What to Consider When Deciding to Repair or Replace Your Roof

Photo (cc) by [email protected]

This guest post was provided by Roofery.com.

Many of us fool ourselves into thinking that we own a home. In reality, it’s usually the other way around.

Homes require a large dose of tender loving care, and ongoing maintenance is one of the realities that homeowners have to live with. But houses don’t talk, and as homeowners, we often find ourselves playing doctor to a patient who won’t tell us how bad his disease really is.

When it comes to roof maintenance, there are times when we know something needs to be done – but we’re not sure exactly what it is. Does the roof just need to be repaired? Or is a completely new roof the way to go?

Roof damage is usually gradual but often inescapable. There are several factors that can contribute to it…

  1. Condensation: A poorly ventilated attic can be a prime contributor to condensation caused by a large temperature difference between attic air and outside air.
  2. Wind: Large gusts or periods of sustained high winds can lift the edges of roof shingles and cause water or other unwanted elements to seep in underneath. From there, it can work its way to the deck of the roof and cause rotting.
  3. Sun: Sustained exposure can cause gradual deterioration of roofing materials. A roof with a southern exposure is especially vulnerable.
  4. Rain: When shingles are missing or damaged, water can get in and cause damage to ceilings, walls, insulation, and electrical systems.
  5. Snow and ice: Ice dams often form when melting snow re-freezes at a roof’s overhang. When this happens, drainage into the gutter becomes blocked, causing water to sometimes back up under the shingles and seep into the interior of the house.
  6. Trees and leaves: Tree branches blown by the wind can often become lodged under shingles or puncture them. Leaves on a roof surface can retain moisture and sometimes cause rotting or block gutter drainage.

There are several factors to consider when trying to decide how extensive of a roof repair job you need to make. If you find yourself constantly wearing an umbrella while walking in your house, the decision is usually an easy one. But in most cases, your house prefers to tease you with subtle clues rather than making things blatantly obvious. Here are some things to look for:

  1. Moisture: Look at your interior walls. Are there moisture marks or brown stains? Is the paint peeling? These can all be signs of roof leakage. If the leak is relatively small, then a short-term repair may be all you need for now. But if there is extensive moisture damage to the roofing layer, you should consider a full roof replacement.
  2. Missing or damaged shingles: There are many factors that could cause shingles to be curled, split, torn, or completely missing. If the damage is localized, then a simple repair may suffice. But if more than 30 percent of the entire roof is damaged, then a new roof may be a better answer.
  3. Recent catastrophe: Did the damage occur as a result of something like a recent tornado or hurricane? If so, then you should definitely consider replacing the entire roof. Very often, there’s a level of damage beyond what you are easily able to see. Bigger problems can be lurking around the corner and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Age: How old is your roof? Is it past its expected lifespan? Do you even know what its expected lifespan is? It can vary greatly depending on what type of roofing material you have. To give you an idea, here are the expected shelf lives of some common types of roofing materials:
    • Asphalt shingles: These are the most commonly used roofing materials and they can typically be counted on to last between 15 and 20 years. Some of the newer variants are higher in quality and can be good for up to 40 years.
    • Wood shingles: Typically made from cedar, southern pine, or redwood, this type of shingle can last at least 15 years and, depending on the quality and type of wood, for several decades.
    • Slate shingles: Although expensive, slate is considerably durable and highly resistant to the elements. Slate roofs can often be expected to last for up to 100 years.
    • Clay or concrete tile: Another extremely durable, although heavy, roofing material is clay or concrete tile. Commonly found in the Southwest, clay roofs are nearly immune to damage and have a shelf life of 200 years or more.
    • Metal and aluminum: A common fixture in commercial buildings but now becoming increasingly popular in residential applications as well, metal roofs are extremely sturdy and fare extraordinarily well in the face of storms, hurricanes, wind, rain, and, fire. They are capable of lasting for centuries.

If you are not sure what kind of treatment your roof needs, enlist the help of an experienced roofer. After a thorough inspection, he may recommend an overlay, where only the upper layer of shingles is replaced.

On the other hand, he could determine that a completely new roof is needed. The short-term cost may look high, but in the long term you might be saving yourself not only a lot of future grief but also a lot of future money. Whatever you do, don’t wait for your house to start shouting at you. Treat the problem early by making your roof a priority.

Herbert Norton is a roofing contractor who started Roofery.com to help educate his clients.

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