There are always ways to make a roof last longer no matter the conditions. Depending on a home’s location, weather conditions, surrounding vegetation, roof’s current condition and a homeowner’s knowledge about their home. These all affect how long a roof will last in the long run.
To effectively make your roof last longer, it’s important to understand that the anatomy of a roof is designed to protect the home and insulate it. It does both by forming a watertight membrane to keep debris and weather out, while allowing moisture and heat to escape from the roof’s anatomy; Specifically, the attic space, roof deck and shingles. Preventing damage to any of the home’s vital systems in the process; Includes electrical, plumbing, framing, foundation and HVAC systems. Which is why, it is what to fix first in an old house.
As a homeowner, it’s their responsibility to be aware of what are shortening your roof’s life:
- water pooling or going where it shouldn’t be going, as it will lead to leaks and damage to the home;
- fluctuating temperatures in the home, conversely excessive heat or cold in the attic;
- and any changes to the home in general that seem off, like a musty odor, walls or ceiling being misshapen, damaged landscaping, etc.
While a fully functional and well-maintained roof system will easily last an average of 20 years or more for asphalt shingles.
At roofing mission (a.k.a “BulletpRoof”), we understand that not every homeowner is aware of the roof’s responsibility to protect the home and put a blind trust towards it at times. Not saying it's bad to do that, except to treat the roof as one of your home’s vital systems like electrical, plumbing, etc. because by maintaining the roof, the homeowner protects the rest of the home’s systems and extends the life of the home in the process.
We’ll cover a number of ways to make a roof last longer:
Homeowner’s Awareness of Changes to their Home
Keep an eye on the home’s vital systems; roofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, framing and foundation. As one is affected, problems will cascade across the home, catch small problems early so they can be repaired before a large problem comes along to overwhelm you.
- Look at Your Roof Regularly - Simply see if the roof looks like it is in good shape or if something doesn’t look right. This goes for the roof, a home’s perimeter and the interior of the home, checking every room. Keeping note of any damage that needs to be looked into further, in order to catch small problems before they become big and dangerous; Some of the risks of putting off repairs on a leaky roof and the risks of not replacing an old roof.
- Check for Problems After Storms - Always after a storm, check the roof, perimeter of the home and interior of the home to rule out whether there were problems or not. Perform this check early, to ensure there isn’t any unwanted leaks or damage that wasn’t accounted for. This will make an insurance claim easier to go through and can have repairs started sooner than later.
- Use Binoculars to Get a Closer Look - After a glance, there might be an issue to look further into. Avoid going onto the roof yourself, use binoculars to scope out the problem further instead.
- Check the Attic - Again to avoid going onto the roof, physically go into the attic with a flashlight and look for visible issues. Along with smells, small animals, vents and whether the temperature is uncomfortable. These are all signs the roof is deteriorating.
- Document Roof Repairs and Changes to the Roof - Create a running folder to keep track of previous roof repairs, any pictures taken of changes to the roof with notes and any professional recommendations for when/what your roof needs to stay in good shape. This helps to keep track of the roof’s condition and make timely repairs before it is too late.
- Watch for Rising Energy Bills - This is due to the HVAC system working too hard to cool or heat the home throughout the year because the roof isn’t insulating as it should. Shortening the life of the roof, as temperature fluctuations allow moisture/water to build up on and on the underside of the roof (or roof deck); Damaging the roof and other vital home systems in the process.
- Keep an Eye out for Roof Sagging - Areas of the roof may sag, this is a bad sign that the roof’s framing is in need of repairs and the roof deck needs replacing due to water softening the boards. The earlier a homeowner catches this issue, the smaller the repair and the roof will last longer. Left alone, that will not be the case unfortunately, needing a full roof replacement in the worst case scenario.
- During a Rainy Day, Watch the Water Flow - When it's raining, take some time to watch the way the water runs off the shingles and into the gutters to get an idea of areas that might need some work or that require further information to fix. It’s possible to spot potential leaks easier when you can see where water is pooling on the roof and gutters.
- Consult a Professional - Ask for advice whenever you’re unsure as to the situation with your home and your roof. As a homeowner’s untrained eye will not catch the finer details a professional would see without any trouble.
- Get Multiple Perspectives - If a problem with a roof isn’t clear, say in the case a roof is leaking where a porch meets roof which could be having problems for a number of reasons. It’s possible a home’s siding, fascia, framing, electrical, etc. could’ve been affected so it’s important to understand the full picture from multiple professionals first.
- Research Before Repurposing Your Home - Think of it this way, a home is designed to handle so much ventilation, insulation, electrical and plumbing capacity, framing can only hold so much weight, etc. When a home is repurposed, these requirements change and will most likely overload these systems. This includes the roof, shortening its life in the process. So it's best to do some research, budget for anything to get your home up to spec and in that way the roof will last longer as a result.
