How Do I Know When My Asphalt Roof Needs Replacement?

  • Black or green streaks/plant growth of any kind on the roof’s surface
  • Warped, wavy or curled shingles
  • Missing granules and a worn out surface
  • Any missing shingles
  • Any interior blistering, mold, mildew, or fungus in the attic space

Obviously there are benefits when a homeowner is proactive with their roof replacement rather than reactive.  In short, proactive homeowners will save money if they know what to look for before it is too late.  Waiting until there is obvious water staining or leaks will undoubtedly cost more to fix than simply replacing a roof.  Some of the signs to look for:

*Cracked, broken, or missing shingles: An obvious sign that your roof needs to be replaced.  As a shingle ages, the granules begin to wear off the surface.  This is caused by a process called thermal shock, the expansion and contraction of a shingle over the course of many years due to repeated heating and cooling from season to season.  This process can be exasperated by improper ventilation in the attic.

*Shrunken Shingles: If the gaps between the tabs of the shingles appear to be expanding, this is a telltale sign that the shingle is beginning to decay.  In this scenario the shingles are literally shrinking.  Another product of thermal shock, as the shingle sheds it granules, the sun then beats down on the unprotected shingle and can easily cook the shingle, much like when bacon is cooked on a frying pan.  The fiberglass is sucked out of the shingle by the sun’s harmful rays, and the shingle begins to shrink, leaving portions of the roof unprotected.  This is very common on many 3-tab roofs in the Austin, TX area due to the extreme heat.

*Warped or Curling Shingles: Yet another product of thermal shock, warped or curling shingles are a sign that it is time to replace your roof.  Weather has once again caused the shingles to shed their granules and augment their shape.  Warped and buckling shingles are also a bad sign because water has often penetrated beneath the shingle, soaked the wood decking, which delaminates and pushes a shingle upward, giving it a tented, buckled, or wavy look.

*Missing granules: Since missing granules are the root of most of the problems associated with rapidly declining roofs, be on the look out for these little granules in your gutters and downspouts.  Roofing granules are larger than a grain of sand, but smaller than most pebbles, and they will most likely match the color of your shingle.  A build up of these is never a good sign. If you are standing on a ladder at your gutter line, simply scratch the surface of the shingles.  If it starts to rain granules, it is probably time to replace your roof.

*Plant Growth: The important thing to remember about any plants growing on your roof is that all plants have roots. Lichen, fungus, moss and algae all look very different, but they can be equally damaging to the integrity and life of your roof.  When a shingle ages, it loses its ability to repel water and it begins to retain water, much like a sponge.  Meanwhile, the trees in the surrounding area all have spores, which emit seedlings onto the sponge-like shingles.  Those seedlings then begin to root down into the shingle, tearing apart the layers of asphalt and fiberglass, thus exposing the roof and allowing water to easily penetrate all the way down to the wood decking.  This is very common on portions of the roof that are heavily shaded, as the shingles in those areas are not only closer to the trees, but they are also typically wetter for longer periods of time

*Water stains, mold, and mildew in the attic:  If there are visible water stains in your attic, it is probably time to replace your roof.  First look around all the protrusions in your attic (the chimney, any bathroom or kitchen vents).  Water will always follow the path of least resistance, and often times it first enters an attic space, and eventually the home, from these protrusions, which are essentially just holes in your roof.  Often times water first enters a home through the chimney and will travel its way down the rafters or straight down the chimney itself.  It is also not uncommon to see heavy water staining or mildew in the attic, directly underneath shingles that are covered with plant growth, as the roots of the plants will tear apart the shingles and create easy entry for water into the attic space.

*Delaminated wood decking: The ultimate goal with any roofing system is to protect the home.  To do this, a roof absolutely has to keep all water off of the wood decking, which is sometimes referred to as sheathing.  This is simply the plywood that the contractor nails the shingles to.  Any of the aforementioned warning signs will ultimately lead to wet plywood if they are left untreated.  Plywood is simply glued together layers of wood.  When it gets wet, it expands, just like when you put a cracker in soup.  Unfortunately, that expansion of the plywood causes it to delaminate, meaning the layers start to peel apart.  If that happens, the plywood is seriously compromised, and water can easily soak through.  A great way to check for delaminated plywood from the outside is to look at the roof and check for heavy shingle bubbling or general waviness to the roof itself.

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