Is It Time to Replace Your Roof?

The concept of "keeping a roof overhead" is a bit more involved than going to work and paying those pesky bills. An intact roof requires regular inspection, preventative maintenance and even repairs to provide protection against the elements. Left ignored, a perfectly good roof will give merely half its intended life span.

Though the obvious first signs of a bad roof are an overhead shower where one shouldn't be, Medford Roofmasters roofing estimator Susan Scott advises against waiting for things to get to the point of necessary replacement.

a living roof

Gaining steam alongside an effort towards earth-friendly products and "green" construction, green roofs are a living roof system made up of special flowers, grass or shrubs growing on a subsurface atop a building's roof.

Though used most often in commercial settings, residential green roofs are picking up steam in recent years. Typically, there is a waterproof membrane and then soil or other growing media, covered with succulent, hardy plants such as sedum, jovibarba and sempervivum.

Living roofs provide the same, or more, protection from the elements, minimize storm water runoff and provide insulation.

Prices vary drastically, as only a few dozen contractors in the U.S. install the specialty roofing — in Wilsonville, Oregon, it's Columbia Roofing (

Some environmentally conscious folk, in a spin-off of green roofs, use container plantings to layer on an existing roof, but benefits are minimal and some professionals warn against it due to damage to the roof's surface.

Added benefits of green roofs include filtration for air and water or pollutants, and added habitat for beneficial insects and birds.

Maintenance and repairs, she notes, are far cheaper than buying a new roof. While roofing types and maintenance needs vary, all roofs should be inspected twice a year for signs of excessive wear and tear.

"You should go up and check your roof every six months," Scott says, "right after the hot summer and again after the cold winter because of the freeze-thaw."

Aside from weather, the most common causes of roof damage are age and impact. Roof life spans vary, but most types can be repaired if problems are caught soon enough.


A rubber sheet-type surface, membrane roofing is replacing once popular "torch down" as the roofing material of choice for flat-roof homes. Membrane roofing boasts a life span of 15 to 25 years, depending on thickness. As the name implies, membrane roofing is made of rubber sheeting with internal membranes, or "threads," running through.

"If those threads are showing, you can cut out a hole and re-weld a new patch right over," Scott says. For older torch down roofs, which last about 12 years if properly maintained, damage or peeling should be inspected by a professional and, more often than not, be replaced if showing wear and tear such as missing granules, peeling sheets or mold growth.


Asphalt shingles, which boast a life span of anywhere from 20 to 45 years, will curl and crack when wearing out, says Bill Weaver of McMurray and Sons Roofing in Grants Pass/Rogue River. In addition, granules on the surface of each shingle will begin to fall away and, inside, attics will have a moldy smell and spots will begin to appear on ceilings.

"Most people call as soon as they identify a leak, but if they see that their shingles are in poor condition, sometimes we get to it soon enough to do a repair," Weaver says.


While sheet metal roofing lasts the longest of any type, 40 to 50 years or more, regular inspections should be done to deal with rust or developing holes. Inspections are especially important after major storms, when trees could impact the roof surface.


On shake roofs, watch for pieces of roofing in the yard surrounding the home. Any shake roof over 14 years of age should be inspected for damage. Typically a higher quality of roofing, shakes are repairable unless damage is extensive. Note: signs of graying do not imply damage, as most wood shakes have a natural "graying" process.


Another long-term roofing option, ceramic or concrete tile will last up to 40 years if kept in good shape. Signs of excessive wear include broken, loose or missing tiles and mildew growth, indicating trapped moisture.

With most roofing types, repairs are less costly than replacement. Instances in which a roof is better off replaced than repaired include:

  • roofs installed more than 20 years ago
  • roofs requiring frequent repairs
  • roofs on which algae is growing in excess

When scheduling a roofing contractor to inspect your roof, be sure to find someone who installs the specific type of roof on your home, says Matt Stone, vice president of sales and operation for Pressure Point Roofing in Central Point.

In addition to inspecting your roof at least twice annually, be proactive about water and debris. Use a blower to regularly clear leaves, branches and other accumulations, and watch for trapped water and loose nails.

"Something as simple as caulking in the corner of a skylight, watching for nails working loose on a ridge cap or getting a jump on early moss growth so it doesn't become an issue [can help]," Stone notes.

While roofs are not maintenance-free, large issues — and large replacement bills — can be avoided with a proactive attitude and some regular maintenance.

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