In this guide, we answer the burning question: “How do I know when it’s better to repair or replace a roof (and when and how to decide)?”
- Replace your roof if it doesn’t keep out the weather, looks bad due to age or has suffered widespread damage.
- Repair the roof when it is less than 12 to 15 years old, and the problems are isolated in a few spots.
- Roofs older than 15 years should probably be replaced when this question comes up.
Roof Repair vs Roof Replacement
When a roof is in fair condition, neither new nor obviously in need of replacement, it becomes a difficult decision. Repair is an affordable, short-term fix. Replacement cost is a lot higher, but going this route also means that your new roof likely won’t need major attention for 20 to 40 years, depending on the material you install.
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Should I Repair or Replace My Roof?
That’s been called the toughest question in the roofing industry.
This actionable guide will clarify the issue for you with specific factors to consider, pros and cons of each option and the cost of roof repair vs replacement. In short, the question of whether to repair or replace the roof should be easier to answer in just a few minutes.
The info starts with identifying whether a roof can be repaired or should be replaced.
Signs You Need Roof Repair
Signs you need roof replacement are next.
Repair is an affordable option and the right choice in many situations. Here are signs that repairing your roof is the right decision. Evaluate all the factors before deciding whether to fix the roof or spend the extra money to have it replaced.
Damage vs Wear aka Event vs Age
Choose repair if the problem is caused by an event doing damage to the roof, something like a storm, falling tree limb, bad workmanship or other one-time event. These issues are not caused by age that slowly degrades the roof and indicates replacement is a better option.
Widespread damage caused by an event like losing a lot of shingles in high winds or a heavy hailstorm makes replacement a more attractive option. When the problem areas are limited and the rest of the roof is in good condition, repair it. The time to replace the roof will come soon enough. Start saving for it 🙂
Repairs Can Be Done Quickly
When your roof is leaky or obviously damaged, you have little time to lose. Get repairs done before water damage results from a compromised roof in the next rainstorm.
Tip: If your preferred roofer is behind – and that’s very likely these days – then ask the roofer or hire a handyman to at least get the roof effectively tarped to prevent further damage while awaiting repairs.
When a roof is damaged, the original issue is often minor. But when heavy rain falls on a damaged roof, the water will likely get to the roof deck where it can spread out and cause widespread water damage, rot, and mold.
Overall Appearance is Good
The undamaged roofing looks good – shingles are holding their granules, and they aren’t cupping at the edges, cracked, slipping, or missing. Get the problem spots repaired, and you should get another 10 years or more out of your roof.
You Plan to Move
If you are going to put the house on the market soon, then getting by with a repair is a good choice. This is especially true when the issues are localized and caused by damage rather than age. Yes, a new roof has better curb appeal than a patched roof.
New Shingle Roof
New Metal Roof
New Flat Roof
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But roof replacement has a return on investment / ROI of only about 60% (depending on how much you pay upfront for the new roof). That means if you spend $12,000 on a new shingle roof, you’ll recoup about $7,200 of that if you sell soon.
An alternate approach is to lower your sale price, for example, so that it is $5,000 less than similar homes, and let the buyer choose their new roof. It will save you hassle and might give you a better financial outcome.
It Is an Insurance Claim
If the roof is damaged in an event covered by your homeowner’s insurance, then it might be up to the insurer whether to repair or replace the roof.
More often than not, the insurer will offer a settlement that covers repair, not replacement of the entire roof, especially when the damage is limited in scope. That gives you the option of going through with the repair or putting the settlement dollars toward a new roof.
The Roof Has One Layer of Shingles
When there are two layers on the roof, repair becomes more complicated and costly since all layers in the damaged area are typically removed. Plus, the repair might be more noticeable when the roofing around the spot has multiple layers, and the repair is a single layer.
Damage to a roof with multiple layers of shingles is a candidate for replacement, especially when the damage covers more than about 25% to 40% of the roof.
