How to Know Whether To Repair, Patch or Replace Your Roof?

Among the most important components protecting a home is the roofing system. All that you hold dear within your home, from your loved ones to your possessions, is under a roof. Unfortunately, roofs don’t last forever. If yours is nearing two decades in age, it’s time to seriously consider an inspection by a professional roofing contractor.

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The inspection will reveal if you have damage, where it is located and how severe it is. In some cases, your roof might only need simple repairs, or if it is older and has seen plenty of harsh weather, it could require more extensive repairs or replacement. Many factors go into determining the best course of action.

Most contractors will carefully inspect the shingles, which are the first layer of defense. They’ll look for significant loss of granules that can wear away over time. They’ll check for dents, gaps, cracks and missing shingles. It’s important not to opt for repair work when a contractor advises that a replacement is in order, because this could lead to more costs down the road. It could also lead to damage in the interior of the home.

Common signs of roof problems

Many homeowners never realize their roof needs repair until something goes drastically wrong, and it’s understandable because from the ground, your roof might look perfectly fine even when there are significant issues with it. But as the roof ages, and after a series of damaging winds and flying debris, problems are definitely going to begin to occur.

The following are some of the most common warning signs that it could be time for a roof replacement:

  • Missing, curled or cracked shingles
  • Sagging or discolored areas
  • Downspouts and gutters are filled with granules from the shingles
  • Water stains in the interior of the home
  • Visible light in the attic
  • Wood rot in the attic
  • Siding issues due to wood rot
  • Mildew, moss and/or algae growing on the roof
  • Other roof problems

Ignoring some of these problems can take you from a situation where it only needed a simple repair to a situation where now you require a full roof replacement. The faster you get a contractor out to your home for an inspection, the better off you will be, financially and in regard to your safety. This is especially true following big storms, which can be extra damaging to older roofs.

Roof repair and patch vs. roof replacement considerations

Budget-conscious homeowners researching their roof issues cross their fingers they will only need a simple repair/patching rather than a full replacement. Getting to that decision requires numerous factors. If your roof is fairly new and it’s just taken a beating from a hailstorm, there is a good chance the shingles lost some granules or just needs a couple of minor fixes here and there. Older roofs taking the same pounding could be an entirely different story, anywhere from extensive repairs to a full replacement.

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Never assume that you know what your roof needs, because it takes an expert’s eye and years of experience to know if repairs or replacement is in order. Simply contact your trusted roofing contractor, schedule an inspection and let them help you plan for the next steps.

Age of the roof

When it comes to repair, patch or replace, the age of the roof is among the most important factors in what will happen next.

For example, you can usually count on an asphalt-shingle roof to last around 20 years. If your roof is still under 10 years old and your roofing inspector notices some damage but determines that overall the roof is still in great shape, the recommendation will likely be to repair it. However, if your roof is old and has endured its share of storms over the years and is showing its age, it’s likely the contractor will recommend replacing it.

Roof leaks

Just because you have a leak doesn’t mean you’re automatically in for a full replacement. In some cases, it’s an isolated leak in a specific area of flashing, which can be quickly resolved. However, if you have multiple leaks throughout the roof, it’s likely that there are more significant issues that will require a replacement.

The extent of roof damage

As with leaks, if you’re experiencing multiple issues throughout the roofing system, from shingles to vents, flashing to decking, the chances of your roof requiring replacement is highly likely, because you’re now looking at structural damage rather than aesthetic damage. This is usually what happens by the time a roof hits that critical 20- or in some cases 30-year mark.

New roofs are far less likely to show extensive roof damage and generally only show aesthetic repair needs. Though in catastrophic events such as tornadoes or gale-force winds that toss around large pieces of debris, it doesn’t matter how old the roof is – it will need to be replaced.

Geographical area

The Chicagoland area is subjected to an average of 23 days of severe wind over the course of a 12-month period. Hail is part of the mix around 10 times a year and tornadoes come through around five times a year. Each of these weather events can damage a roof.

While the region doesn’t suffer punishing winds like hurricanes, the fluctuation from frigid months of winter weather to humid and scorching summer temperatures can also put stress on a roof.

Cost of a new roof

Most repairs are going to be far less costly than a full replacement, which is why homeowners prefer repairs. However, making repair after repair, year after year, those costs could add up to that of a complete replacement. Also, when a roof really needs to be replaced and you plan on selling it in the near future, you’ll have a much easier time attracting buyers with a new roof.

