Roof Installation, Replacement, or Repair: Which One to Choose?

If your roof has gotten old or has developed a problem, you may wonder which path to take in order to rectify the situation. Should you get roof repair, have new shingles put on, or have it entirely rebuilt? The answer typically depends on the overall condition of the roof.

The least-expensive option is roof repair, but it is only feasible when the rest of the roof is in good shape. Situations that can cause the need for repair include localized damage from something like a tree branch rubbing on the roof and pulling up a few shingles, or the failure of the flashing around a chimney or attic vent. Then, if the issue is fixed fast enough, damage can be stopped before it spreads.

If you look up and see that almost all of your shingles have a worn or "wet" look, but there are no leaks yet, it's time to get reshingling. This is often known as "roof replacement" even though the most important part of the roof isn't being replaced. Typically, this job involves removing and replacing everything above the roof deck. The new shingles will last for many years before they need to be replaced again.

While most people know that reshingling is the best bet for a worn roof, finances sometimes do not allow for it at the time that it is really needed. Unfortunately, this allows leaks to develop, and leaks cause the roof deck to rot. Roof decks are typically made of wooden boards, so once water hits them, they start deteriorating. Then, the only option to restore the integrity of the roof structure is full roof installation.

Full roof installation involves tearing the entire old roof off – including the deck – and rebuilding it from the studs up. It is very expensive, running about four times the cost of reshingling. However, once it is done, the new roof deck will be good for decades or even longer if the shingles are replaced in a timely manner after that.

Sometimes, sudden damage, rather than neglect, forces a homeowner to proceed with roof installation. If a big tree comes through your roof and turns the existing one into rubble, there's no choice but to build a whole new one in its place. At least in this case, your homeowner's insurance will usually cover the cost.

In general, you can guess which service you will need by what is going on inside your house. If it rains in through one small spot, a repair may work. When the roof looks bad, but there's no leaks, reshingle it. Finally, if it rains inside almost as if you're outdoors, it's time to rebuild the roof.