Q: What causes the mold on my roof? How can I get rid of it? How can I keep it from coming back?

— Trudy, Muskegon, Michigan

A: This Old House replies: The black mold-like stains and streaks that appear on roofs, particularly light-colored asphalt shingles, is actually a blue-green algae (Gloeocapsa magma). Commonly found in climates with warm, humid summers, it does no damage to the roofing, but it certainly does looks bad.

You could replace all the roofing with new shingles dark enough to disguise the staining, or with shingles laced with copper granules, which are lethal to algae. But that would only make sense if the shingles were worn out.

The less expensive solution is to spray wash the roof with a 50 percent mix of water and bleach to get rid of the algae. (No pressure washers, please. They're likely to damage the shingles.) Just be sure to wet your foundation plantings first, and rinse everything in clean water when you're done. Plants don't like bleach, and wetting them with plain water first protects them.

To keep the algae from coming back, insert 6-inch-wide strips of zinc or copper under the row of shingling closest to the roof peak, leaving an inch or two of the lower edge exposed to the weather. That way whenever it rains, some of the metal molecules will wash down the roof and kill any algae trying to regain a foothold on your shingles.

You can probably see this same principle working on roofs in your neighborhood. Look for chimneys with copper flashing; the areas directly below the flashing will be free of any algae stains.

The strips also work on roofs suffering from moss buildup. Just scrub it off first with a brush, then bleach as above.
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