To repair a roof or not, that is the question. Actually, the question is based on whether the cost is worth doing it now, or waiting a while. In which case, it is more like a gamble. And a wager that each home owner makes virtually every day. Yet, when an obvious problem comes up, such as water trickling overhead, into your living space, the decision is easy: fix the leak! 😉
Our goal with this guide is to make sure you are better equipped for managing what really is an ongoing wager between your roof and the elements outside, along with the factor of time. Both are in essence sabotaging all the good will, value and lifespan of your roof.
Do nothing between now and the next time your roof needs to be replaced and the odds are against you. Sure you might get lucky, but you have ample opportunity to make your own luck. To be smart with the wager. To keep little problems as little and manage bigger problems with effectiveness.
We have lots of ground to cover. But let’s begin with the primary reason for this guide, the expected cost range for a typical roof repair:
- $150 to $400 for minor repairs
- $400 to $1000 for moderate repairs
- $1000 to $3000 for major repairs
Did you know? Most home owners spend between $300 and $1,100 for a roof repair, or an average of $650 to fix a roof related issue.
Going beyond $3,000 is possible, but at that point a replacement roof could be your best bet. The average cost to install a new roof in 2019 for a moderate sized home is $7,500+. While this is the worst case scenario, in terms of cost, it does allow you to start anew. Still, our goal is to keep costs reasonable, while increasing value.
Before we go further, it is important to realize that not all roofs are the same. It would be so much easier to reveal this information if they were. But how boring would the world, or your neighborhood, be if all homes had identical roofs? 😉
Our data is based on moderately sized homes (or around 1500 to 2000 sq. ft.) and in most cases with asphalt shingles as the typical material on a roof. We realize that is not the only material, and we’ll share cost data on other types as well. Plus, the typical cost range mentioned above is assuming you are paying someone who knows what they are doing.
If you can tackle minor jobs, that cost would go down. Yet, the do-it-yourself approach is included in our references to the gamble. More on that, later on.
Specific Costs for Common Roof Problems
Here we’ll keep things short. Remember, there are so many variables that go into types of roofs and therefore types of problems that may occur.
In general, asphalt shingles (the most common roof type in the U.S.) are the cheapest to replace. Next would be wooden and metal shingles, which are middle of the road.
Clay, concrete and slate tiles are where expenses go up for repair. When repaired, those materials are the most durable and so lifespan will be longer.
Most home owners spend between $300 and $1,100 for a roof repair, or an average of $650 per repair call.
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Typically, a job is to repair leaks. Seal the leak, replace shingles, seal the shingles. If there is a small area and few shingles being repaired, it will likely be on the low end, or as little as $150.
High end costs are $1,500 to $3,000 and are generally repairing material under the roof’s outer layer, possibly addressing damaged wood in other parts of the house, such as outer walls. Plus replacing all shingles on sections of the roof (think 10 by 10 foot areas).
Moderate repairs are likely fixing and/or sealing fixtures on the roof and replacing shingles and flashing around these objects.
Asphalt shingles cost roughly $500 to $1,000 to replace or repair 10 by 10 square feet section
Metal Roofs cost on average $500 to $1,500 to repair improper installation, fix loose seams or address any damaged fasteners
Wood Shakes or Cedar Shingles repair will run $500 to $1,000 on average, which is generally dealing with moss build up or insects / other critters doing damage to the wood shingles
Flat and Single-Ply roofs costs around $400 to $1,000 to address pooling water that may lead to minor sagging, or to repair improper sealing of the under laying material
Slate and stone-like roofs are $550 to $1,500 on average to repair improper installation or nails that are too tight, causing tiles to prop up leading to leaks
Chimneys, vents, skylights and related fixtures on a roof are going to vary in price. In general the cost would start around $450 and go up. Generally, shingles around the fixture need to be removed to repair sealing and fix flashing. Then shingles are replaced.
If there are multiple fixtures needing repair, yes the cost will go up, but generally a contractor will reduce the rate for each as they are already up there, with all the tools.
With leaky chimneys, the cost of repair can quickly go to the $750 range or higher, as the damage to the chimney structure may be determined to be a source of roof problems and that would need to be fixed first.