The Repair Cost is Less Than 30% to 50% of the Replacement Cost
The older the roof is, the lower the percentage threshold for replacement. In other words, if the repair cost of a 20-year-old roof is only 30% of a new roof, replace it anyway since the roof will require replacement due to age in the next 5-10 years.
It is important in a situation like the one we described to get estimates from multiple contractors for both repair and replacement. This is essential because some roofers will give you a high estimate for repair hoping either to make a good profit on repair or push you to replace the roof, instead.
Getting estimates from 3 or more roofing contractors tends to expose where any of them are trying to take advantage of you in the replace vs repair debate.
Installation Problems Cover a Small Area
If the issue is caused by bad workmanship and isn’t widespread, then it can be easily repaired. Ask your installer to inspect the problem and repair it.
Examples of this that we have documented include leaks caused by loose or poorly caulked flashing, faulty ridge vent installation or a section of shingles coming loose because the installer had the nail gun air pressure too high and nails were driven completely through the shingles, nail head and all, rather than holding them in place – yes, we watched more than 100 square feet of shingles slide off a roof after the first snow because the shingles weren’t secured because of this issue.
Ventilation Problems are Caught Early
A poorly vented attic allows moisture and heat to build up beneath the roof deck, and the inevitable result is a rotted roof and failed shingles. Sometimes this happens when a homeowner has additional insulation added to the attic, and the installers make the rookie mistake of covering the soffit vents with insulation.
It can also happen if a roofer cuts corners and skips adding full-length ridge vents. Either will prevent airflow that removes excess heat and moisture. But when caught before major damage is done, these issues can be repaired, sparing you the cost of full roof replacement.
Signs You Need Roof Replacement
Adding a second layer of shingles or tearing off the old roofing and doing a full replacement is a more permanent fix that might save you money in the long run.
Here are the top reasons to replace your roof rather than spending money on repairs. Some of these are the opposite of signs listed above, so we won’t go into too much detail with them.
When a roof is generally worn out – bare spots with few granules, crumbling edges, etc., repairs are a waste of time and money.
Poor Looks X 2
First, an old roof looks its age – curb appeal suffers and damage to the roof structure is sure to follow.
Secondly, if the repairs can’t be made with closely matching shingles, your roof is going to show that a patch job was done. If you want it to look good, adding a layer, if possible, or replacing the roof is necessary.
Whether or not an insurance claim is possible, when a large section of a roof is damaged, the cost-effective approach is replacement. This is because the cost to repair a section of roof might be twice as high or more per square foot than replacement.
Major Installation Issues
Manufacturer’s warranties do not cover bad installation jobs. In fact, “it’s the installer’s fault” is the manufacturer’s response on more than 85% of warranty claims. And they are right most of the time.
Yes, the installer should offer a workmanship warranty of 1-5 years. We have seen longer warranties offered with a complete tear-off and new roof.
However, if the roof is failing, regardless of age, and you cannot get the original installer to repair it, then replacement is a better choice due to the higher cost per square foot of repairs. This is a worst-case scenario, but we see it quite a bit.
Roof Deck Damage
If a leak goes unnoticed for a few months or more, water damage will invade the roof deck and spread. It’s usually impossible to assess the damage and make repairs without tearing off the old roofing material to uncover the entire deck – at least on the side of the house or section of the roof where the damage is.
And once you get that far, roof replacement of the entire section or the whole roof becomes more appealing.
Should I Tear Off a Single Layer of Shingles?
The question of whether to tear off or roof over old shingles comes up when discussing repair vs replace. Building code allows for a second layer of shingles in most circumstances.
However, you might want to tear off the single shingle layer anyway if:
You suspect roof rot. If the deck contains rotted plywood/OSB that needs replacing, then obviously all old roofing must be removed first. And it can’t be reused.
The shingles are in poor condition. You don’t want them continuing to disintegrate beneath new shingles.
High winds are a problem where you live. Nails hold shingles in place more effectively when there’s only one layer.
