Clearly, it's time for a new roof if yours starts leaking and can't be patched. There are, however, several more subtle signs of a problem. If you can spot them, you can start looking at new roof options (and searching for a roofing contractor) before you experience a major failure that leaves you with water damage.
1. Your roof is old.
The average life of an asphalt shingle roof is 20 to 25 years, but architectural shingles can extend the roof's life to between 25 and 30 years. When properly cared for, wood shake shingles will also last about 30 years. Metal roofs have a life span of 50 to 70 years, and clay has a life of 50 years or more. Slate can easily make it 100 years.
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No matter what type of roof you have, its useful life will reach its end at some point and it'll be time for a roof replacement. Though there are some roof repair techniques you can try — like patching an old asphalt roof — other problems are likely to crop up if the age of your roof is 20 plus years.
2. The neighbors are doing it.
If several of your neighbors start getting a new roof, it may be time to consider getting one too. This is not about keeping up with the Joneses, however. When builders create new housing developments, they generally build most of the houses at the same time and from the same building materials. As such, the roofs on these houses all reach the end of their durability at about the same time. If your neighbor needs a new roof, you could be next.
3. You have shiny runoff and gutters.
When they're made, asphalt shingles get coated with ceramic granules that provide some stability and protection from the elements. It's normal for a few of these granules to shake themselves loose, but a mass exodus indicates a problem. If you see sparkles in your gutters and the water that drains from them, it's probably time to replace your old roof.
4. You can see the sun.
If you climb up in the attic to retrieve something stored there and notice sunlight peeking through the ceiling, it's time for a new roof. If a gap in the roof is big enough to let in light, it's big enough to let in water as well. Even if you're not yet experiencing any leaks that you know of, it's time to act now.
5. There is sagging and drooping.
Roofs should not sag. If you look at your roof and see any sagging, it's a sign that the structural integrity of the roof is compromised. In this case, you need a new roof and may need to replace the support structures beneath it.
Ceilings shouldn't sag either. If your ceiling starts to droop, you likely had a leak at some point or even a pool of water above the ceiling now. Eventually, the weight of the water will force the ceiling to give way, making a huge mess and possibly hurting anyone unlucky enough to be underneath it. Check the roof for leaks if your ceiling sags. If you can't find any roof leaks, check your plumbing.
6. You see curling and buckling.
Sometimes, roofing shingles curl upward. At other times, they curl downward and create a little cup. Both indicate a problem, as do cracks in the shingles. Curled shingles also increase your odds of storm damage. High winds have a much easier time lifting curled shingles than flat ones. If a curled shingle goes, it can take other shingles with it.
7. There is chipping and peeling paint.
Metal roofs are painted for aesthetics and to protect the roof from the elements. Chipping, cracking, and peeling paint offers very little protection, however. If the paint on your roof has seen better days, you may be able to repaint it. If you know that the roof is at or past its expected life span, though, it may just be time for a new roof.
8. There are shingles in the yard.
Hitting a roof shingle with your lawn mower is quite a jarring experience. If it happens once, it's probably not a big deal, but if you're finding lots of shingles in your yard after a windy day or spotting missing shingles, it's time to replace the entire roof. Roofing materials that come loose and fall off are definitely trying to send you a message.
9. You see moss, mold, and mushrooms.
If your roof looks as green and lush as your garden, you have an issue. Moss, mold, mushrooms, or other fungi on a roof aren't just aesthetic problems. These plants can indicate roof damage that is allowing water to collect there and nourish them.
Even if you don't have a problem yet, these plants can dig into the roof and create one. Moss can also hold moisture against your shingles continuously and damage the material's protective coating (as applicable). Remove plants growing on your roof as quickly as possible after you notice them and then inspect your roof.
10. You have high energy bills.
Your roof does more than just keep out rain and snow. It also helps to keep hot and cool air in your home from escaping. There can be lots of reasons for an increase in your energy bill, but if you're having trouble finding the source of the problem, have your roof inspected. The roof might check out fine, but it could be past its prime and leaking air that you don't want to lose.
11. There are separating seams and tears.
Flat roofs are a little different and have their own unique issues. It's time for a new flat roof if the seams on the roof are lifting or separating. Tears and holes in a flat roof also indicate that it's time for a new roof, as do standing water puddles. After several years of sun exposure, flat roofs sometimes fade and crack as well. Fading isn't a major concern but cracking is.
12. Your roofer says so.
We're not talking about fly-by-night storm chasers, but you should believe a trusted local professional if they tell you to replace the roof. If, however, someone randomly knocks on your door and tells you they did a roof inspection without your knowledge, it's most likely a roofing scam.
If you or someone else you know does notice an issue with your roof, however, call a trusted company or two to take a look. If a reputable roofer tells you your roof is shot, it's probably shot. A second opinion never hurts, though.