The roof of your home is one of the most important structural elements protecting the interior from… well… the elements. And because roofs are exposed to the worst of the weather at all times, and usually can’t be built of hard-wearing materials like bricks or concrete, you need to keep an eye on them for wear, tear, and damage – especially if you live in an environment that is exposed to extremes of temperature (like much of the US and Canada).
Now, you could wait until water is actually pouring in through your ceiling to decide to replace the roof, but that might be leaving it a little long. Here are a few things to watch for so that you don’t have to deal with the expense and hassle of water damage on top of your roof replacement.
Roof Red Flags
The age of the roof is the first thing to think about. Typically, a roof lasts from 20 to 25 years, but this can vary based on a number of factors, like whether you only have a single layer of shingles, whether the previous roof was removed, and whether the roof is properly ventilated. If the roof is older than 20 years and was installed over another layer or several layers, start shopping around.
An obvious sign of roof ageing is shingles buckling and curling. Check those shingles that often get direct sunlight, and if they are damaged then it’s a sign that your roof might be past its life expectancy. Check your gutters to see if they contain shingle granules, which roofs tend to lose more of towards the end of their lives. Darker or inconsistent colour on some roof areas is another sign of significant wear on the granules.
Also, if your shingles are missing or falling apart in your roof valleys, you definitely need a new roof – roof leaks can easily happen if rain and snow fall into the valleys and they’re not up to standard. Missing shingles on any part of your roof, in fact, is not a good sign. And if you walk on the roof and it’s a bit spongy, then you’ve definitely got a problem on your hands – moisture may have weakened the underlying decking, so check for moisture in your insulation or daylight coming in through the roof boards.
Repair or Replacement?
Once you’ve determined that your roof is having problems, it’s time to decide what to do about them. Should you repair the damage (or have a roofing contractor repair it), or replace the whole thing? As with any complex decision of this type, it very much depends on the situation.
If you have missing shingles as a consequence of wind damage or a fallen tree branch, it’s fairly straightforward to replace them. However, the new patch of shingles might not match the existing roof, so if you’re planning to move any time soon, it might be a good idea to get shingles that are as close a match as possible. If you’re planning on staying, though, simply replacing the shingles could extend your roof’s life by 10 to 15 years.
What if you have more extensive damage to your roof? Well, if it’s only on one side, partial re-roofing costs much less than redoing the whole thing. However, they are pricier in terms of cost per area, so depending on the amount of damage, you might be better off having the whole roof redone… which could end up being cheaper in the long term. Other issues with partial re-roofing concern roofs with multiple layers, which will all need to be removed for the project to proceed. This might cause lopsidedness at the roof ridges, which even layers of shingles may not be able to hide completely.
If you’re going to re-roof, you need to decide whether to roof over or tear off the existing roof first. You can’t roof over something that already has two layers, but if you only have a single layer then it’s entirely up to you. Removing asphalt shingles might save money in future though, as it will let you inspect the roof deck or sheathing, and shingles hold better when directly fastened to the roof deck.
A new roof will last several decades, and can save you a decent amount of money if you decide to go for it, depending on what you want to get out of the project!