The lifespan of a typical roof is around 20 to 30 years. And unlike a fine wine, a roof is not something that improves with age. Year and years of bad weather along with general wear and tear can leave roofs at the upper end of their lifespans ineffective. Homeowners may also find that they are spending more and more on repairs.
The age of a roof influences many things including the value of your home, your ability to sell it, and your eligibility for homeowners insurance. Keep reading to learn more about what having an older roof could mean for you.
Problems with old roofs
As you would expect, a part of your home’s structure probably isn’t as great now as it was 20-plus years ago. Here are some issues that you might encounter:
- Leaks – This is probably the most common (and obvious) problem with an old roof. Water from rain or melting snow will easily make its way into a house with cracked or missing roof shingles. Long-term leaks could also lead to mold, so this is an issue that should be dealt with as soon as possible.
- Sagging – If your ceiling looks like its caving in, that is not a good sign. While the roof may not come falling down on your head immediately, you need to call a professional to inspect your home. This could also be a sign of more severe structural damage throughout the house.
- Moss – Moss is a problem in colder climates where there is a freeze/thaw cycle. Moss clings to shingles and can chip or break them. If you have not been actively monitoring your roof, this can present hard-to-fix issues in later years.
The least complicated solution to an old roof is to just replace it, but that is not always feasible for the homeowner. The following tips should help you get the most out of your roof throughout its lifespan:
- Remove debris – You’ll find lots of things on your roof if you don’t clean it frequently. Leaves, tree branches, animal nests, and the aforementioned moss can cause issues like trapping moisture and cracking shingles. You may be able to remove some of these items by safely climbing onto your roof. Avoid using equipment like a power washer, as this might have a negative impact on fragile parts of the house.
- Inspect the roof – This doesn’t mean that you have to climb up on your roof every day and look for damage. If you have a slanted roof all you need to do is take a few steps back from the house and look up. It’s especially important to do these inspections after severe rain and hail storms.
- Replace individual shingles – If you have roof damage that is localized to one area, hire a roofing company to replace just the shingles in that location. A spot fix could increase the longevity of the entire roof by a few years.
When is it time to replace an old roof?
There does come a point when you can only do so much maintenance and preventative work. While each homeowner’s reasons will be different, here are a few common circumstances that warrant replacing an old roof:
- You are in immediate danger – If your roof is in danger of caving in, it’s time to replace it. No amount of patching will bring the roof up to a standard that will allow you to live safely in your home.
- You are selling the house – Homebuyers will be wary of purchasing a home with an old roof or one that has undergone a significant amount of patching and repairs. Replacing your roof may also increase your home’s value, offsetting the up-front costs of a new roof.
- It just makes economic sense – Roofing companies often charge by the square foot when only doing a partial roof replacement. At a certain point, it will just become cheaper to replace the entire thing. Other savings include preventing damage to furniture and the interior of your home from leaks.
How does homeowners insurance treat older roofs?
A roof is what protects an entire house, so insurance companies are justifiably cautious to grant policies to homes with old roofs. It’s common for insurance companies to require older roofs to pass inspection before they will grant you a policy.
Whether or not an insurance company will pay out a roof-related claim will depend on why the damage occurred. A severe weather event or an “act of God” will probably be covered as long as the roof was decently maintained prior to the event. Leaks caused by a 25-year-old roof that was never cared for will probably not be covered.
If you have an old roof and are looking for homeowners insurance or a renewal, you can make sure you’re covered by being proactive. In addition to the maintenance tips mentioned earlier, take pictures of your roof and keep detailed records of repair or maintenance. If you do have to file a claim, you will have the evidence to back up the steps took to maintain the roof.