There are few portions of the home more important than the roof. A roof that has passed its lifetime provides less protection, leading to water damage, increased risk of pest infestation, and mold growth. As a homeowner, you must keep an eye on your roof and make the needed repairs or a full replacement when necessary.
The average life span of a roof usually ranges between 25 to 50 years. However, a roof’s life expectancy ultimately depends on the quality, durability, and type of material chosen. In this article, we’ll go over the most common types of roofs, each roof’s life span, and some of the most common signs that indicate you’ll need to replace a roof.
Factors That Impact Roof Life Span
The Slope of the Roof
The slope of the roof, or the angle the roof sits at, is a key factor in your roof’s ability to drain water. Each type of roofing material has different slope requirements reflective of its ability to resist and direct water. Homeowners with flat roofs need to be more conscious of the water their roofs are exposed to and provide more consistent maintenance.
The Weather and the Elements
The weather and the elements are one of, if not the most impactful factors in the life span of any roof. Constant exposure to extreme temperatures, rainfall, UV rays, and high winds can all wear down your roof and shorten its life span. Different roofing materials will be suited to different environments, as some are more resistant to specific weather conditions than others. Here are some of the ways different kinds of weather can affect your roofing system:
- Strong sunlight/high UV rays: Constant exposure to sunlight and UV rays weakens the materials of your roof over time. Certain materials, like those in metal roofs, are more resistant to this. On the other hand, asphalt shingle roofs are more susceptible to UV damage, resulting in cracking, peeling, and deterioration.
- Rainfall: Rainfall by itself, in standard amounts, typically does not adversely affect the life span of most roofing systems. Instead, structural failures in the roof, drainage, or gutter system, when combined with heavy rainfall, can damage your roof. If your roof has an incorrect slope or a clogged gutter system, heavy rainfall can result in mold growth, water damage, and a weakening of the structure beneath the roof.
- High winds: Strong winds can loosen or remove shingles and panels from roof systems. While mild winds pose no serious risk, high winds can damage and weaken even more resistant roof materials, like slate or metal.
- Hail: Hail is the most damaging form of weather for your roof. While hail is not as common in some regions of the U.S., homes that experience high-impact hailstorms should be inspected more frequently. Even more durable materials like slate and concrete can eventually be worn down and damaged by constant exposure to hail.
A properly functioning ventilation system for your roof is important for several reasons. Ventilation systems regulate extreme temperatures that, if unregulated, damage and deteriorate roofing materials. Furthermore, during winter, poor ventilation can also lead to more serious problems like ice dams, which can cause catastrophic failure of gutter systems.
Regular Roof Maintenance
Performing regular maintenance and inspections on your roof will help prolong its life span. In a roofing system, small failures or damage often expand into more serious problems if left unattended. For example, small incidents like a single blown-off shingle aren’t too much of a problem. But, now that a portion of your roof’s outer layer is removed, water can get into the underlayment, weakening the surrounding shingles. Regular maintenance helps nip the expanding problems in the bud, saving you more time and money in the long run.
Signs You Need a Replacement Roof
One of the most noticeable indications of an aged roof is the discoloration of your ceiling. As your roof ages and the protection from the elements weakens, water and moisture can seep into your attic and the upper portions of your home. As the water pools and absorbs into porous materials, like your insulation and drywall, mold and mildew begin to grow. This mild growth will begin to discolor the drywall or sheetrock of your ceiling.
Leaks and Water Damage
Over time, damage and degradation can lead to a severe lack of weather resistance. When this happens, you’ll begin to see leaks whenever it rains. These leaks can eventually lead to discoloration, mold growth, and more serious water damage. If you’re experiencing consistent leaks when the weather turns bad, it might be time for a new roof.
Visible Damage to the Roof
Damage to the roof can be difficult to detect, depending on the type of roofing material and the damage severity. However, some more common, easily visible indications of an aging roof are:
- Missing shingles
- Curled shingles
- Blistered shingles
- Mold growth
- Exposed underlayment
- Missing granules
- Chipped or missing paint (in the case of metal roofs)
- Pockmarks or large holes
Pests Getting Inside Your Home
As a roof weakens and the underlayment and structure of the attic become exposed, certain pests will try to make themselves at home. If you begin to experience higher-than-average pest problems in your home, especially in and around the attic, it might be a sign that your roof system is failing. Some common pests that can creep in as a result of weakening roof are:
- Carpenter (or sometimes called “borer”) bees
Different Types of Roofing
As roofing materials go, metal is a durable, longer-lasting option requiring little maintenance and upkeep. The cost, durability, and longevity of metal panels depend on the thickness or gauge of the metal: the lower the gauge, the thicker and longer lasting the roof. Higher-end metal roofs (gauge 20 to 24) can last between 50 to 70 years, while lower-end roofs (gauge 25+) last about 20 to 25 years. On average, metal roofs are a dependable middle ground in price and longevity. Metal roofs cost more and last longer than asphalt shingles, but they don’t last as long or cost as much compared to concrete tiles.
