Is it better to repair or replace a roof?
You’re probably familiar with the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, “Hamlet.” The main character steps out of a top-floor window onto the roof of his sprawling mansion, looks around at the state of affairs, and begins a classic soliloquy with these famous words: “To repair my roof, or not to repair my roof but doth replaceth it instead — that is the question.”
What to Consider When Deciding to Repair or Replace Your Roof
Before determining if you need a roof replacement or repairs, there are some things you need to consider. Knowing how old your roof is, how long you plan on staying in your home, and more give you an idea if it’s time to replace your roof.
But to help these you make the best decision, here is a list of questions you should answer first:
What time constraints are you under?
If there aren’t any, you can choose either option. But if you need to fix a leaky roof by next weekend or you’re leaving on vacation in a couple weeks, you may not have time to wait for a contractor to schedule a roof replacement.
How old is your roof?
If it’s relatively new or even in the middle of its life cycle, a repair might be okay. But if it has a 20-year warranty and it’s 18 years old, replacing the whole roof may be the way to go.
How big of an area is currently in need of repair?
If you only need to fix one or two small areas, you can probably buy some shingles and do it yourself. If it’s more than, say, 30 percent of your roof, you might strongly consider a roof replacement.
What’s the additional cost to replace your entire roof?
For example, it might cost you $4,000 to repair the front side of your roof — but replacing the whole roof might only run you $6800. In this case, a roof replacement is a better value.
How many layers of shingles are currently on your roof?
It costs more to rip off old shingles and replace them than it does to just shingle over the existing layer. However, building codes prohibit you from having more than two layers of shingles on your home.
How important is it that your roof remains the exact same color?
Any new shingles will not precisely match the same hue as your existing ones because of weathering from the elements. If your roof is highly visible and you don’t want mismatched shingles, you’d better replace the whole roof.
Reasons to get your roof repaired
If you’re mulling the options of repairing vs. replacing your roof, consider repair work in the following scenarios:
1. The damage is only minor
If the damage to your roof is only minor, a total roof replacement might be a costly, excessive expense. After all, a roof is meant to last for many years and withstand inclement weather. When damage is limited to small areas, roofing specialists can usually fix it. For example, a leak over your kitchen or bathroom could easily be the result of isolated damage to an otherwise healthy roof.
Pretty much any type of damage confined to a small area can be repaired. Minor holes, for example, can be patched up. There is no reason to invest in a new roof when simple repair work saves you thousands in roofing costs.
2. Your budget is tight
If you lack the immediate funds for a complete roof replacement, the option of roof repair will likely save you hundreds and possibly thousands over the price of a new roof. What may at first seem like a significant problem with your roof might only amount to a few hundred dollars worth of repairs. Regardless of your financial situation, the ability to save money is always preferable.
The cost of a new roof can easily exceed the average homeowner’s immediate budget. For example, if you found out tomorrow your roof is leaking, but you had already committed yourself financially for the next few months to loan repayments, a vacation and a new automobile, the roofing issue could put a significant dent in your bank account. Then again, that leak might only require repairs to one area of your roof, which would be a lot more affordable at short notice.
3. The architectural integrity of your roof must be maintained
Some roofs should be maintained in their original composition for as long as possible. The thing is, when you replace the roof on any house or building, you inevitably change the look of the property. Moreover, the property is not the same as before because you have replaced one of the critical components of its architecture. Roof repairs, by contrast, allow you to maintain the architectural integrity of a home.
If you live in a classic home, you probably want to keep it as close to the original design as possible, regardless of any home improvement work you may need to do during your occupancy. With roof repairs, it’s far easier to maintain the house in its classic state. At most, you will just replace a small portion of the roof.
4. Your roof was recently replaced
If you paid for the roof that is currently installed on your house several years ago, your best option is to see through on that investment. To that end, it’s best to keep the current roof in functioning condition for as long as it’s meant to last. Just because a roof has incurred minor damage following a recent snowstorm doesn’t mean the time has come yet again to replace the roof.
