How Do You Know When It Is Time to Replace Your Roof?

With the strong winds and wide-spread shingle blow-offs we’ve had this spring a lot of local homeowners are facing the same question; can my roof get by with some repairs or is it time to start thinking about replacing it?  Here are some of the factors you need to be taking into consideration if you are one of the many people pondering  this important decision.

How old is the roof?  There is no definitive guide on how long a roof should last. You can’t rely on the number that was on the packages of shingles that were installed. Just because they were listed as ’30 Year’ doesn’t mean you don’t have to start worrying until Year 29.  A variety of factors will influence how long the shingles installed on your home will remain effective and generally it is going to be substantially less that the number ‘promised’ by the warranty (remember, there are numerous caveats and exclusions within that warranty and in almost every case that coverage is pro-rated, so by the time you get out to the end of the warranty the recoverable amount is nearly $0).  

If your roof isn’t very old, then just because you had a few tabs blow off in high winds or you had a minor leak doesn’t mean that your roof is shot.  All roof systems are a compromise between effectiveness, cost, ease of installation and longevity.  None of them are perfect.  Given extreme enough conditions they can all have problems which don’t necessarily indicate that the roof needs to be replaced.  It is perfectly normal for any roofing system to need maintenance and/or repairs throughout  the course of its expected life.

However, if the age of your roof is getting up there and you’re starting to have problems, then you at least need to get roof replacement on your radar. The severity and frequency of problems will only increase as time goes by.  As the roof ages the costs to make repairs will go up and the effectiveness of those repairs will go down. You will eventually reach a point where spending the money on repairs just doesn’t make sense. 

What is the condition of the shingles?  The age of the roofing system isn’t going to be the only deciding factor in replacing the roof. Shingles of the same age can deteriorate differently depending on a number of factors including the quality of those shingles, the adequacy of  the attic ventilation system, exposure to temperature extremes, exposure to direct sunlight, foot traffic on the roof and plenty of other things.  You need to look at how your individual roof has held up over the time it’s been installed.  Some roofs may still look and function fine after 15 years, others may already be overdue for replacement.

If your shingles are cracking, blistering, curling and/or suffering from significant granular loss then you may need to start considering replacing that roof, regardless of the age of the shingles.  Of course, if the roof isn’t very old and is suffering from one or more of these symptoms then you may want to talk to your roofer about pursuing a manufacturer’s warranty claim against the company that produced the shingles.

We offer free inspections with GoPro video to help you understand your roofs' needs. 

What is the history of problems with the roof?  While everyone wants their roof to look good, the real litmus test will always be how it is functioning.  Of course the more frequent and severe the problems your roof experiences the more you have to see replacement as a solution to those issues, but you also need to consider what types of problems  you are seeing.    

If the issues are always in a specific area on the roof and everything else seems fine then a comprehensive repair of the leaking area may be all you need to end the problems and restore your confidence in the roof.  The roofing around chimneys and skylights can be chronic sources of leaks.  In some cases roof-to-wall connections or other areas sealed with flashings can be very tricky to make water-tight.  It is not uncommon to have one area on a house that only leaks with just the right combination of directional wind and rain.  If one of these is the only problem your roof experiences then trying the repair to that area makes sense.  

If your problems are not so concise; if one time it’s leaking in the dining room and the next it’s leaking in the bedroom on the other end of the house; if you have shingles blowing off from various areas every time the wind picks up; if it seems like it is just one thing after another, then you probably need to consider doing the roof replacement.

We offer free inspections with GoPro video to help you understand your roofs' needs. 

What is your tolerance for risk and the consequences of a roof leak?   You really need to ask yourself a couple of questions; how frequent and severe a leak problem am I going to be willing to deal with? and how much money do I want to invest in a roof that I know is going to need to be replaced eventually?  I don’t ask these questions rhetorically.  It’s possible that by sticking a few hundred dollars into repairs you might be able to add years to the lifetime of your existing roof (of course you might not).  Spending that money might make sense to some people in one circumstance, to others in another it might not.  Some people might have tremendous anxiety leaving for a two-week vacation with a questionable roof and rain in the forecast, others might not give it a second thought.

If you feel it is a waste of money to put a band-aid on the roof and that that money would be better invested towards a full replacement then replacement is probably the correct decision for you.  If you are worrying about leaks every time it rains and it’s keeping you up at night then doing the full replacement might be a better decision for you.  If you feel that the problems with your roof aren’t that severe and, if it does leak, you are prepared to deal with the issues that that will create, then doing  the repair might make more sense for you.

So, unfortunately there is no specific time table or benchmark to say definitively that ‘this is the year’ to replace the roof. We offer free inspections with GoPro video to help you understand your roofs' needs.