In caring for our homes, we try to keep our eyes on every nook and cranny — but we often forget to look up. Maybe that’s because the roof, even for the experienced homeowner, can be a source of some anxiety. Your roof takes the brunt of the elements year-in and year-out. And, short of the reality of an actual leak, you probably say a silent prayer and hope it lasts another year. Your roof, though, is nothing to be afraid of — unless of course you’re afraid of heights.

How long is a roof supposed to last?

According to the National Association of Home Builders, depending on the type of shingles and short of extreme weather conditions, you can expect your roof to last on average:

  • 50+ years for slate, copper, and tile roofs
  • 30 years for wood/cedar shake roofs
  • 25 years for fiber cement shingle roofs
  • 20 years for asphalt shingle/composition roofs

Depending on the age of your roof and weather conditions in your area, signs that your roof may be in need of replacement or repair can appear both inside or outside of your home.

Do you need a new roof? 6 telltale signs to look for

  1. Fiber or asphalt shingles that are broken, buckling, or loose — particularly if a second layer of shingles has been applied. Accumulation of granules in gutters from fiberglass-based asphalt shingles tends to occur as shingles are nearing their end-of-life.
  2. Broken slate shingles, which are generally more expensive but last longer, should be replaced to avoid leaking or further damage to the roof.
  3. Wooden shingles that show signs of deterioration from moisture such as rot, mold, or extreme discoloration in moist climates or that split and fall apart in dry climates.
  4. Signs of termites, carpenter ants, and other wood-boring pests
  5. Signs of leaking and resulting water damage, such as dark spots or discoloration from water trails
  6. Signs of a sagging roof deck and/or light coming through the attic ceiling

Roof maintenance

  • Be sure to check around the chimney as well as any pipes or vents where flashing meets the roof. These are the spots where roof problems often begin.
  • Always keep gutters clean, clear, and properly draining. Efficient drainage prevents water from backing up between shingles and the roof deck, resulting in ice damning during the winter months.
  • Always remove heavy snow as soon as possible.
  • Keep your attic cool and well-ventilated. Make sure that insulation in the attic is not pushed too deeply into corners where the roof meets the attic floor. This can cause the edge of the roof to be colder, creating the ideal circumstances for ice damming.

The bottom line

If you’ve seen any of the signs above or have concerns about your roof, call a professional roofer. He or she will assess the damage, make timely repairs, or determine whether or not it’s time to replace your current roof. The roof is an important part of your home and a critical factor when it comes to selling. But, a watchful eye and minor repairs as needed can guarantee your roof has a long life.