What Causes a Roof to Wear Out?

Causes for Roof to Wear Out

Homeowners might be surprised when their eight-year-old roof begins leaking, despite an estimated lifespan of 15-30 years. The truth is, a roof’s estimated lifespan is just that – an estimate. Factors contributing to the duration of your roof’s life include the roofing materials, building techniques, weathering, and maintenance. Over time, weather exposure will erode your roof no matter what you do, but there are steps you can take to increase your roof’s longevity. First, you should know why some roofs wear out more quickly than others, so you can work to minimize the wear and tear on your roof.

Roofing Materials Affect Your Roof’s Longevity

Roofing materials wear out at different rates. Inexpensive materials like asphalt, wood, and fiberglass will erode much faster than expensive materials such as metal, ceramic, or slate. However, all roofing materials have weaknesses – wood is prone to water and fire damage, severe hailstorms can damage metal, fiberglass, ceramic and slate can crack in cold weather, and single-ply roofing is vulnerable to punctures and UV degradation. Consider which material is best for your building when replacing your roof.

Poor Building Techniques Reduce Your Roof’s Lifespan

An improperly installed roof will wear out years before it should. Some roofing contractors will staple seams together or use the wrong type of nails, resulting in weak areas and cracked shingles. Improperly installed flashing can result in weathering around chimneys, skylights, and valleys, increasing the likelihood of leaks and damage around those areas. A reputable roofing company uses contractors who know the proper techniques and will emphasize high-quality work over speedy installations.

Storm Damage Wears Away at Your Roof

Maryland’s location along the Atlantic coast makes it susceptible to extreme weather. Strong winds can peel back or rip away shingles. Hailstones can crack and dent your roof, wearing away protective waterproofing layers. Snow buildup can cause sections of your roof to collapse. Cycles of freezing and thawing create ice dams on your roof, damaging your gutters and flashing. Even imperceptible cracks created by storm damage allow moisture to seep into your home, causing leaks and mold growth. Without proper maintenance, storm damage can significantly reduce the life of your roof.

Storm Damage Wears Away at Your Roof

Lack of Maintenance Causes Faster Deterioration

Allowing leaves, snow, and other debris to build up in your gutters or along the valleys of your roof weakens those areas by trapping moisture against the roof. Overhanging branches can break in a storm and damage your roof. Damaged areas of your roof should be replaced or repaired to prevent water, insects, and animals from entering the roof and causing internal damage. Roofing experts Ed Crowder and Brian Lease of Roofing By Elite recommend establishing a regular maintenance plan to extend the life of your roof.

All roofs wear out over time. Some materials are naturally more durable than others, but even the strongest materials will eventually succumb to weathering. Improper installation and lack of maintenance hasten the rate of your roof’s deterioration. To prevent this, check your roof for damage after heavy storms, and schedule annual inspections with a reputable roofing company. Professional inspections can identify potential issues before they become expensive hazards, and some companies offer maintenance plans to ensure consistent care for your roof. With proper care, your roof will shelter you and your family for decades.

How can you tell that your roof is wearing out?

Most roofs will eventually reach the end of their lives without ever going through roof failure. When a roof looks old and worn, you should prepare for replacement work. Apart from the dull appearance, some signs will also warn that your roof is only months away from its ends. Keep reading for the details.

How can you tell that your roof is wearing out

Altered Plumbing Vent Boots

See if there are cracks on the plastic bases or broken seams on the metal bases. Also, take a look at the rubber boot around the pipe. If it’s rotted or torn, it will let the water get inside the house along the pipe. Regardless of the issue, make sure to get a new vent boot and replace the old one.

However, if the nails at the base are pulled free or missing while the boot still looks good, replace them with rubber-washers screws used for metal roofs.


Check out the underside of the roof for “shiners.” A shiner is a nail missing the framing member. Moisture from a cold attic will condense in the cold nails. You can see it when you go into the attic at night. The nails will seem white since they’re frosted. During the day, the attic will heat up, so the frost will melt and drip. Use side-cutting pliers to clip the nail.

Ceiling Stains

When you have water stains across ceilings or down the walls, a leaky roof is a common cause. The roof leak repair is easy, but it’s difficult to see where the leak comes from. Never postpone solving a leaky roof, as even minor leaks can cause big problems. Mold, rotted sheathing and framing, damaged ceilings, and insulation are some of the effects of leaky roofs.

