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How To Know If Your Roof Needs Replacement or Repair

The roof system is the primary line of defense for a property. Without the integrity of a solid roof system, a structure is prone to health and safety concerns. It can sustain damages from storm-related loss, normal wear and tear, and other third-party-related issues. Just like a vehicle, your roof system requires continual maintenance and will require larger repairs as it gets older. So a question asked often is, how to know when a roof needs replacement or repair? 


The simple answer is to refer to an association like the National Roof Certification and Inspection Association (NRCIA) to schedule a visit with a certified roof inspector. They will perform a detailed inspection of the roof system, complete with a photo-centric report. In some cases, such as a storm-related loss, make sure the inspector is qualified for forensic inspections. 


In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to spot potential red flags in your roof system. These red flags will help indicate if the roof needs to be replaced or repaired.


Interior: moisture stains on ceilings or walls



Before, during, and after a rainstorm, perform a visual inspection of the ceilings and walls. Look inside closets and rooms that may not be visited often. It is helpful to identify if the material used is drywall or plaster because any damage will look different on each type of material. Moisture damage on drywall looks like yellow staining or delamination of the texture. Moisture damage on plaster is more difficult to see as staining is not typically the predominant clue. With plaster, moisture intrusion will cause cracks or efflorescence (white salt deposits). 


Various factors might produce discoloration or moisture damage on walls or ceilings, but it is usually a good indicator that there is a serious roof issue. An immediate inspection and repair job will help stop more damage from occurring.


Attic: water stains and presence of light


Most structures will have an attic space where the electrical, gas, water lines, and insulation are present. There typically is only one light in the attic, so a bright flashlight is needed. Start your inspection in the areas directly above any moisture stains you observed on the interior. You may see dark water stains that pronounce the grains in the wood. Those stains are a sign that there is possibly an active leak. 


Take a moment to turn off your flashlight, and you may even notice daylight coming through the roofing material. Any daylight is a red flag because there is a high likelihood of moisture intrusion and indicating the roof needs repairs as soon as possible.


Exterior: moisture damage 


Inspecting the perimeter of the structure helps identify moisture intrusion that is not visible inside the structure. The type of siding that the structure has will determine what to pay attention to. Discoloration of the siding material is a red flag that there is a roofing issue. Make sure to take a good look at the eaves for water streaks either on the shiplap or the backside of the fascia board. Keep in mind, being proactive is more cost-effective than being reactive when it comes to moisture intrusion.


If there are exterior signs of roof leaks, be sure to contact a certified roof inspector to provide a proper evaluation of the roof system. Providing proper maintenance to the roof system will prevent further moisture damage and increase its serviceable life. 


Damaged or missing roofing material


Any previous issues observed should be “up traced” to the location on top of the roof system. Only trained professionals should mount a roof. On top of the roof, there are obvious signs of defects like cracked shingles, broken tiles, or missing roofing material altogether. 


Another frequent red flag is any exposed mechanical fasteners such as staples or nails securing the roofing material. All mechanical fasteners should be covered and or sealed to prevent moisture intrusion. Widespread damage such as thermal cracking or granular loss indicates that the roofing material is at the end of its serviceable life. 


NRCIA inspectors can also perform a VisualROOF® inspection of the roof system after a large storm to inspect for damage. 


Damaged Flashings


One of the predominant maintenance issues that owners forget to perform is inspecting and repairing the flashing on the roof system. Flashings are present at roof penetration like skylights, exhaust vents, plumbing vents, chimneys, etc. Roof penetrations are highly susceptible to debris build-up and have a higher chance of allowing moisture intrusion. Proper roof maintenance includes regularly cleaning debris off the roof. This will help promote proper drainage. 


If debris remains present, it will act as a dam, impeding the proper water flow causing the rainwater to go in unnatural directions. The flashing (typically lead, galvanized, aluminum, etc…) protects the protruding components by directing water away from the penetration. The NRCIA recommends that all roof penetrations be re-sealed every two years as proactive maintenance will prolong the serviceable life of the roof system. The joint between the flashing and the roof penetration needs to be regularly sealed to ensure a LeakFREE® roof system. 


Unwanted Organic Growth

As the roof system ages, organic growth starts to develop on the roofing material. In the Northern Hemisphere, organic growth has a difficult time growing on south facets because it gets burned by the sun. A roof is most likely to grow algae on the northern facets of the building. Organic growth can cover the entire roof if the structure is surrounded by shade trees. Algae that grow in between the roofing material indicate a growing roof issue. 


Like debris, the presence of organic growth can impede proper drainage, which will result in moisture intrusion and potentially dry rot. In most cases, organic growth is an indication of old age but may have underlying causes too. 


Deteriorating Roofing material


Ultimately at some point, your roof system will age beyond cost-effective repair, and a complete roof replacement is needed. At this point, performing reactive repairs due to a leak is not cost-effective, because the roof has reached the end of its life expectancy. Homeowners may try to repair a roof that needs replacement. However, aged roof systems may not be in a repairable condition, and any attempt to repair them may cause more harm than help.


As a rule of thumb, a roof should be replaced every 25 years. Most roof systems will need to be either completely replaced or have a major overhaul performed. Knowing when your roof needs to be replaced also heavily depends on the roofing material used. For example, it is easy to observe deteriorated shingles. However, when it comes to a tile or metal roof, the moisture barrier is hidden and can only be assessed by a thorough evaluation of the overall roof system. 


A roof is a critical component of any structure. Rest easy and schedule an inspection with NRCIA, the industry leader in training and performing LeakFREE® Roof Inspections. Contact the NRCIA today


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