Also, keep in mind that while a roof replacement is more expensive, you won’t have to worry about paying for frequent repairs, which is a common problem with older roofs. There’s also the psychological factor regarding the feeling of safety you’ll have with a new roof.

How long will you stay in the home?

For homeowners making only a temporary stay in a home, they are far more likely to do repairs than take on a replacement project. However, you have to make a decision that factors in the market value of the home if the roof is near the end of its projected lifespan. By some estimates, you’ll see a nearly 70 percent return on a new roof. Furthermore, a house with a new roof is much more attractive to buyers.

Homeowners who have made repairs to an aging roof and know they’ll spend at least the next decade or decade and a half in the home are more likely to embark on a replacement if the contractor recommends it, which will most likely be the case if the roof is nearing the 20-year mark. The bonus is that your home will have new curb appeal and you will feel confident that it will not need repairs for many years to come.

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In some cases, such as catastrophic storms that wreck the roof, or if a tree falls on it, the only option is to replace it. Also, if the roof is obviously in disrepair, even to the untrained eye, the best option is to replace. But it is often the case that the decision isn’t so black and white and there are so many factors that go into figuring out whether you should repair or replace your roof that your best option is to partner with a trusted roofing contractor that will listen to you regarding your plans for now and into the future, and then help determine a course of action that will meet your needs.

When to repair or patch your roof?

The best-case scenario for a homeowner with roof damage is that it only needs to be patched/repaired. Not only do repairs cost less than replacement, it’s a far less messy job and takes a fraction of the time of a replacement. So, what scenarios require repair? The following are among the most common.

Reasons to get your roof repaired or patched:

Minor roof damage

While a leak can quickly turn into a major issue, when it’s caught quickly a roofing contractor will consider it minor roof damage and patch the problem area(s). Mold is often the first sign of a leak in a small area of the roof, which means a fix to the flashing might be required, or perhaps a couple of new shingles that have been damaged will need to be replaced.

It’s not uncommon for a storm to rip some shingles, which left unfixed can lead to rot and other significant issues, but most roofing contractors will consider these minor roof issues that can be repaired relatively easy and with minimal expense.

Moderate roof damage

Moderate roof damage brings in new complexities to the “repair or replace” conundrum. Moderate damage sometimes requires a partial replacement. This is a scenario where most of the roof is fine or only needs repairs, but a section is heavily damaged and requires replacement. This can lead to aesthetic differences that aren’t pleasing to the eye, yet it’s less costly than a full replacement.

The aesthetic differences are caused by the natural fading that occurs on roofing materials. The part of the roof that hasn’t been replaced will show fading after years under the sun, whereas the new roof will have all of its original tone, making for a contrast that looks awkward at best.

Aesthetics retainment

Regular maintenance on a roof, which is highly recommended and requires at least an annual inspection, can help retain its aesthetic value as your roofing contractor can tend to small issues before they get larger. Looks aren’t everything, but it’s certainly important if you want your home to retain its curb appeal, which is a major selling point for homeowners interested in retaining value.

Recently replaced roof

While a new roof is generally free of issues for years and years, regular inspections are recommended, because high winds and debris can still cause damages that need to be addressed. The reason roofs enjoy a long lifespan is because they’ve been tended to on a regular basis and small problems haven’t been allowed to turn into big ones.

Tight budget

There’s nothing like a problem with the roof to send a person on a tight budget into an anxiety spiral. Before you start stressing, keep in mind that just because you’ve noticed a problem doesn’t mean you have to get your roof replaced.

Repairs can save you thousands upon thousands of dollars, and you’d be surprised how many times a leak turns out to be a quick and easy repair. However, should your aging roof require a replacement, many contractors offer financing, which can help people on tight budgets get what they need now and pay for it in installments.

Gutters are also part of the roofing system, and when they fail, the blame might fall on the shingles or other materials beneath them. So, in some situations, all that is required is some attention to the gutters. And just because some shingles need to be replaced doesn’t mean you must have your entire roof ripped off and replaced. In fact, most issues impacting new or fairly new roofs only require repairs.

Keep in mind that year after year of repairs do add up to significant costs, and there are also aesthetic and structural issues to consider with a roof that has many, many patches/repairs. In some situations, regardless of how tight your budget is or how much time/energy you have for a complete replacement, it is the best option.

