Should I Repair or Replace My Roof?

Whether to repair or replace your roof is a very common question. The answer is “It Depends!” I really don’t like the fact that in the roofing industry, many roofing contractors are pro-replace, so they will always lean to replace. I like to think that it is a case by case basis. I have met customers that say they don’t want to repair, and I have met customers that say they don’t want to replace, right out of the gate. So I am stuck with the great responsibility of delivering the news of “You really should replace this roof!”, or better yet, “Let’s get a few questions answered, and then you (customer) can decide which way to go.” Most of the time, this question will come up when there is a problem with the roof currently. Problem like a roof leak, or selling the home and there are problems with the roof currently. There are many factors to consider and your situation is the most important factor.

Some Questions

The first questions to ask are “How old is my roof currently?” and “What is the life expectancy of my current roof?” Once these two questions are answered, then you can go a little deeper into really deciding which is best for you. Other questions you need to ask are:

  • Are you selling soon, in the process of selling, buying, or staying in your home for a while? Do you know how long? Might consider new roof with a sale or purchase. A new roof usually helps a home sell quicker. Won’t necessarily add value, but that is another topic.
  • Have you gotten any correspondence about your roof from your homeowners insurance company? Many insurance companies want you to replace your roof, no matter what, after 15 or 20 years. Sometimes you can extend them by having the roof inspected. Read this about Roof Inspections
  • Are you constantly having roof leaks pop up? This is a good one to really look at, because sometimes getting a new roof is not the answer. I have seen many cases where the “roof leaks” were at places that will continue even if the roof gets replaced. Like stucco on walls cracking, windows leaking, design flaws, etc.
  • Do you just not like the look of the roof? This one can’t be fixed, except by replacement. Maybe cleaning or tuning up, but this is strictly up to the owner of the home or building.
  • Has there been significant damage from a storm or wind event? Even if the insurance company is involved, questions need to be answered. There may not be “enough” damage to warrant a new roof.
  • How much does it cost (today) to replace the roof with a similar roof? Depending on the cost of repairs and cost of replacement, this could sway the decision.
  • If there are repairs on the table, how much repair work is needed? Does the 25% rule kick in?
  • How old is the roof and what is the life expectancy of the roof currently?

Once you have answered a few of these questions, then it’s time to figure out the way to go.

2 Scenarios

Scenario 1:

Shingle roof with a life expectancy of 25 years (realistic) and the roof is 21 years old. Now, that 25 year number is just a number. The roof could last 30+ years depending on many factors. Either way, this scenario is tipping the scales to replace. Especially, if you are faced with a roof leak or roof repair of some sort and are considering putting money out for the repair. Now it would be wise to get a price to reroof, then consider putting the money to repair into the new roof. If you then choose to repair, at least now you know the new roof is coming up in a few years. Again, the roof could last a few years longer than expected.

Scenario 2:

Concrete tile roof with a life expectancy of 30 years (again realistic and conservative), and the roof is currently 18 years old. So, you have some broken tiles and maybe a roof leak or some rotten fascia. Technically, there is still 12 or so years of life expectancy of this roof. So now the repairs are going to take you a little farther (in theory) in this scenario. Now if you are constantly dealing with roof leaks due to a less than stellar installation, you may consider a new roof at this time. It’s up to you.

The rule of thumb I always fall back on is the time value of money rule. If the new roof costs $15,000 and the useful life expectancy is 25 years, then it is roughly costing $600 a year to “own” that roof. So if you are spending more than $600 a year, and have been, then maybe it would be a good financial decision to “invest” in a new roof. If a repair now will cost $3,500 and there is still 5-10 years of life left in the roof, then this would add $350 – $700 per year to the cost. Currently, we look at shingle roofs from around $9,000 to around $90,000 for single family homes.

However, looking at a tile roof. A tile roof of this same size may run in the neighborhood of $50,000. Now the yearly figure for a 30 year life expectancy is around $1,670. Currently we look at concrete tile roofs from $25,000 to around $300,000.

So in scenario 1 the roof is already $12,600 into the $15,000 price to replace. So if repairs exceed the remaining balance, then replace could be a wise decision. If you still need a while due to budget constraints, then repair is the answer in this scenario.

Scenario 2, the roof is $30,060 into the current budget of $50,000. Still $20,000 away, that is quite a bit of repairs. So this is where I was saying that repair would get you farther. I guess, that really all depends on what needs repaired, right?

So now you are educated somewhat on how to make a decision, or even what questions to ask or get answered in order to start the process of deciding. These numbers are fictitious, but should help you get an idea of the process of making that decision. If it is up to the roofing contractor, then they will tell you whatever they are set up for.

Remember that the first ten years of a new roof are almost always problem free. Though it doesn’t matter how well the roof was installed, Mother Nature will wreak havoc on a roof. So maybe these numbers are a little out of wack. Let’s factor in a curve and only figure in 75% of the roof life expectancy and be able to count on repairs in the last 25% of life. Now the numbers are a little more. $800 per year for shingles, and $2,225 for concrete tile. This will get the new roof paid for in 3/4 of the time and sway the decision more in favor of replacement. All in all it is still up to the client what they want to do. The smaller amount may be easier to come by right now and just get by for a couple of years until the remodel is done, or the job changes, or the house is sold, or whatever is your specific situation.

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