Replace vs Repair a Roof: 8 Factors to Consider Before You Decide

When you discover roof damage, should you repair the damage or replace the roof? Here are 8 factors you need to consider before you decide:

Replacing a roof can be as simple as removing the old shingles and felt paper (or moisture barrier), or it can involve the replacement of the deck, gutters, roof vents, soffits, eaves and repairing any damage left behind after the failure of the old roof.

Repairing your roof, though, is usually limited to taking care of isolated damage.

When you discover roof damage (perhaps after a storm or a fallen tree limb) how do you know whether you should just repair the damage or replace the roof?

Here are 8 factors you need to consider before you decide.

1. The Age of the Roof

The age of the roof is a huge factor in deciding whether to repair or replace your roof, because roofs have an expected life span, depending on the material and manufacturer.

Most roofs last 10 to 15 years, or longer. If yours is only a few years old, it might make sense to just repair the damaged sections.

However, as roofs age, they may experience wear and tear that could make them prone to further damage.

Repairing a roof is a temporary solution. It won’t-m necessarily make a roof last longer. The roof’s lifespan will still be limited by the age of the original roof.

Even though the current damage may be limited to one or two areas, it may be wiser to replace the whole roof. Otherwise you could find yourself having to repair regularly until it’s time to replace the roof anyway.

It’s also important to note that the older a roof gets, the harder it will be to match the color of the existing shingles.

Even if you saved some shingles from the original installation, they might not blend in well. The existing shingles will have weathered some and won’t match the fresh ones right out of the box.

2. The Extent of the Damage

How extensive is the damage?

Is it just a few shingles that blew off in a storm, or did water get under the moisture barrier? Was the deck exposed or damaged? Did you experience a leak because of the damage?

If the damage is limited to a small area or just one section of the roof, repairing can be an economical way to address the problem.

But, if the damage is extensive enough, a repair may end up costing almost as much as replacing the roof.

Replacing the roof can also reveal any underlying issues that led to the problem in the first place.

3. The Type of Roof

The type of roof you have can be a factor in deciding whether to repair or replace your roof.

For example, a slate roof can last over 100 years, so it may make sense to repair damage rather than replacing the entire roof. Roof tiles can be replaced individually, and the labor involved is minor.

That said, if the damage is a result of structural failure, or if water has damaged the deck, it might still make sense to replace the roof even if the slate tiles themselves can be reused.

With other types of roof, age becomes a major factor again. Replacing individual shingles won’t make the shingles around them last any longer.

4. Urgency

If a major storm is coming, you might not have time to schedule an entire roof replacement. Repairing, or at least protecting the roof, is key to avoiding further damage.

Some might think they’re saving money by waiting till the storm season is over and then dealing with all the damage at once. But that’s a gamble that could cost you more than the temporary repairs, even when you know the roof will need to be replaced.

Water damage to the interior of the house or wind getting up under the roof can cause damage that goes beyond the cost of simply replacing the roof.

5. Long-Term Plans

How long do you plan to stay in your home?

If you’re thinking about selling in a few years, a new roof can be a selling point for potential buyers.

You don’t need to spring for the most expensive roof, but an old roof could put your home in the “fixer upper” category.

If you’re planning on staying in your home forever, you might be able to justify the cost of upgrading your roof, because your cost will be spread out over the life of the home. And choosing a higher quality material isn’t always that much more expensive.

6. Energy Efficiency

Roofing materials continue to improve each year. Energy efficiency is one of the areas where roofs continue to evolve, and there are more choices than ever before.

An energy efficient roof could actually help you recover some of the cost of installation in energy savings. Depending on the age or type of roof you currently have, that could add up fast.

7. Building Codes

Re-roofing is another way to save money and time. Basically, a new layer of shingles is placed right over the old ones.

It’s cheaper and faster because you don’t have to remove the old roof. And it provides a new protective layer that will appear new from the street.

The drawbacks are significant though…

  • If you already have two layers of shingles, most building codes won’t allow a third. This is mostly because of the added weight of a new layer of shingles.
  • The average weight of asphalt shingles is about 275–350 lbs. That’s almost like putting two SUV’s on a 2,500 square foot roof.
  • Without removing the old shingles, there’s no way to know if there’s any damage underneath.
  • Re-roofing can also void, or shorten, the warranty on the new shingles since they typically don’t last as long as roof replacement.

The savings can be enough to make this option seem like the right decision, but be sure that you’re accounting for these hidden costs.

8. Budget

The cost of replacing vs. repairing a roof can be important to understand before deciding which option is best for you.

Repair is usually less expensive, but not always.

The cost of repair can be more expensive per square foot. You don’t get the benefit of bulk discounts on materials, and they can require as much labor as replacement.

The extent of the repair can also affect the price. Are you just going to replace a few shingles or patch a small area? Or, do you need to deal with any underlying issues that might be discovered.

For example, do you live in a high wind area? Are the existing shingles rated for high winds? Repairing the isolated damage over and over again will likely cost more in the long run than upgrading to a better quality roof.

Replacing Missing Shingles, or patching an area by replacing missing or damaged shingles, is the least expensive solution when it comes to repair. But as we mentioned earlier, it may be difficult to match the new shingles with the old.

If aesthetics matters to you, and it’s on a highly visible section of the roof, that may not be the best solution for you.

Partial Replacement, or replacing an entire section of the roof rather than the entire roof, can be a cost-effective solution.

This might be an option if roof damage is limited to one side of the roof. The old shingles are removed from that entire side, and a new moisture barrier and new shingles are added.

Even though this option solves the issue of matching shingles when patching, there are potential problems with this strategy. The new shingles may not line up well at the ridges where they join the old roof. Especially if the old roof already had two layers of shingles.

If the old roof did have two layers of shingles — the maximum number of layers allowed — then the cost of removing two layers of shingles may eat into your savings.

Another downside to partial replacement is that you still have an old roof on the rest of your house.

Full Replacement often seems like the most expensive solution, but it’s actually less expensive per square foot than repair or partial replacement. It also allows for a complete inspection of the roof structure.

Any underlying damage can be discovered and dealt with before you put on the new roof.

A full replacement essentially resets the clock on the life of your roof and allows you to take advantage of the newer materials and solutions available — or upgrade to a higher quality roof option.

If the damage is covered by insurance, you might only be responsible for your deductible making the cost of repair even less of a savings.

Bottom Line

When trying to decide whether you should replace your roof or repair it, it’s tempting to only consider the cost of replacement. But as you can see, there are many factors that can affect your decision.

If you’re in doubt, a good service roofer can be a valuable resource. They can do a thorough inspection of your roof and identify how the factors we’ve just mentioned apply to your situation.