Roofing 101: How Often Should a Roof Be Replaced?

old roofing shingles on house

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How often should a roof be replaced? The answer, of course, is as different as one roof is from another.

There are, however, ways to estimate how long your roof has before it kicks the bucket. You’ll have to take into account things like the type of roof, what it’s made out of, if it’s already damaged, the typical weather in your area, and how well-maintained it is.

Through the following guide, we’ll help you use these factors to determine how many years your roof has left. We’ll also give you tips on what to do if the health of your roof is failing.

Read on to learn more.

Types of Roofs and Their Average Lifespan

The first factor we’ll look at is what your roof’s made of. Here are several of the most common roof types and how long they last on average.

Asphalt Shingle Roofs

The 3-tab asphalt shingle roofs you see on many neighborhood homes have an average lifespan of 15-20 years. There is also architectural asphalt roofing that offers a bit more protection against the weather. Thus, architectural asphalt roofing should last up to 30 years before needing replacement.

Wood Shingle Roofs

Wood shingles are more protective and longer-lasting than asphalt, when properly maintained. A well-maintained wood shingle roof should last from 25-30 years.

Neglecting maintenance, on the other hand, will shorten a wood roof’s lifespan. One common example is when foliage like moss or wet leaves sits on the roof for a long time. These tend to trap moisture against the wood roofing, which can cause it to decay.

Also, if you live in very hot, dry weather, wood roofing is extra flammable and easily sparked. Although, wood roofing is usually illegal in areas where this is the case.

Wood Shake Roofs

Wood shakes are a bit thicker than wood shingles because they are chopped by hand instead of machine-cut. This gives wood shake roofs that much more protection.

Wood shake roofs will last about 35-40 years. However, shakes need maintenance the same as wood shingles do. This lifespan estimate is only possible if you keep up on the necessary maintenance.

Metal Roofs

Metal roofing is even more resilient than wood roofing as it’s less subject to decay. This is partly because it’s heavier and so it requires an extra layer of protective reinforcement.

A metal roof’s average lifespan mostly depends on what metal it’s made out of. The cheaper metals like aluminum or steel can last as long as 50 years. On the hardier side, metal roofs made of zinc or copper can last over 100 years.

Clay and Cement Tile Roofs

Tile roofing of clay or concrete is extremely durable and protective (and heavy). They’re known to last 50-100 years on average.

Slate Roofs

Last on our list is the strongest roof of all: slate roofing. Slate roofs are very hard to damage and almost always last at least 100 years.

Factors That Can Shorten a Roof’s Lifespan

old roofing shingles on house

Other factors that determine how long your roof lasts include weather and unfixed roofing problems. As we mentioned with wood roofs, moist weather plus poor maintenance can lead to decay while dry weather can lead to a roof fire. Neglecting maintenance can also make shingles brittle so that they begin cracking and breaking.

Frequent high winds can rip asphalt shingles right off your roof, leaving it less protected and more susceptible to damage. These winds can also blow branches or whole trees into your roof, causing serious damage.

And though metal roofing doesn’t rot, its sealant might. This is one reason it’s worth it to get an annual roof checkup by professional roofers.

Unseen, and, therefore, unfixed roof damage like cracks and leaks will also kill your roof faster. Even mild weather will worsen this damage quickly if it’s not addressed.

How to Check for Signs of Roof Damage Before It’s Too Late

To keep roof damage from shortening your roof’s lifespan, it must be fixed right away. The best answer for this is an annual roof inspection. Aside from that, here are some ways to discover damaged roof warning signs for yourself.

Leaks or Holes

A large enough hole in your roof will let not only water in but sunlight as well. Usually, the only time you’d miss a hole this big is if you never check your attic. So, on a very sunny day, check your attic for sunlight streaming in through such holes.

If you notice any of these holes, or leaking when it rains, call a roof repair person right away.

The moisture that gets into these holes expand and contract with temperature changes, widening the hole in the process. Depending on the weather, this damage gets worse very rapidly.

Signs of Moisture Damage

If you see circular stains on your ceiling or streak-shaped stains on your walls, call it in. It’s probably from rainwater leaking through holes in your roof into your house.

These stains will be pale-yellow, brown, or grey, like the dirty water that caused them.

An advanced symptom of roof leaks is a saggy ceiling. This means that that spot gets so much moisture so often that the ceiling is warping beneath the weight.

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Checking Damage On Roof Exterior

Lastly, there are ways to check the exterior of your roof for damage without endangering yourself by walking around on it. The first is viewing any portions of it that are visible through a window. You can also view some of the roof’s exterior from the ground.

Anything that looks like cracked, damaged, or missing roofing should be called in. Also, if any part of it just looks weird, have it inspected by a trustworthy roofing professional. This might be a poorly-done patch job, which can lead to trapped moisture or other damage if not fixed.

While viewing your roof from the ground, look for debris from broken roof shingles or chimney flashing around the perimeter of the building. More importantly, check for this debris in the gutters.

How Often Should a Roof Be Replaced?

This guide has given you all you need to know about estimating the lifespan of your roof. Still, the best way to know for sure is to call a professional roofer. If you’ve never gotten a roof inspection, make an appointment for one as soon as possible, and each year thereafter.

In the meantime, if anyone asks you, “How often should a roof be replaced?” you know what to say. Point them to this guide so they can find out.

Keeping your roof strong and well-maintained isn’t the only way to protect your home. Check out some more of our blog posts to learn how to keep everything in your home safe and secure.