The question of whether a damaged roof needs replacement or just a repair job is a befuddling question for many homeowners.  Should you fix that leak with a simple patch job, or are there underlying structural issues that can only truly be addressed by a full renovation?  The roof is one of the most important parts of any home and it is imperative that it is well maintained.  This post should provide you with all the information you need to make the right decision and avoid further problems down the road.

Let’s get some of the more obvious things out there first.  If there is a leak or you notice external damage to your roof, action must be taken as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of your home and your family.  The first sign that the problem may be more than just a simple fix is visible external holes or consistent and frequent leakage.  Another obvious sign that you may have a serious problem is a large area of missing shingles.  These unprotected areas could have been allowing water in for a long time causing structural beams in the roof to rot.

Large areas of missing shingles as pictured could result in extensive structural damage. The above picture is an example of water damage on structural beams of the house

The average lifetime of a roof can range from 15 to 25 years depending on the climate and the building materials, so if your roof is more than ten years old, it is more likely to need replacement.  In sum, the major problems to look for are:

  • Areas of missing shingles
  • Frequent leaks
  • Visible external holes
  • Cracked or deteriorating shingles

What to do if you notice any of the signs mentioned above:

If you have an attic with exposed framing and beams, damage may be visible.  Go up in the attic and look around for any beams or boards with dark water stains on them, check for soft spots in the wood, and rap on these boards with your knuckles to see if they make a hollow or muffled sound.  Any of these could be signs of water damage or rot.  If you notice any of these call a professional right away and have the roof examined.  If during your examination you notice any insect activity that appears to be affecting the wood, call an exterminator and a roofing contractor immediately.  Insects can cause irreparable damage to a home if left unchecked.

If your house does not have an attic or your attic does not have exposed framing and beams, finding signs of damage can be more challenging.  One sign you can check for is water spotting on interior walls, or visible drips inside your house.  If you notice these signs, or if you still feel your roof may be damaged, get a professional opinion.

What does a full replacement entail?

A full roof replacement is a difficult task with many potential problems.  As such, it is inadvisable for an inexperienced homeowner to attempt such a gargantuan job.   In the hands of skilled professionals, however, a roof replacement can be completed relatively quickly (usually in less than a week).  Modern roofing materials are more reliable and durable than ever before, so a roof replacement now could last for the rest of your lifetime.  After removal of the old shingles, the more challenging job of replacing any rotted or damaged wood may take little to no time or could take as long as 3 or 4 days depending on roof size and the extent of the damage.

Ultimately, if your roof does not show signs of serious damage, you can just opt for a cheaper patch job or replace the missing shingles.  If your roof does need to be replaced, however, don’t put it off.  Delaying the job will only be dangerous and more costly in the long run.  One important thing to remember is that no fix is permanent, roofs take a lot of punishment and on a long enough timeline all roofs will eventually require a full replacement.