Damage to flashing in valleys means removing shingles around it, fixing the flashing or (more likely) replacing it, and then replacing the shingles, and sealing everything. This ranges from $200 to $600, and depends on how long the valley is, how steep the slope of the roof and how many shingles actually need to be replaced.
More than one valley needing attention will raise cost, but again the rate may go down per valley, in this case.
Why Repair A Roof?
In many instances, this question answers itself. Because it needs fixing. Again, the leaky roof (the most common problem) comes to mind, and you don’t need anyone to tell you that needs repair. So, the real question is, why repair a roof that apparently has no problems? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Umm, not so fast. Trying to determine the condition of a roof while standing on the ground or inside the home is dubious. It takes inspection both on the roof and on the underside of the roof. Maybe even in walls and other parts of the home.
It takes experience to know what to look for. A few sections down, we get more into this. For now, realize that your roof is constantly subjected to normal wear and tear on a good day, and little problems could be occurring which are invisible to you, especially if judging all this from inside your living space.
The main reason to repair a roof is so you hopefully don’t have to bear the cost of replacing a roof.
Minor repairs done today could cost you say $400. Let them grow into bigger problems and roof replacement just months from now means you spend 4, even 5 figures. In other words, you took the gamble and lost way more than you otherwise would have.
Regular maintenance, and taking care of minor problems as they come up, is the wise approach. Be proactive rather than reactionary. Maintenance will address the value of the roof and impact its lifespan. Asphalt shingle roofs will normally last 15 to 25 years. Not effectively dealing with little problems means you can bet on it being closer to 15 years.
Regular maintenance doesn’t guarantee you’ll get 25 years, but it is a far safer bet. A roof’s value includes its aesthetic qualities, or how beautiful your home looks with a nearly new roof. But, value also relates to how well the roof functions. In reality, this is the fundamental value of a roof. This is what you are seeking to maintain, as it will directly impact lifespan.
Waiting for repairs to pop up and make themselves visible to you is a gamble. A huge gamble. You can then choose to patch the problem, and if it is truly minor, you’re good to go. If it is major, then the patch is just buying time. Instead of years, think of it as months.
With all this said, the other part of maintenance is routine inspections. If doing these regularly, say twice a year, then one of those times could be done by you. The other inspection could be done by a professional contractor who will likely look in places you wouldn’t consider.
Ideally, you are getting routine annual roof inspections, tackling little problems as they arise and getting the maximum lifespan out of your roof.
Replacement of your roof ought to be scheduled rather than needed to solve a major problem. This is how the wise people gamble on their roof.
Then again, some problems are outside of your control even with frequent inspections. And so the rest of this article is for those who need repairs, and wish to make the most of that situation. Keep costs down. Make safe bets. Simple, right?
What To Repair?
So, let’s say the flashing of your roof’s valley is… wait… what’s that? You don’t what flashing is? Or that a roof has valleys? If that’s the case, that’s what we call perfectly normal.
While there are many variations in roof styles, and thus so many possible things that could go wrong, calling for customized solutions, there are also many similarities in roof types. There are also common parts to most roofs. It’s very rare to find truly unique fixtures or design elements on a roof.
Common terms for roof parts or fixtures (which likely relate to repairs) are:
- Ridge Vents, or other venting fixtures
- Shingles, Tiles, or even Sheets
- Underlayment, or membrane
That’s the basics. There are more to roofs than this. We aren’t going to cover all of them, but in the interest of making you aware of as many of them as possible, please see this Glossary of Terms, from the National Roofing Contractors Association. Don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed on this later.
Understanding the terms is helpful for the times when you might need repair or are getting quotes for anything related to your roof. A quote, or written proposal, from a contractor is likely to use these terms as places they checked and determined something needs fixing.
Contractors tend to include their own language regarding methods they use to address an issue, plus materials they would use. Reviewing and understanding the terms is helpful, but always ask a contractor about what the terms they are using actually mean.
A pro will explain it, as their goal is, or ought to be, to get you on the same page, so you are satisfied with the value of their work.
Common Problems or Signs That A Roof Needs Repair
In this section, we’re just going to go through some common problems that occur with a roof. We’ll indicate if it is minor, moderate or major issue and elaborate on what parts of the roof the problem impacts. The cost for these items are noted in a section below.
Again, our purpose is to help you understand as much as possible before letting cost be the sole factor in fixing problems with your roof.
