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Should I Replace My Roof? Here Are 21 Things to Consider

Knowing what to look for is the first step in determining whether it's time to replace your roof.

Family Handyman

Missing gutter apron

When water flows off the edge of your roof, some of it clings to the underside of the shingles and dribbles toward the fascia. If you have gutters but no gutter apron to stop the water, it will wick behind the gutter. Eventually, the fascia, soffits and even the roof sheathing will rot. You may see water stains below the gutter on the fascia and soffit. This is a sure sign that the gutter apron is missing. Though you may not need a new roof immediately, you might have to replace it eventually.

The best time to add gutter apron is when you're getting new shingles. But it is possible to slip gutter apron under existing shingles. A dab of roof cement every couple feet will “glue” it to the shingles and hold it in place. You'll have to remove gutter brackets or straps and then refasten them after the apron is in place. Gutter apron is available at home centers in 10 ft. lengths. Watch out for these home improvement scams.

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Hail damage

When a large hailstone hits an asphalt shingle, it can tear or even puncture the shingle. But usually, it just knocks granules off the surface. When a shingle loses its protective layer of granules, UV rays from the sun begin to destroy it. More granules fall off around the damaged spot and the bruise grows. The damage may not be obvious at first, so if you suspect hail damage, get an inspection from a roofing contractor. Most offer free hail damage inspections.

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Damaged plumbing vent boots

Plumbing vent boots can be all plastic, plastic, and metal, or even two-piece metal units. Check plastic bases for cracks and metal bases for broken seams. Then examine the rubber boot surrounding the pipe. That can be rotted away or torn, allowing water to work its way into the house along the pipe. With any of these problems, you should buy a new vent boot to replace the old one. Replacing the boot will solve the problem and most likely not mean a complete roof replacement. But if the nails at the base are missing or pulled free and the boot is in good shape, replace them with the rubber-washered screws used for metal roofing systems. These home improvement projects will pay for themselves.

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Damaged shingles

A broken shingle is both ugly and a leak waiting to happen. But as long as you can find matching shingles (and you’re not afraid of heights), the repair is straightforward. Here's how to do it. Depending on the damage you may or may not replace your roof.

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Roof vent issues

Check for cracked housings on plastic roof vents and broken seams on metal ones. You might be tempted to throw caulk at the problem, but that solution won't last long. There's really no fix other than replacing the damaged vents. Also, look for pulled or missing nails at the base's bottom edge. Replace them with rubber-washered screws. In most cases, you can remove nails under the shingles on both sides of the vent to pull it free. There will be nails across the top of the vent too. Usually, you can also work those loose without removing shingles, so you don't necessarily have to replace the roof. Screw the bottom in place with rubber-washered screws. Squeeze out a bead of caulk beneath the shingles on both sides of the vent to hold the shingles down and to add a water barrier. That's much easier than renailing the shingles. Don't miss the home improvement projects that will double the value of your home.

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Loose step flashing

Step flashing is used along walls that intersect the roof. Each short section of flashing channels water over the shingle downhill from it. But if the flashing rusts through, or a piece comes loose, water will run right behind it, and into the house it goes. It might not mean a whole roof replacement but the situation needs fixing.

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Holes drilled on purpose

Tiny holes in shingles are sneaky because they can cause rot and other damage for years before you notice the obvious signs of a leak. You might find holes left over from satellite dish or antenna mounting brackets or just about anything. And exposed, misplaced roofing nails should be pulled and the holes patched. Small holes are simple to fix, but the fix isn't to inject caulk in the hole. You'll fix this one with flashing and spot replace the roof. You'll wish you'll have known these home improvement hacks sooner.

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Rusted chimney flashing

All kinds of bad things can happen around brick chimneys. Flashing around chimneys can rust through if it's galvanized steel, especially at the 90-degree bend at the bottom. A quick but fairly long-term fix is to simply slip new flashing under the old rusted stuff. That way any water that seeps through will be diverted.

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Fix walls and dormers

Water doesn't always come in at the shingled surface. Often, wind-driven rain comes in from above the roof, especially around windows, between corner boards and siding, and through cracks and knotholes in siding. Dormer walls provide lots of spots where water can dribble down and enter the roof. Caulk can be old, cracked or even missing between the corner boards and between window edges and siding. Water penetrates these cracks and works its way behind the flashing and into the house. Even caulk that looks intact may not be sealing against the adjoining surfaces. Dig around with a putty knife to see if the area is sealed. Dig out any suspect caulk and replace it with a siliconized latex caulk. Also, check the siding above the step flashing. Replace any cracked, rotted or missing siding, making sure the new piece overlaps the step flashing by at least 2 in. If you still have a leak, pull the corner boards free and check the overlapping flashing at the corner. Often, there's old, hardened caulk where the two pieces overlap at the inside corner but this roof fix doesn't mean a complete roof replacement, maybe a spot fix at best. Find out the sneaky ways your home is draining your bank account.

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Complex roof problem

This roof leaks during the snowy part of winter and during storms in the summer, certainly due to poor flashing. The soffit that meets the roof is one of the toughest areas to waterproof. In the photo, you can still see signs of an ice dam. An ice dam occurs when snow melts and the water freezes when it hits the colder edges of your roof. Eventually, water pools behind the dam and works its way back up under the shingles and under the soffit until it finds an opening through the roof.

The solution begins with good flashing, since this should stop leaks from rainfall and might stop the leaks from ice dams as well. Begin by removing the shingles down to the wood sheathing and slip a strip of adhesive ice-and-water barrier (available where roofing products are sold) under the soffit/main roof joint. Depending on how the roofs join, you may have to cut a slot to work it in far enough. It should overlap another piece of ice-and-water barrier laid below, all the way down to the roof edge. This should cover the most leak-prone areas. Then reshingle, sliding metal step flashing behind the fascia board (the trim behind the gutter). The valley flashing, laid over the joint where the two roofs meet, should overlap the step flashing at least 2 in.

If leaks continue to occur from ice dams, consider installing roof edge heating cables. (Find them locally at hardware stores or home centers.) Improved attic insulation and ventilation are usually the best ways to prevent ice dams, but they might not be effective in this complicated roof situation.

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Originally Published on The Family Handyman