How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?

Monday, October 22, 2018

“Do I need a new roof?” is the first question we get asked after coming down the ladder from a roof inspection. The evidence usually is not as dramatic as in the photo above, and even a gaping hole in the ceiling with a patch of sky showing may still only require a repair.   Because most homeowners don’t examine their roof on a regular basis, a roof leak is the first sign that maybe it’s time for a new roof. A leak due to a small area of damage or a minor flashing problem, in an otherwise sound, young roof, needs only repair. When the leaks are the result of deterioration due to advanced age, then replacement in needed.

    Also, an older roof with clear warning signs of imminent failure requires replacement even if it’s not leaking yet. So it’s important to know the signs of a deteriorated roof covering before the roof leaks begin—whether you are looking at a house you are considering buying, with an eye to catching a big near-term expense for roof replacement, or simply monitoring the condition of a home you own. Most homes in our Gainesville area have an asphalt shingle roof, and here’s the symptoms of an ailing, older shingle roof:

  •  Granule Loss - The rock granules that coat the surface of the shingles protect them from deterioration from the sun’s UV-light rays. When you see piles of the coarse sand-like granules in your gutter, or a faint ribbon of granules on ground under the roof’s drip edge, they are coming loose and the shingles are no longer getting their protection. You can also tell if you’re experiencing granule loss by looking for a mottled granule texture on the surface of the shingles. 
  • Curling - Look up the slope of the roof from the ground, and search for shingle edges that are beginning to curl upward, another sign of advanced age.
  • Cracked, Damaged, and Missing Shingles - As shingles age, they get brittle, are easily damaged, and begin to break loose in places. 
  • Loss of Tab Adhesion - If you feel comfortable putting a ladder up to the edge of the roof, try lifting the front edge of a few shingle tabs you can easily reach, a couple of rows back from the edge. They should be impossible or difficult to pull up, and make a ripping sound if you can pull one up. If they are effortless to lift, and make no noise at all--well, that’s not good. It means that the shingles are susceptible to being blown off in a windstorm.
  • Deteriorated Flashings - Any roofer will tell you: most roof leaks occur at flashings. They are the most difficult part of a roof job to do correctly and, when they start to rust and come loose, big-problem leaks follow. Look at the edges of the roof and at roof penetrations--like skylights, chimneys, and plumbing vent pipes--for any signs of damage or deterioration.

   As part of your home inspection, we will walk your roof, where practical, and take photos of it’s condition. You will get our estimate of the age of the roof, it’s condition and estimated additional life (based on average lifespan). Also, we scan the ceiling with an infra-red camera looking for moisture accumulation from a roof leak that might not be visible as a stain yet.

   After you move in, we recommend that you eyeball the roof at least once a year from the ground while walking around all sides. As an alternative, many local roofing contractors will do a scheduled regular roof-check every year or two, along with minor upkeep maintenance, such as removing leaf debris or branches near the roof, or replacing a few damaged shingles, at a reasonable cost. 

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:

Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?

Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof? 

What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?

What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?  

What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?

What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer? 

What causes a sagging roof ridge line?

What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?  

Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof? 

What is "ponding" on a flat roof?

Is an attic required to have a light by the building code? 

How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?

Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?

How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles? 

What are the common problems with attic insulation? 

What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof? 

What's the average lifespan of a roof?

Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings? 

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door? 

Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?

What can I do to prevent roof leaks?

Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)? 

Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?

What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?

What causes a lump or dip in the roof? 

If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?

How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home? 

What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?

Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof? 

How can I make my roof last longer?  

What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

How can I find out the age of a roof? 

Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?

Should I buy a house with an old roof? 

What are those metal boxes on the roof?

What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?

• Why do roof edges start leaking?

    Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.


How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

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