When is it time to replace that old roof?
Cracked, curled or missing shingles are a good indication your roof has reached its expiration date. But those aren't the only warning signs.
An accumulation of asphalt shingle granules in your gutter can indicate severe wear, and stained walls or ceilings often mean you have water damage, which might be the result of a faulty roof. The same goes for cracked paint and peeling wallpaper. Worn-out shingles can allow water or melting snow into your attic or your living spaces.
Use binoculars to examine your roof, and look in your attic at the underside of your decking for signs of damage. If your initial inspection reveals problems, get a contractor’s input on whether it’s time for repair or replacement.
If a new roof is on the horizon, our 10 smart moves can help you navigate this costly and sometimes complicated project. Making the right choices can add curb appeal and increase your home’s value if you intend to sell soon.
1. Add a layer or start from scratch?
Your first decision: whether to put a new roof on top of your old one or whether to tear off and start from scratch. This decision will impact how much you spend on the project. Aside from your own preference, roof strength, shingle weight and local building codes determine whether you can add another layer. Usually no more than two layers are allowed.
First, check to make sure you won’t void the new roof’s warranty if you add a second layer. Metal roofing is an exception — it can be installed over asphalt. Tear-offs require more labor, which means it will cost more.
Consumer Reports says a complete replacement costs $100 or more per 100 square feet. Tear-offs are also messier, which can mean more nails and debris in your yard, and they have higher waste disposal costs.
However, starting from scratch will help you identify and repair rot, water damage and termite damage.
2. Performance matters
Next, assess how your current roof has held up to time and the elements.
Start by thinking about what, if anything, you dislike about your roof, says Todd Miller, president of Classic Metal Roofing Systems in Piqua, Ohio.
Are you replacing it sooner than you expected? Is your house too hot? Do weather extremes batter your roof?
Adjusting attic ventilation and choosing the right roofing material can solve your problems.
Where you live impacts this choice. While asphalt shingles can be used in cold climates, they can wear quickly in places that are warm year-round. Fiberglass shingles are a better choice. Metal is another good option because it can reflect sunlight and allow snow and ice to slide off. Concrete tiles withstand extreme cold well because they resist cracking, but many roof structures are not strong enough to support them.
3. Choose the right material
There are six types of shingles: asphalt, wood, slate, tile, metal and composite.
Asphalt shingles are the most popular. They come in numerous colors and styles, are the most cost-effective and can last 30-plus years. But they may blow off in high winds.
Wood shingles and wood shakes have aesthetic appeal for some homeowners, but many brands carry the lowest fire rating, and some building departments don’t allow them because of flammability concerns. Average lifetime is 30 to 40 years. This material should not be used on low-pitched roofs.
Slate is low maintenance and durable, but it’s expensive to install. Fake slate weighs less and costs less but can also be less durable than the real thing.
Tile shingles, like those often seen on Spanish-style homes, can be made of clay or concrete. They are heavy but can last at least 50 to 75 years.
Metal roofs can last 40 to 100 years. They can be made to look like shingle, shake, slate or tile roofing but may be noisy when it rains.
Composite shingles can mimic the appearance of pricier shingles. They’re made of plastic and are less expensive, yet they can still last for decades.
4. Consider energy efficiency
Another factor to consider is energy efficiency.
"There are Energy Star-rated roofs available today which reflect radiant heat, keeping your home naturally cooler in the summer," says Todd Miller, president of Classic Metal Roofing Systems in Piqua, Ohio. "Many of the Energy Star-rated roofs are metal products with special coatings that reflect radiant heat even in dark colors."
These roofs can reduce energy costs by 20%, he says. Specially manufactured tile and asphalt roofs can also provide significant energy savings. You’re most likely to see a difference in your energy bills from a reflective roof if you live in a hot and sunny climate, your roof is not shaded, your attic is not well insulated and you run your air conditioner frequently, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A federal tax credit of 10% on material costs for Energy Star roofs can help offset what you pay. The tax credit applies to metal roofs with pigmented coatings and asphalt roofs with cooling granules. It also applies to insulation. The tax credit maxes out at $500 (10% of $5,000).
