Deciding whether to repair or replace roofing is largely an exercise in timing — you don’t want to reroof too soon and waste money, but you don’t want to wait too long either.
Eventually, all roofs wear out and need to be replaced. You don’t want to do it too soon, because you’ll waste money. But you also don’t want to wait too long, because then you’ll end up with leaks and expensive water damage. To get the timing right, you need to know how to assess the overall condition of your roof and identify early signs of roof failure.
The national average for a new asphalt shingle roof is about $21,500, according to Remodeling’s 2010-11 Cost vs. Value Report, of which you’ll recoup $12,800 at resale (59.5%). For high-end materials, such as standing-seam metal, the cost jumps to as much as $38,000.
If most of your roof is still in good shape, a spot repair makes sense. But if there are signs the roof is wearing out, or if it is more than 20 years old, replacing it may be the smarter choice.
Be Alert to Early Signs of a Roof Leak
If you check the condition of your roof at least once a year, you should be able to plan in advance for necessary repairs. Early signs of trouble include dark areas on ceilings, peeling paint on the underside of roof overhangs, damp spots alongside fireplaces, and water stains on pipes venting the water heater or furnace.
From the outside, you can assess your roof’s health by viewing it through binoculars. Warning signs include cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing; shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering; and worn areas around chimneys, pipes, and skylights. If you find piles of grit from asphalt roof tiles in the gutters, that’s a bad sign, since the granules shield the roof from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath.
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