If it’s been a while since you gave much thought to the literal roof over your head, now’s the time to make sure all is well. Determining whether your roof needs to be repaired or replaced is a critical step in the upkeep of your home, and you can easily figure out the work it might need—and the costs involved—long before calling up the pros.
So get out your ladder and block off a sunny afternoon to take a closer look. But first check out these handy inspection tips from the experts.
How to know when your roof needs repair
Roofs, like most things in life, come with an expiration date. And although this date can vary based on factors such as the materials used (e.g., composite versus asphalt shingles) and the extent of everyday wear and tear, the basic rule of thumb is that most roofs need to be replaced every 15 to 30 years.
Since that’s a fairly big range, there are a few ways you can go about determining the state of your roof and what, if any, TLC it requires.
There are two schools of thought on the best way to inspect your roof, and the first of these is much simpler than you may imagine.
What to look for in the attic
“The easiest way to start evaluating your roof’s condition is to grab a flashlight and head up to your attic, or the top floor of your home along with a broomstick, a tape measure, and a notebook,” says Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy.
The four main things you’ll want to look for, he explains, are dark stains; water damage; roof sagging; and the presence of any holes or cracks (which are usually best spotted on bright, sunny days).
While sunlight creeping in through cracks and holes is certainly never a good sign, any ceiling with dark stains or visible water damage is something that should be taken seriously—and addressed immediately.
“If you see dark stains or dark streaks on the underside of your roof or running down the walls from the base of your roof, then your roof is likely leaking,” DeBono says. “Moisture can damage both your roof, as well as your home’s interior structure, so it’s important to get this addressed immediately.”
Similarly, a sagging roof can also indicate water damage.
“If you identify sagging areas in your roof, use your hand or a broom to lightly prod at the sagging spot,” advises DeBono. “If the spot feels soft and wet or bends easily with the prod of your broom, you know you have moisture damage.”
What to look for on the roof
The second way to check the state of your roof is probably closer to what you originally envisioned: climbing a ladder and taking a closer look from the outside. This should be done only if you can safely walk around your roof and easily manage a tall ladder. If you have a fear of heights or aren’t feeling so spunky about a climb up on the roof, call in a professional to have a look for you.
If you’re feeling fairly confident about a DIY inspection, then you’ll want to pay attention to the conditions of your roof materials once you get up there.
“Take notes on the condition of the roof shingles, the nails, the chimney, sealant, and the gutters,” says Melanie Johnson, marketing manager for Fantastic Services Group. “All these elements are important and need to be in good condition, and clean of rust. If any of these elements is damaged, you’ll need to make repairs.”
Weather plays a factor
Another thing to keep in mind when assessing the state of your roof is what kind of conditions it has to withstand. If you were debating whether or not to stretch the roof one more season—but live in a place with heavy snowfall—you might want to reconsider putting off needed repairs.
It’s important to note that the more vigilant you are with repairs, the less likely you are to need a premature roof replacement.
For example, if you can inspect your roof and provide it with the minimal upkeep on a regular basis—this might end up saving you the cost of premature replacement.
“It’s good to unclog and clean the gutters at least twice a year—early spring and late fall,” Johnson says. “It’s also good to inspect the roof at least once a year or so, to make sure there’s no rust and all the shingles are in place. If there are any loose shingles or rust, take care of it right away, to avoid even more damage.”
When should you replace a roof—and how much does it cost?
Least surprising news of the day: Replacing a roof is undeniably more expensive than repairing it. While repairs might start as low as several hundred dollars (depending on the materials involved), the average low-end cost to replace a roof starts at $5,000 to $8,000, with more high-end roofs costing as much as $15,000.
That’s nothing to scoff at, which is why staying on top of minimal repairs is so important. At some point, though, you might need to dish out the cash for a full replacement.
“When damage is too extensive, and around 40% to 50% of your roof is affected by the needed repairs, then it’s a good idea to consider a full replacement,” Johnson says.