Your Roof: Repair or Replace?

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Your roof is wearing out - right now. Thanks to the UV radiation that bakes roof shingles until they are brittle, the summer sun takes more years out of a roof's life than any other environmental factor. If your roof is looking a little worse for wear, the summer is also a good time to think about having it repaired or replaced.

On my national home improvement radio show, roofing ranks among the top ten most asked-about topics; of those questions, the decision to repair or replace is a frequent area of confusion.

First, roof leaks can almost always be repaired without replacing the roof. Most roofs leak due to flashing problems, typically at an intersection of two roof components; roof and plumbing vent, roof and chimney, roof and wall, etc. An easy way to help pinpoint that leak is by strategically rinsing down each area with a hose until the offending spot is found.

To learn more about replacing a roof, read on.

Replacing a roof, on the other hand, is something that has to be done periodically, and is seldom done because of an obvious leak. More commonly, the shingles have dried out and become cracked, brittle and deteriorated to the point where the roof remains saturated under the roof shingles, causing slow decay rather than an obvious stick-the-bucket-under-it leak.

While spot repair may be possible if the majority of your roof surface has plenty of mileage left in it, if your roof is approaching the 20-year mark (or so), replacement is a better way to go.

If you do replace your roof, do you add another layer, or do you completely replace it? Here are the pros and cons of that decision:

  • A brand new roof provides the opportunity for secure sealing, the latest in underlayment materials and flashing, and a longer guarantee of material integrity for a lifespan of 20 years or more.
  • On the other hand, applying a new roofing layer on top of the old is possible only if your existing roofing is one layer thick and in good condition, has strong decking, and has shingles compatible with the new application. Longevity isn't as extensive with this option, being around 25 percent less than that of a new roof. The reason for this is because the old layer holds a lot of heat, and that heat helps the new roof dry out that much more quickly, shortening its life.

If your roof's condition provides the opportunity to choose between these options, consider the number of years you plan to stay in your re-roofed home. If a long haul is in the cards, a whole new roof is the wise choice, while a shorter stay justifies saving cash with the second-layer option.

Tom Kraeutler is the host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and the Home Improvement Editor for AOL. For more tips, sign up for Tom's free e-newsletter here. Tom's latest book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, is available in bookstores everywhere and online.

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