Do you know the age of your roof? If you don’t know, it’s time to check. Roofing isn’t immortal—it has a life expectancy, and depending on certain factors, the lifespan of your roof might be shorter than you think. An aging roof also introduces a number of risks that could cause structural damage to the rest of your home.
As a homeowner, you need to know how long a roof will last. Here’s exactly what you need to know.
Roof longevity depends on the materials.
Since there are a variety of roofing materials, there is no single correct answer to the question of roof life expectancy. It all depends on the composition of your roof. Here is the average lifespan of common roof types:
• 3-tab Asphalt Shingles – Economy asphalt shingles will last around 15-18 years, while higher quality shingles can last between 20-40 years.
• Fiberglass Asphalt Shingles – Since these are thicker and more expensive, they last up to 50 years or more.
• Fiber cement shingles – Will last up to 25 years, sometimes longer.
• Metal – Copper, steel, and like metals will last at least 50 years.
• Slate – Can last between 50-100 years with proper maintenance.
• Ceramic Tile – Usually made of clay, terracotta, or concrete (or a mixture); clay and terra cotta usually lasts between 40-60 years, while concrete can last 50-100 years with proper upkeep.
• Cedar Shakes – Made from pressure-treated wood or cedar; last about 30 years.
• Composite – Will last between 30-50 years with proper installation and maintenance.
• Flat Roofs (Elastomeric Membrane or EPDM) – Most manufacturers guarantee 10-15 years, but the typical lifespan is 40-50 years.
Now, the major determinant of lifespan for each of these listed materials is maintenance. Even if you have something low maintenance on your roof, such as asphalt shingles, you still need to check it regularly, because asphalt shingles are less wind-resistant than heavier materials. Wood shingles are insect and rot resistant, but they do need periodic maintenance. Metal materials are excellent for withstanding heavy rain and high winds for prolonged periods, but they are susceptible to dents and dings from flying debris.
Understanding the weaknesses of various roofing materials will help you stay ahead of any age-related issues.
Where does the damage come from?
Most of the time, the damage to roofing will be due to the weather. Durable roofing materials, such as slate, metal, and tile are best for outlasting harsh weather conditions, but every type of roofing will eventually start to break down.
High winds, for instance, has a tendency to “lift” shingles up and rip them away from the roof. Losing shingles to strong winds opens up gaps that let water and other dangers into the vulnerable internal structure of your home. This can result in water damage and other issues, like mold. Other risks from high wind, such as fallen tree branches and thrown debris, can puncture the roof or leave cracks in the flashing around the chimney.
Snow, ice, and melting snow can cause cracking. This usually happens when water gets into existing cracks, freezes, and then expands the crack even further.
Extreme temperatures, which seem to have become the new normal for most of North America, also wreak havoc on your roof. Warmer environments limit durability, especially when temperatures are erratic. Asphalt shingles, for example, are designed to expand and contract as the temperatures change throughout the seasons, but when you have near freezing temperatures followed by unseasonably warm temperatures, the shingles cannot adapt. In short, splits, cracking, and peeling happen more regularly.
Other factors also determine roof lifespan.
While weather is the primary cause of damage, other factors contribute to the overall life of your roof. Here is a list of other conditions affecting roof longevity:
• Color – Darker roofing absorbs more heat, shortening the life expectancy. Always opt for lighter colored roofing materials to reflect heat.
• Angle of slope – Higher pitched roofing lasts longer.
• Orientation – Roofs that face south get more sunlight. Prolonged heat exposure decreases durability.
• Ventilation – Poor ventilation in attic space can lead to damage and thus a lowered lifespan.
• Installation – Unprofessional, sloppy installation lessens roof life.
• Layers – Roofing installed over existing materials do not last as long.
• Quality – Cheap or “economy” materials have a shorter lifespan than quality roofing.
What signs show it is time for roof repair?
Any professional roofer will tell you that as long as you treat your roofing well with maintenance and TLC, it will last longer than you expect it would. Any time your region experiences harsh weather conditions, such as high winds, hail, or even torrential downpours, you should inspect your roof for damages or signs of premature failure. Look to make sure that shingles haven’t lifted and are not curling up. Check for cracks around the flashing, fascia, and soffits.
Depending on the roofing materials, you will need to check for cracking or chipping. Slate and ceramic tiles can be damaged by debris. Slate tiles will flake from sun damage. Rusting, dents, tears, and like issues around skylights, chimneys, and vents might cause leaking. Beware of moss and mold, as well, since this means moisture isn’t drying properly.
How long does roofing last? It depends on weather and maintenance. As you now know, roofing materials have various expected lifespans, but whether that life expectancy is reached or not depends largely on what you do. While you cannot always predict the troubles weather can bring, you can be proactive in maintaining your roof to ensure it continues to protect your household.
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Want to learn more about whole home remodeling in PA? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Remodeling Your Luxury Home.