By Sam Wasson
Updated Nov 30, 2022
Your roofing system is one of the most important structures in your home. It protects the attic, walls, and other vital systems from the elements.
Roofs can be made of many different materials, some of which can last for decades. But unfortunately, even the most durable roofs will only last so long.
Most of the time, you’ll replace your roof at the end of its life span or when it shows signs of excessive wear and tear. Many homeowners put off roof repairs and replacements, as they can be expensive, but doing so promptly will save more money and hassle in the long run. If you wait too long to replace your roof, water can set in, damaging your attic, insulation, and walls. Even worse, pests like termites, birds, bats, and rodents can be attracted to the warm space of your now exposed attic.
A roof’s life span can be affected by numerous factors, but the major one is its material. Some roofing materials last over a decade, while others can hold up for over 100 years. Here is a quick rundown of the different life spans of the most common types of roofs:
If your roof is beginning to near the end of its life span, it may begin to exhibit one or more of the following telltale signs. Keep in mind that some roofing materials may manifest different warning signs, and most of the entries on this list reflect asphalt shingles, wood shingles, and clay tile shingles.
A missing shingle or two does not necessarily mean your roof is at the end of its rope. High winds, hail, and debris can all cause shingles to go flying. While individual missing shingles are a problem, it does not reflect a roof’s age. But, if you begin to see large patches of shingles falling off, it’s clear that the sealant and nails holding the shingles down are failing. In the same vein, damaged shingles are also a clear sign of an old roof. If you spot a large amount of discoloration, missing granules, hail damage, or exposed nails, it might be time to call a roofer.
Several problems can lead to leaks, but one of the most common is a failing or aging roof. As your roof ages, the seals that keep water out begin to fail. Eventually, water will seep into and past the underlayment and through to your attic, ceilings, walls, and insulation. If you begin to see dark spots on your ceiling, you should check your attic for signs of further water damage and schedule a roof inspection.
Flashing is the thin metal placed on the seams and joints of your roof along your gutters, chimney, vents, skylight, or under shingles. Flashing helps redirect water, preventing roof leaks and water damage. Over time, flashing, like shingles, can come loose and fall off. Missing flashing is a sign that the adhesive holding it in place is weakening from age.
A roof sags when its support system, called decking, begins to fail. Failing decking is most often caused by moisture seeping through the roof. Over time, the decking will become less rigid and firm, resulting in visible droops. If you see sagging in your roof, do not climb onto it in an attempt to fix it, as it’s no longer fully structurally stable. Instead, call a professional inspector.
If your roof is growing moss, it should be no surprise that it’s nearing the end of its life span. As your roof ages, its ability to resist moisture lessens. This weakening allows moss, molds, fungi, and algae to grow. These invaders only worsen the problem by growing under other shingles, into your underlayment and further damaging the structure of your roof.
Remember that some roofing materials, namely wood, can be more prone to mold, even if it isn’t very old. If you have moldy wooden shingles, it might signify that you need an anti-fungicide treatment instead of a new roof.
If you suspect your roof is nearing the end of its life, your best bet is to either find out the date of the last roof installation or call a professional. Finding out the date of your roof’s last replacement can be hard, and you may need to contact the previous owners, get ahold of the roofing company that worked on it, or even check your home’s building permit. If none of these methods work, your next best option is to hire a professional roofing contractor to come and appraise the condition of your entire roof.
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