Roof repairs versus a new roof is a big decision. We're all so busy and unlike our cars that we listen to every day we drive, we seldom look at our roof — we're running late when we leave the house and coming home, we're focused on what's next like making dinner. That means most homeowners don't regularly inspect their roof for damage.
That's not good. Many home features will tell you when they've reached end of life — a light fixture stops working, the bathroom fan gets noisy or the freezer isn't keeping food frozen. You can't see most roofing problems — a shingle that's slipped leaving a gap, roofing cement that no longer has a tight seal around a vent stack or the roof deck (the plywood sheathing that supports your roofing layers) has wood roof due to a leak.
You want to find and tackle small roof repairs before problems get bigger. With ongoing maintenance, you'll save money with fewer repairs and reach your roof's projected lifetime.
Roof Repairs: Inspecting Your Roof From the Attic
There's good news for homeowners with unfinished attics. You can inspect your roof from the attic, by going up there with a flashlight. Leaks are visible long before a stain develops on the ceiling or wall below. These problems indicate roof repairs are needed and soon, to avoid mold.
- Outside light through your roof must be tested during daylight. We recently found a pinhole this way (you know the story about the cobbler's children) as our house is 4 stories and there's no easy way to climb up to inspect the roof.
- Dark lines or spots indicate water damage, i.e. where water leaks into the attic and follows gravity down (the lines) or where blocked, pools and wood rot (dark spots) starts.
- Changes to things in the attic like insulation (water will weigh it down) or the tops of boxes (wet you're using to store things. You're looking for signs of water in the attic and these problems may also produce an odor.
- Places where the roof is sagging are serious and roof repairs need to be done immediately.
Roof Repairs: Up the Ladder for Exterior Inspection
Many homeowners put off inspecting their roof until they take the ladder out for something else. While you're roof is fairly new (less than 10 years old), inspecting with binoculars or a digital camera is better than no inspection. The camera works well because you can blow up the images and see more detail and you can compare photos from year-to-year.
- Inspect shingles to see if they're cracking, curling (corners turning up), buckling (looks like something's underneath pushing up shingles) or blistering (granules on top are bubbling up), as these problems can indicate your roof shingles are reaching end of life, i.e. roof repairs can't solve the problem.
- Look for loose materials, signs of wear or gaps around your chimney, vent stacks, skylights and other things penetrating your roof surface.
- Look for excessive amounts of shingle granules in your gutters or bare spots on the shingles, as this means shingles are more exposed and vulnerable to the weather.
Too Many Roof Repairs = New Roof
Back to my handyman business and homeowners who didn't want to pay for a new roof. Many homeowners try to buy time with temporary roof repairs. We told one homeowner they needed a new roof but they only wanted temporary repairs, and shame on us … we didn't write that we wouldn't guarantee the repairs. Then they wanted us to fix the roof for free about 2 months later and we did. When we made the repairs, we had them initial on our invoice that we would not guarantee these roof repairs.
Another homeowner converted their garage into a finished room, with a skylight that was leaking. They didn't want to pay for a new roof, so they only had us remove the skylight. 2 years later they called because the “roof was leaking” and expected us to make the roof repairs under our one year warranty. Fortunately we were able to show them the original roof estimate, which documented the problems, our explanation that they needed to replace the roof and the work we'd done. They'd gambled and lost, because their roof had exceeded it's useful life. Temporary roof repairs may allow you to delay getting a new roof by months and even a year, but once you make the first roof repair you should start saving for a new roof.
Still not sure how to decide on roof repairs or a new roof? Watch the video above and you'll quickly see that where there's one roofing problem, there are others. That's because the roof deck below the shingles is the same, the shingles and other materials used and installation are almost always the same, so it's only a matter of time before similar problems keep popping up.
Delayed roof repairs & learned the hard way?
For more roofing tips, check out these articles:
- Inspecting Your Roof to Save Time and Money
- Roofing Layers – What's Underneath Your Shingles
- Roofs, Umbrellas & Staying Dry
- Roofs, Storms & Protecting Your Home
I appreciate what you said about looking for signs of water in your house. I need to get a bunch of shingles replaced. I’ll have to consider getting someone with good online reviews.
Best Roof Hatches
Repairing your roof will be the most cost-effective option to address the issues you’re experiencing. Thank you for sharing this helpful and engaging content with us!
Very good information. I work for a roof repair company & still got some further tips after reading your article. Thanks!!
I’m curious what new information you learned – can you share please?
Thanks for sharing. I work in home restoration company. This article is really helpful for both professionals and amatuers.
It is important to hire a professional contractor who will detect faster any problem in your roofing structure. Also, inspecting a roof is a dangerous task that you must put on the hands of professionals.