A lot of damaged shingles must be removed first. When your roof is a mix of one-layer and two-layer shingles, it looks lumpy and uneven.
You prefer the best warranty coverage – which is only available with a tear-off and the installation of the manufacturer’s underlayment, ice/moisture shield, ridge vent and shingles. Specific material requirements vary by manufacturer.
Your Budget vs Inflation
Is a new roof in the budget? Inflation is high right now and might get worse. Interest rates are rising too.
In short, a roof will cost more next year or the year after than it will cost this year. Loan rates of 5% might become 8% or higher, for example.
And your money will buy less. Once you have a new roof, you can forget about replacement cost for at least 20 years and up to 40 years with premium options and good maintenance.
How is a Roof Repair Done?
In other words, what does roof repair entail?
Usually roof repair includes removing all damaged material right down to the roof deck, if necessary.
If the damage is isolated, then a small section of roofing will be removed and replaced.
Shingle repair means removing and replacing a limited number of shingles and possibly the underlayment and other barrier materials beneath it.
When the roof feels soft in the affected area, meaning a leak has led to rot, then all roofing materials are removed. The bad plywood or OSB on the deck is replaced, and cost rises.
How is Roof Replacement Done?
In full roof replacement, all layers of shingles and the underlayment/tar paper are removed and replaced.
What’s the difference between roof replacement and reroofing?
Some contractors use the terms interchangeably. However, when there is a difference, reroofing means adding a single layer of shingles over a single existing layer.
Comparing Cost of Repair vs Replacement
When the cost of repair gets high, replacement becomes a better choice. There’s no set figure that works for every homeowner in every case, but 30% to 50% is a good starting point. Specific costs are given in a later section.
The older a roof, the lower the percentage needed to choose replacement. For example, if the cost of repairing a roof that is 20 years old is 30% of a new roof, then replacement is a better option. But if the roof is only 10-15 years old, then repair is a good choice at 30% of a new roof – or even 50%.
Pros and Cons of Roof Repair
The advantages of roof repair are:
Lower cost than replacement.
Extends the life of the old roof (buys you time before the larger expense of replacement).
Can sometimes be done more quickly – a good idea when the spring rainy season or autumn tropical storm season is approaching.
Often covered by homeowners’ insurance when the problem is caused by a weather event.
Matching shingle color is a challenge if you don’t have spare shingles on hand.
Most shingle warranties don’t cover repairs.
The non-repaired roofing is still old, and when it needs to be replaced, you’ll have to replace the entire roof at full cost. In other words, the money you spent on repairs will be lost.
DIY repair efforts made by inexperienced homeowners sometimes lead to worse problems. Looking back on our early years, we’ve been there, done that.
Pros and Cons of Roof Replacement
The benefits are:
You have a new roof that should last 20-30 years, if asphalt shingles, and far longer if you make the switch to metal roofing.
You get a warranty with a new roof – warranty length is up to Lifetime (which usually means 50 years) against manufacturer defects, not wear and tear, and most shingle manufacturer warranties are prorated.
Replacement now costs less than repairs now plus replacement later.
You can change the color of the roof or select materials you prefer.
Energy efficient roofing options are available that can reduce energy use and cost. They make the most sense in sunny, hot regions.
Curb appeal is better. Your roof represents about 30% to 40% of the image someone gets from the road or “curb.” Think about that as you consider inviting guests to your home or putting your house on the market. Yes, a new roof will help you sell your home.
Higher cost, and remember, you will only get about 60% of the cost of the new roof back.
It can be a costly mistake if you rush the search process and choose an inferior installer. Proper roof installation is vital to the roof’s durability, performance, and the value you get from the money you spend.
It’s a noisy process. Having a crew on your roof for a day or two scraping off old roofing and hammering down new shingles makes a lot of bothersome noise for those at home and for pets too. Consider getting away for a few days with your pets while the work is being done.
