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Should You Consider Repairing or Replacing Your Roof?

Should You Consider Repairing or Replacing Your Roof?

The eternal dilemma about repairing or replacing a damaged roof is faced by all homeowners. Here's a guide from DecorDezine to make the decision-making process simpler.
Puja Lalwani
Double Check
The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends a biannual roof inspection―during spring and fall―to contain and quickly repair roof damage.

Experts tell us that sometimes, roof damage begins and exists for a long time before it inevitably starts showing very visibly. The condition of your roof can affect a lot of things―the health of your home, its resale value, and your bank account (if the damage is not detected soon enough). In some cases, simple observation is enough to tell that there is a certain amount of damage. In others, following the tip by NRCA is essential to identify hidden damage. Once identified, how do you take a decision as big as replacing the entire roof, or simply repairing it?

Repair or Replace?

While sometimes, you can inspect and detect roof damage on your own, in most cases, it is advisable to hire a licensed roofing contractor to do so. Their manner of assessment is professional and they may see potential damage where you see none.

Situation: A few shingles blown away with strong winds? A small branch fallen on the roof, damaging a bit of it? Notice a few loose nails, or a few cracked tiles? Or that the flashing is damaged?

Solution: Repair

Warning: Patchwork is usually evident on roofs because new shingles (even though they may be extras from the same lot that was installed) will look different in color. Older shingles change color due to heat, weather variations, and dust. In case of metal roofs, you may notice loose nails and rust. These nails should be replaced immediately in fresh holes, while the older ones are sealed, and small spots with rust should be cleaned with a rust remover. Too much rust can cause extensive damage to the roof. Cracked tiles can be easily replaced, but should not be walked upon to identify damage, as more can break in the process. Damaged flashing is often easily reparable.

Situation: Some shingles/sheets have curved upward and exposed the decking below.

Solution: Check for resultant damage
  • Has it resulted in water collection within these crevices?
  • Is there growth of moss?
  • Do you see wood rot?
  • Do you see leakage at any point in your house?
  • Do you see the roof deck sagging?
  • Do you notice algae growth on the roof?
  • Can you see light showing through the roof?
Understand that, in some cases, the impact may not be visible directly under the exposed bit of the roof. It may have traveled to a lower point and caused a problem there. Consult a roofing contractor to analyze the extent of damage. Minor damages can be repaired, but bigger ones will require roof replacement.

Situation: You see crumbled shingles in your gutters.

Solution: Replace

Crumbling shingles are a clear indicator of damage to the roof. They are obviously not strong enough to weather storms and other vagaries of nature.

Situation: You are going to sell your house in a bit.

Solution: Analyze these questions to figure out what to do.
  • How soon are you going to sell your house? If it is soon, a replacement may be quicker than repair.
  • Is your roof more than 20 years old? If it is, it has probably exceeded the warranty with which it comes (commonly 20 years), and will definitely require replacement (it may not pass inspection).
  • Was your roof repaired/replaced before you purchased the house? If it was and you don't know how long before, check for the signs of damage mentioned here.
  • The minor patchwork you do will alter the appearance of the roof, and this may not be very visually appealing to a new buyer.
  • If you decide to forgo repair, be prepared to be offered a lower price for the home. Though the difference will not be very high, it will be enough to show in the final amount you receive.

Situation: You live in an area with intense weather conditions.

Solution: Replace

Depending on the climate―too hot or too cold, heavy rains or heavy snow, strong winds or extreme humidity―you will have to probably replace your roof sooner than necessary. Of course, this will require complete inspection and analysis before you go ahead. How the climate affects the roof also depends on the roofing material. A roof that is made of wood shakes will not take to dry climates very easily and may split. It may also develop moss in case of rains. Though it has a lifespan of 20 years, extensive exposure to these intense conditions may damage it sooner, and it is essential that it be inspected regularly.

Situation: Maintaining the roof is severely denting your finances.

Solution: Replace

Sometimes, the cost of roof maintenance exceeds the cost of replacement. For instance, a repair or maintenance job might cost USD 4,000, but replacing it may cost USD 6,000. After analyzing the difference, it is obvious that replacing the roof, and getting rid of the stress of finding another leak in your house is a better option. Experts suggest a replacement for this very reason, and also the fact that replacement might turn out to be cheaper in the long run than maintenance.

Situation: There are two layers of roofing material on the roof with considerable damage.

Solution: Replace

International Building Codes prohibit the application of more than two layers of shingles on a roof because the weight can bear down upon the home and damage the framing. While ripping off a layer of shingles and laying down a fresh one is an expensive job, it will enable the contractor to conduct a thorough inspection for leakages and even termites (in case of wooden framing), and eliminate the problem before laying the new roof.

According to the International Code Council (R907.3),

New roof coverings shall not be installed without first removing all existing layers of roof coverings where any of the following conditions exist:

1. Where the existing roof or roof covering is water-soaked or has deteriorated to the point that the existing roof or roof covering is not adequate as a base for additional roofing.

2. Where the existing roof covering is wood shake, slate, clay, cement or asbestos-cement tile.

3. Where the existing roof has two or more applications of any type of roof covering.

4. For asphalt shingles, when the building is located in an area subject to moderate or severe hail exposure according to Figure R903.5.

It cannot be stressed enough that getting opinions from multiple (at least three) licensed roofing contractors is essential to take a decision about repairing or replacing your roof. They may also suggest partial re-roofing, but hiring experienced professionals in this case is imperative so that the work is neat and the difference in material is not blatantly visible. While repairing is cheaper and more often than not, enough to take care of the damage, replacing can alleviate the stress of finding potential damage in the future.