Houses are living beings. Under the right conditions they become homes. They protect their inhabitants from nature's elements. They expand and contract. They breathe. They care for you. In turn, from time to time in gentle repayment, you must care for them.

Is the roof to your home streaked and dirty? That's mildew and fungus on your shingles, my friends, caused by your breathing house. Mildew and fungus deteriorate shingles and will make you shell out big bucks way before their 20 - 30 years of normal life are up. What to do? You have to clean it.

Option 1: You can call someone to clean it for you and charge you some freakishly high dollar amount. They will more than likely use a pressure washer which will turn your shingles in to cornflakes. Then you'll have to pay a roofer to replace them. Not a happy house.

Option 2: Do it yourself.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: Unless you are relatively agile, have good balance, don't mind some hard work and are not afraid of heights, do not attempt to clean your roof yourself!!! Stop right now and find a reputable service. You human mountain goats, please read on.

What you'll need

  • Two-gallon pump sprayer. Try to use one with brass fittings and various nozzles. I found a flat fan nozzle worked perfectly for my roof. (Ortho makes a good one.)
  • Ladder (to get on and off the roof)
  • Long hose (perhaps two screwed together) and adjustable nozzle
  • Chlorine - six to eight five-gallon jugs purchased from your local swimming pool supply store. Make sure to return the empties to get some of your money back.
  • Clothes and shoes you never expect to wear again in respectable company

What you'll do

Cover or hose down any shrubbery growing within the dripline of the roof otherwise the chlorine and dirt being washed away will certainly bleach it and possibly kill it. Toss the hose up and over the roof action-hero style to a place where you can easily retrieve it.

Fill up half the sprayer with chlorine (2/3 if the roof is really gross). Top it off with water. Make sure the sprayer hose is attached securely and the trigger on the sprayer wand is not depressed or locked on. Pump up the pressure until you can almost no longer push down the handle. Carefully climb with the sprayer to the roof.

Pick a spot at the end of the roof. Begin spraying in an even and slow manner from the roof peak to the roof line or gutter. Spray a pattern about 10 shingles wide, something manageable. You don't want to stretch to get to any spot. Stand off to the side of the section you are cleaning so that you are moving sideways down the roof. And for God's sake, man, don't walk backwards or you'll fall off and break your fool neck!

Once you have finished that section, set the sprayer down in a safe place where it won't spill or leak. (You are on your own here. My porch has a flat aluminum roof where I could store the sprayer and a cooler filled with refreshments.)

Get the hose from where you tossed it and adjust it to a firm but gentle spray. Do not use a jet spray! Unless you have terra cotta shingles, it will tear them up. Pretend you are watering flowers. Rinse the roof thoroughly, and give the grass and shrubbery an additional soaking.

Continue this process with the remainder of the roof. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The combination of attention to detail, repetition and physical labor can make cleaning the roof a somewhat meditative experience. An early morning during spring or summer is the best to do this. Put on some sunscreen and rejoice in the heat. Check out the songbirds in the treetops. As you rinse the roof, find yourself surrounded by rainbows. For a voyeuristic treat, sneak a peak to the other backyards. You never know who you might see tending their garden, naked.

Step down the ladder. After you drench your head in icy hose water (the absolute best to drink on a hot summer day), swish the sprayer clean. Roll up the hose and put it away all implements of tidiness. Walk slowly around your home, admiring your work.

Enter your home for a lunch lovingly prepared by your SO, who wrinkles a nose at your stinky stew of bleach and sweat. As the door behind you closes, listen closely. You may hear a sigh of thanks.

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