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How to tell if you need a new roof

Here are the warning signs that you need roof repair

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Written by Jonathan Trout

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    Suburban home with perfect roof

    Severe weather, extreme temperatures and old age all contribute to the wear and tear of your roof. A damaged roof can cause leaks, decrease your home's value or even collapse. Regular inspections will prevent minor issues from turning into major ones and can prevent you from prematurely investing in a new roof. Here’s how to tell if it’s time for a new roof or if you just need to make some repairs.

    3 signs you need a new roof

    When trying to determine if you need a new roof, ask yourself the following: How old is your roof? Does it look worn or have stains? When was the last time it was inspected? Did you just get hit with severe weather? Have you noticed a leak or water stains on your ceiling? Proactively answering these questions will help you decide whether you should repair or replace your roof.

    Here are some major signs that it’s time to replace your roof:

    1. It’s old
      Age matters when considering a roof replacement. A roof can last anywhere from 20 to 80 years, depending on its material. Asphalt shingles last around 20 years, at which point they start to curl if your roof is not properly ventilated. Look back through your home inspection report (from when you bought your house) to see how old your roof is.
    2. It has dark streaks on it
      Dark streaks are caused by airborne algae sticking to your roof over time. The streaks won’t necessarily harm your roof, but they certainly don’t look good. Treat the stained areas with a mixture of water and bleach, using your low-pressure garden hose to gently rinse off the mixture.
    3. It fails inspection
      The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends a bi-annual spot-check in addition to checking after severe weather hits. Access the roof’s exterior using a ladder, and go inside your attic to look for interior damage or weak spots from inside leaks.

      During this self-inspection look for:

      • Shingles that are buckling or curling
      • Bald spots
      • Loose material around chimneys and pipes
      • Shingle granules in your gutters
      • Soft spots on the roof interior indicating rotted plywood

    Your roof should undergo professional inspection every three years in addition to your bi-annual self-inspection.

    Man repairing shingles on a roof

    How to repair your roof

    How to DIY a shingle repair

    If your roof is less than 20 years old, but you still are considering repairs, make sure you do your research. You can often patch or repair a roof without having to replace the whole thing.

    If you’re confident in your DIY abilities, you can replace damaged shingles and underlay material yourself. Here’s how:

    • Locate the damaged shingle, lift it up with your fingers and pry out the nail with the back of your hammer
    • Remove any old roofing cement residue with a wet rag and paint scraper
    • Round off the back corners of the new shingle with a sharp knife or box cutter
    • Slide the new shingle into place and secure it with roofing nails into each upper corner
    • Cover the nailheads with roofing cement

    You can buy shingles, roofing cement and nails at any home improvement store. Take a piece of your old shingle with you so an employee can point you towards the correct shingle.

    How to find a roofer

    If you think you need to replace your entire roof, research and find a reputable contractor. Make sure their license is authentic and up-to-date. Pay attention to whether their references recommend them without hesitation. You can also check sites like HomeAdvisor or Thumbtack for verified reviews of contractors in your zip code.

    Bottom line: Do I need a new roof?

    To prevent getting a new roof prematurely, take the time to do bi-annual inspections. With proper upkeep and regular inspections, you can stay on top of issues that could cause further damage to your home, and you might even be able to avoid buying a new roof. And while you may be able to complete some repairs, it never hurts to call a professional.

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