How Long Should a Roof Last?
To Repair or to Replace—How to Know Which Way to Go
Along with its electrical, plumbing and HVAC system, the roof on your home is among its most crucial and expensive components. Given that the national average for replacing a roof hovers around $7,500, it makes sense that homeowners live in fear of having to deal with roof problems. As a homeowner, it is important to understand how long a roof should last; however, that varies depending on factors like materials used, installation quality, location and maintenance upkeep.
How Long Should My Roof Last?
There isn’t a single, correct answer to the question of how long a roof should last. As noted above, the longevity of the typical roof is dependent on several factors—and chief among these is the type of materials that are used. A great way to get an idea for how long your roof should last is by considering the average lifespans of different roofing materials. As you can see, they vary considerably:
- Asphalt and composition shingles – Around 20 years
- Fiber cement shingles – Around 25 years
- Wood shake shingles – Around 30 years
- Metal, including slate and tile – Upwards of 50 years
- Copper – As much as 100 years or more
How to Handle a Leaky Roof
Upon realizing that you have a leaky roof, you might immediately think that a new roof is in order. However, depending on the age of the roof and on other factors, it is often possible to conduct DIY repairs that eliminate roof leaks and that extend the longevity of your roof by a considerable margin.
One thing is for certain: Roof leaks need to be addressed as quickly as possible. The potential consequences of not doing so can be dire. Over time, even a very small leak can cause a litany of problems. These include things like damaged ceilings and interior walls; mold growth; damaged or destroyed insulation and rotted underboards, framing and sheathing.
How to Find Common Roof Leaks
One of the trickiest things about handling roof leaks is locating precisely where they are happening. Here are some tips for locating roof leaks as quickly as possible:
- Go up in the attic – Using a flashlight, check for signs of mold, black marks and water stains.
- Check penetration points – Areas where objects intersect with or penetrate the roof, like dormers, chimneys and vents, are common sites for leaks.
- Remove shingles in problem areas – If the leak is happening nearby, you will notice rotted wood, water stains or discolored paper.
- Enlist some help – For especially tricky-to-find leaks in the roof, help may be needed. Use a garden hose to soak the area above where the leak is occurring. Meanwhile, have a helper inside watch closely to notice when the leak happens.
How to Fix Common Roof Issues
Like many homeowners, you may be wondering, “Can I fix a roof?” It may be out of the question if your roof is too steeply pitched or otherwise too risky to navigate safely without the right training and experience. However, there are many instances in which even an unskilled layperson can perform effective, inexpensive repairs on the roof:
- ”Shiners” – When nails miss framing members during roofing installations, moisture from the rooms below can cause condensation to form on them when they are cold. This makes them look frosty. When the frost melts, water drips down, causing a leak. Clip off the end of the nail with side-cutting pliers to resolve this problem.
- Barriers – When water appears on ceilings far from roof leaks, the plastic vapor barrier is often to blame. Move this barrier aside and look for signs of flowing water stains to identify where the leak originates and perform repairs as needed.
- Boots and Vents – Plumbing vent boots and roof vents are common sites for roof leaks. Whether they are made of plastic or metal, these components may crack, develop split seams or incur other damage. It is generally best to replace these components rather than attempt to repair them.
- Walls and Dormers – Rain that is driven by the wind may make its way into the roof via poorly caulked intersections between it and dormers, walls and other intersections. Dig away old caulk with a knife and replace it with fresh caulk.
- Small Holes – Small holes may be left in the roof from things like antennas and satellite dishes. Use flashing to repair these holes rather than caulk.
Repairing Damaged Shingles
Just because a few shingles are damaged on the roof doesn’t mean that the whole thing needs to be replaced. If part of a shingle is missing, replace the entire thing. If the corners are curling, glue down the affected section with a caulking gun and roofing sealant and then weigh it down with a brick for at least 24 hours. Cracked or torn shingles can be mended by applying a thick bead of sealant below the crack and pressing down firmly. From there, apply another bead of sealant to the top and spread evenly with a putty knife.
Signs That It’s Time to Replace the Roof
So, what are the signs it's time to replace your roof? Things to consider include:
- Age – If possible, check your records to see when the roof was last re-shingled or replaced. Refer to the average age of your type of roof to determine if you are getting close to replacement time.
- Shingle granules – Check downspouts and gutters for shingle granules. If a lot of them are present, the roof may need to be replaced.
- Shingle health – Periodically check the condition of roof shingles—especially after strong storms. They should be flat; if they are cracked, buckling or otherwise out of place, it may be time for a new roof.
- Rot – Sagging spots on the roof, especially at its lowest points, are a common sign of major rot.
- Flashing – Check the flashing around the chimney, skylights and vents for signs of serious water damage and other issues.
- Moisture and mold – If the attic isn’t properly ventilated, warm air from inside the house can become trapped there and cause condensation. Signs of this include rusty nails and mold.
- Leaky chimney – When moisture is found in the chimney, issues with flashing and other leak barriers are often to blame—and they often signal that it’s time for a new roof.
- Attic temperature – The temperature of the attic should be consistent with the outside air. When it’s warmer, for example, ice dams can develop. Without a proper ridge vent, a roof may become severely damaged and in need of replacement prematurely.
- Light in the attic – Check for signs of daylight streaming through roof boards. This often means that nails have fallen through and that weatherproofing has failed.
- Unusually high energy bills – If your heating and cooling bills are excessively high, it could mean that your roof is under-performing and is due for replacement.
Roof problems are stressful, and they can’t always be handled via do-it-yourself measures. When major repairs or replacements are needed, it is crucial to turn to a qualified residential and commercial roofing contractor for help. When it comes to finding a roofing contractor in Lafayette, LA, you can’t do better than Southside Roofing.
Contact us today to get started with a free quote.