“I can’t wait to rip off the roof and install a new one,” said almost no one, ever. Kitchens, bathrooms and master retreats may be the stuff of dreamy mood boards, but for most homeowners, the prospect of roof replacement is a source of minor dread. And with good reason—replacing asphalt roofs typically costs between $5 and $6.30 per square foot, wood shingles generally cost between $5 and $8 per square foot. On top of that, most sources estimate that only 50-75% of roof replacement costs can be recouped when the home is sold.
Fortunately, with regular inspections, most asphalt and fiberglass roofs can last up to 40 years, with 20-25 years being the usual lifespan. Wood shingles can last up to 30 years, and other types of roofing can go 50+ years before replacement. Meanwhile, good roof maintenance routines, including annual inspections and minor repairs, can prevent costly structural issues such mold, rot and insulation damage.
If your roof is showing signs of wear and tear, here are some things to take into consideration when it comes to deciding whether to repair or replace it:
1. Age of the Roof: If your roof is relatively young, keeping gutters free of debris, sealing leaks around flashings, preventing insects from invading soffits, and replacing the occasional damaged shingle should keep it in good shape for years to come. On the other hand, if your roof is nearing the end of its expected life and leaking substantially, repairs probably won’t keep it functional for long.
2. Cost: If a total roof replacement will cost $15,000, you probably don’t want to spend $5,000 on a repair that may only buy you a couple of years. If you put the likely lifespan of a new roof at 20 years, that’s a cost of $750 per year for the new roof. A $5,000 repair that will likely add only two years to your roof’s life brings your yearly roofing cost to $2,500 for those years and increases your average cost significantly—ouch. On the other hand, if your yearly roof inspection reveals the need for minor repairs, you may be able to greatly extend the life of your roof for a few hundred dollars—an obvious win.
3. Scope of the Issues: If it’s unclear what to do based on the current age of your roof and the costs, the scope of the issues may shed some light on which course of action to take. Critical issues include:
- Generalized Shingle Deterioration: Widespread curling, blistering or missing shingles are obviously a bad sign, but deterioration can also be more subtle. Check your gutters for asphalt particle build-up. If you can easily spot sizable piles of granules that have washed away from your shingles, your roof may be wearing out. To verify, pay a visit to your attic when the sun is out. If you can see daylight coming in through multiple seams, it may be time to consider roof replacement.
- Multiple Leaks: If you have interior leaks in several different areas of your home, it’s probably time to consider roof replacement rather than spot repair.
- Valley Issues: “Valleys” are areas where two sections of roofing join to create a “v.” If your house has more than one wing, or includes dormers, your roof likely includes several valleys. These areas are particularly prone to leaks, and can be difficult to repair without stripping away significant sections of shingles.
4. Layers of Shingles: Roofing regulations allow homeowners to install up to two layers of shingles on a roof (which can save the cost of removing the first layer during a roof replacement). If you currently have two layers of shingles on your roof, however, replacing damaged sections may prove more difficult and costly than single-layer repairs.
5. Aesthetics: Because shingles develop a patina as they age, color matching is difficult, and any patching you do will likely be obvious. A shingle or two here and there may not make a big visual impact, but replacing a good-sized section of your roof almost certainly will. If the damaged areas are in prominent places, you may want to opt to improve overall curb-appeal with a full replacement, rather than detract from your home’s visual appearance with an unsightly repair.
6. Relocation Plans: If you plan to move within the next couple of years, keep in mind that replacing an obviously ailing roof will make your house much easier to sell. Even if you don’t expect to recoup the full costs of the roof in terms of added value to your home, the negative impact of a roof in need of replacement could end up being even more costly. Buyers may over-estimate the cost of roof replacement when they make their offers, or lack of buyer interest may cause you to have to reduce the price of your listing.
While roof repair and replacement may not be a hot topic on Pinterest, it’s a critical aspect of owning a home. If you budget correctly and inspect your roof regularly, you’ll be able to steer clear of unpleasant surprises, while protecting your home from unnecessary damage.