Repairing vs replacing roofs

I had a roofer come down to replace an attic fan, and while he was at it I asked him to replace various (asphalt) tiles which had come down in recent storms, or any others that he thought needed replacing.

Day beforehand, I was discussing it with my brother who is a real estate guy, and he told me that a very experienced property owner/manager we know had once told him he had never replaced a roof ever, in decades of owning and manging numerous properties. He believed in the long run it’s cheaper to constantly repair things than to redo the entire roof.

Interesting thing was that the roof guy’s numbers were in line with that. After he went up on the roof he told me that he thought I should probably get a new roof (over the current layer). Cost: $5,000. (I actually thought that was pretty cheap, FWIW.) So I said what about just replacing any tiles that currently need replacing, and he said $200. I think to myself that if an average roof lasts 25 years, pushing the $5K off by even one year at a cost of $200 is a worthwhile proposition, so I just went with the $200 option.

But that would tend to suggest that my property manager friend might be right.

(It’s possible that the roofer would have charged me more than $200 if he wasn’t up there installing a fan anyway, but I don’t know. Truth is that his initial quote for the fan itself was $375-$400, and he ended up charging me only $550 for the fan plus tiles, so I think there may have been some savings in there, and the $200 may have been the nominal price.)

If you have a discrete area that needs patching, and that can hold things together for another year, that’s great. But after 20-25 years, the entire roof is made up of brittle, worn out shingles - the home equivalent of rust in a car.

I’ve seen large portions of roofs fail in large storms due to old age. I’m guessing that getting that repaired under poor weather conditions, when there are a ton of folks screaming for the same service, costs a lot more than a planned replacement during the good months. Plus, your house is probably getting really wet while you are waiting for that repair. Me, I’ll get it done when it isn’t windy, cold and raining.

Depends a lot on what risks your roof is exposed to. I used to live in hail & tornado country and now live in hurricane country. But before both of those I lived in sunlight-is-the-only-risk country.

In the latter case, constant as-needed repair can probably keep you going 50 years. In the other two, a bunch of repairs will leave you as @wguy123 says: with a roof that will hold water until the first big storm then fail catastrophically end to end maybe wrecking your sub-roof and flooding your interior.

How much extra are you willing to pay in preventative maintenance to prevent a catastrophe? That’s one of those “occasional risk of large loss” scenarios where averages (e.g. 25 years average life and $200/yr average repairs) aren’t relevant.

Never, ever reroof over the old roof. You must strip the tiles and felt down to the wood base and install new felt and tiles.

And make sure they actually inspect the subroof to make sure it doesn’t have rotted spots.