How long should a roof last?

Household 3 min read

The roof is one of a house’s most important structural aspects; unfortunately, roofs don’t last forever. Knowing when to replace a roof depends on several factors, such as where you live and the type of roofing material. But some signs can tell you when to consider a roof replacement.

We talked to a roofing expert about how long a roof should last. Sean Chapman is a professional carpenter with more than ten years of experience and the founder of the home-improvement website Tools & Goods. Chapman had some excellent insights into how often you should replace a roof.

How often should you replace your roof?

The first thing to identify is the roofing material for a rough estimate of how often to replace a roof. Some last significantly longer than others. Chapman provided us with the following guideline to help you determine how often you should replace your roof based on its material.

  • Three-tab asphalt shingles: Every 15 to 20 years
  • Architectural asphalt shingles: Every 30 to 50 years
  • Metal roofing: Every 20 to 50 years
  • Composite shingles: Every 40 to 50 years
  • Slate tiles: More than 50 years
  • Concrete or tile shingles: More than 50 years

How to tell if a roof needs to be replaced

As part of your regular seasonal home maintenance plan, you should be inspecting the condition of your roof about once a year. Chapman recommends looking for the following signs to tell you when to replace a roof.

Leaks or water damage

It’s never a good idea to ignore a roof leak. Instead, schedule an assessment and repair the leaky roof as soon as possible. Homeowners insurance may cover a roof leak if it is caused by a covered peril like a hailstorm. If you allow a leak to continue, you might end up with some costly repairs later. Even if you don’t see a leak, Chapman advises looking for other signs of water damage indoors.

Look for brown, gray, or yellow stains and peeling paint on the walls and ceilings. These can be indicators of small cracks in the roof that allow extra moisture into the house. Learn more about how to repair a roof leak and how home insurance covers roof damage.

Missing roof shingles or holes

Missing shingles are a common sign of wear and tear on a roof. It’s common to lose some shingles after a big storm, particularly with strong winds. Consult a professional for their opinion — you may end up repairing or replacing roof shingles rather than replacing the entire roof.

Being able to see the sky through the roof is a clear sign that it’s ready to be replaced. Light coming in through a cracked roof may result from previous water damage left untreated.

Shingles are curling upward

Even if there aren’t any shingles missing, you may notice that some are starting to curl or buckle at the ends. Curling shingles often means they have dried out and become brittle, making them more prone to breakage. If you notice shingles are only drying out in a certain section, this could be due to weather and factors like how the sun shines on the house or rainwater drains. When this is the case, you can replace that small section rather than the whole roof.

Drooping or sagging

Ideally, a roof in good condition does not droop or sag. Sagging can be a sign that the supporting boards are beginning to rot. A drooping or sagging roof could result from water damage, which degrades the roof’s integrity if ignored.

A sagging roof can be dangerous and could lead to a collapse as the moisture and the rotting issue worsens. Get the roof inspected as soon as possible to determine whether you can repair it or if you need to replace it.

Moss or mold is growing

Chapman says that moss and mold may appear when moisture accumulates under the roof. Depending on the level of moss, you can clean it off without replacing any portion of the roof. Leaving it there will damage the roofing materials over time. Moss and vegetation on a roof may also attract animals and insects, such as squirrels and cockroaches, leading to additional damage.

Other considerations for when to replace a roof

You may notice longer time frames for some roofing materials. Other factors can influence how long your roof will last. Weather events, like heavy rain and snow, can accelerate wear and tear. If you live somewhere with harsh weather conditions, use the lower number as a guideline. The higher number is a more appropriate measure for how often roofs are replaced in climates with mild weather. Learn more about home roofing types and how to find the best roof shingles for your home.

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