5. Don’t sweat the warranty
Under normal conditions, a new roof can last decades, depending on the material, if it’s installed and vented correctly, says Josh Noel, owner of Quality Roofing in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The National Roofing Contractors Association says long warranties are sometimes used as marketing tools. Don’t choose your roof based on the warranty, but on the quality of the roofing materials.
Indeed, a warranty is not a prediction of life expectancy. The number shouldn't lull you into a false sense of security, as the warranty covers manufacturer’s defects, but normal weathering — which is excluded from many warranties — typically causes a shingle to fail sooner.
You also need a labor warranty from your contractor. It might range from one to 10 years.
For potential claims, keep the written warranty, contractor’s invoice and contract, and proof that you were the homeowner when the shingles were installed or proof of warranty transfer.
There are significant differences in the quality of roof warranties. The more the warranty covers, the more confident the manufacturer is in the quality of its product.
6. Choose the right contractor
When choosing a contractor, first find one who installs the shingle type you’ve selected.
Then, see how long the contractor has been in business, says Josh Noel, owner of Quality Roofing in Colorado Springs, Colo., and be sure the contractor is in good standing with the local building department. Make sure the company has many references and insurance, and check its Better Business Bureau rating.
"Be sure you get a detailed contract mapping out everything they are doing," Noel says. It should include inspecting the wood deck, getting permits, cleaning your yard, dragging for nails, protecting your landscaping, and protecting walls and driveways.
Make sure the contract addresses who is responsible for any damage to your home and what is being inspected and replaced.
7. Check your attic ventilation
Proper attic ventilation is a key component of a good roof. You should have intake vents located in roof overhangs and exhaust vents at or near the roof’s peak, says Todd Miller of Classic Metal Roofing Systems in Piqua, Ohio. If insulation has migrated to block your intake vents, it needs to be cleaned out.
Proper attic ventilation also reduces your air-conditioning bills in the summer and, in northern climates, reduces the chance of ice dams in winter. When heat travels through your attic to your roof deck, it melts the snow on your roof from underneath. The melted snow runs into the cold overhangs on your house and refreezes as ice.
The solution, Miller says, is good attic ventilation and good insulation on the attic floor. By keeping the heat out of the attic and allowing an outlet for any heat that does enter the attic, the roof deck won’t get heated and ice dams won’t form.
8. Fix or replace related items
The project, of course, is bigger than the roof itself.
Water-damaged fascia and soffit areas should be repaired now. Because they aren’t accessible when the roof is on, if you repair them later, it can damage the roof and cost three to four times as much. Damaged or improperly installed flashing should be replaced to prevent water damage. Wall flashing is the biggest source of leaks.
Deteriorated siding may also need replacement to securely tie in your new roof, and you may want to replace your chimney cap.
Check the flashing around skylights or consider removing them altogether when you have your roof replaced. They tend to let heat and cold through and can leak.
9. Oversee the installation process
Though you aren’t an expert on roofing, you should be involved in the installation process. Talk to the roofing crew on the first day to establish good communications and make sure your expectations are clear.
For example, politely explain that you expect the yard to be cleaned up at the end of each work day. Don’t assume the crew has memorized every provision of your contract. Keep an eye on your roof as it’s being installed and ask questions. Resolve any disagreements by contacting the manufacturer or your local building department.
If they do a good job, show your gratitude by recommending them to others.
10. Maintain your new roof
Maintaining your roof properly means catching problems when they are minor. It’s worth the trouble because it can help increase your roof’s lifespan. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends checking your roof twice a year, in the fall and spring. Here are the tasks you should perform:
Look for any loose material or cracks in the flashing at the base of chimneys, skylights and vents.
Clean your gutters to prevent debris from accumulating on your roof.
Trim back tree branches so they don’t touch your roof. They can scrape against shingles and wear them out prematurely.
Replace any missing or torn shingles and secure any loose shingles.
Clean any moss or algae.
Clear any debris from the roof. In addition to being unsightly, it can cause water to sit on your roof and speed up deterioration.
This article originally appeared on Interest.com.