Weather can really beat up your roof. Keeping your roof in tip top shape can mean the difference between a safe, dry house and a collapsed ceiling.
Here is how to evaluate whether your roof to understand it's condition and how to know if your roof needs to be repaired or replaced to keep leaks out.
Evaluate Wear and Tear: Roof shingles are generally cotton or glass fiber covered with an asphalt coating. This asphalt layer is what makes the roof water repellent. As the sun heats the roof, the asphalt dries out. To check your roof for signs of wear and tear, look for cracked, curled or broken shingles. If the worn section is limited to a small area, it can be repaired. If the entire roof looks this way, replacement is best. Shingles that are allowed to deteriorate can start to leak and that spells expensive repairs.
Roof Replacement: If you need to replace your roof, you can usually add one additional layer of shingles for a total of two layers. After this, local building inspectors may make you "tear-off" the existing layers first. Doing a tear-off is not such a bad idea, even if you have only one layer. Second roof layers do not cool well in the summer due to the increased mass. As a result, these roofs wear out quicker than single layer roofs. For example, if your single layer roof lasted 22 years, a second layer will typically last 15 years or about one-third less.
To decide if the increased cost of the roof tear-off makes sense, figure out how long you will live in the house. If you will be there for most of the life of the roof, you may want to remove the existing layer since you will benefit from the increased longevity of the new roof.
Repair Leaking Roof Flashing: "Flashing" is the metal or rubber material that makes the seal between the roof shingles and plumbing pipes, chimneys or anything else that sticks through the roof. Loose or deteriorated flashing is responsible for most roof leaks. Check the area around the chimney and pipes for signs of looseness or gaps. If you find any, seal them. Use asphalt roof cement for a temporary fix or consider having the flashing replaced.
Keep in mind that flashing leaks can occur at any time, and many times can be confused as a problem wit the roof needing repair or replacement. Never confuse a flashing leak, which is easy to fix, with a worn out roof that can cost thousands to replace. Also, watch out for unscrupulous contractors who try to turn a minor flashing repair into an opportunity to sell you a new roof you do not need.
Keep Roof Vents Open: One of the best ways to make sure your roof lasts as long as it should, is to keep the attic well ventilated. Cool attics help keep the roof cooler and cool roofs last longer. Passive vents (those that don't use any energy) are better than active vents like attic fans. One of the best is a continuous ridge and soffit vent system. These vents are inexpensive and can usually be added to a house of any age.
As with any work around your house, be careful when evaluating if your home needs a roof repair or replacement. Walking on a roof can be dangerous. If you don't have experience, the job is best left to a professional.