One of the most common misconceptions of homeowners is that the black streaks on roof shingles are water marks, wet spots, or dirt streaks. As it turns out the black streaks on roof shingles are actually a bacteria called Gloeocapsa Magma that eats the limestone filler in asphalt roof shingles. If you have black streaks on your roof then you are going to want to read this.
In this comprehensive guide for homeowners, My Gutter Doctor explains the causes and effects of black streaks on roof shingles, and how to get rid of them.
Commonly mistaken for as a type of algae, Gloeocapsa Magma is actually a bacteria in the genus of cyanobacteria. Gloeocapsa Magma first appeared in the United States in more humid areas such as Florida in the early 1990’s, but has since spread throughout the entire U.S. and Canada. Rises in humidity and temperature are the biggest factors to aid in the spread, in addition to more and more homes being built with asphalt shingles. Since bacteria spores become airborne they are able to travel distances to spread from home to home.
Gloeocapsa Magma is attracted to humidity and wetness for it to be able to thrive and spread. In addition to moisture, the bacteria feeds on the limestone filler that is used for asphalt shingles. Therefore humid and/or damp shingles are a prime location for the bacteria colonies to accumulate. Especially the side of the roof that does not see sunlight.
As the bacteria colony grows larger it increases in size and becomes heavier. Eventually gravity comes into play and begins to pull the colony downwards across the shingles. This downward pull from gravity is what creates the “streak” or “smear” look across the shingles. Therefore the black streaks on roof shingles are actually colonies of bacteria that are spreading across the shingles.
The only way to effectively kill Gloeocapsa Magma and prevent it’s spread is by soaking the roof with the proper solution via a roof cleaning treatment. In addition to Gloeocapsa Magma, a proper roof cleaning treatment also sterilizes and kills all other organic growths from the roof.
Different companies will use different mixes to come up with their roof cleaning treatment solution. However they all will have one common main ingredient to be effictive, and that is Sodium Hydrochlorite, aka chlorine bleach. The industrial strength chlorine effectively kills Gloeocapsa Magma, which gets rid of black streaks on roof shingles. Once the treatment has effectively killed all organic growths the roof shingles return to uniform color and like new appearance.
At My Gutter Doctor we use a combination of Sodium Hydrochlorite, Surfactants, Fungicides, and other safe cleaning agents to safely and effectively treat asphalt shingles and other types of roofs.
During a roof cleaning treatment a solution is typically sprayed onto the roof using a method called soft washing. Through the use of low pressure water and the proper cleaning solutions, soft washing is the only safe way to clean asphalt roof shingles. In fact, soft washing is the only approved method of roof cleaning approved by the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA). Therefore roof cleaning treatments are safe and do not void roofing warranties.
Besides a proper Roof Cleaning Treatment, the only other effective way to get rid of black streaks on roof shingles is to replace the roof and shingles. Unfortunately replacing only the shingles with visible streaks will not work. That’s because the bacteria will have infiltrated other shingles without being visible yet. Therefore you could replace certain shingle sections only to have the bacteria spread in areas that it was not visibly present beforehand.
Basically what we’re trying to say is if you have black streaks growing on your roof shingles, your only options are Roof Cleaning Treatment or Roof Replacement.
My Gutter Doctor answers Frequently Asked Questions regarding Gloeocapsa Magma and roof cleaning treatments.
Question: “Will a roof cleaning treatment permanently stop Gloeocapsa Magma from returning to the same roof in the future?”
Answer: No. Roof cleaning treatment is not a permanent solution. Unfortunately there is no permanent solution, as Gloeocapsa Magma spores can return to the same roof eventually. However, periodic cleanings (every couple years) will prevent Gloeocapsa Magma and all other organic growths from returning.
Question: “How long can I expect a roof cleaning treatment to prevent black streaks from returning to the roof shingles?”
Answer: If done properly, roof cleaning treatments should prevent and stunt growths for a period of up to 5-10 years depending on the area.
Question: “Is it safe to Pressure Wash or Power Wash a roof with shingles?”
Answer: Absolutely not! Pressure or Power Washing will blast the shingle grit right off of the shingles, which leads to premature failure of the shingles. Soft washing is the only safe method of roof cleaning. If a company suggest to “Pressure Wash” your roof, you better run.
Question: “Can a Roof Cleaning Treatment extend the life of my roof?”
Answer: Shingles the excessive black streaks can fail 5 to 10 years sooner than the same shingles in the same conditions without black streaks.
The only effective way to sterilize Gloeocapsa Magma, and all other organic growths from the roof, is with a proper Roof Cleaning Treatment. Through the use of low pressure soft wash and the proper cleaning solutions, black streaks on roof shingles are able to be eliminated. By killing off all organic growths the lifespan of the roof is able to be extended by years, thus saving money on early roof replacements and home repairs.
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