The most common problem is leaking. Leaks can occur in several ways. Rarely will a roof have a hole from outside, directly to the inside that you could see through. Instead, water is seeping into any loose seams and finding channels where it may start to drip on the inside.
A more common reason for a leak is due to fixtures on the roof. Fixtures include skylights, chimneys, vents and other objects that protrude through or on top of the roof. — Because these items are built with the idea that a hole is needed is the roof for the fixture, then material is put around that hole to prevent water from building up and leaking through. That surrounding material is usually metal, called flashing or an apron. It can wear out, or may be improperly installed. Over time, the seams where the metal is connected to the roof or the fixture is can allow precipitation in.
Chimney Leaks are one of the more common reasons for leaks. There are lots of design nuances to a normal chimney.
A professional roofer won’t cut corners to properly seal and flash around a chimney. Their goal is to eliminate all possible leaks. But time takes a toll on all fixtures.
Therefore, regular inspections make it a point to check for how well these areas are sealed. A pro will thoroughly check for leaks, but a basic inspection can be done by anyone.
Corrosion or cracking in the flashing could results in leaks that are perhaps nowhere near the chimney. Assuming the chimney itself is fine, and the leak is due to a failed flashing, then this would be a moderate repair.
However, if the chimney itself needs work as well, due to adverse conditions, such as a cracked or leaky crown, spalling bricks, or cracked cement, this could then become a major repair, depending on the size of the chimney and extent of the leaks elsewhere on the roof.
Leaks in shingles or tiles are another common problem. Again, it’s unlikely you have a visible hole in the roof, but shingles that are improperly installed, worn out or some other occurrence (see additional problems below) are going to result in leaks.
Replacing shingles or patching (covering) troubled spots is a minor repair, though this assumes the leak corresponds to the troubled area. If not, then it becomes a moderate repair.
Vents and smaller fixtures on a roof are the other reason for leaks. Same concept as the chimney, but the sealing of these are actually more prone to damage as the fixture itself isn’t as durable of a structure as the chimney.
Chances are the vent doesn’t need any repair, just the sealing or flashing around the fixture. Quite possible the shingles around the fixture need replacing or patching (adding an extra layer).
Once you know how to seal a fixture, this type of job is a minor repair. But again, could become a moderate problem if the leak into the home is actually not at the point of entry where the fixture is.
Skylights are the other reason for leaks. A window in your roof absolutely needs proper installation. Chances are a professional put that in. If not, then this could be a major contributor to a leaking roof.
Skylights are notorious for trapping water along their edges, leading to cracks in its sealing material. If that is the extent of the problem, it is a minor repair. But if the flashing is corroded, and depending on the extent of that corrosion, this can quickly become a moderate problem.
Shingles are a source of many common problems with a roof that aren’t always related to leaks. Another common occurrence is ice damming. Visible to the home owner as icicles dangling off the side of the roof. There, they are a beautiful wonder of nature. On your roof, they represent a place where snow melted, such that water is standing on the roof rather than going to the ground.
Because it is cold outside, the melted water freezes at the colder edge or eave of the roof before it can get to the ground.
Thus, it’s melting and refreezing of snow on the roof which leads to ice dams and icicles defying gravity and putting extra stress on the roof’s structure.
The water on the roof remains and is dammed or blocked by the ice formation. A durable roof that is in great condition can handle ice damming. An older roof may not fare as well. Ice damming can greatly enhance wear and tear.
Many problems with shingles call for minor repair, unless it is spread out over a large area of the roof. If it is affecting the whole roof, and inspection shows damage in several areas, it is potentially a major problem.
But, major problems usually take time (many months) to occur, unless it is an extreme condition like heavy wind. Some of the common problems that occur with (asphalt) shingles are:
- wind damage – shingles blown off or moved out of place (slightly attached)
- incorrect installation, improperly attached
- ice damming
- fallen tree branches
- moss build up
And missing granules. The rough feel of a shingle comes from the granules that serve as a protection from UV rays, and from the obvious need for people to walk on a roof (during inspections or repairs). Granules will wear off over time or due to heavy rain and wind. Ya know, the elements.
