below shows another hidden ridge vent system I recently came up with (10/14) that can be easily installed with just a fourth of the exposed fasteners needed, and no sharp edge metal exposed. This can be custom made to fit your roof angle. This was a 16' long section shown here made for a 5/12 pitch roof.

As to the cost for something like this the wood, SS screen, and screws assembled runs $16 ln', and the 20oz copper cover at 2 sheets 12" wide runs $24 ln' plus freight. This whole kit for a 32' long roof w/33.5 ln' of 20oz copper covers for overlapping cost $1,328. The outer sides are bent to hook under the edge of the 1X6 boards, so no fasteners are needed along the edges. Just a few SS screws provided for the center overlap.

Here below is a copper ridge cap installed directly on the shingles; without the vent system. They had us make these low profile roof vents instead (shown to the right side).

Installation of our copper ridge cap w/individual copper roof vents to the right

Contact us for more details and pricing.

The roof angles and style are so different for each house and this copper material is too expensive to form quantities in advance to have stock on hand, so custom copper ridge caps made to your specifications is not a problem and does not add to the cost. Feel free to offer suggestions of how you want this to look.

How To Safely Remove the Moss:

Scraping by Hand:
Zinc laced powder will kill the moss and mildew and keep it from returning, but it will not remove it from your roof. To remove it without too much damage to the shingles takes a lot of patient scraping with a plastic or metal scraper. I have found that a narrow masons tuck point trowel to work best on composite roofs. The abrasive sand had ground down the end of the steel blade.

To remove only about 90% of the bulky moss; a garden hoe can work to scrap it off, but it is really tedious since it is not very wide. A better tool is to use a stiff-tooth rake and attach a scrapper on it, so not to use the teeth of the rake. A stiff 3" to 4" tall strip of aluminum sheet-metal that is taller than the teeth of the rake is attached on the inside edge of the rake. It is best to have the bottom edge of the sheet metal bent at a 45 degree angle about 1" up, in towards the handle along the bottom edge to scrape the moss downwards. This bend can allow the scraper to be a few inches wider than the rake. A few small holes are drilled through the sheet-metal to run a few nylon ties through it to fasten it temporarily to the rake teeth.

A wire brush may be too aggressive to the sand on the shingles. A garden hose can be used to sweep down the loose moss and debris,

Clean-up:
A plastic brush and broom w/dustpan and a bucket will be needed to clean up the mess, so you can see what your doing again. It is best not to use anything stronger than just garden hose pressure on the roof to help clear away the mess. Remember to only spray downwards over the roofing. Keeping in mind that water and mildew will make a for a very slippery combination. As stated above, roofs are not designed to handle more than a 100 mph storm at best. Most household water pressure is around 150 psi pressure, where a light duty pressure washer has 10 times that much pressure and will cause more damage than the moss would if left alone.

Disclaimer:
It is of course a lot safer to hire a licensed professional to do this type of work, who has plenty of experience and is trained to apply these sort of pesticides. If you attempt to follow our instructions here, we cannot accept any liability for your personal safety or damage that could occur. Most homeowners are not willing to get up on their roof to do this sort of work, but if you are looking to do this work yourself, bare in mind that OCA Safety Standards say you should be wearing an approved and anchored safety harness if you are working higher than 10' off the ground.

What if We Do Not Live There?

If you are not fortunate to be living here in the Portland Oregon Metro Area, this info should help you find the right Contractor to do this as I specified. Feel free to insist they read this web site and follow it to the letter. Or just print it out for them to read, and insist they read it there in front of you. If they balk at it or try to debate the validity of this web page, that should be very telling, and you should not hire them! The damages will be your loss, not theirs. You are not likely to get them to volunteer to repair those damages, and it will be very hard to prove their responsibility years later.

What if We Do Live There in Paradise?

If you are fortunate to be living here in the Portland, Oregon Metro Area I will be happy to assist you with your needs, doing it the right way, but I am not licensed to apply that powder treatment, as it is considered a dangerous pesticide and not covered by my Contractor's License. I would need to get the licensing and insurance to cover pesticide applicators, but you are free to apply that to your own roof.

As to a cost example of the different options we can offer: roofing is calculated in 100 square foot sections, or a 10' x 10' area called a square of roofing. These example prices below are based on a small low-slop roofed house (6/12 pitch or less) composite roof, with around 10 squares of roofing (or 1,000 square feet, which is different than the floor space in a house). A medium size house typically has around 25 squares of roofing. The cost varies due to the complexities and safety issues to access all the areas of your roof.  Please go to our Contact web page and send us an e-mail telling us what you need or may want along with some digital photos of your house.

(a) $300 to do a simple scrape and clean up; removing the bulk of the moss, which would be around 70 to 80%, including a gutter cleaning of course.

(b) $800 to carefully scrape the moss off, removing around 95% of the moss build-up, along with clean up including the gutters.

(c) $1,425 to do a simple scrape and clean up; removing around 70 to 80% of the debris, and install an 18” wide custom 20oz copper roof ridge cap 30' long. Keep in mind that this should be the last time this needs to be done, and the copper ridge cap is removable to be reused after a new roofing is installed as needed. We offer a 10% discount if you're also having us replace your gutters at that time.

(d) $2,300 for a 95% scrape and install a 24” wide deluxe custom copper ridge cap 30' long.

(e) $3,030 for a 95% scrape and install a 24” wide deluxe custom copper ridge cap 30' long with our hidden vent system under the ridge cap.

How does moss damage metal roofs?

Moss and mildew on metal roofs is more a problem for anyone who needs to access your roof than the deterioration of the sheet-metal. They are very dangerous to access for servicing, since they mildew in short order and become very slick when damp!  Even for a low slop roof.  Wood shakes also moss-up like this and become very slick, but at least workers can wear special cleated boots.  There are no special shoes made to walk safely on metal roofs.  There are numerous problems with all types of metal roofs, as described on our Roofing web page.

