Do You Need (or Want) a New Roof?

As a homeowner, there’s substantial pride and satisfaction in having a roof over your head. But what if your roof has reached the end of the line and needs to be replaced? How can you tell if “it’s time?”

Sometimes, a simple visual inspection is sufficient. Do your shingles cup in the middle, curl at the corners, or flare up on the edges? Are some shingles missing, cracked, or broken?

Maybe you don’t like the appearance of your roof and long for something fresh, clean, and different. If your neighbors recently replaced their shingles, the side-by-side contrast may leave you feeling that your home looks worse than ever!

It’s also possible that you’re okay with your roof, but it’s reached its “expiration date.” Roofs are only designed to last a certain number of years. If yours has exceeded its lifespan but still looks good, you can hold off a while. To prevent damage, however, watch closely for leaks and other indications of problems.

What about dark stains and moss?

Dark patches and streaks running down the surface of asphalt shingles usually indicate an overgrowth of algae. Although it’s unlikely that algae will damage the shingles or reduce protection, it’s an eyesore.

You can kill algae with commercial products or a homemade mixture of water with bleach and/or trisodium phosphate (TSP). Be sure to protect your eyes and skin from the solution, as well as foundation plantings.

Apply the solution with a low-pressure sprayer, to avoid damaging to the granules on your shingles. Allow it to set for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing with water. This process will remove the algae, but it will probably be back.

Moss may look better than algae, but is more problematic and can damage all types of roofs. The spongy plant tends to grow on damp, shaded surfaces. As it grows, it creates spaces between shingles that can cause edges to lift or curl and allow water to seep underneath.

Treating moss is similar to algae, except you’ll also need to remove dead and loosened moss with a brush or a leaf blower. Also, consider trimming back tree branches to add sunlight and improve air circulation.

For a more permanent solution, consider using algae-resistant shingles for your next roof or mounting strips of copper, galvanized metal, or zinc near the roof’s ridgeline. As rain washes over the metal, ions will be carried downward, inhibiting the future growth of both algae and moss.  

What are my options?

If you’re ready to replace your roof, here are 10 alternatives to consider.

Asphalt roofing shingles come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and durability.

1. Asphalt Shingles – The most common roofing material in North America is the asphalt shingle. Depending on the quality of the shingle selected, your new roof should last 20 to 30 years. In many cases, you can install a second layer of asphalt shingles over the first, saving time and money.

2. Wood Shingles – Shingles are produced by sawing wood, typically cedar, into uniformly tapered pieces. The shingles lay flat and require a dryer environment and regular maintenance to improve longevity. Since they’re thinner than shakes, wood shingles cost less but don’t last as long.

New installation of cedar roof shakes.

3. Wood Shakes – Beautiful, but expensive, wood shakes are created by splitting wood into a thick, heavily textured wedge. They’re usually made from cedar or redwood trees and often seen on luxury homes. Since shakes aren’t cut into uniform shapes, it’s more difficult and costly to install them properly.

A simple but highly durable seamed metal roof.

4. Metal – Seamed metal roofs are long-lasting, fireproof, and recyclable. The average life expectancy is 30 to 50 years or more. Usually made of steel with a baked-on enamel finish, copper is another pricey option. Bright and shiny when installed, copper soon weathers to a lovely, unmistakable shade of verdigris that will never rust or corrode. Copper does, however, vie with slate for the most expensive roofing material.

A metal roof that resembles clay tiles.

5. Metal Shingles – Metal shingles are now fabricated to mimic several other roofing options, including asphalt, wood, slate, or clay. They boast a life expectancy of 30 to 50 years and substantially reduced maintenance.

6. Clay Tile – Earthen clay, fired for strength and usually left unglazed, is best used in hot climates or near coastlines, where the air is salt-laden. Depending on care and environment, both clay tile and ceramic tile can last as long as a century. The price reflects that fact.

7. Ceramic Tiles – Similar to clay tiles, ceramic tiles are usually glazed before firing to create a less porous surface. They’re available in a wide variety of shapes and styles, which can double or triple their cost, relative to clay tiles.

Concrete roof tiles in various colors and patterns.

8. Concrete Tile – Concrete tile is a molded product that can be mixed to any color the homeowner desires. It can be rolled and shaped to look like clay tiles or poured into molds and tinted to resemble wood shakes. It creates a heavy roof particularly well suited for high wind areas. Life expectancy is 50 years or more.

Newly installed slate tiles will outlast all other roofing material.

9. Slate – The best roofing material on the market is also the most expensive and the longest lasting. Slate roofs are made of slate rock and require specialized, hard-to-find installation skills. If you can afford up to $75 per square foot and can find an installer, your roof may last 75 to 200 years!

10. Synthetic Slate Tile – Made to resemble slate, but constructed of polymers of recycled plastic and rubber materials, this is much lighter weight alternative that lasts up to 50 years.

How much will it cost?

Your total budget for a new roof will depend on several factors:

  • The size of your home
  • If the old roof needs to be removed
  • The materials selected for the new roof
  • If any damage to trusses or underlying structures needs to be repaired or replaced
  • Where you live, since prices can vary dramatically based on geography

According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for a roof replacement is $7,654. If you need to repair damage, live in a high-cost roofing area, or select expensive roofing materials, your costs could soar. For example, if you have a 4,500 square foot home and you want copper roofing, you could be looking at more than $60,000 for a new roof.

Whatever type of roof you decide to install, your new roof is going to be a significant investment. Be sure to check the references and online ratings of your roofing contractor before you sign any contracts.