Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Can That Roof be Repaired?

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At what stage does a roof need to be fixed? Are there roofs so bad that they cannot be repaired?

Over the last month, I have had people ask me the roof repair question in different variations. Some have wanted a roof to be condemned (I imagine to force an insurance company to make repairs). Some have wanted to find a way to diminish a problem (maybe to save money or make a sale go through smoothly). There may have been other motives for some people; I am not sure what those were. With the good wind gusts that we have seen around the area, I think that many homeowners are concerned about their roof. My basic answer to this question is this: any roof can be repaired. The better question is: should that roof be repaired? With this question, we look at other factors that may help us make a wiser decision when it comes to roof repairs.
    Is there a stage where I could state that a roof cannot be repaired? I am going to backtrack to state a corollary to my answer for the first question. When over fifty percent of the roof covering is gone, most professionals would be wise to suggest a new roof. Is a repair still possible if more than fifty percent is gone? A repair could be made, and I have seen roofs in this condition where the homeowner decided upon the repair option. However, once we are discussing damages that go up to the 90% range, then we probably should state that the roof has to be replaced.
    Let us consider some factors that a homeowner can check to determine whether they should consider repair or a new roof. You may not want to climb on your roof, so I am going to suggest taking a ladder to the edge of the roof. The first thing to check is what color should your roof be? For example, if your composite shingles (one of the most common roof materials) is supposed to be a light grey, yet your shingles look a dark grey, you are seeing the signs of deterioration. If you are not sure what the original color was, lift up one shingle to see the shingle underneath. Look around the roof to check the integrity of the roof covering. If you see cracks or broken pieces, you are seeing the signs of the roof covering deteriorating.  Are you seeing missing sections of the roof covering? During wind gusts, pieces of the roof covering that were not properly installed will come off. Since with many roof covering materials, one piece is placed over the piece below, you will not see down to the sheathing or underlayment (unless the damage is so bad that these are revealed). What you will see are sections of slight color differences. For composite shingles, you will see rectangular strips of a different color. If you are seeing missing shingles, then you need to check if the shingles are secure. This is where the decision process of repair or replace can become questionable. I am going to describe composite shingles here, since most homeowners have this type of roof covering. A composite shingle is made of different components that will cause the material to act like one solid covering. Check to see if you can lift the shingle on top of another shingle up. If you can, this is one sign that you may have a problem. If you can lift it up, so can the wind. If they are sealed together, you will want to pry one up to see how the shingles were installed. There is a dark strip running along the middle of the shingle. This is a glue strip to help hold the shingles to each other. Are there nails in or below this strip? Then you have a problem. Some roofers use this glue strip as a guide, but they are supposed to nail above this line. A nail could pop out, breaking the glue seal, which can lead to the wind gusting underneath the shingle. Now, look over the field of shingles. Do you see bumps coming up? These may be spots were the nails are popping up. A nail does not just pop up. Something has acted upon it to cause it to move up, so that is a bad sign. Lastly, can you see the sheathing or underlayment? If you can, then you can be sure that you had some issue.
    Decision time.Having done this evaluation, you have an idea about your roof’s condition. Be warned: this evaluation does not replace the evaluation of a professional. There are more factors, which are beyond the scope of this post. Here is where you have to assess your willingness to tolerate possible further damage to the roof, the expense factor, and what will you tolerate in appearance. If less than 25% of the roof covering is damaged, you probably would be more inclined to repair. You may have more damage, but it could be slight. If in your determination between 25% to 50% is damaged, you could go either way. The probability of further damage also goes up, so even with a repair you should expect to do further repairs. Once you are hitting 50% or above, I think that you should focus on a new roof instead of repair. With this amount of the roof covering being damaged, a repair is still possible, but you can really expect more damage with the next good wind gusts. If you are struggling with a budget, and the insurance is not there to cover the expense, you can do the repair; watch for signs after storms that you may need to do a little more work. Appearance is another factor. Even if you buy exactly the same shingle, your neighbors will see the difference. Maybe in a year’s time, this will not be an issue. I mention neighbors with a purpose. You may not mind the difference. In fact some buildings are designed with different roof coverings on purpose. Your neighbors can see this patchwork as detrimental to their property value. If there is an HOA involved, they may intervene on the behalf of your neighbors.
    I tell my clients the decision is up to them. You have to know what you can live with. I ave told clients who are insisting on a new roof that a repair is fine. Others who did not care about the roof, I tried to warn that this really is a concern. No guide is going to be perfect, but I hope that I have given you something to consider. If you ave a roof question, leave it in the comments. Try to give as many details as you can, and we will try to find the best answer.  

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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