Once bare patches on the roof occur, because enough granules are missing, the shingles are in need of replacing, or patching. If not attended to, then they may crack, curl or be prone to moss and staining. Thus a very minor repair from missing granules could lead to a moderate repair due to other problems.
Damage to roof valleys is the next most common problem. These are the built-in gutter-like area on the roof which are meant to take water down to drain pipes or help gravity get precipitation off a roof. Usually valleys are lined with metal (flashing) or vinyl strips.
Flashing is usually damaged as a result of lifting nearby tiles (via wind or other repair job), by fungus build up or by heavy rains. As this affects all shingles around it, on either, or both, side(s) of the valley, it is a moderate repair job.
Have a number of valleys in need of repair, and it could become a major repair. Routine maintenance can prevent this from being anything but a minor job for an experienced pro.
Age of materials is the next consideration for repair work. This can, depending on lifespan of the roof, mean it is time for replacement of the entire roof, rather than repair.
If a roof meant to last at least 15 years is age say 7 to 14, then this is generally just a minor repair. Replacing shingles that are visibly worn or missing granules.
The last of the common problems we wish to address is a sagging roof. This can occur for several reasons, but the common reason is water or snow has been resting on a low sloped roof for longer than it should, causing not just the outer material (shingles) to be impacted, but all layers down to the structural boards to bear the brunt of that weight. — This can obviously lead to serious problems. If the area is small, it is a moderate repair job. If it is big (say 1/4th the entire plane of the roof, or larger) it is quite likely a major repair job. The good news is, it can be fixed and doesn’t necessarily mean you need your entire roof replaced.
First let’s address how long a repair job will take. If a less experienced person is doing the job, they could conceivably finish faster than a professional contractor. Though they (or you) may miss some of what is actually in need of repairing.
A pro is going to assess the entire condition of the roof and possibly the house (exterior walls and foundation) before tackling a repair job.
A handyman or do-it-yourself approach is most likely to go with the “if it ain’t broke…” technique. In other words, cutting corners to save costs. Not realizing this could cost you, the home owner, much more down the line.
If the handyman is able to properly assess the entire condition of the home, finish the job quickly and efficiently, then one must wonder, why are they are not a pro? Read on, and perhaps that answer will reveal itself.
It is critical to understand the difference between price and value:
That line needs to stand on it’s own. Perhaps we could have begun the article with that, as it is that important, but really, everyone gets this. It applies to virtually all transactions. Though a roof, unlike most things you buy has a value spanning decades. Oh, and it happens to be primary way to protect yourself from the weather and certain animals in your region.
So, a low cost quote for repairs may sound wonderful, but could also be a trap of sorts.
Again, you are wagering on the idea that a quick fix, low cost solution is truly going to help you out, when the reality could be months later you are having to pay for the larger repair anyway.
A pro will provide a warranty on their work. Might only be a couple of years, but compared to no guarantee if anything goes wrong as a result of the repair work, it is a big deal. In fact, it is another way to hedge your bet in the cost of repairing your roof.
A pro is very likely to establish themselves to you as a professional contractor. Not just by their skills and experience, but by being licensed (authorized to market themselves as a bona fide roofing professional in your region), bonded (offering protection to you if the job is not finished) and/or insured (protecting a home owner if somehow the pro ends up damaging the house or themselves while on the job).
You obviously won’t get any of this from the DIY approach. And a handyman would likely consider this more trouble than its worth (to him or her) whereas all of these items are really looking out for the home owner. — Sure this comes at a premium, but is not really a high price to pay when considering the wager one would be taking if a non-professional decided they can’t finish the job or, worse, got injured while on the job. If they aren’t insured, guess who is liable for that? Hint: the person who owns the property.
With all that said, here are the qualities to look for in a pro roofer for repair work:
association(s) with professional roofing organizations (such as NRCA)
experience – obvious a top consideration. You’ll want to know they can do what they advertise as doing.
established – or how long have they/their company been in business? If just a couple years, then guarantees or warranties must be weighed with the reality that they might not be around 5 years from now. This isn’t necessarily a reason to rule them out, just a consideration.
service area – obviously you’ll want to know if the rates they offer are specific to your location or might they refuse service, raise rates if it is not in their service area?
licensing / warranty / insurance – most pros have one or all of these
noted areas of expertise – if you have a specialty type roof or unique repair job, looking for experts may be your best bet
feedback / testimonials – if on their website, the contractor likely filtered the less favorable ones out. But if they are established, an online search may deliver results on jobs they’ve done before.