Clogged and dirty soffits

Attic ventilation is crucial for the health of your house. The soffit vents will inhale outside air needed to create an airflow that pushes warm attic air out the vents. The plastic air chutes keep the air path unobstructed between the roof sheathing and the rafters. If the soffits are clear, the risk for moisture and mold growth is significantly reduced.

Mold where the exterior wall meets the roof

Kick-out flashing is essential where the roof edge meets the sidewall. If it’s missing, the roof runoff will flow down the wall and into the wall. It’s only a matter of time until rot destroys the sheathing and framing. In severe cases, the stucco remains the only thing that holds up the wall.

Mold on Exterior Walls

A leak in the roof could cause mold growth on the exterior wall. Measure from the moldy area to a reference point (a door) and find the spot on the other side of the ceiling/wall. Check out the ground sloping toward your home and down-spouts that are empty close to the wall.

Damaged Shingles

A broken shingle doesn’t look good and can cause leaks. Find matching shingles, so repair them as soon as possible.

Rusted Gutters

Gutter leaks begin at the rusty seams or spots that opened up due to contraction and expansion. Cover the affected area with roof and gutter repair tape if the gutter is still sound. Use a wire brush to remove rust and a putty knife to scrape out tar.

Loose Step Flashing

Every short section of flashing takes water over the shingle downhill from it. When the flushing rusts or a part becomes loose, water will go behind it and right into the house.

Missing Gutter Apron

If the water goes off the roof’s edge, some of it will go to the shingles’ underside and drip toward the fascia. If you don’t have a gutter apron to stop the water, it will go behind the gutter. In time, soffits, fascia, and roof sheathing will rot. Water stains below the gutter on the soffit and fascia will indicate that the gutter apron is gone.

Rusted Chimney Flashing

Many problems can develop around the brick chimneys. Flashing around the chimney may rust through if it’s made of galvanized steel—especially at the 90-degree bend at the bottom. A fast and durable fix is to place new flashing under the old rusted one. If water seeps through, it will be diverted.

Stains Around a Bathroom Fan

Water stains around the bath fan ceiling signal a leak from the vent cap on the roof. However, condensation could be the reason as well. When the bath fan ducting isn’t efficiently insulated, the moist air will condense inside the duct.

Hail Damage

If a large hailstone hits an asphalt shingle, it can tear or even puncture the shingly. Typically, it will only knock granules off the surface. When a shingle loses the protective layer of granules, the UV rays will start to alter it. Granules will keep falling off around the damaged area and damage expands.

Holes Drilled on Purpose

Tiny holes in shingles are tricky because they can generate rot and other damage for a long time until you finally see the signs of the leak. You might discover holes from an antenna mounting brackets or a satellite dish; all sorts of things can cause holes. When exposed, poorly placed roofing nails need to be pulled and you have to patch the holes as well. Don’t inject caulk in the hole, but fix the small holes with flashing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much will you pay to have a new roof?

Typically, a new roof should be between 2% and 4% of the value of your home. If your house is $500,000, you will pay anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000 for a new roof. The materials you will use and the complexity of the roofing will affect the final cost.

How often should you replace the roof?

Generally speaking, a roof is made to be replaced every three decades. Some roofs, such as slate and copper, will last around 50 years, whereas roofs with fiber cement shingles last half of that. Asphalt shingle/composition roofs are the most affordable and last for just two decades.

Is getting a new roof a wise investment?

A new roof is always a good investment. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) revealed a remodeling impact report from which we discovered that new roofs ensure a 109% return. As a result, getting a new roof is always a good decision.

Are there any consequences when you don’t replace the roof?

If your roof is worn out and requires replacement, you shouldn’t postpone repair/replacement work. The water damage could be massive as water will rot the roof. Soon enough, you will have damage throughout the entire house. If you suspect that your roof has worn out, we strongly recommend hiring professionals for roof repair/replacement.

How old should the roof be when you buy a house?

You need to ask the seller for the home maintenance records to determine the roof’s age. Even if the roof looks fine when you buy it, it will need replacement in the future if it’s already 10 to 15 years old. Take a look at the gutters and downspouts to see if there are asphalt granules from the shingles.

About Amanda

I love to buy a lot of products for the home, and dissect them out. I split them into duds and winners, and share the findings here on my site. As a reader of my site, I'm aiming for your next purchase to be an informed and inspired one.

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