Advantages and disadvantages of roof repairs

Nobody really wants to have to schedule an inspection and pay for roof repairs, but when addressing pros and cons, there are definitely some advantages to embarking on these repairs. Let’s take a closer look at some of the major pros and cons.

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The most important benefits of repairing your roof:

  • Repairs are less costly than replacements
    The day after a big storm sweeps through, many homeowners look at their roof and begin hoping it only requires repairs, because it’s going to cost much less than a replacement.
  • Regular maintenance prolongs the life of the roof
    You want the maximum possible lifespan out of your roof, but reaching that goal requires maintenance/repairs. Scheduling regular inspections will alert you to maintenance needs.
  • DIY possibilities
    If you’re a handy homeowner, tackling small repairs can be a big money saver, but only if you know what you’re doing. If you’ve got the tools, materials and expertise, you can take the DIY approach.

Top cons of repairing your roof:

  • Repairs require getting the colors right
    If you’ve got an older roof and the shingles are no longer available, repairs are going to stand out like a sore thumb.
  • Bad work equals big problems
    If you made the repairs yourself and didn’t do it right, it could cost you a lot more in the long run. Furthermore, if your contractor lacks experience or just flubs up, the problem will get worse and could lead to serious leaks.

When to replace your roof

As much as you’d like repairs to fix your roof issues, sometimes the only option is a replacement. The following are some of the most common reasons homeowners have replaced their roofs.

Reasons to get your roof replaced:

Extensive damage

Extensive damage can come in the form of a variety of things. In most cases, it’s a storm that has rolled through your area and debris has been flung at high speed, impacting your aging roof, which doesn’t have the impact resistance to prevent damage. Roofing contractors that inspect a roof and find more than 30 percent of the surface damaged will recommend replacing the roof.

Significant hail & wind damage

The vast majority of reroofing projects occur following a hailstorm or a storm that lacks hail but has high winds that tear off shingles or throw debris into them, causing dents and other types of damage. Also, a significant amount of snow can put stress on various components of the roof that can damage it to the point that reroofing is the best option.

Melting snow can leave ice dams that will also ruin a roof. Don’t let the lack of significant damage fool you – there could be a lot going on under the shingles, which is why having the roof inspected is the best course of action.

The roof has expired

The lifespan of a roof is finite, which is why age is such an important factor. For most roofs, turning 20 is a big milestone and for many, the last one. It’s by this age that homeowners begin to see recurring issues, which means if the roof requires extensive repairs, it makes fiscal sense to go ahead with a replacement now.

The relative cost of repairs

It’s true that repairing a roof is less costly than putting a new one one. However, there will be a time when the repairs are so significant and perhaps even recurring that it makes more sense to install a new roof.

This will leave you with an attractive and sturdy new roofing system that increases the value of your home and protects everything under it.

Non-compliance with codes

In some cases, a neighborhood has aesthetic requirements/codes that must be followed. For example, your asphalt roof is out of compliance with a code that says it must be cedar. Or, there have been more modern structural codes developed since your roof was put on and it is no longer in compliance. These will all require a reroofing.

New roofs increase home value

A new roof increases the value of a home, and while that might be the driving factor in getting a new roof, homeowners are always pleasantly pleased with the look of a new roof once the project is completed. The curb appeal of the home goes up drastically and the tired old facade is suddenly transformed, appearing years and years younger.

Looking to sell your home? In a difficult housing market, every little bit of help is needed. Not only will the new roof be a head-turner for buyers, you can also increase the asking price, which means you have a better chance at getting more for your home than you would with an old roof.

Homeowners often balk at the cost of a new roof, but they must realize the advantages. First off, the average recoup on a new roof is around 70 percent of the cost of the project, which is an important stat for sellers. But there is also the safety aspect – your new roof protects everything under it much better than an old one.

Partial replacement is also an option, which will save you considerably. For example, a big hail storm rips through from the south and damages the south-facing portion of the roof, but the north side is perfectly fine – this is a perfect example of when a partial replacement is possible.

Advantages and disadvantages of roof replacement

Unless you’re really looking forward to the new look of a reroofed home, you’re probably not going to be excited to take on a roofing project. Whether it's the temporary mess of the project or the cost or both, homeowners definitely don’t look forward to the process. However, there are pros and cons to consider, including the following.