True, always do research first before planning to replace your roof,
That is the truth. People never check the roof until there are some obvious problems. As time goes by, more and more problems are caused until the roof needs to be replaced, which costs a lot of money.
I liked that you mentioned you need to consider hiring a roofing contractor if you noticed that your roof is sagging. My husband noticed that the roof at my mother’s house looks damaged, and we are looking for advice about what to do. I will let him know about your recommendations to choose the right roofing contractor to help us.
Kristofer Van Wagner
Hey Tina, I am in complete agreement with you that when we spend too much money and time on roof repairs, it is time we settle for a new room instead. My roof has been facing some leaking issues, especially when it rains, for a couple of months now, even after I have called the roofers to fix the problem. I think I will heed your advice and have them install a new roof instead.
Very good information, I thought I was an expert on ceiling repairs, but I got some further tips in this article. Thanks.!!
All the information that you shared with us about roof repairs vs new roof is very useful and important. Thank you for more information
Thank you for helping me to understand that it is important to get sections of the roof that are sagging repaired as soon as possible. A couple of days ago, I was getting something from my attic and I noticed that there was a section that looked like it was drooping. I’ll be sure to contact a roofer so that I can get that fixed soon.
Very impressive, thanks a lot for sharing a helpful post with us.
Putting a new layer of shingles on your roof is similar to patching up a hole in your jeans with a new piece of cloth. It’s not going to last very long as the damage is still there. You’re eventually going to have to overhaul your roof With a full roof replacement & toss out your old roof.
Marga, Love your analogy as I’m always searching for things like this to explain home repairs.
Thanks for this article it is really helpful. As a homeowner, if there is a leak in our roof I call a roofer who can fix the hole of the roof. But for major damage, roofing should be replaced new.
We need to do something with our roof. I don’t know if we’ll need a new one or some repairs. A professional should be consulted on this.
Amazing post! I really appreciate that you shared this informative post with us. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.
Jessica, From my years of experience running a handyman business, I developed my strategy of educating homeowners so they’re better able to make decisions about their home. It’s sad & scary how little today’s homeowners understand the biggest investment they’ll ever make … so I hope you can use this & other roofing articles to educate your prospective buyers.
Thanks for the article Tina, found it interesting. We have a flat roof that is leaking and wondered is worth repairing roof or replacing the roof with less fault-prone roof design? Flat roofs need a lot more maintenance and thought maybe its time to replace instead.
Sara, There’s nothing wrong with a flat roof as long as it’s installed correctly & maintained … just like every roof. There are lots of things to consider for changing your roof style, including:
This is a tough decision & my gut says, stripping the current roof & installing a new one might be your best solution. Too often homeowners delay putting a new roof on because they lack the funds, and then leaks add high repair costs on top of the new roof cost.
You made a great point of making sure to check that there are no shingle granules in the gutters or bare spots. My roof hasn’t been maintained in a few years and it is needed very much. These tips will be useful in our search for a professional.
I like that you let us know the importance of letting a roofing expert do their job the way they know, to avoid future leaks. My best friend told me that he wants to cover just part of his roof shingles instead of doing all. I’m going to let him know about the probabilities, that if not done the way it should be done it can create bigger problems in the future.
Good news indeed. Roof leakage is one major problem in most houses you can not neglect. You should be ready when the storm comes. For the current issue for roof repair, having a careful decision whether you go for a new roof or roof repair.
This article made me understand so many things I don’t know about the roof and made up my mind. I’ll be going to install a new roof which I think about what we need. Thanks for this source!
Thank you! It’s helping me to understand the importance of hiring professionals roof inspectors after a storm. I’m on it first thing in the morning to get our roof checked and repair what needs to be repaired. Glad I run into your blog.
I’m trying to decide on a new roof or repairing the old one, plus ceiling damage. With what you have pointed out here, I might see more problems on my ceiling unless my roof is fixed. Thanks! You saved me worrying more than I need to.
Andrew, Good luck with both your roof & ceiling repairs.
Thanks for the tip about looking for any source of water in an attic, and that that can mean that you need to get your attic repaired soon. My sister has an attic in her new home, and she has been thinking about getting it checked out. She says that she has noticed a weird smell whenever she goes up there. I will be sure to forward this article to her so that she can know if she should contact a repair company.
My wife and I have been trying to decide between roof repair and a new roof right now. We had a large storm blow through and I think it damaged the roof. It is a good idea to inspect the roof from the attic, I’ll have to go and do that.
My roof is starting to sag and it’s concerning. Thank you for pointing out that this is a repair that we are going to need to get done immediately. I’ll have to look into finding the best roofer in my area to come and help us repair the roof as soon as possible.
Your post is a great resource on the roofing industry and I enjoyed being on your post. I am glad I visited here and come to know about such facts. 🙂 vancouver commercial roofing