Homebuyers' guide to roofs


The roof is a major structural component to your home and replacing it is always costly. A new roof averages $7,314 nationally but can cost as much as $30,000 or more depending on size, geographic conditions and materials. Definitely not an expense you want to have right after moving into a new home.

Here are some things to look for if you want to avoid a roof repair or replacement in your near future:

Roof Style

The ideal roof style for longevity is largely dependent on the area’s weather. Angled roofs are constructed to ward off rain, snow and ice, while designs for drier climates may be flatter if accumulation is not a factor. For coastal and other hurricane-prone areas, the laws governing roof construction tend to be very specific, so be sure the house you are looking at follows these regulations.

Roof Material

Ask the homeowner about when the roof was put on and what it is made from. Clay, metal, slate and synthetic roofing products all have long lifespans (up to 100 years or more with slate), while asphalt has a comparatively short lifespan of around 18-25 years. Also consider that asphalt and wood are more susceptible to weathering problems like curling, cracking and rot.

Roof Damage

Stand at a distance and look for the following signs of damage:

  • A dip or a bulge in the surface

  • Worn patches with loose or missing shingles

  • Different colored shingles or patches indicating it has been repaired

  • Patches with curled shingles

  • Rust spots or areas of mold or moss

These warning signs can all point to a larger problem with the roof of your potential new home.

Roof Ventilation

Do the vents, chimneys or skylights have worn or loose rubber or flashing? Improper ventilation leads to trapped moisture and heat, which can damage the structure of your home. Look for dry rot as a sign of poor ventilation.

Roof Sagging or broken gutters

Check to see that the gutters have been well-maintained. Sagging gutters are a sign of age and may have damaged the soffits. Clogged gutters cause pooling that may have damaged the roof. If you see that the gutters look old, rusty or full of debris, that could be a sign that there will be roof problems in your future.

Water damage

Look for signs of water damage inside the home that could indicate a leaky roof — especially in areas where the roof creases above rooms. Keep an eye out for:

  • Freshly painted walls or ceilings where there is no other new paint (may be covering water damage)

  • Dark spots on ceilings

  • Wet spots or new paint around fireplaces

  • Gaps around the chimney on the roof, or gaps at creases

Along with looking out for the above factors, you should also review the seller’s home inspection and work with your realtor to understand what your state mandates that sellers disclose. Once the roof passes your inspection, it’s time to leave it to the professionals. A professional inspection performed by a roofer gives you peace of mind about the home’s condition and details any repairs that might be needed.  It’s the best way to avoid a leak — in both your roof and your wallet.

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