10 Facts About Your Roof


Your home’s roof protects you from the elements, helps to control the temperature in your home, and makes up a critical part of your home’s curb appeal. However, most of us never think about the design or workmanship that goes into the roof until it needs repair or replacement.

This is a shame because a well-constructed roof can last up to 50 years, depending on the roofing material used and your local climate. In other words, a quality roof may outlast your time in the home, providing protection and warmth the entire time.

This is your opportunity to understand your roof better. Here are ten facts about your roof and how roofing companies can help maintain it:

Facts About Your Roofing Material and Your Climate

If you like terracotta Spanish tiles, but you live in Minnesota, you might be out of luck. Similarly, if you like the look of a metal roof, but live in Arizona, your roof choice might result in a home oven.

Each type of roofing material has different properties and is suitable for a different climate. Thus, your options may be limited if you live in a climate that sees extremes in temperature — hot or freezing — or precipitation — wet or dry. Here are a few facts about your roofing material options:

  • Clay or terracotta tiles: The reason that clay and terracotta tiles are used in the desert southwest is that the material captures the heat and sunlight and blocks it from heating up the home. Clay and terracotta tiles are generally inappropriate for climates that are cold and wet because the porous, brittle material can crack under the weight of snow and absorb rain, increasing the weight of the already heavy tiles.
  • Slate tiles: Slate tiles are a good choice in the mid-west for their combination of properties that can cope with the wet and cold, as well as the heat. Like clay and terracotta tiles, slate tiles can absorb heat, blocking it from the living space. However, slate is less brittle and porous than clay and terracotta. This means that slate will resist cracking from snow and ice and will not become weighed down with absorbed rain.
  • Asphalt shingles: Almost any roofing material will be damaged by ice, snow, and water in the northeast U.S. In these areas, asphalt shingles are the material of choice. They interlock closely to limit the amount of water and ice damage the roof sustains. But more importantly, replacement shingles are cheap and easy to install.
  • Metal: Metal is good for tropical climates that receive a lot of rain and minimal cold weather. Metal is impervious to water and can absorb heat rather than passing into the home’s interior.

Facts About Your Roof’s Lifetime

Barring a major disaster, your roof can last anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Generally speaking, clay and terracotta tiles, metal, and slate tiles can last up to 50 years if properly maintained by quality roofers.

Wood shingles and concrete shingles are a bit less durable with a lifetime of 25 to 30 years. The least durable roof material is asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles last about 20 years.

The factors that can reduce your roof’s life include:

  • Wind: Wind can loosen roofing tiles or shingles, allowing water to seep underneath.
  • Flying debris: Debris striking the roof can damage or loosen roofing material.
  • Freezing temperatures: Water expands as it freezes. As a result, ice can crack tiles, loosen shingles, and bend metal.

Facts About Your Roof Inspection

You will likely need to inspect your roof before you move into a new home. Approximately 40 million people in the U.S. moved in 2018 and whether they were renting or buying a new home, they needed to understand the condition of the roof.

Moreover, roofers recommend inspecting the roof once or twice a year, depending on the severity of your weather. Many roofers offer relatively inexpensive annual inspection services.

Alternatively, you may inspect the roof yourself. To inspect the roof, you will need a good ladder so you can walk the roof to look for any problems. You will also need a checklist of defects and damage to look for, including:

  • Missing tiles or shingles. Water can leak through the roof when tiles or shingles are missing.
  • Bent, corroded, or missing flashing. The metal flanges that surround roof vents and chimneys can be bent or torn by strong winds and ice. The metal flashing can also corrode due to rain.
  • Animal damage. Birds, rodents, and insects can build nests in eaves and attic vents. In addition to animals gnawing on your roofing material and roof sheathing, the nests can trap moisture and promote corrosion and decomposition of the roof.
  • Moss and algae growth. Moss and algae indicate an excess of moisture collecting on your roof. The moisture can lead to water or ice damage of the roof.
  • Bent or clogged rain gutters. The rain gutters drain water from the roof and away from the house. Bent or clogged rain gutters inhibit the efficiency of this function and can also identify where ice dams might have formed and damaged the roof.

Facts About Your Roof’s Maintenance

Maintaining a roof is simple and can prevent minor fixes from developing into a full blown replacement residential roofing installation. Some examples of problems homeowners can fix themselves include:

  • Nail down loose or bent flashing.
  • Clean rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Secure loose rain gutters.
  • Remove loose caulk and reseal joints.
  • Patch cracked chimneys.

When it comes to loose or missing roofing tiles and shingles, the do-it-yourself approach can be tricky. Positioning a shingle or tile incorrectly can allow water to seep under the roofing and onto the wood roof sheathing. There, it can cause water damage or freeze and cause ice damage. If your roof has many curled, loose, or missing tiles or shingles, hiring a professional roofer may be the best option for avoiding ongoing roof problems.

Facts About Your Roof and Safety

Working on your roof is dangerous. When you hire a roofing company to inspect, maintain, and repair your roof, any injures will usually be handled by a workers comp attorney for the injured worker and you will be responsible for nothing.

However, when you work on your roof yourself, any injuries will be covered by your own health insurance. If you have copays and deductibles like most Americans, avoiding injuries while working on your roof is necessary.

