Repair or Replace?

With many older homes, you are often faced with the decision as to whether you should repair or replace an older roof. Replacement can be expensive, but consider this. A repair job can end up costing you more than you save. Roofing materials vary widely in price. Clay tiles are the most expensive, with the 3 tab asphalt shingle being the least. Roofing materials also change a lot depending on locale. In southern California you will often see ceramic and clay tile, which is not appropriate to areas such as New England, where winters can raise havoc with this type of material. There, you will see slate roofs which last for decades. In every instance, there comes a time when the roof needs to be either fixed or replaced. This article focuses on both aspects, giving pros and cons of both replace or repair.

When To Repair

The most obvious time to repair a roof is after wind damage or an especially harsh winter. You will experience dark spots on ceilings or even worse, dripping water that will damage the home interior. Ice dams that build up on roof edges will cause a roof that is not perfectly sealed to be damaged. Melting water gets under the roof edge, causing damage to the roof deck, or heavy ice buildups will push the roof edge up. If it persists, the roof edge will rot, causing even more expensive repairs. Some people try to get around this by using heat tapes. Be careful here - homes have burned because of this method. If the roof is fairly new, it might still be under warranty, and the contractor will repair it. Be careful here. You should always read the terms of the contract before you sign. Be sure that the roof is warranted to avoid trouble down the road, and be especially interested in repair policies. A good tip - when you are looking at a home you might plan on buying, check to see if the roof has been recently replaced. If so, insure that the roofer has left a few bundles of shingles for repairs. Trying to match up shingles on a roof can be a difficult task. When To Replace The rule of thumb is to replace a roof if one third of it is damaged. Deciding to replace a roof has a lot more factors than just deciding to paint the house. Here is a list of things to help you determine if the roof needs replacement:

  • Interior walls or ceiling are blistered or there are dark spots on the ceiling
  • Obvious leaking in the interior after a hard wind driven rain
  • Signs of water damage or discoloration in attic spaces
  • Soffits that are sagging or rotten
  • Signs of leaking in the attic after an ice buildup (Look for excessive ice dams in the winter)
  • Shingles are curling up or appear cracked. This can be checked easily from the ground with binoculars
  • Signs of algae buildup, or dirty looking shingles in different areas of the roof
  • A rise in energy costs over a typical winter. This could indicate that the roof is losing energy. A good tip - if insulation has been mounted to the underside of the roof deck instead of on the interior attic floors, suspect damage to the roof deck. This type of installation allows heat buildup during summer months, and will warp the deck plates.
  • Signs of decay in shingles, sheathing and soffits. In this case, water is entering and possibly running down walls and entering the soffit.

  • When purchasing a home, know what type of roof is the best for the area of the country you are moving to. Certain roofs do not do well in humid or high heat climes, and roofs in portions of the country that have a lot of snow and ice need a bit more protection. In the south, where hurricanes are prevalent, roofs need to be designed to exacting standards. If buying a home there, inquire as to whether hurricane straps have been installed in the roof. This should always be done during construction, not afterwards. These straps are always secured to interior walls first, and then to the roof. They give the structure more integrity to withstand the rigors of high winds, and can save you thousands of dollars when installed. Florida has specific guidelines for installation and type of hurricane straps. In other hurricane prone areas, look for roofs made with galvalume, a material that is made from steel, and is strengthened with aluminum and zinc coatings. They are required in the Florida Keys. Fixing or repairing a roof is a common sense thing. Know your roof, and know when the time comes to repair or replace.

    Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.