Appropriate Roof Installation
By appropriate roof installation, means to have a roof installation is not only done well but suitable to meet your home’s unique conditions; location of the home, surrounding vegetation, weather conditions, climate, etc.
- Never Layer Shingles - Layering shingles shortens the life of a roof and a single layer of shingles will outlast a layered shingle roof every time, we’ve covered 64 reasons not to put shingles on top of shingles and are two layers of shingles better than one. The main reason is that by layering new shingles onto old shingles which are curled, broken or missing will allow water to accumulate above, below and in between the shingles; While trapping heat between the layers, whereas shingles are meant to stay cool and dry to ensure their longevity.
- Never Mix Roofing Materials - Meaning layering shingles on cedar shakes, tile on shingles, metal panels on shingles, etc. Each combination has incompatible installations of roofing materials is the problem here. Where cedar shakes need extra ventilation to prevent rotting so no roof deck is installed, shingles need to stay cool and flat to the roof deck or else they will lose granules and deteriorate quickly, etc. Criss-crossing installations like this only shortens the life of the roof.
- Select Higher Quality Roofing Materials - Higher quality roofing materials come with better durability, lifespans and fire ratings to protect against weather and outside elements better. With shingles, depending on the materials it could last 30 years on average as opposed to 20 years on average.
- Work with a Reputable Roofer - Proper workmanship on the roof ensures a roofer didn’t cut corners for one and that the roofing materials will remain secure for the long-term. Recommended to interview a few roofers to gauge who is the right roofer to work with, look for a proactive roofer who has everything organized.
- Select the Appropriate Roofing Material - Depending on your home’s location and its surrounding condition, investing into specific roofing materials will be the only way to make your roof last longer; Asphalt shingles last between 20-30 years on average, never select 3-tab shingles which are cheap and weak against rain and storms instead premium or architectural shingles are resistant up to 100mph winds; Cedar shakes last between 15-20 years on average, generally 6 times more expensive than shingles, and weak against storms and not fireproof. Purely an aesthetic choice; Metal roofs last between 20-50 years on average: ribbed metal last 25-40 years, standing seam lasts 30-50 years, premium metals (zinc, stainless steel, copper, etc.) will last up to 100 years. At a higher price point, they are resistant to hail, snow and wind up to 140mph; Slate is good for homes that are meant to have a long life, averaging 100 years it is costly to install and requires an engineer to ensure the home can handle the weight before beginning installation.
- Use High-Quality Flashing - Flashing are metal strips that protect sensitive joints on the roof like the chimney, air vents, roof valleys, etc. Be careful with chimneys, being the area most likely to leak, made of brick and mortar which contain lime that will erode an aluminum flashing; Instead use copper or galvanized steel. Generally, use stainless or galvanized steel to be certain erosion will not set in easily, and then caulking when applied correctly will seal the area completely.
- Roofer is Insured - During an installation, ensuring a roofer has general liability and worker’s compensation to protect your home and their crew in the event of an accident. Meaning if there are damages to the roof, its repairs will be covered, and if a worker is injured, their recovery will be covered. Saving the homeowner from having to live with an unfinished roof.
Roof Maintenance Tasks
Ensuring roof maintenance tasks are top of mind, proactively removing anything that could prevent the roof system from working correctly; gutters, roof, attic, roof framing, ventilation system, etc. This means preventing water from accumulating on the roof and gutters, making sure air ventilates enough to keep the roof and attic dry, and any potential problems in the process; Review the 24 risks of neglecting your roof maintenance for more information.
- Perform Maintenance Twice a Year - This would be the beginning of Spring and Fall before winter begins. Cleanup and minor repairs; It would involve cleaning debris, moss, mold, etc., removing overhanging branches, replacing any damaged or missing shingles and flashing, and caulking any nail holes or loose flashing. Preventing any issues with the roof before it turns into a real problem later.
- Regular Roof Inspections - Hire a professional roof inspector to check the roof at the beginning of fall for anything the homeowner has missed and for any repairs that they recommend to get done, in order to make your roof last longer. A full inspection will include a structural inspection, material inspection, workmanship inspection and home interior inspection, ensuring everything is checked.
- Re-Apply UV Coating to Shingles - A roof of 10-15 years will start to show signs of fading depending on where your home is located, once this coating has worn off completely will speed up the damage to the shingles; Shortening the life of the roof. To prevent this and temporarily extend the life of the roof, re-apply a UV coating to the shingles every few years after the shingles begin to show signs of fading.
- Regularly Applying Chemical Treatment to Cedar Shakes - Temporarily extending the life of cedar shakes by preventing insects and rot setting in sooner to break down the shingles. Keep in mind, cedar shakes don’t last as long in wetter climates as it's not possible to keep up with the constant maintenance required due to the weather.