For minor repairs, this type of investigative work is probably unnecessary. For moderate repairs or major ones, it could be well worth a couple hours of your time to find out how great (or not so great) they are
inspection costs and written proposals – that they do these at all is the main consideration. That they might charge for these is something to consider.
Inspections generally are not free when done by a pro, given how extensive they can be. Written proposals are just a fancy way of saying they’ll provide a quote or estimate for the work they may do for you.
financing options – some pros will offer the option to pay for a repair job over time. Obviously low interest rates are what you are seeking if offered, but perhaps you won’t even need this. For a minor job, it probably wouldn’t come up. For a major one, it might be what you need to make that happen for you.
If reading this list and wondering, how would you find this information out? The answer is – ask! A pro won’t be shy or guarding the information that makes every bit of sense for you to ask about. Think of it as your right to ask and know this information. If they say no to something, such as they are not bonded, then you know.
The general rule is to get a minimum of three quotes for any job, including minor repairs. How many you get is up to you. You mainly want to know the high end, low end and see if there is a 3rd quote that is in the middle. Then weigh what is being offered and why the different price quotes. If you’ve had quotes for other type of jobs, you already get how this works.
Finding a contractor, in your area, is actually pretty easy. We have no idea where you live, but we can make that claim regardless. A google search on “roof repair” along with your zip code will probably give you enough leads to go with.
Oh, back to that first question. Most repair jobs for a pro will take 1 to 2 business days. If it is a significant major repair job, it obviously might take longer. For common problems, a pro will work efficiently.
The DIY Approach
Sometimes shingles are simply curling up or loose. Perhaps one or two shingles are cracked. Maybe the shingles are missing granules. All of these items are minor repair jobs. With all of them, it would be a better bet to have a pro address the problem, as it could be a sign of something bigger occurring in say design of the roof or how the roof was installed (read as improperly).
Even a seal for a fixture may be something that is noticeable to you and you can see it wouldn’t be too challenging to apply the material to the area.
Assuming the slope of your roof is not steep (at all) and you are comfortable being on your roof, then for minor repairs (only) it might make sense to go the DIY route. To give you an idea of what you might pay for materials, consider the following:
- Asphalt shingles usually sell by the bundle for $30
- Flashing material for valleys costs around $20 for a 10 ft. piece
- Flashing material for chimney cots about $20
- A silicone sealant for patching leaks around a fixture will cost $5
- Nails, application tools, hammer or nail guns are all items that are affordable and may be reusable
But, and we can’t emphasize this enough, the proper installation or sealing of items is a skill and can be done poorly or adequately. That’s perhaps a comfortable range for you. Or it can be done professionally with a guarantee attached to the job.
If it turns out the patch that your DIY approach took was actually just covering a deeper problem, not exactly visible to your untrained eyes, then the low costs figures above are really a significant gamble.
You are betting that they are enough to fix the problem, as you see it. In reality, it might be the price you are paying to cover up the actual problem which will cost you even more in due time.
At the very least, with the DIY approach, consider an inspection before or after to ensure that the inexperienced repair job didn’t mask a deeper problem that a trained eye can detect.
Get ‘Er Done
Roof repair can seem like a daunting task that is just intimidating enough to consider putting off for another time. Perhaps, you rationalize, when your budget allows for it, or when the issue in your mind truly warrants it.
Our hope with this guide is that you don’t hold off and instead see all problems with a roof as something that can be fixed. We purposely chose to emphasize the metaphor of gambling as it really does pertain to what’s at stake.
Having a pro involved at some point in the maintenance of your roof is the safest bet you can make. Doing something to address minor repairs or routine inspections is a decent way to hedge your bet.
Doing nothing and hoping for the best is relying on luck. The cost for doing nothing may seem like the least expensive option of all. In reality, it is the riskiest bet you can make with regards to your roof.
You now have awareness of the parts of a roof, the common problems, what to look for in selecting a pro contractor and good idea on what it costs to repair a roof. Time to hedge your bet by getting on the path of routine maintenance and annual inspections. And remember, your local pro contractor is your ace in the hole! 😉
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