Something to bear in mind is that most homeowners only purchase a new roof once, sometimes twice, throughout the life of their home. Moreover, even the most inexpensive roofs are built to outlast the average residential occupancy. Therefore, the odds are low that you would need to invest in two roof replacements for the same house.
There are three definite warning signs that your roof is in need of repair:
- Moisture Marks: If you see moisture marks, brown stains or peeling paint along the upper reaches of any wall, those are indicators of leaks in the areas in question.
- Chipped Shingles: If portions of your shingles are chipped or appear damaged to the naked eye, you should have them inspected by a roofing specialist.
- Interior Leaks: A leak of any kind is the most urgent sign of roof trouble. If water is dripping through your ceiling in any part of your living quarters, call a roofing specialist immediately.
Can you replace only half a roof? If the remaining half is structurally sound, you may be able to. It all depends on the extent of the damage.
How to know when to replace a roof
Re-roof or repair roof? In the following scenarios, roof replacement is your best option:
1. The current roof has reached its sell-by date
Nothing lasts forever, and each roofing material has its sell-by date. While roofs made of clay or metal can last for centuries, asphalt roofs generally expire within two decades. Depending on the material of your roof, you’re more likely to get a matching, consistent look when you opt for a new roof altogether. This holds especially true with wood shingles, which age naturally and grey with time.
Consequently, the pre-existing wood shingles on a given roof will inevitably look different from a new shingle set. If you have a portion of the shingles replaced, the patchiness will be evident to the naked eye. If visual consistency is important to you, you’ll probably want to go for a complete roof replacement if your current shingles have leaks. Then again, it might not matter to you. Visual consistency tends to be most important to owners of homes that are more visible to passersby.
2. Your roof is not compliant with current building codes
Sometimes, a new roof is your only option if you wish to keep your property in compliance with modern-day building codes. While you can save money by having new shingles placed over faulty, pre-existing ones, you can only have two layers of shingles maximum to still be within building code. Therefore, if you have already resorted to that option, your next round of roofing issues would really mean it’s time for a roof replacement.
If your roof does not conform to current building code, you could run into problems in the future should you decide to sell your property. In any case, have this issue assessed the next time you have a roofing specialist examine your current roof so you can at least know where your property currently stands regarding these compliances to local law.
3. The damage to your roof is overwhelming
In some circumstances, a roof will be too damaged for mere repair work. For example, if a tree has fallen straight down on your house, the damage will likely be far too extensive for repairs. Likewise, if leaks are present everywhere and not just in one or two isolated areas, the time has come to purchase a new roof.
As a rule of thumb, roof repairs can remedy damages that cover only 30 percent or less of your roof. Any amount of damage beyond that threshold will likely leave you with no other option but to purchase a new roof altogether.
4. Your roof was damaged in a recent natural disaster
Another situation that can leave you with no other choice but to buy a new roof is when your house has been ravaged by a natural disaster. For example, if a hurricane or tornado has passed through your area, the structural integrity of your roof could be severely compromised, even if the damage appears localized to the naked eye.
Some homeowners will weather local disasters but emerge with their roofs mostly intact — or so it seems. However, a hurricane or tornado can cause structural damage that often won’t be readily apparent. Even if your roof is covered with one of the stronger, more durable materials on the market, you might need to replace it if it has incurred damage in a catastrophic event.
A roof inspection will be able to tell you if this has happened to your roof.
The benefits of roof replacement
When you opt for roof replacement, you get the following benefits:
- An entirely new roof
- A roof that is fresh, solid and that won’t need repairs for many years
- A roof that is completely up-to-date with building codes
- A new, revitalized look to your property
The Benefits of Roof Repair
When you opt for roof repairs you get the following benefits:
- Roof repairs allow you to maintain an otherwise good roof
- Roof repairs are easy to arrange on short notice
- Roof repairs allow you to save money
- Repairs allow you to keep a classic roof intact