- Avoid Power Washing - A power washer generates too much concentrated force on the roof and will break granules off of the shingles making it useless. Without its granules, shingles don’t offer any weather or UV protection for your home. This will shorten the life or end the life of many of your shingles.
- Avoid Walking on the Roof - Only walk as much as required, no more and no less. As the pressure from the weight of a person walking on the roof can lead to damaging the shingles or cause the roof deck to sag. Each of which will allow water to pool, leading to leaks that will shorten a roof’s life. Especially, concrete and clay tile roofs that are exposed to the sun will form spider cracks or become brittle enough to break under the weight.
- Manually Clean the Roof - Use a broom, leaf blower and garden hose to clean the roof of moss and debris to the best of your ability. This maintains the shingle granules for a longer period of time this way, extending the life of the shingles.
- Avoid Using Bleach to Clean Moss - Bleach is corrosive, it will eat through any damaged shingles or exposed soft roof decking, removing the shingles’ protective coating against UV rays, it will damage landscaping, and will run-off into streams and rivers poisoning the environment. An eco-friendly cleaner would suffice to spot clean moss, algae, and mold from the roof, normally spray-on and let the rain carry away the dead moss for you.
- Check Ventilation - Assess the locations of soffits and vent locations in the attic, ensuring all ventilation leads outside and is enough to keep the attic dry. Common problems here are bathroom or kitchen vents leading directly into the attic, trapping heat and moisture in the attic. This only shortens the life of the roof; Some of the risks of poor attic ventilation.
- Clean Blocked Vents and Soffits - Any blocked vents and soffits will prevent hot air and moisture from escaping the home/attic correctly. This will lead to moisture build up on the underside of the roof and trap heat that will shorten the life of the roof. Left alone, this water damage will affect the home’s vital systems; framing, electrical, foundation, plumbing and HVAC systems eventually.
- Clean the Gutters - Gutters’ responsibility is to direct water as far away from the home’s foundation as possible. When they are clogged, this water overflows back towards the house leading to flooded basements, damaged siding, fascia and roof framing damage, etc. Remove leaves, use a brush to remove grime and cut away any branches rubbing against the gutters.
- Clean Debris from Roof Valleys - Roof valleys are the lowest point between two roof planes, which makes it a sensitive roof joint and an easy place for water to pool. With debris caught in these areas, water will pool even easier and leak, while damaging the shingle granules will be eroded away. This is worse without the proper ice and water barrier and flashing installed in these areas, or else water will leak quite quickly.
- Remove Piles of Leaves - Leaves when left alone will trap moisture, and surrounding low trees around your home will naturally create piles of leaves on your roof. Left long enough, these leaves will help water to accumulate either leading to leaks or helping the leaves decompose into soil to help weeds grow, rooting underneath shingles and pulling them up. Clean up the leaves with a roof leak rake, a garden hose, leaf blower or a telescoping pole with a soft car washing brush. Otherwise hire someone to take care of this for you.
- Cut Away Overhanging Branches - These branches in the event of a storm can fall down and leaves are more likely to fall onto the roof as well. Removing these branches will save you cleanup maintenance tasks with the roof and gutters and prevent you from having to deal with a branch falling through the roof in the middle of the night. In the event that an emergency repair is needed, a patch may or may not seal the area completely, potentially causing leaks.
- Dislodge Snow from the Roof - Never scrape the ice as it will damage the roof, instead breakup built up snow during breaks between storms especially within 3 to 4 feet of the gutters. This prevents ice dams from working its way under the shingles, allowing water to enter the roof deck and shorten the life of the roof in the process.
- Replace Missing/Worn Out Nails - If nails or fasteners aren’t outlasting your roof and are falling out, that’s a bad sign; Either these nails are of lower quality or there are issues with the roof deck becoming soft that need addressing.
- Replace Any Damaged/Bald Shingles - Spot replace shingles that are curling, broken, missing or are missing the majority of their granules, as these shingles are no longer protecting the roof. Replacing them will ensure the roof will last a little longer.
Timely Roof Repairs
Timely roof repairs are key to extending the life of a roof, completed early enough the costs are minimal and the roof doesn’t take on additional damage from neglect. The name of the game being to not have any major repairs that would disrupt a homeowner’s life.
- Prevent Regular Algae and Moss Growth - Have a zinc or copper strip installed at the peak of the roof, allowing the metal particles to run down the roof when it rains and prevent organic growth from taking root. This prevents water from accumulating in areas where moss grows and not allow water to get under the shingles at the same time.
- Install an Efficient Attic Ventilation System - Highly recommended for homeowners who live in colder climates and warmer climates alike, having an efficient attic ventilation system helps guarantee ventilation. This means installing active ventilation systems that are constantly working to help moisture and air to escape; As opposed to passive air vents that provide minimal ventilation depending on where the home is located.