Clay Tile Roof
Clay tile roofs are a popular addition to many Western and Midwestern homes. Clay tiles are heat-resistant, weather-resistant, relatively low-cost, and can last up to 50 years, given standard maintenance and upkeep. The only major downsides to these roofs are the weight and cost. While not as expensive as slate, clay tile roofs cost more than asphalt shingles. You’ll also need to have your home designed with their extra weight in mind, as clay tiles are heavy, requiring additional reinforcements.
Wood Shingle Roof
Wood shingles provide a rustic, old-world look while offering decent protection, weather resistance, and longevity. If properly maintained, wood shingles can last up to 30 years but require more upkeep than other roofing materials. If you decide to go with wood shingles, you’ll need to apply special treatments every three years to protect the wood from pests, mold, mildew, and other elements.
Slate Tile Roof
Slate is by far the most long-lasting option on this list. Slate roofs come in two varieties, soft and hard slate. Soft slate roofs will last on average 50 to 125 years, with hard slate roofs lasting up to 200 years. These roofs are considered by many to be the ultimate roofing material, but they come with an equally impressive price tag. Easily the most expensive type of material, slate roofs require heavy-duty reinforcements and specialist contractors to install due to their weight.
Concrete Tile Roof
Concrete tiles function very similarly to clay roof tiles. They’re durable, weather-resistant, heavy roofs that require little maintenance. On average, concrete roofs last for about 50 years but have been known to last up to 100 under ideal conditions with proper maintenance. These tiles are also very heavy, requiring additional reinforcement to install.
Asphalt & Architectural Shingle Roof
Asphalt shingles are the most common roofing materials in the United States. These materials are cheap, easy to install, and provide decent weather resistance. However, these roofs are also the shortest-lived on the market, only lasting 15 to 30 years.
If you’re looking for a more reliable roof tile and don’t mind spending a little extra cash, you can go with architectural shingles. These roofs are the upgraded version of asphalt shingles, made of similar but much higher-quality materials. Architectural shingles weigh about 50% more than standard three-tab shingles and last 25 to 30 years.
Getting the Most Out of Your Roof
Seasonally Checking Your Roof’s Condition
While checking your roof each season may seem excessive, most industry professionals highly recommend it. Each season brings its own issues and weather conditions that can pose problems for your roof. Winter can cause moisture expansion through freezing temperatures, spring and summer heat can damage shingles, and the fall invites all pests to invade. It’s best to catch problems early, so consistent and frequent inspections are always recommended.
Detecting Minor Issues Before They Become Bigger Issues
One of the most important elements in extending the life expectancy of a roof is to resolve minor issues immediately. After your seasonal check, address all damages and potential problems, no matter how small, as soon as possible. Roofing issues tend to “snowball,” meaning that as they persist, they pick up momentum and become exponentially more dangerous. By eliminating smaller issues as they show up, you prevent larger, future problems, saving money and extending the life of your roof.
Getting Those Roof Checkups Annually
On top of your seasonal checkup, you should always schedule an annual inspection with a professional. By having a professional inspect your roof, you’ll be able to find any subtle damages or issues that are easy to miss. Furthermore, by scheduling a roof inspection, you’ll get a better idea of the exact life span of your roof, allowing you to schedule needed repairs or replacements accordingly. Beyond having your annual inspection, you should also consider having additional inspections after serious weather events like a hailstorm or extremely high winds.
When it comes to roofs, you get what you pay for, with low-cost roofs lasting up to 30 years and higher-end roofs lasting up to over 200. Roofs like asphalt shingles, while low cost, are easily damaged and don’t last very long. Metal roofs, wooden roofs, and clay tiles roofs are all more expensive, each with different benefits, maintenance levels, and life spans. The powerhouses of the roofing world, however, are easily slate and concrete tiles. These heavy-duty roofing materials last a lifetime and are virtually indestructible, but they’re incredibly heavy and carry an equal weighty price tag.
Overall, your roof’s life span will be determined by its material, the environment, and the amount of care and maintenance you provide. If you’re willing to pay for high-quality materials, provide adequate upkeep, and schedule routine inspections, you can easily have a roof that lasts a lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to replace a roof?
The time it takes to replace a roof depends on the home’s size and the roof’s complexity and materials. On average, those with lower-end roofs, and smaller homes, can expect their roofs to be replaced in one to five days. Larger homes with more expensive and complex roofs can expect the replacement to take one to three weeks.
What happens if you don’t replace your roof when it’s time?
Not replacing your roof when its life span is at its end can result in several serious issues. As your roof degrades and your defenses weaken, water, moisture, and pests will begin to enter your home. The longer you go without addressing your aging roof, the more serious these problems will become.
How do you replace the shingles on the roof?
- Repeat step four for the shingles directly above the damaged shingle — each shingle is held down by two rows of nails, one on the shingle itself and one on the row above.
- Remove the damaged shingle.
- Insert the new shingle.
- Nail the new shingle to the roof.
- Renail the old shingles above the new shingle.
- Reseal all old shingles and new shingles.
Here is a quick video going over this process:
On average, how much does it cost to replace a roof?
Depending on your roof’s size, material, and complexity, a full replacement can typically cost anywhere between $5,000 to $11,000. The national average cost of a roof replacement is around $8,000.
Should I replace my gutters when I replace my roof?
While not required, most homeowners opt to replace their gutters during a roof replacement, as most of the time, the gutters need to be removed for the roofing replacement anyway.