Roofing material costs might be one of the most important factors for homeowners when shopping for a new roof.
But people also need to know how long a new roof will last, or how much longer they can keep the old one without worrying.
Understanding the longevity of different residential roof types can help you make quicker and smarter renovation decisions.
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Average Total Roof Lifespan
Roofs can last anywhere between 15 and 100 years or even more. Of course, a lot goes into ensuring that your roof enjoys a long service life, starting with the choice of roofing materials.
Did you know? The Fairbanks Home in Dedham, Massachusetts, is the oldest residential home built on a timber frame that still stands and has most of its original materials and architecture.
The wooden roof tourists can see at the Fairbanks House Museum dates back to 1652. Granted, the condition of the Fairbanks Home is an oddity.
Roof Longevity Breakdown by Material
There are five roofing materials you need to know about, regardless of architectural design, curb appeal, or other factors. These five materials have niche uses, perks, individual downsides, and different lifespans.
Clay roofing is one of the most common types of roofs in the American Southwest. It comes predominantly in earthy colors like terra cotta and blends well into the environment.
Homeowners buy clay shingles for their aesthetics and resistance to sunny and hot climates. But clay shingles also happen to be among the longest-lasting roofing material. Yet, they aren’t cheap. Clay shingles may range between $570 and $760 per 100 square feet.
Many clay roofing manufacturers say their shingles last at least 50 years. However, they may not cover half a century with the warranty.
Despite that, clay tile roofs, such as Boral, are durable, and the interlocking patterns can help achieve superior ventilation.
Asphalt shingles are probably the most popular and commonly used roofing material due to their low cost and quality aesthetics.
These shingles are made from organic materials, fiberglass, and other alternatives, and feature an asphalt coating.
The cost for installing asphalt shingles ranges between $66.50 and $142.50 per 100 square feet.
They provide decent UV protection and can create watertight seals when properly installed. And their design variations, including the architectural shingles, give people plenty of options.
Asphalt shingles don’t last as long as other roofing materials. The typical lifespan is 15 to 30 years, with architectural asphalt shingles being more long-lasting.
The environment plays a vital role, because asphalt doesn’t handle hot and sunny weather as well as clay, slate, or metal.
Wood Shingles and Tiles
Wood shingles or shakes can look amazing on cottage-style homes.
If you opt for cedar roofing, you shouldn’t have to worry about insect infestation or rot. The biggest downside to wooden roofing is faster discoloration compared to other materials.
The installation isn’t without complications. Wood roofing is often associated with more material waste. That’s an important consideration given the average cost of $237.50 to $570 per square (a square being the standard unit of packaging and equal to 100 square feet).
You can expect an excellent wooden roof to last between 20 and 30 years, depending on the wood, installation quality, and environment.
Although wood shingles and shakes can lose their aesthetic appeal in a few years, it doesn’t mean they have stopped providing protection and energy efficiency.
Metal roofing isn’t a trendy choice across the U.S. It’s more common in the Northern states than elsewhere in the country. The metal roofing strength and load capacity can handle massive amounts of snow.
It’s easier to slide snow off a metal roof than other roofing types and materials. But its longevity depends on the material quality and gauge. Typically, 26- to 29-gauge roofs last only around 25 years with good maintenance and favorable conditions.
Thicker 22- to 24-gauge metal roofing can easily last 50 to 70 years. Granted, that may not be the case in areas with frequent hail and storms, or if the house sits under a tree canopy that could fall at any moment.
Homeowners and developers should consider metal roofing reinforced with steel or copper to minimize denting.
It’s important to know that metal roofing has one of the most outrageous pricing discrepancies. Some roofs are as little as $109.25 and others go as high as $855 per square (100 square feet).
Did you know? Metal roofing doesn’t attract lightning more than other roofing materials. Depending on climate conditions and lightning frequency, metal roofs can still be much safer than other alternatives because they dissipate electricity safely and are non-combustible.
Lightning tends to strike the tallest conductive object, meaning you can prevent it from hitting the roof often by installing a lightning rod.
Slate roofing is often the most expensive choice a homeowner can make. The metamorphic stone used to cut the uniform slate tiles is as tough as roofs come.
It can take abuse from the elements, is less maintenance-intensive, supports direct impacts, it’s fireproof, and usually maintains its aesthetic appeal.
So how long do slate tiles last? Many say that slate roofs easily last over a century and should last at least 75 years, even in sketchy conditions. Others argue that a good slate roof can go past the 150-year mark.
You may find slate at $570 per 100 square feet. But quality slate can cost you up to $1,425 per 100 square feet or higher.
Roof Life Span Breakdown by Location
There are many reasons why roofing materials have average lifespans and not a definitive expiration date. Depending on various key factors, they can last more or fewer years, with the location being one of them.
Not all roofing materials are recommended for every environment. Even slate, the strongest, probably isn’t a great option in the Northern states, where it snows heavily throughout the winter.
Slate is already heavy and may require extra reinforcement, which can substantially raise the total roofing cost.
But here’s how the elements affect a roof’s lifespan. For example, irregular temperatures and extreme weather events are typical in the Midwest.
You need strong materials to minimize the damage from direct hits and exposure to the elements. If you can afford it, you might want to choose slate over asphalt or clay.
Areas with heavy winds and hail can damage clay shingles despite their lengthy lifespan because clay is very brittle.
Metal roofs can perform well in hot environments when adequately installed and treated. But too much intense sunlight can cause warping and affect the structural integrity.
