Every year – especially after a spate of windstorms – this question comes up: Is my roof just needing a shingle repair or is it, well, toast?

Herewith is a list of things to look for in assessing asphalt shingles whether it’s time to call the roofer or not.

Performance issues (In other words, there appears to be a leak)

If a roof is leaking, it does not necessarily mean it needs replacing. Most often, leaks are in areas where flashing is missing or bent/damaged. So, if the pitter patter can be traced to an attic vent, a chimney, or a gutter, there’s a reasonable chance that it is a cheap fix. A recent trickle of water into a light fixture, alarming to say the least, turned out to be an improperly sealed roof vent.

Gutter contents

If while you are removing leaves from your gutter, you notice a layer of sand at the bottom, and your house is Not located in Dubai, you can assume (apologies) that replacement time is nigh. I should get extra credit for the extraneous rhyme, though, right?

Shingles that look…odd

If your shingles seem to be turning up at the edges, if the edges seem fuzzy or indefinite rather than sharp, if the sandpapery granules seem thin or non-existent or if cracks are appearing hither and yon, or if the gaps seem wide between shingles, your roof may be ready for replacement. If the affected shingles appear in only a section of the roof, it may also be that you have a bad run of shingles that can simply be replaced. Most shingles come with a warranty – if they fail early, most manufacturers will supply replacement shingles although not all will provide money for installation labor. A lumpy roof can be a sign of aging shingles but can also be indicative of a second layer of roofing (not necessarily a bad thing, just cosmetically less attractive) or some underlying defects in roof construction, which, surprisingly, are not as expensive to fix as you might think. If your shingles look a bit funky from the ground, consider hiring an expert to assess them close up. For a roofer to do an onsite assessment, pay a certification fee of $150-$200 and get a chance at honesty – he should provide photos of what he is seeing and a rationale behind his opinion. Pay nothing, and assume you will hear that the roof needs to be replaced. If the roof is at year 18, even if it has some years yet, it is unlikely that a roofer will agree to repair it, let alone certify it. Which brings us to a discussion of…


If you know the roof is on year 15 of an architectural or presidential shingle product, chances are good that you have some significant years left (depending on the product).  Most roofs on houses less than 15 years old are architectural – they are characterized by a more 3-D, textured look in comparison to the flat rectangular look of an older 3-tab roof. If the roof is a 3-tab, it’s likely at or near the end of its life since 3-tabs don’t last as long as the newer style. A house with architectural shingles shouldn’t need a roof replacement until at least the 20 year mark. Some last 25-28 years. A lot depends on ventilation inside the attic, weather, and which direction the roof faces.

Other kinds of roofs

Metal roofs can last 50 years. Slate can last a lifetime or two or three. Wood shakes can keep for up to 30. Clay also is in the stratosphere in terms of longevity, but tiles can be easily cracked or broken by well-meaning but big footed roofers.

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