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Roof experts tell our researchers that though other components are being added to shingles to hinder algae growth, they still get calls to deal with black marks on relatively new roofs. They say that while shingle manufacturers offer products treated with copper or zinc to inhibit algae growth, their effect wears down over time.

Most black streaks form on the northern slopes of roofs, where it’s darker and wetter — ideal for algae growth. Areas of the country with low humidity have fewer instances of roof streaks, while the problem is relatively common in the Southeast, where it’s more humid and warm. The algae appear blue-green when the organisms form an outer coating to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. Algae turn black when it decays.

While the dark streaks are unsightly, experts tell our team that the greatest danger to the roof is from moisture retention or root damage that algae and other life forms can cause. Also, algae and fungus can grow together to form lichen, the roots of which can wrap around and feed on the granules covering the shingles. Once established, lichen is not easily removed.

Even if it dries out, it can come back to life with the next rain. Scrubbing or power washing lichen will only cause more damage.

Before determining whether having your roof cleaned is the right option, be sure you have a sense of your roof’s age and condition, and compare costs accordingly. A cleaning can cost around $200 to $1,500, depending on the size of the roof, its pitch and height.

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