A home is one of the biggest investments most people will ever make, and the roof is a large portion of that investment. In fact, according to Angie's List, the average cost for a replacement roof is between $4,900 and $14,100. Given the fact that most homeowners do not have this type of cash just sitting around, it would make sense that knowing everything you can about your roof is key to being prepared for such a big expense.
How Long Do Roofs Last?
How long a roof lasts depends on the material chosen. Slate roofs, used by homeowners for centuries, can last 50 years or more, while asphalt shingles last about 20 years. Obviously, the fact that slate is an actual stone helps it stand up to the test of time and the elements better than a composite material like asphalt shingles.
Also, asphalt shingles come in a variety of quality grades, some lasting longer than others. When purchasing shingles, you will often see two shingles that look quite similar, yet that are priced very differently. The more expensive version is probably of a higher quality and, likely, comes with a longer warranty. Which version you should buy for your home depends on your finances and how long you expect to live in the home.
What Affects the Life Expectancy of Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt shingles' single biggest threat is the weather. Mother Nature likes to wreak havoc on your roof in a variety of ways, each more insidious than the next. In the summer, the sun spends time attacking your roof with its UV rays. Over the months and years, the UV rays wear down your roof and decrease its efficiency. In the fall, strong winds can push a roof to its limits. The International Building Code requires that shingles stay put in winds up to 110 mph. If yours do not, you need to call a professional for a closer look.
Winter is one of the worst times for your roof. Between the heavy snow loads that your roof must support and the damaging ice storms that can weigh down trees and other structures, your roof has its work cut out for it. This turbulent time is followed closely by spring with its heavy rains and wild temperature swings.
Finally, the life expectancy of a roof can also be diminished if the previous installers did a subpar job. Only a properly installed roof will live up to its full potential.
How to Check on the Health of Your Current Roof
Of course, the only way to know the health of your roof is to actually take a look at it. You can do this from the ground by walking the perimeter of your home. You are looking for broken pieces of shingles hidden in the foundation plantings, which would indicate that your shingles are growing brittle with age. When shingles are first installed, they are pliable and soft so they can conform to the shape of your roof. As they age, they harden and eventually break.
You are also looking for a gravel-like substance in the splash guards, the cement cache basins where the water from your home's gutter system empties. Asphalt shingles start their life with a gravely surface, which helps protect them from most of what Mother Nature throws at them. Over time, however, this gravely surface wears off and is washed into your home's gutters and down into those splash guards.
Could You Have Water Damage from Older Shingles
There are multiple ways to check for water damage. If you are outside your home, climb onto your roof and take a walk around. You are looking for any holes in your roof as well as any soft spots in it. There is a layer of plywood underneath the shingles that should provide a sturdy surface to walk on. If it feels loose, soft, or bouncy underfoot, chances are high that it has some water damage.
If you are inside, you can head up to your attic. As the underside of your roof, your attic's ceiling may hold some clues to potential water damage in your home. First, look into the space without the lights on. If you see any pinpoints of light, it may be a tiny hole in your roof that is letting the sunshine in. Sadly, if the sun can get in, so can water.
Next, turn on the lights and look for standing water, damp insulation, wet drywall, and dark stains on the wood, which would indicate previous water damage.
Mold: What You Need to Know
When water has entered your home, you have suddenly transitioned from a needing-a-new-roof issue to a fighting-mold issue. In fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that mold can grow in as little as 48 hours after water enters the home. It must be removed and the area dried immediately. After you have dealt with the water cleanup, you need to call a professional roofer and get your roof prepared before more water comes in the same entry point.
If you do not know how long the water has been sitting or if you already see black mold growing, you can do one of two things. If the spot is small, you can remove all the surrounding material (insulation, drywall) and clean the area with bleach, allowing it to dry thoroughly before making any repairs. If the area is large or if you are not comfortable with this step, you need to call a mold remediation company. Whichever method you use to clean the mold, you need to act quickly and repair the roof as soon as it is complete.
Your home's roof is an expensive item to ignore. Its sole job is to protect your family, your belongings, and your home itself from the elements. Taking the time to understand it and to monitor its health is a good investment. Contact a residential roofing company for more information.