How Long Does a Roof Last?

ResidentialCalendarNovember 14, 2018

Some homeowners don’t think a whole lot about their roofs. That is, until warning signs that it might be time for roof replacement start to pop up. A roof can have a big impact on the structural and architectural integrity of your home. No matter the sticker date on a roof installation, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your roof for damage. About how long does a roof last? It’s an important question, and there are some determining factors that play a big role.

Maybe you just bought your new home, and you’re doing the math on how many years until you need to replace the roofing. Or maybe you had the roof replaced when the kids were little, and you’re wondering if it’s time to replace those shingles again. 

How long you can go before repairing your roof or having a new one installed depends on a few things, including roof shingle type, the quality of roofing materials, the process and quality of installation, and the weather. We’ll explore all of this and how long different types of roofs last in this post. 

How Long Does a Roof Last?

Not surprisingly, the number-one factor in how long a roof lasts is what kind of roof it is. Some common roof types are:

  • Asphalt shingles 
  • Metal 
  • Clay tiles
  • Cedar shingles
  • Slate tiles
  • Composite shingles

Although there are lots of options, asphalt, composite, metal, and clay are the most common. Cedar and slate are more expensive and, generally, have a longer life. But they’re not ideal for every homeowner. Here are some typical ranges for the most common roof types. 

How Long Different Roof Types Last

Asphalt - Asphalt shingles are considered “standard." They make up a good portion of the roofing you’ll see in most residential neighborhoods. Their typical life can be anywhere between 15 and 20 years.1

Composite - These shingles are made of synthetic materials and can be made to visually mimic more expensive options like cedar or slate, at a much lower price. They’re the second most common type of roofing material behind asphalt. These lightweight and durable shingles and can last anywhere between 30 and 50 years.2

Metal - Common types of metal rooftops are metal standing seam, metal shingle roofs, and ribbed metal panels. Most metal standing seam or metal shingle roofs last 40 years on average.3 If you wanted to spend a little more on a metal like stainless steel or copper, it could last up to or even beyond 100 years.4

Standing seam metal roofs are great if you’re considering installing solar. Although it’s easy to install solar on the most common roof types, it’s especially easy on standing seam rooftops.  Solar modules can be attached to the metal seam without even drilling any holes. 

Cedar Shingles - Ideal for homeowners aiming for rustic-looking homes, these natural wood shingles can last 30 years. Possibly more. Much depends on the quality of the shingles and how often and how well they’re maintained.5

Clay and Slate Tiles - These beautiful roof tiles are heavy and distinct. They’re also on the pricier side and can last 50 years or more in the right environment. They tend to do better in moderate climates, as snow, rain, or extreme heat can wear and crack the tiles. They’re not ideal in hurricane-prone areas because they’re so heavy and can cause serious damage if they’re lifted off the roof in high winds.6

Roof Layers, Installation, and Weather

Your roof is not just the shingles on top. There is a process of installing a new roof that involves several layers and steps.

Beneath the materials we typically think of as roofing, are:

  • Framing
  • Insulation 
  • Ventilation 
  • The roof deck
  • The water shield
  • Underlayment

Then come the roofing materials we’re all familiar with, the shingles, as well as ridge vents and flashing. Each layer plays a part in the integrity of the roof and how well it holds up over the years.

The framing is obviously the base for all other materials and must be capable of holding up the rest of it. Insulation and ventilation are key parts of a healthy roof, particularly pertaining to the area of the attic. 

The attic is insulated to keep warmth from leaking through the roof from the house below. Ventilating an attic is important to prevent too much heat and moisture from sitting in the attic and causing damage to the structure or causing mold.

A roof deck is a groundwork for the water shield and the underlayment, which help seal and waterproof the roof. Then the roof materials (shingles, tiles, etc.) sit on top of these. Ridge vents allow space for ventilation from the attic and flashing seals seams around chimneys and skylights to prevent water from leaking through the seams.7

How Long a Roof Lasts Depends on Installation

The best materials only work to give homeowners a long-lasting roof if they were properly installed. The care and expertise of your installers will have a significant impact on how well your new roof holds up over the years. Be sure to do your homework on the roofing contractor. Check in with the Better Business Bureau, and read reviews online to see what other people who hired them have to say about the experience. 

A quality contractor will be able to educate you on the different options and what they offer, and supply quality roofing materials when you make a decision. 

If you’re wondering when it might be time to call an inspector in to review the integrity of your current roof, here are some signs that it might be time to make the call. 

  • Curled, warped, or cracked shingle edges
  • Bald spots where the protective granules have worn away from shingles
  • Dark streaks or generally worn look8
  • Cracked, rough, flaking, or missing clay or slate tiles. 
  • Rusting, especially near the flashing or seams for metal roofs

Keep in mind that some wear and tear can be fixed by repairing certain sections of your roof. You might not need to get a whole new roof if it’s only been a few years. If you’re considering installing solar, it might be a good idea to go ahead with a new roof if it’s just about time anyway. But this might not be necessary. Find out when the roof was installed, and have an inspection done to be sure your roof is in good shape. 

 

Endnotes

1 https://www.interstatebrick.com/sites/default/files/library/nahb20study20of20life20expectancy20of20home20components.pdf
2
 https://www.skroofing.com/roofing-maryland/composite-roofing-faqs/

3 https://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/16143/title/6-reasons-to-consider-a-metal-roof/viewall/true
4 https://www.doityourself.com/stry/typical-life-span-of-a-copper-roof

5 https://www.interstatebrick.com/sites/default/files/library/nahb20study20of20life20expectancy20of20home20components.pdf
6 https://www.interstatebrick.com/sites/default/files/library/nahb20study20of20life20expectancy20of20home20components.pdf
7 https://hometipsforwomen.com/roofing-layers-underneath-shingles
8 https://www.owenscorning.com/roofing/tools/do-i-need-a-new-roof/ 

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