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The most important benefits of replacing your roof:

  • High return on investment
    Who doesn’t want to see a big ROI (return on investment)? While there is a market for “fixer uppers,” the vast majority of home buyers prefer a turnkey situation. Rather than buy low and spend a lot of money on rehabbing the home, they want to come in and simply make interior design decisions.
  • Improves your curb appeal
    Not only will a reroofed home bring more value in a fiscal sense, the new roof also gives the home curb appeal, which is a major aesthetic achievement. The roof represents a fair amount of square footage of the exterior of the home, so it only makes sense that a new roof will make the home “pop” compared to others with older roofs that have faded with age and exposure to the elements.
  • Greater energy efficiency
    Shingle manufacturers have developed new processes for making shingles, giving them increased durability and improved energy efficiency. These two factors impact the comfort you will experience within the home and the utility bills you pay.
    For example, in the winter, your house will be less drafty and there will be longer gaps between your furnace kicking on because the heat isn’t escaping the home as easy as it does with an old roof. The same is true for the summer months and your air conditioning. The home simply holds its temperature longer with a new roof.
  • Ensures long term safety
    Humans have only a handful of essential needs and one of them is safety/security. Part of being comfortable in a home is knowing you’re safe, and putting a new roof on your home offers some safety guarantees.
    Old roofs nearing the end of their lifespan can present safety issues. Collapse is the most obvious danger presented by a roof past its expiration date, but there are other more subtle dangers lurking, such as mildew and mold. The older a roof gets, the less able it is to keep moisture from getting into the home. Mold can’t survive without moisture, and it can be pervasive in dark and hidden areas. This creates health risks, as mold spores can cause illness when breathed in.
    If it’s safety and security you’re looking for, getting a new roof can provide plenty of it.

Top cons of replacing your roof:

  • Roof replacement cost
    The first con of a roof replacement project is the most obvious one: Cost. There are several material components that go into a project of this size, and to ensure that you’re getting it done correctly, you have to pay highly skilled people to do it, so the labor cost is significant. But given the advantages of a new roof, most homeowners have little to no regrets.
  • Roof replacements tend to be very noisy
    If you're accustomed to a tranquil environment, then the noise created by a roofing project will definitely be a change for you. The hammering of roofing nails generates so much noise that most homeowners will plan to be out of the house for the bulk of the project. Fortunately, most reroofing projects are completed in a short amount of time.

Make your final decision: invest in a total roof replacement or repair your roof?

There is quite a bit of gray area between repairing and replacing. For example, you notice more and more shingles that appear to be losing their granules and are going bald, but do you know how damaged the structures below the shingles are? That can determine the extent of your repairs or if you need a full replacement. Or maybe your roof is almost 20 years old and you have extensive repairs – should you just pay a little more and have it reroofed?

Roofing services

There are many factors to consider when it comes to repairing or replacing a roof. Let’s say a series of storms have come through your area recently and you notice some damage. It’s difficult to tell how serious it is without a full inspection, but if your roof is really old, there’s a good chance it has been compromised to a greater extent than a new roof.

The amount of time you plan to live in the home, the extent of the damage, the age of the roof, the possibility of recurring repairs over the coming years – they are all factors that you have to consider as you make the decision.

When to hire a professional roofing company

Despite the advancements made by manufacturers of roofing products and the extended life they offer, they’re essentially useless unless they’ve been installed by roofers who know what they’re doing. It takes years of experience to get it right, which is why at VIS Exterior, we only hire experts in the industry. Our reputation is only as good as the last home we’ve worked on, and it’s one of many reasons why we take every project seriously.

All houses have their unique details. Even homes in the same division built by the same contractors have their own peculiarities, which is why it pays to bring in a trusted contractor with plenty of references, qualification, certifications, is insured, and licensed to work with the best roofing products on the market today.

For years, VIS Exterior has been known as the go-to roofing contractor in the Chicagoland area. We earned this status by being customer-centric. When our customers have questions, we have the experience to answer them with confidence. For every client that has pondered whether they should repair the roof or replace it, we have provided the guidance they need to make the right decision. If you’re in the same situation, contact us and let’s schedule a free inspection.

Roofing homeowners
Val Slajus
Owner / Author
Val Slajus

My journey began with a passion for home improvement, and I established VIS Exterior because I firmly believe that everyone deserves to live in a beautiful home. With years of experience in the roofing and siding craft, I'm dedicated to helping you enhance the protection and aesthetics of your home. Through this blog, I'm excited to share my knowledge and insights, empowering you to make informed decisions when planning your next exterior renovation project.