When your roof is damaged or showing signs of age, it can often be difficult to decide between repairing it or replacing it completely. In this guide, you’ll learn how to make the best decision for your roof by considering several factors, including the extent of the damage, the age of the roof and your budget. We’ll also share some handy roof repair and replacement tips.
How to Assess Your Roof
A roofing system contains two components — the sheathing deck and the roofing surface that covers and protects it. When a roof is assessed, both of these components are examined to determine the roof’s structural integrity and estimate how much longer it will last.
During a home sale, the lender generally requires a roof inspection. However, a roof inspection is also a good idea for any homeowner wanting to stay on top of their home maintenance and repairs. In most cases, you can assess your roof’s condition without having to climb up on it.
Below, we’ll take you through the steps required to perform a thorough roof inspection.
Inspecting the Exterior
Begin the inspection by grabbing some binoculars, stepping outside your home and looking up at your roof. Make sure you’re far enough away to see the whole roof. Then, follow these steps:
- Look for unevenness: See if the ridge of the roof is level or not. Are there uneven or sagging slopes? You’ll inspect any uneven areas more closely from inside your attic later on.
- Assess the condition of the shingles: Look closely at your shingles through your binoculars. While it’s easy to spot stained areas and missing shingles with the naked eye, the binoculars will help you notice chips, blisters and tiny gaps under the edges of the shingles. If the chips are small and only affect the shingle’s aggregate coating, this is not a serious issue, but keep in mind that even tiny chips can shorten your roof’s lifespan. However, if your notice tears involving entire shingles, shingles curling upward or gaps under individual shingles, these often indicate roof failure.
- Walk completely around your house: Keep in mind that, even if the shady side of a home looks okay, the side exposed to more sunlight may show more damage.
- Inspect the flashing: Pay close attention to the metal flashing around sidewalls, vent pipes and chimneys. The flashing should be free of rust and lay flat. Also, look for rust in the metal valleys. It’s also common for roofs to have shingles laced into the valley to allow proper drainage so there aren’t any visible metal valleys. As these areas receive high water flow, keep an eye out for aggregate that’s wearing off.
- Count your shingle layers: Take a close look at the edge of the roof and see how many layers of shingles there are. Local codes usually prohibit more than two shingle layers, although keep in mind that additional layers aren’t necessarily easy to spot. To get a good look, set up a sturdy ladder so you can touch the edge of the roof. Then, lift the top shingle up carefully and look beneath.
Now that you’ve finished your exterior examination, it’s time to locate and check out the ventilation system. Even if you live in a colder climate, there should be circulation of air just under the roof deck to prevent heat accumulation and moisture, which can cause your decking to warp and shorten the life of your shingles.
To inspect your roof ventilation system, perform the following steps:
- Look for vents in the soffits: Soffits are the undersides of the eaves, and roof vents are often located there. Also, check for additional vents near the edge of the roof. These could be gable vents, ridge vents, turbine vents or several static vents that enable moist, hot air to escape from the attic.
- Locate rafter vents: This step only applies if you don’t have any open attic space, which is common in homes with finished lofts and vaulted ceilings. In this case, ventilation is probably in the form of baffles extending from soffit vents to a ridge vent or perhaps another vent close to the ridge. Locate the baffles by taking out the screws from the cover to the soffit vent, then peering up into the rafter spaces. In each rafter space, there should be a baffle that lets air circulate between the insulation and the roof sheathing. Baffles can be made of wood, metal or plastic.
Underneath the Roof
Next, you should go up to your attic to check out your roof decking’s underside as well as the rafters.
- Look for stains: Keep an eye out for water stains, which are signs of leaks. If you saw any gaps while examining your roof from outside, and now you see water stains, your shingles likely aren’t properly sealed and moisture is making its way inside through the gaps.
- Inspect the ridge beam: If the roof looked like it was sagging from outside and your ridge beam is loose or uneven, this is a sign of a structural issue that only a construction professional can address. A contractor might need to replace the beam but might be able to install posts to halt the movement. In any case, you should not try to fix the problem yourself.
- Look for warping: Search for signs of warping in the sheathing of your roof, which indicate poor ventilation. Ensure that soffit and gable vents are not plugged by materials such as insulation.
When to Repair Your Roof
If you’re having trouble deciding between repairing or replacing your roof, it will help to know what other homeowners do in specific scenarios. In this section, we discuss several common situations where repairing is usually the better solution.
1. The Damage Is Minor
If your roof has suffered only minor damage, replacing your roof completely may be unnecessarily costly. After all, roofs are designed to last many years and withstand harsh natural elements. If the damage is confined to tiny areas, roofing professionals can usually repair it. For instance, leaks over your bathroom or kitchen could easily result from isolated damage to a roof that is otherwise in good condition.
Practically any kind of damage limited to a small area can be fixed. Minor holes, for instance, can easily be patched up. There usually isn’t a good reason to invest in a completely new roof when some simple repairs can save you thousands.
2. You Have a Tight Budget
If you’re short on funds you can immediately use for a full roof replacement, repairing your roof may be the only option. What may seem like a major issue might only cost several hundred dollars in repairs. Of course, even if you have the money for a full replacement, if the less expensive option is available, it makes sense to choose it.
