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How Do I Know When I Need to Replace My Roof?

If you're lucky, you won't have an obvious "time to replace the roof" moment. Nothing crashes through it, no natural disaster damages it, no fire destroys it. Instead, the simple passage of time takes its toll. Knowing the signs that your roof needs to be replaced helps ensure you don't face an emergency repair.

Life Expectancy of Your Roof

A variety of factors contribute to the average lifespan of a roof, such as the climate in your area and the roof's design. However, the main determinant is the roofing material used.

  • Asphalt shingles: Low maintenance asphalt shingles are relatively cheap and easy to install, making them a popular option. However, they don't hold up well against inclement weather, which shortens their lifespan. Manufacturers typically ascribe a 20- to 40-year lifespan to asphalt shingles, but warranties usually fall in the 20-year range.
  • Fiberglass shingles: These hold up much better against the elements, which gives them a lifespan of up to 50 years. They are more expensive than asphalt, though.
  • Wood shingles and shake: Treatment of the wood helps protect it against rot, but even with regular maintenance, these roofs don't last much beyond 30 years.
  • Copper: One of the world's oldest roofing materials, copper is also one of the more expensive options. But, if you want a metal roof that ages beautifully and lasts a century or more, copper is the way to go.
  • Steel: Another popular metal roof option, steel is available either galvanized or stainless. However, these roofs require significantly more maintenance than copper. They also come in at around half the cost and with half the lifespan - 50 years instead of 100.
  • Stone tiles: Options include clay, concrete, slate, and terracotta. Stone resists fading and stands up well against wind and rain. They are fairly heavy and have an average lifespan of 50 years, with slate lasting up to 100.
  • Flat roofing, asphalt: Typically applied as a molten layer, the asphalt is then covered by gravel. This fairly inexpensive option has a lifespan of only around 10 years.
  • Flat roofing, rubber: With UV-resistance and excellent durability, the average lifespan of a flat, rubber roof is around 40 to 50 years.
  • Flat roofing, thermoplastic olefin membrane: This rubber hybrid resists UV rays, tears, and punctures for a lifespan between 40 and 50 years.

Signs Your Roof Needs to be Replaced

Keep an eye out for the signs that your roof needs to be replaced. The National Roofing Contractors Association suggests biannual roof inspections, preferably during spring and fall.

Start by checking the interior of your home. Signs of damage include:

  • Dark spots or trails across the ceiling or down the walls
  • Sagging on the roof deck
  • Signs of water damage or leaking, such as bubbles in the paint
  • Outside light visible through the roof

Checking the exterior is a bit more time consuming and typically requires a ladder. Look for the following:

  • Obvious damage, such as missing shingles, buckling or blistering, rot, algae growth, and curling paint or shingles
  • Loose materials and signs of wear around around chimneys, pipes, and vents
  • Granules from your shingles in your gutters - these typically resemble coarse sand and indicate advanced roof damage
  • Signs of rot or mold, remembering that water damage typically travels down, so it may not be directly under the damaged shingle or tile
  • Drainage, ensuring gutters and downspouts are secure and free of debris and that drains are open and working
  • Interior vents from the bath, dryer, and kitchen should direct outside of the home, not into the attic

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Your Roof

The cost to replace your roof varies widely depending on size, material, roof profile or pitch, and standard labor rates in your area. The following are very general estimates to give you a starting point for your project.

  • The average cost to replace a roof is around $6,500
  • The average price range for roof replacement is between $2,000 and $12,000
  • The average cost for installation ranges between $5 and $12 per square foot
  • Metal roof installation averages between $7 and $20 per square foot
  • Repairing your roof has an average cost between $500 and $600

If inspection reveals an issue, you should replace instead of repair in the following situations:

  • Your roof is nearing the end of its lifespan
  • There is extensive leaking
  • You want to boost curb appeal

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