If your roof is nearing the end of its useful life, how can you know when the time you have bought with intermittently patching has run out?  The most obvious clues are leaks that continue after repeated visits from your roofer.  Once a roof becomes brittle and starts to split, patching is no longer enough.  Your choices at that point are more expensive, but the alternative is wasting your limited budget avoiding the inevitable.

Waiting can also drive up the cost of repairs. If leaks are allowed to continue, the interior of the structure may be damaged, multiplying the ultimate expenses that initially seemed high. Another factor to consider is the relatively low level of disruption that roof work causes for the people who work in the building, as compared to interior restoration.

Do the math

The best first step is hiring a consulting engineer or architect to survey your roof, list your options, and provide rough estimates of the costs of each of them. You may well learn that repairs, recovering, or the liquid application of a coating will be sufficient for the time being. But if the need for action seems imminent, think about your budget and the length of time you would want a replacement roof to last.

To use a simple example, consider your choice to be between two options: 10 years for a basic roof with standard-grade materials and 20 years for a more elaborate and durable option using higher-quality materials. Take the middle of the approximate price range to replace the roof and divide it by the number of years you would like the new roof to last. If the result is less than the cost of the repairs or not much more, it’s time to replace the roof. 

Consider a coating

You may find that a coating, preceded by an appropriate cleaner and primer, can extend the useful life of your existing roof. If you install a new roof, a coating can definitely increase its longevity. 

– Silicone roof coatings are designed for flat roofs where water may pool. They form a flexible membrane that stays waterproof in a wide range of weather conditions.   

– Acrylic roof coatings are suitable for pitched roofs. They are “elastomeric,” which means they incorporate more solids than paint and therefore form thicker layers when applied to a surface. 

– Both types are formulated to reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them, lowering the temperature inside the building and reducing energy costs.  One “cool roof” acrylic variant was created to maximize this effect.

Moving forward

Whether you’re repairing, recoating, or replacing your roof, you should create and implement a detailed maintenance plan, with the assistance of a qualified architect or engineer if need be. A professional can not only carry out regular inspections and moisture surveys, but also provide specific guidance regarding repairs, reapplications of protective coatings, and ultimately, replacement.

All roofs will eventually need to be replaced. Information and preparation will help make that decision less stressful when the time for it arrives.