The moss will also hold moisture against the painted metal, causing the bacteria rage and buckle the paint off.  Then resulting in quickly rusting through that thin steel sheet-metal.  Once that steel begins to rust it is too late to just have it re-painted.  The paint may stick to the rust, but the rust will flake off the rest of the steel.  It will have to be carefully sanded down and primed, which is very costly and may cause a penetration to the steel sheet-metal surface.  It is usually necessary to replace the roof at that point.  Replacing only part of the metal roofing could be done, but would odd to see the oxidized paint of the older roof with the new replaced section.

Also, most any roofing contractors will not even give you that kind of option.  It would not be something they would be willing to do or warranty, even thought the CCB only requires a 1 year warranty on construction. There incentive is to sell you a complete new roofing job.

How does moss damage wood shakes

Cedar wood roofing shingles are far more vulnerable to this kind of damage. Regular treatment of these 40 year cedar shake roofing is so costly that few home owners will have their roof treated as they should.  Because of this it is rare to get a 20 year life span from these 40 year roofs.  If they had gotten it treated as they should, in 40 years they would have spent more money than the cost of 2 new roofs, as well as the head-ache of finding competent workers to do this without causing more damage than the moss. That dry-rot of the expose wood may not be your primary concern, since the painted steel valley metal and other flashing, that is most always used, will rarely last more than 20 years anyway.

It is just a shame that these owners were fooled into paying so much more for that short lived roof.  Often more than the cost of a good 40 year composite roof with copper valleys and flashing.

Clay & concrete roofing tiles

Tile roofs are resistant to wear and tear of the elements, depending on what it is made of.  There is a huge difference between the different roof tiles sold.  Tiles tend to grow moss and mildew more than most any other roofing, clogging up the gutter each year.  It looking quite unsightly. It can grow up under the overlapping shingle and crack them, causing substantial leaking that may be hard to spot and fix.  Clay tiles with a glazing on them are much less porous and are much more resistant to damage of this kind, but rare to see on a house.

The steel sheet-metal flashing and valley trays under the tiles are the biggest concern for this issue, and harder to access to clean out right.

Note: It is highly recommended to check this and hire a contractor to replace all the flashing with aluminum, lead, copper, or stainless steel. We recommend copper flashing.  A simple test can be preformed: magnet should not be able to stick to any of the rust free metals. If it is painted or zinc galvanized, it is not stainless steel.

Thatch roofing

There is nothing much to say on this subject, since you would be hard pressed to find a thatch here in the States, but the damage potential should be pretty obvious.

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Contractor's Liability Insurance Coverage Issue

First off; a contractor's license does not allow for applying a moss killing agent chemical or powder. That has to be done by a pesticide contractor, although most pesticide contractors will not work on roofs.

Most contractors do not carry the liability insurance and workman's comp that covers roofing work.  This liability insurance is about 4 to 5 times as expensive as all the other types of construction work. This has nothing to do with the dangerous nature of roofing work. That is what Workman's Comp covers, so if a worker falls off and gets hurt, they will not need to sue the homeowner. 

The liability insurance is to protect you incase the contractor or his workers screw up the roofing project and damage your house.  It seems that the roofers in this area have been doing such crappy work that they have accounted for 70 to 90% of all the claims processed by the CCB in Oregon.  This is one of the worst statistics you are likely to run across.  And that is even considering how most homeowner are not able to act on their complaint within the first year, and in many cases it is a moot point, since the CCB only requires a 1 year warranty by all licensed contractors.  Few homeowners will really check into the contractor's background for reported complaints to check and see that they carry the proper insurance to cover roofing work.  Take the time, or you will be sorry.  Ask for a written warranty that is longer than one year.  There should be no reason that a reputable contractor would not be proud to write you a 20-year installation warranty if they truly believe in their work.

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To recap, insist on:

(a) No pressure washers to be used on your roof! Nothing stronger than a garden hose spraying downwards only. They need to use a hand scraper, or a wider hoe like scraper as described above, and carefully scrape the moss off without damaging your roofing.

(b) To fully clean up their mess and haul that debris away (no illegal dumps).

(c) A new custom copper roof ridge and hip caps are best to prevent further moss build-up.

(d) A moss control powder can be applied to kill the moss and mildew that was missed as well as the moss spores left behind, but not to be used on roof with copper gutters.

(e) Get some leaf protection for your gutters (if you have them) to help minimize the traffic on your roof in the future.

We can help you with some of this if you live local to the Portland Oregon Metro Area. You can go to our contact info web page to find my cell phone #, but it is best to send me an informational e-mail first; going over your situation, digital photos, and your contact information with times to be reached, and we will send you a response e-mail within 24 hours to make arrangements to set up a time to go over your issues and costs.

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Other Helpful Roofing Information
For some valuable advice with regards to roofing and rain management issues check out our:

(a) Gutter Installation
(b) Gutter Debris Protection Options
(c) Roofing Quality Standards
(d) Chimney Flashing

web pages for answers and solutions that could save you thousands of $ and a great deal of anguish.

If you do find this information very helpful, feel free to send us a $ tip for the assistance we so freely have published on the web here for your benefit, like you might tip a waitress.  Heck, send us a gift certificate for a candle lit dinner for two. <LOL>

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E-mail DMR Gutters at (503) 351-7082
for a free no-obligation estimate for the
finest in rain management.
(as long as you are local to the Portland Oregon metro area)

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Below is a photo of our
Better Business Bureau's
NW Business Integrity Award
for the year 1998

1999 Better Business Award

We were also a 1997 finalist for this same award. See our referral web page to see how we managed to be honored with this special award


 

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