- Insulate Cathedral Ceilings - An uninsulated cathedral ceiling with lighting fixtures and where the roof places meet will cause moisture buildup (in the fixture and on the underside of the roof) and ice dams to form on top of the roof due to the fluctuating temperature. When ice melts, refreezes and drips, it will dig its way under the shingles until water is leaking into the home, and moisture buildup in the fixtures/roof’s underside will shorten the life of the roof.
- Insulate the Attic - An insulated attic saves ¼ of a home’s heat, lasts over 40 years and easily makes up for its cost in energy bill savings. Aside from that, it will regulate the temperature of the attic, preventing moisture to build up on the underside of the roof that will shorten the life of the roof; Consequently this will damage electrical, framing, HVAC and plumbing systems over time. As a side effect, it will allow nail holes to allow water to leak through due to the thermal contraction and expansion of the roof beyond what is permitted.
- Repair and Realign Gutters - Ensure the gutters are in working order, when shingles allow water to run-off into the gutters and it carries the water away from the house. Otherwise, when the water is being diverted towards the home or roof, then the gutters need repairs as soon as possible. Any water that overflows or flows back towards the roof will damage the roof and shorten its life.
- Repair Flashing Around Roof Protrusions - A roof protrusion includes skylights, chimney, air vents, plumbing, etc., anything that vertically sticks out of the roof. These roof protrusions lead directly into the attic and home. As a result, they require properly installed flashing otherwise they will leak, damaging the roof deck and the protection underneath the shingles; Shortening the life of the roof.
- Replace Any Damaged Pipe Boots - Pipe boots are normally made of a neoprene seal that will break down from the sun’s UV rays, cracks in these seals will allow water to run along this pipe into the home; Into a closet, kitchen, bathroom, etc.
- Repair a Damaged Chimney - Chimneys are usually prime suspects for leaks from our experience, repair their bricks and mortar, clean the chimney of soot to reveal any other underlying issues and nail the flashing down if it is loose. These leaks often spread quickly from the chimney into the roof deck and home, so it's best to repair them to ensure your roof lasts longer.
Emergency Roof Protection
If all else fails, having emergency protocols in place will prevent the homeowner from becoming stressed from an expensive out-of-pocket expense in an emergency situation.
- Fortify the Roof - In areas where wind is hazardous, or there are regular storm events, it's best to fortify the roof; 3 stage fortification includes sealing decking with tape or sealant, installing ring shank nails to resist wind uplift and locking down a roof’s edges with metal flashing. Areas with hurricanes, require single layer metal roofing and don’t allow multiple layers of shingles for the homeowner’s safety.
- Insurance Coverage - Regular roof inspections will allow insurance provider’s to provide a fair assessment on insuring their roof in the case of an accident or storm event. Allowing the insurance provider to replace your roof in these cases, in a way extending the life of your roof.
- Manufacturer’s Warranty - A Manufacturer’s warranty ensures specific damaged materials are replaced if they do not last as long as specified. Before an installation is completed, ensure you ask for the manufacturer’s warranty and what a homeowner should know about it. Normally it would include a material warranty, pro rated enhanced warranty and contractor’s workmanship warranty; For example, 3-tab asphalt shingles come with a 25 year warranty, architectural 30 year warranty that’s pro rated 10 years after coverage ends. Further, if a roofer uses all components from one manufacturer the homeowner receives a 50 year non pro rated warranty and contractor’s workmanship warranty.
- Partial Repair with Spray Foam Roofing - It is meant to protect a part of the roof so that it is not necessary to replace a roof immediately, in the case a part of the roof is damaged. It's a mixture of polyol resin and a isoycanate that together forms a durable airtight seal. Temporary patch to extend the life of the roof.
- Last Resort, Coat Roof with Elastomeric Paint - This option will void manufacturer’s warranty, insurance coverage and make further repairs an out of pocket expense for the homeowner, you have been warned. As a last resort, coat the roof with elastomeric paint that will seal any small defects or holes in the roof for at least a few years.
Conclusions About Ways to Make a Roof Last Longer
By following these ways to make a roof last longer, it can easily add another 5-10 years depending on the roof’s current condition, the amount of wear it takes from the outside elements and a homeowner’s diligence.
Always, be aware of changes to the home and roof. Anytime there is a chance of water accumulation, water isn’t draining where it should be, or there is something suspicious in the home. Do some research or investigate it further.
Neglecting the problem will only result in heartache in these situations; Reason being, the roof protects all of the home’s vital systems like electrical, plumbing, framing, foundation and HVAC, and can disrupt all of them.
Finally, by all means keep a record and consult a professional whenever you’re unsure as they will most likely catch anything the homeowner has missed. Preventing a situation of roof neglect because the homeowner was not informed as such.