If you take a lot of pride in keeping a roof over your head, it can feel like a supreme insult when it starts leaking.
It happens to any homeowner if you live in a home long enough. Roofs don’t last forever. Eventually you have to repair or replace it, which typically will set you back several thousand dollars, if not considerably more. So if you’re in the market for a new roof or you need to get yours fixed, at least you can take comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Repairs vs. Replacing a Roof: When is Which Better?
If you want a general rule to follow, repairing verses replacing a roof often comes down to the age of the roof, how it’s performing and even how it looks.
A roof with asphalt shingles, for instance, is expected to last 20 to 25 years. If you’re in year three, and there are some loose shingles or a leak, hopefully a roof repair is all you’ll need. If your roof looks like a mess, is leaking and it’s been 19 years since it was installed, obviously, replacing it is going to be the way to go.
“Repairing a roof can seem like the more cost-effective option, and most times it is. However, the older a roof gets, the better it is to have the entire system replaced,” says John Willmer, a marketing manager at Fortress Roofing & Exteriors in Calgary, Alberta.
He says that if your shingles are cracked and dried out, and it almost looks like your roof is wavy or there are dips in the structure, then “this is a major sign of roof decay, which can weaken your roof’s structure and limits the amount of weight it can support. This can lead to branches or storms causing incredible amounts of damage to your roof or lead to your roof caving in.”
Of course, whether you replace or repair a roof also often depends on your homeowners insurance policy. Generally, you will have to pay for a new roof yourself if it has aged itself to death. Insurance policies will typically pay for a new roof or repairs if a windstorm, hail or some other natural disaster has damaged the roof, or something surreal has happened, like a small aircraft has hit it.
But normal aging leading to a roof needing repairs or replacement? You’re probably on your own.
Costs of Repairing or Replacing a Roof
It’s expensive, and it’s very tricky to say exactly how much a roof costs since it depends on the size of the home and the types of materials you’re using — and, of course, what roofer you’re using. But there are some general guidelines you’ll want to keep in mind:
Most people go with asphalt shingles. The most popular roofing material is asphalt shingles, according to Lauren Marsh, owner and president of Ridgeline Construction Roofing & Exteriors, headquartered in Athens, Alabama.
“Their lifespan ranges from 20 to 40 years, and they are easier to install and often have great warranty options,” Marsh says.
Just to give you a sense of how much these types of roofs costs, according to HomeAdvisor, the average price for asphalt shingles is $100 to $400 per square foot.
The heavier the roofing material, the more durable it is. “While it’s a more expensive option, for some structures, metal may be preferable because of its longer lifespan and durability,” Marsh says.
Or maybe you should go even heavier. “Concrete has the advantage of being very strong, able to withstand heavy wind and rain that could damage other materials,” she says.
Some materials like concrete may not work on your roof. It depends on the structure and slope of the roof.
Heavier roofing materials are more expensive. The heavier the material, Marsh adds, generally the higher the labor costs.
The material — not just the labor — gets pricier, too, when you go beyond asphalt. Willmer provided documentation showing that if you hired his company, wood shingles would be twice as expensive as asphalt, and concrete and slate would cost around three times as much as asphalt.
[Read: The Guide to Home Renovations.]
How to Get Your Roof Repaired
It isn’t hard: Browse the websites of a few roofing companies or call and ask to be contacted, then set up an appointment. But when you get your roof repaired, do yourself a favor: Don’t hire the first roofer you meet, even if the roofer comes well recommended. As with any home contractor, get a few quotes first.
Yes, meeting with several roofers is a pain, but you’ll start to feel better about your choice if you know you’ve first done some comparison shopping.
Also, if you comparison shop, it’s much less likely that you’ll be scammed. Ryan Smith, a roof moss removal expert and pest control technician who owns Ant and Garden Organic Pest Control in Beaverton, Oregon, says that there are three types of roofers you should avoid:
— The side-gig roofers: “This type of roofer does roof repair as a side job, and hiring one is risky,” he says.
— “Nice guy” roofers: “These roofers come knocking at your door, telling they have extra materials after a job done nearby and offering to get some roof repair done for a low price,” Smith says. The roofer, in other words, may seem nice and may actually be nice — but also may be planning to scam you, or for all you know, may be inept.
— The storm chasers. “This type of roofers move from one place to another to find work, usually in places where a disaster just occurred, damaging roofs,” Smith says. This is also a potential scam.
Again, comparison shop and don’t let anyone pressure you into signing a contract. There’s a lot to learn about repairing a roof — or especially replacing one — and you’re not going to get a great deal, on price or quality, if you rush this.
Besides, between the pandemic, labor shortages and getting work done during the busy season, it isn’t like you’ll be able to schedule your roof replacement or repair in a hurry. It’s possible to get it done in couple days, or even one day, but settling on the right roofers can and probably should take weeks.