Is your roof leak repairable or do you need to replace your whole roof? Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the question of whether to repair or replace your roof. The answer must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Roofing contractors usually base their decision on these factors:
Your roof’s lifespan depends on several factors, including the material. Here’s a quick overview of common roof materials and their projected lifespans:
Asphalt shingles – Thanks to their affordability and ease of installation, asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing material among homeowners. Conventional asphalt shingles usually have a lifespan of around 20 years, while higher-quality shingles can last longer.
However, granule erosion can drastically shorten this lifespan. The granules embedded in asphalt shingles protect them from ultraviolet rays, which can slowly break down the shingle’s protective surface. If granule loss is so extensive that patches begin to appear on your roof, you’ll need to have a contractor from a local roofing company replace your roof.
Architectural shingles – Architectural shingles are essentially the same as normal asphalt shingles. The only difference is they have an extra layer or tab that increases their durability, aesthetic appeal and lifespan to 30 years.
Wooden shingles or shakes – Modern wooden shingles are either made of hardwood or composite materials. Wood is notoriously vulnerable to moisture and requires significant upkeep, but in a moderate climate, wooden shingles should be able to last up to 30 years.
Metal roofing panels – Metal roofing panels are commonly used in industrial buildings and backyard sheds, but thanks to design improvements made by manufacturers, more and more homeowners have begun installing them. Modern metal roofing panels are usually made of steel, aluminum or copper. Manufacturers add a metal coating and a paint finish to steel panels to prevent rust. Aluminum and copper panels, on the other hand, don’t need any paint because these materials naturally have a high resistance to corrosion. With proper care and maintenance, metal panels can easily last 40 to 80 years, depending on your area’s climate.
Slate, concrete and clay roofing tiles – These tiles are heavier and more expensive than other options, but according to the National Association of Home Builders, they’re also the most durable materials, having an estimated lifespan as much as 100 years.
Factors That Can Affect Your Roof’s Lifespan
Keep in mind that these estimated lifespans can be drastically reduced by certain factors such as:
Climate and extreme weather – Your area’s climate, as well as the frequency of extreme weather events, can shorten your roof’s lifespan.
Quality of the roof installation – Even the most durable roofing system won’t be able to last long if it wasn’t installed properly. After all, one tiny gap between shingles is all it takes for moisture to infiltrate your roof. And while the roofing shingles play an important part in protecting your home from the elements, it isn’t the only relevant factor. Your gutters, for instance, are just as important as the kind of shingles you install. A gutter system won’t be able to divert rainwater away from your roof and foundation if it has the wrong pitch or doesn’t have enough capacity.
Frequency of maintenance – Don’t forget to have roofing contractors routinely inspect and maintain your roof. It doesn’t matter how durable your roof is—at a certain point, it will sustain some form of damage. And when it does, it needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Otherwise, roof damage can affect other parts of your home.
Quick Tip: Keep a Roofing File
A roofing file contains important data such as the date of the roofing installation as well as the maintenance work and inspections your roof underwent. A detailed record of your roof’s maintenance routine and schedule can help you keep track of your roof’s lifespan and plan ahead for roof replacement.
The Warning Signs of a Failing Roof
There are certain signs that can tell you if your roof is starting to fail. If any of these warning signs start to appear, a roof replacement is almost always needed. These warning signs include:
Granules in your gutters – It’s normal for asphalt shingles to lose a few granules. However, if the granule loss is so severe that your gutters start to fill up with granules or bald patches start to appear on your roof, you’ll need to have a roofing company replace your shingles as soon as possible.
- Curling, cracking or blistering shingles – Shingles start to curl, crack or blister when they near the end of their lifespan. As a rule of thumb, you should consider getting a roof replacement if your current roof reaches the age of 20. If, however, the shingles were installed not too long ago, blisters, cracks and curling might indicate a more serious underlying issue with your roof.
Take blisters for example: blisters start to appear when trapped moisture is heated and rises to the top of the shingle as water vapor. Normally, adequate ventilation should prevent moisture from accumulating in your roof, but if your roof isn’t well-ventilated, blisters on asphalt shingles are just one of several roofing issues you might encounter.
- Loose nails on your front lawn – While it’s certainly possible that strong winds knocked a few nails off your roof, the nails might have become loose because the shingles or roofing material they’re holding down deteriorated. Either way, loose nails are a cause for concern.
Signs of Moisture Damage
In particular, you need to keep an eye out for signs of moisture damage, such as:
Water stains on the attic ceiling – The first signs of roof moisture damage usually appear in your attic ceiling, the underside of the roof decking that serves as the base for your roof. Keep in mind that water follows the path of least resistance. As such, the location of the water stains might not be where the leak is located.
Here’s a quick tip: Make sure to keep an eye on your roof’s flashing, the thin pieces of metal around vents, skylights and chimneys. Flashing keeps water from entering your roof joints. However, they can be easily damaged.
Mold – Trapped water in your roof creates a damp environment that’s the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Roofing components infested with mold should be replaced immediately, as mold tends to spread quickly.
Wood rot – Wood rot is also caused by fungi. By breaking down cellulose and lignin—compounds that are responsible for wood’s rigidity—fungi can weaken the roof’s support structure and, left unattended, even the structure of your home.
Sagging roof – If the beams supporting your roof are weakened, sections of your roof might start to sag.
If you notice any of these warning signs, have a contractor from your local roofing company inspect your home as soon as possible.
Making the Most of a Roof Replacement
Here are some tips on how to make the most of a roof replacement:
Do your research – remember: when making an investment, always do your research. In particular, look for the types of roofing materials that are most suited to your area’s climate. Roofing contractors can help you with that.
Stick to a maintenance schedule – Routine maintenance and inspections are essential to keeping your roof in good condition and extending its lifespan. By having contractors conduct routine maintenance and inspections, you can make sure relatively minor roofing issues are addressed before they can affect other parts of your home.
Work with an experienced contractor – Make sure only an experienced contractor handles the roofing installation. Always vet a contractor before hiring them. Less experienced contractors are more likely to make costly installation errors.
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