Some of the potential risks from working on the roof include:
Falls: Falls are the top reason for visits to the emergency room in the U.S. Falls from the ladder, while transitioning from the ladder to the roof, or from the roof occur frequently.
Electrocution: Overhead electrical supply wires can enter a home near the roof edge. While builders take care to minimize the risk of electrocution, accidents can happen.
Roof collapse: While not common, an older roof may be susceptible to collapse while you walk over it.

Facts About Your Roof Leaks

While it might seem like a straightforward problem, roof leaks can be difficult to identify and fix. Once water gets under the roofing, it can migrate along the roof sheathing and drip into the home in a place that is remote from the actual roof leak.

When looking for the source of a roof leak, a roofing company will examine your roof for several different potential causes, including:

  • Accumulating water: If the places where water tends to flow, like the valleys of your pitched roof, are not properly angled and sealed, water can accumulate and seep through.
  • Corroded metal: Many of the roof’s parts are made from metal, like nails, flashing, fascia, and soffit. These parts can corrode and allow water to get inside the roof.
  • Missing tiles or shingles: Shingles fit together like the scales on a fish. When they work together, the overlapping configuration effectively seals water out of the home. However, when shingles are missing, the overlap is gone and water can infiltrate the house.

Facts About Your Roof During the Winter

Winter can be exceptionally hard on a roof. Wind can pummel your roof with debris. Rain and snow can saturate your roofing and leak under tiles and shingles. But the most damaging effect of winter on a roof is the creation of ice dams.

An ice dam develops when the surface of your roof is warmer than the surrounding air. This causes the snow on your roof to melt. This water accumulates along the edges of your roof and re-freezes at night or when the temperatures drop. This ice dam prevents the snow and ice higher up on the roof from sliding off the roof.

Ice dams have many potential consequences:

  • Weight: Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon. Most roofs are designed to carry about 20 pounds of snow and ice weight per square foot. It does not take too much snow and ice accumulation on a roof before the roof will experience strain it was not designed to carry.
  • Corrosion: Iron (a component of most nails) rusts in the presence of water.
  • Ice damage: As the melted snow refreezes, it can crack, curl, or lift roof shingles or tiles.

One remedy for ice dams is to remove the snow from the roof before it can form ice dams. This could be accomplished using a heat cable or chemical snowmelt to warm the edge of the roof so that water flows into the gutters rather than accumulating in ice dams. Another option for snow removal is to use a snow rake to manually scrape the snow from the edges of your roof.

Facts About Your Roof’s Repair Needs

You will occasionally have roof damage that you cannot repair yourself. When your roof needs major structural repairs, replacement gutters, shingles, or tiles, or a rebuilt chimney, you will likely need to hire a residential roofer.

A few things to keep in mind when hiring a roofer include:

  • Make sure the roofer is a licensed contractor. Licensed contractors are generally more careful and more responsive because they do not want to be disciplined by the licensing board.
  • Ask the roofer about the insurance they carry. If the roofer damages your home, you may need to file a claim against the roofer’s insurance.
  • Look for local roofers. Local roofers will have a portfolio of jobs you can look at and past clients you can talk to.
  • Get several written job estimates. This will allow you to shop for the best deal and provide you with an objective measure to ensure that the job is completed as contracted.

Facts About Your Roof and Replacement

Most major roof problems have three possible solutions:

  • Repair the roof: Repair is usually the least expensive option, but only so much can be done when repairing rather than replacing a roof.
  • Build a new roof over the existing roof: This option is attractive because it can often be completed more quickly and less expensively compared to demolishing the old roof and replacing it. However, it does have drawbacks. Moisture can become trapped between the two roofs, leading to corrosion and wood rot. Moreover, the foundation and load-bearing walls may not be capable of holding up two roofs safely.
  • Tear down the old roof and build a new roof: This option is usually the most costly and takes the most time because the demolition of the old roof must be completed before construction can begin. However, this is sometimes the best way to ensure the job is done completely and correctly.

Before choosing an option, you may want to meet several roofers before deciding. This will provide you with a range of prices, but also allow you to thoroughly understand your options before deciding.

Facts About Your Roof’s Warranty

Many roofing materials manufacturers offer a warranty. However, sometimes a business lawyer is needed to understand what is covered and what the benefits are.

A manufacturer’s warranty will cover the roofing materials. If the roofing materials degrade or decompose during the term of the warranty, the manufacturer will often replace the materials for free. However, these warranties come with a few limitations:

  • The warranty only covers defective materials. If the materials met specifications but were installed improperly, the warranty cannot be invoked.
  • You may be required to show that you properly maintained the roof to file a warranty claim. The warranty will often specify exactly what maintenance you need to show for a proper warranty claim.
  • The manufacturer will only replace the defective roofing materials. You will have to pay the cost of removing the defective materials and installing the replacement materials.
  • Warranty terms often run anywhere between 20 and 50 years. If the manufacturer goes out of business before the defect manifests itself, you may have to bear the entire cost of replacing the defective materials.

Some roofing companies also offer warranties on their workmanship. These warranties can be invoked if the roofing materials were installed incorrectly and led to roof damages. However, like manufacturer warranties, workmanship warranties are often limited to properly maintained roofs and can only be invoked if the roofing contractor is still in business when the workmanship defect is discovered.

Your roof might be one of the most significant investments your make in your home. Making sure you understand how your roof works, how your roof can fail, how to inspect your roof for nascent problems, and how your roof is repaired or replaced can help you to make informed roofing decisions.