Cost of Roof Repairs
Roof repair cost is $7.50 to $15.00 per square foot depending on the work done. See roof replacement cost next.
Your cost will fit into one of these ranges:
$6.50 – $9.00 per square foot: Affordable shingles replaced – no underlying repairs
$8.50 – $12.50 per square foot: Midgrade shingles replaced and/or additional replacement of the underlayment, ice shield or other materials (but not the roof deck)
$12.00 – $15.00 per square foot: Replacement of all materials including damaged roof deck sheets.
Note that most roofing contractors have a minimum charge of $150 to $300 (or more) just to come to your home. If a handful of shingles damaged by wind or hail need to be removed and replaced, cost will likely be the minimum charge.
When the underlayment is damaged, a larger section of roof will need to be repaired in order to ensure the new underlayment overlaps existing underlayment to create a better moisture barrier. This raises the cost per square foot and the total job cost.
When water damage has caused sagging, warp or rot of the roof deck, the job of replacing the roof from the deck up becomes wider in scope and more costly per square foot.
Cost of Roof Replacement
A new asphalt shingle roof costs $4.50 to $9.00 per square foot with the average range between $5.00 and $7.50 per square foot.
The cost is determined in part by whether you’re simply adding a second layer ($4.00 – $4.65/sq. ft.) or doing a tear-off, removing roofing materials down to the deck ($4.50 – $8.00).
Other factors are the specific shingles you choose whether you select upgraded underlayment and ice/water barriers, the height and complexity of your roof and where you live.
So, is it better to repair or replace a roof in terms of price?
It really depends on the total cost of the repair – how large the damaged area is and whether the repair includes replacing some of the roof deck.
In general, roofs 15 years old and older should be replaced. Repairs make sense on newer roofs when the damage doesn’t cover more than 30% to 50% of the roof.
Buyer’s tip: The only way to compare apples to apples is to get estimates for both options from several reliable roofing contractors.
Getting Professional Roofing Advice
It is worth repeating: Get estimates for both repairs and replacement from several highly rated roofers where you live. Compare costs per square foot and total costs.
Ask a lot of questions about exactly what will be done whether it is a repair or roof replacement.
How long will the old roof last if I repair it? If you are going to replace the whole thing in less than 7-10 years, consider a full replacement now.
When can you get started? And if you can’t start right away, can you tarp off the problem area to prevent further damage or leaking in bad weather until you can get to it?
What’s the warranty on the repair? It should be at least one year, so the roof will be exposed to the various weather conditions experienced throughout the year.
Are you licensed and insured? Obviously, don’t consider an unlicensed or uninsured roofing contractor. Ask to see a current license and certificate of insurance if you have any doubts about their truthfulness.
Are you bonded? To be bonded means that if the company goes out of business in the middle of your job, or otherwise fails to complete the work, the bonding company will provide sufficient cash for you to hire a new contractor to finish the project. Bonding is less essential than being licensed and insured, but it is something to consider as you evaluate roofing companies.
Is this the final price? Will the price rise if you find underlying damage to the roofing deck? When damage is present below the surface, it can be difficult to assess the extent and cost of repairs without tearing off the old roofing.
An estimate given before the work begins might prove inaccurate – that’s why it is called an “estimate.” If you take the steps needed to hire a trustworthy roofer, you are less likely to be taken advantage of on your roof repair or replacement.
Do I have a legitimate insurance or warranty claim?
An honest contractor will give you a truthful answer, yes or no. Some with less integrity might play fast and loose with the truth, even defrauding an insurance company, as a way to get your business by lowering your potential cost to the price of your deductible.
Choosing a Roofing Contractor
Be sure to check Google reviews on roofers you’re considering. You might also find good reviews on Yelp, Angi and the Better Business Bureau site.
Do your due diligence and interview several roofing companies. Compare costs. And then select the company you are most confident is being honest with you about the condition of your roof and what needs to be done – and is giving you a fair price on the repair or roof replacement.
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