There are four ways to determine the age of a roof of a home your are considering buying or already own:
1) Find out the date of the building permit. This the most accurate way to age a roof, but not all jurisdictions require building permits for roof replacement and sometimes the homeowner has the roof replaced without a permit. Many of the larger municipal and county governments in Florida have a database that the public can access online to find all the permits issued for a property. The address of the property or property appraisers’ parcel number can be used to start your search. Smaller building departments will often provide permit record information over the phone or from a fax request.
2) Request a copy of the receipt from the roofer for the completed work. This is not quite as foolproof as a roofing permit, but better than the next two options. Look at the document carefully to be sure it is not just a proposal to do the work. Also, if they are still in business, call the roofing contractor for verification that they did the roof.
3) Ask the seller or previous homeowner. While this is an easiest solution, it is often less accurate. Memory of years gone by gets slippery, especially for senior citizens. Also, don’t be surprised if the the response you get is something like “Well, when we bought the house in 5 years ago and the previous owner said she thought the roof was about 7 years old.”
4) Have a home inspector or roofer estimate the age of the roof. What you will get is an educated guess and, because a number of conditions can make a roof age faster or slower than average, it will be a rough estimate at best. But the inspector or roofing contractor can often make a more accurate estimate of the years of life left in the roof based on its current condition—which is even more important to know.
Also, see our blog posts How can I tell if the house needs a new roof? and If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?
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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?
• 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?
• 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?
• Why do my dormer windows leak?
• Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?
• Should I put gutters on the house?
• How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?
• What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?
• What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?
• Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?
• Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?
• What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?
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.