The price of a roof replacement often exceeds the immediate budget of the average homeowner. For instance, if tomorrow you found out you have a leaky roof, but you had already financially committed yourself to a new car or a vacation, a roofing problem could put a pretty big dent in the bank account. Of course, if the leak only requires repairs to a small area, this fix is much more affordable on short notice.
3. Your Roof’s Architectural Integrity Must Be Preserved
Certain roofs should be maintained in their original composition for as long as they can be. When a roof is replaced on any structure, it inevitably changes the appearance of the property. This is because the roof is a critical architectural component of any structure. By repairing your roof, on the other hand, you can preserve the architectural integrity of your home.
If your home has a classic design, you’ll probably want to preserve the original design as much as possible, regardless of the home improvement work that must be done while you’re living there. By opting for roof repairs, you can keep the home in its classic state much more easily.
4. You Need Service Quickly
Needing roofing services on short notice may put you in a tough situation. While you probably wouldn’t want to postpone fixing a leaky roof, what if, say, you already had plans to leave town in two days for a long vacation?
If you had no choice but to replace your roof, then you would likely have to decide between canceling your trip or waiting until your return to deal with the issue, by which point much more damage would probably occur. This is because negotiating and funding a roof replacement tends to take time. Roof repairs, on the other hand, can usually be performed very quickly and on short notice if you contact a roofing professional.
5. Your Roof Was Installed Recently
If your roof was installed or replaced just a few years ago, and you paid for it, it’s usually best to see through on that investment. For this reason, we recommend keeping your current roof in functioning condition for as many years as it’s designed to last and opt for repairs whenever possible.
It’s worth mentioning that most homeowners only buy a new roof once, in some cases twice, during the time they’re in their homes. Moreover, as even the most affordable roofs are designed to last longer than the average residential occupancy, chances are pretty low that you would have to invest in more than one roof replacement for the same home.
When to Replace Your Roof
There are also many scenarios where replacing your roof is the better option. These include:
1. Your Current Roof Has Passed Its Expected Lifespan
All roofing materials wear out eventually. Whereas metal and clay roofs have a useful lifespan of several centuries, asphalt roofs tend to expire in 20 years or so. Depending on your roof material, you’ll likely get a more consistent, matching look if you choose to get your roof replaced. This is especially true with wood shingles, as they naturally age and turn grey with time.
As a result, pre-existing wood shingles on a roof will look noticeably different from new ones, so if your wood shingles are replaced in just certain sections of your roof, the patchiness will be very obvious. If you have a leaky wood shingle roof and you value visual consistency, opting for a full replacement is probably the best choice.
2. Your Roof Does Not Comply With Building Codes
Sometimes replacing your roof is the only option to stay in compliance with current building codes. While installing new shingles directly on top of pre-existing faulty ones may save you some money, remember that you can’t have more than two layers of shingles on your roof and still be to code. So, if you already have two layers of shingles, you will definitely have to replace your roof the next time you have roofing issues.
If your roof doesn’t conform to the current building codes, you may encounter issues if you ever decide to sell your home. The next time a roofing specialist examines your roof, have them assess this issue so you can know where your roof stands regarding compliance with local law.
3. The Damage Is Too Extensive
If the damage to the roof is extensive, it may beyond repair. For instance, if a big tree has fallen on the roof, the damage caused may be too much for repair work. Likewise, if there are leaks all over your roof and they’re not confined to one or two areas, this is also a good time to replace your roof.
4. The Damage Was Caused by a Natural Disaster
If a recent natural disaster damaged your home, purchasing a new roof may be your only option. Damage from a tornado or hurricane may have severely compromised your roof’s structural integrity, even if the damage seems to be localized. Whether a roof needs to be replaced following a natural disaster is something you can find out from a roof inspection.
5. The Cost to Repair and Replace Are Roughly the Same
Even though new roofs always cost more than repairs, the difference in price is not always major. In some cases, the difference is so insignificant that it just makes more sense to have your roof replaced, especially if repairs were only going to be a stop-gap measure.
For instance, if your roof has suffered damage and the repairs will only cost between $500 or $1,000 less than a full roof replacement, opting for a roof replacement is probably best.
6. You Want a Completely New Roof
The most obvious benefit of a new roof — at least to an outsider — is a transformed exterior. If you’d like to revitalize the look of your home, a roof replacement could really help. A new roof always gives a home a visual freshness, no matter what materials are used.
If your roof currently has old wood shingles, installing new shingles could give your home a similar look to when it was newly built. Choosing a new color of asphalt shingles can refresh your home’s curb appeal. You could even pick an entirely new type of roof to completely change the look of your property.
Seek Help From the Experts at Scro’s
For the past 25 years, Scro’s Roofing Company has been providing full-service roofing solutions to homeowners and business owners in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. Our experienced roofing team has received professional training in repairing and installing many different roofing systems and even has the Master Elite® certification. For exceptional roofing services and unparalleled customer service, contact our friendly team by filling out our form or by calling us at (919) 551-5104.
*Last updated 12/23/2021