The adage “April showers bring May flowers” holds promise for warmer, beautiful weather (that we so desperately need after such an aggressive winter). But for some, those rainy days can mean a leaky roof—causing havoc on the home, wallet, and mind. In order to avoid all that head- and heart-ache, you want to make sure that your roof is ready for the warmer (and wet) weather. The decision to repair or replace a roof can be tricky. With a better understanding of the benefits of a new roof versus a repaired roof will have you confident in your choice to reroof or repair.
Is It Time For a New Roof? The first key to saving your roof (and sanity) is by inspecting your roof regularly. Early detection is vital for either replacement or repair. (The more damage incurred by a faulty roof will likely increase the damage, cost, and stress associated with remedying the roof.) The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends bi-annual check-ups in the spring and fall. You should begin your inspection on the inside of the home and move to the outside. Roofing expert Dean Bennett claims that the signs of problems will vary depending on the material used during construction. Wood roofs in need of repair or replacement will either split if the damage is caused by dry weather or show mold, mildew, or moss if caused by moisture. A concrete ceiling should not show any signs of disrepair (so any cracking or issues should be corrected immediately). If you see anything suspicious with your roof, you want to follow sage advice: if in doubt, call them out. Anything that looks questionable with your roof should require a second (or third) professional opinion. (You will be grateful in the long-run.)
Visual and Nonvisual Clues
A roof in need of attention (repair or replacement) will show multiple signs that you should never ignore. This Old House describes a list of cues that you should be looking for both inside and of the home.
The interior check should be a thorough inspection of the highest ceilings in your home (often times in a crawl or attic space). Take a flashflight and get as close to the ceiling as you can safely to look for the following cues:
Roof deck is sagging. This is a sure sign that your roof is not doing its job. Roof deck sagging is a cue that your home has experienced long-term water damage and needs professional attention.
Signs of water damage or leaking. Water damage can exist on the ceiling, along the walls, or in the insulation of your attic. You will want to do a visual and manual check. Any wetness felt or seen during your inspection requires a professional’s attention.
Dark spots and trails or other forms of discoloration. Dark (or sometimes white) staining on the inside of your attic can be a sign that your roof has experienced long-term leakage. You will want to consult a professional immediately as long term leaks in your roof can become quite costly. You will want to solve this problem quickly.
Outside light showing through the roof. Check to see if light is coming in through the roof boards. If you can see any amount of light, then you can be certain that water will find a similar path into your home.
The exterior inspection of your home can be a bit more tricky (and dangerous). You should only complete as much of the inspection as you feel you can safely accomplish. Pay attention to everything at the top of your home (eaves, gutters, and shingles can all display signs of wear and aging). If you are unable to do a thorough inspection, then you may want to invest in having a professional climb onto the house to examine the integrity of your roof. The following cues are signs that your roof needs attention:
Crack, torn, bald, or missing shingles. The conditions of your shingles can be very telling as to the condition of your roof. Missing shingles can be a sign of harsh weather in which winds have pulled up several shingles or can be symptomatic of bigger issues. Read the shingles closely. Curled shingles, particularly in sunny slopes of the roof, can be indicative of your shingles having reached their expiration date and needing replacement. Missing shingles along the “valley” of your roof could be more problematic as these are points with high leaking potential. While you are inspecting your shingles, you want to pay particular attention to the “tabs” on the roof. Make sure that they are in-tact.
Loose material or wear around chimneys, pipes, vents, or other penetrations. This inspection can be both preventative and evaluative. Loose fittings can be the cause or the symptom of larger roofing issues. You will want to do a close, thorough inspection of these points to determine if any loose fittings simply need repair or if they are a sign that a soft, warped roof is in need of repair.
Shingle granules in the gutter. An excessive number of shingle granules (which will often look like dark sand crystals) in your gutter can be a sign that your roof has experienced advanced wear and is need of replacement.
Signs of moisture, mold, or rot. These may include soft spots in the roof or discoloration under missing or damaged shingles. You want to be careful when doing this kind of inspection because the damage caused by missing or destroyed shingles may not be limited to the roof exposed to the elements. Water will likely follow path to lower points before doing the damage to the sub-roof.
New Roof vs. Roofing Repairs
In determining whether you should re-roof or repair, you want to consider all of the factors that should influence the decision: cost, efficiency, cost, your needs, and cost. First, you do not want to assume that the cheapest solution to fixing your roof is going to be repair. Sometimes, roof replacement cost can be more economical in the long run. (You are already paying a crew to set-up and work on your house so you might want to consider having them complete the entire roof.) And sometimes preventive replacement (because only patches of a roof need repair but the roof is nearing recommended replacement) can be more costly because a crew can re-roof in more optimal weather without as much damage to the home. Ultimately, you will want to think about what kind of repairs would be required for your roof and then decide what you need at that moment.
Roof repairs can be a reasonable solution for a roof with isolated or minimal damage. If the damage to the roof is a few isolated missing shingles, then that is an easy repair (particularly if the replacement shingles match the current shingles—but mismatched shingles are not only an eye sore…they can flag to others an untrustworthy roof). Or if the repairs are on a single side of the roof, then you could reasonably consider a repair as most contractors will offer an estimate per side of the roof. A four-sided roof will have a cost for each quadrant of the roof. (Note: the cost per square foot will be less expensive as the more square footage of the roof is included in the estimate.) The costs associated with repairing versus replacing a roof will also be dependent on the material of the roof. For example, an asphalt roof may require several layers of asphalt be removed before any section of the roof may be repaired so a re-roof may be significantly more cost-effective than a repair. You should consult with a professional before determining a course of action appropriate for your roof.
Beyond the type, location, and amount of damage to the roof, you will also want to consider all of the additional variables that play into a decision to repair or re-roof. First, the age of roof should be a major factor. If your roof is brand new, then a repair is reasonable. But you do not want to pay for repairs only to incur roof replacement costs in three years because your roof is at the end of its life. Second, you want to consider how often you need repairs on your roof. There does come a point when the repairs can add up to a cost greater than replacement. Perhaps your roof materials are inappropriate for your home’s design or location. Or maybe the first roof was improperly installed. In either of these scenarios, a new roof will be a much more cost effective solution over time. A professional will be able to guide you to the best decision for your home.
Roof Replacement Cost
At first glance, roof replacement costs can seem complicated. In actuality, they are fairly simple to calculate and any professional estimate should be easy to understand (particularly with the assistance of a good contractor). The first cost associated with a new roof is the removal of the old roof. This cost will depend on the type of roof that is being removed and the size of the home. The next cost for a new roof is in the materials, which will vary by the amount and type of materials selected. The final roof replacement cost is instillation. This will also vary depending on the type of insulation (e.g., asphalt, cement, or metal). A good contractor will talk you through all of the available options and offer you multiple (easy to understand) choices.