Such roofing options may thrive more in colder climates. It’s always best to understand the local weather conditions year-round before choosing a roofing material.
Roof Service Life Breakdown by Quality of Installation
The workmanship quality impacts the average roof service life more than you might think. Some roofing materials are considerably harder than others to install.
And usually, each type of roofing has a specific installation process and technique.
If the roofing contractor isn’t experienced enough, you can end up with poor ventilation, leaks, inefficient sealing – in the case of asphalt shingles – incorrect underlayment placement, and many more problems.
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Other Factors That Impact the Average Lifespan of Your Roof
Several factors can affect how much your roof can survive, including some you might not think about at first.
Roofing Material Colors
Interestingly, the color of your shingles can help a roof last longer. For example, living in hot, sunny climates requires lighter colors to repel some of the heat.
Choosing dark shingles may look better but leads to overheating. That can accelerate wear and tear and make ventilation more challenging and inefficient.
Ventilation and Airflow
Roofs need good ventilation for two reasons. First, proper ventilation helps energy efficiency and keeps residents comfortable during different seasons.
Secondly, ventilation is key to keeping the roofing materials at constant temperatures and safe from freezing and overheating.
Providing adequate ventilation will reduce the risk of cracking and expanding and increase the roof’s service life.
A quality roofing underlayment is necessary to create the proper waterproofing and water resistance between the roof and the rest of the house.
Typically, this is a critical factor when dealing with a damaged roof with signs of water infiltration or when living in a humid climate.
Improper waterproofing in the underlayment can foster moisture and mold buildup. Depending on the roofing materials, mold can rot away at the roof and reduce its lifespan.
Did you know? Underlayment isn’t necessary to install a roof. However, building codes in many states make it mandatory to install underlayment. In some areas, sticking to specific guidelines is the only way to qualify for home insurance discounts.
Roofs need good drainage and an acceptable slope angle. Naturally, roof slope directly affects the aesthetics and stability. But it also plays a role in preventing water accumulation, water damage, and mold and fungus development.
That’s one of the reasons flat roofs require more cleaning and maintenance than sloped roofs.
How Do Warranties Compare to the Lifespan of a Roof?
Warranties from roofing contractors and manufacturers differ from the actual roof lifespan. Usually, if someone installs a clay roof that could easily last 70 years in a warm climate, they might not give a warranty of more than 30 years.
But remember that roofing shingle manufacturer warranties differ from the warranties offered by installers. Likewise, manufacturers may not provide a warranty because the installation directly impacts the roof’s longevity and durability.
Manufacturers often rate their shingles for specific lifespans, and roofing contractors give warranties for the installation.
How Can I Make My Roof Last Longer?
There are four ways to make a roof last longer. First, you want to pick suitable materials to deal with the specific environmental conditions in your area. In other words, don’t install a clay roof in a region prone to major hailstorms.
Secondly, use professional contractors to install the roof. Even though some roofs are perfectly fine for DIY installations, contractors offer a warranty and will conduct repairs if something happens.
If you mess up the installation, your roof won’t last, and you’ll pay more out of pocket to fix the issues.
Another way to make a roof last longer is to stick to a strict maintenance schedule. Learn what your particular roof needs each season, how the slope affects the cleaning frequency, etc.
Lastly, consider doing periodic inspections. Some contractors recommend yearly inspections, but not everyone has the money to bring in an inspector every year, especially if the roof is only a few years old.
How Often Should a Roof Be Replaced?
There’s no right or wrong time to replace a roof. Most people probably replace it only when it shows signs of damage or it stops offering enough insulation.
But there are people who will change their roofs when remodeling a home to improve its overall value, curb appeal, and get a better price when they put it on the market.
Ideally, you shouldn’t have to replace a roof until it goes past its maximum estimated service life. But with proper maintenance and luck, any roofing material can exceed expectations.
How Do You Know When to Replace a Roof?
There are five distinctive signs that a roof might need replacing. Visible damage to the exterior or signs of structural damage noticeable from inside the house can indicate the need to redo the roof.
Consistent leaks and visible water damage are signs of something wrong with the roof, its design, the installation, or the underlayment.
Untimely ceiling discoloration can indicate problems with the roof, especially when the walls don’t show similar signs.
Frequent pest and insect infestations traceable to the roof and ceiling cracks should raise concerns about the roof’s quality and integrity.
Pro Tip: Consider your home’s architectural style and support structure when contemplating replacing a roof.
Roofing styles and materials aren’t always interchangeable, and switching from one to another can incur additional installation costs to reinforce your home.
Cost per sq. ft.
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Can A Roof Last Longer Than 20 Years?
Most roofs are rated for at least 20 years, regardless of materials and environmental conditions.
However, cheap asphalt shingles, such as three-tab shingles, can last as little as 8-10 years if they are installed in an area with severe weather and temperature fluctuations.
Can a Roof Last 30 Years?
Even wooden and cheap asphalt roofs can last over 30 years with good maintenance if the weather isn’t entirely harmful to those materials.
Plan Your Next Roof Replacement Accordingly
There’s one more thing to know before you decide to replace your roof. Although there could be better options on the market than what you currently have installed on your home, not all roofs need replacing at the first sign of trouble.
Sometimes an on-site inspection can save you a lot of money. Some roofs only need repairs or partial replacements of vulnerable or damaged sections.
Consider the average lifespan of your roofing material and the visible damage before drafting a project and investing money in a roofing remodeling job.
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I've been a roofer for 15 years, and specialize in Metal Roofing and Flat Roofing.
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