When Your Roof Needs Fixing: Should You Repair or Replace?

You’re probably familiar with the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, “Hamlet.” The main character steps out of a top-floor window onto the roof of his sprawling mansion, looks around at the state of affairs, and begins a classic soliloquy with these famous words: “To repair my roof, or not to repair my roof but doth replaceth it instead — that is the question.”

Okay, well — maybe it didn’t go exactly like that.

Two actors

The point is, countless Americans will gaze upon their roofs this year, see signs of damage, and wrestle over whether or not to patch up the section that’s in need of repair or simply replace their entire roof. Perhaps you are one of these people in this quandary.

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Certainly, there are pros and cons to each approach. But to help these you make the best decision, here is a list of questions you should answer first:

  • What time constraints are you under? If there aren’t any, you can choose either option. But if you need to fix a leaky roof by next weekend or you’re leaving on vacation in a couple weeks, you may not have time to wait for a contractor to schedule a roof replacement.
  • How old is your roof? If it’s relatively new or even in the middle of its life cycle, a repair might be okay. But if it has a 20-year warranty and it’s 18 years old, replacing the whole roof may be the way to go.
  • How big of an area is currently in need of repair? If you only need to fix one or two small areas, you can probably buy some shingles and do it yourself. If it’s more than, say, 30 percent of your roof, you might strongly consider a roof replacement.

Roofing material asphalt shingles samples of various colors

  • What’s the additional cost to replace your entire roof? For example, it might cost you $4,000 to repair the front side of your roof — but replacing the whole roof might only run you $6800. In this case, a roof replacement is a better value.
  • How many layers of shingles are currently on your roof? It costs more to rip off old shingles and replace them than it does to just shingle over the existing layer. However, building codes prohibit you from having more than two layers of shingles on your home.
  • How important is it that your roof remains the exact same color? Any new shingles will not precisely match the same hue as your existing ones because of weathering from the elements. If your roof is highly visible and you don’t want mismatched shingles, you’d better replace the whole roof.

The roof of the house or apartment building.

  • Do you have any moisture damage to your roof deck? If the underside and supports of your roof show significant moisture damage, shingling over them won’t solve the problem. Roof replacements can include fixing these areas, so that’s likely your best option.
  • Do you need to replace your gutters as well? If it’s time to install new gutters, it may be more convenient for a contractor to just rip off the old guttering, lay down a new roof, and put on a new gutter system all at once.

Written by Harry Helmet

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