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Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home. It protects your home from the weather, provides insulation, and accents your home’s architecture. Whether you’re building a new home or replacing your existing roof, knowing how long it will last is essential to choosing the best roofing option.

But many roofing contractors exaggerate the amount of time a new asphalt shingle roof will last before needing to be replaced. As a homeowner, it’s important to know the facts — how long will your new roof realistically stand up against the elements? You’ll want to be aware of all the factors in play so you can take proper care of your roofing investment.

Let’s take a look at how asphalt shingles compare to other roofing materials in terms of longevity, cost, and benefits for homeowners. We’ll also give you some tips to help you get as many years out of your roof as possible.

Asphalt shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most common choice in roofing materials in the United States. In fact, four in five American homes have asphalt shingle roofing. There’s a good reason for that. Asphalt shingles are by far the most affordable type of roofing and have reasonable durability if installed correctly.

Today, most asphalt shingles have a base material of asphalt-coated fiberglass. That material is then embedded with minerals (usually limestone) to protect your home from UV rays. An adhesive backing is added for easier installation.

Here are the details of asphalt roofing:

Lifespan

A well-installed asphalt roof will last anywhere from 12-20 years on average.

This figure is based on the most common type of asphalt roofing (3-tab). There are thicker types of asphalt roofing available that are more expensive but slightly more durable.

Types

There are three types of asphalt shingles:

  • 3-Tab: 3-tab shingles are the most common type of asphalt shingle. They come in large rectangular strips that split into three separate tabs on the bottom half. The top half is a solid piece with adhesive backing. When layered properly, each tab appears like a separate piece.
  • Laminated: Laminated shingles (also called “architectural” or “dimensional” shingles) feature extra layers of tabs that add protection and give a roof enhanced visual depth. They most often resemble trapezoids when installed.
  • Luxury: While uncommon, some types of premium asphalt shingles are made specifically to resemble slate. They are thicker and much more expensive than regular asphalt shingles.

Cost

Standard 3-tab asphalt shingles typically cost between $5.50 and $12.50 per square foot. For laminated or luxury asphalt shingles, you may look at upwards of $13.00 per square foot in some cases. Comparatively, this isn’t too expensive. Most homeowners choose an asphalt roof because it’s the most affordable option. However, asphalt ’s not a “cheap” material by any means — it’s a solid choice for both durability and value.

Benefits

While asphalt shingles may not last as long as other premium materials, they are considered the standard for modern home construction. An asphalt roof will provide you with reasonable durability when properly installed and maintained. They don’t cost nearly as much as any other type of roofing, and are within budget for most homeowners. They’re also aesthetically pleasing, with a clean and consistent look across the surface of the roof. In just about any neighborhood in the United States, asphalt roofing is a good aesthetic choice for matching the style of neighboring houses.

Cedar shakes

Cedar shakes are made from treated wood cut into two-foot sections, with each piece installed separately. You can find them in tapersawn (precisely sawed to have a tapered end) or hand-cut (rough) styles. They are typically installed with a nylon underlayment to prevent moisture buildup and swelling. Made from a light-colored, fragrant hardwood, cedar shakes give your home a rustic, old-fashioned look with incredible durability.

Lifespan

A cedar shake roof can last anywhere from 20-30 years. Achieving a long lifespan with cedar shake requires proper installation and regular maintenance. Otherwise the wood can become damaged from rainwater.

Types

How long your cedar shake roof lasts also depends what grade of material you choose. There are three main types (or grades) of cedar shakes on the market, defined by grain:

  • Common: Common wood shakes are cut in random shapes from several different types of trees. The quality of common wood shakes is often not great, which can explain their affordable price.
  • Selects: Select cedar shakes are slightly higher quality, featuring about 80% straight grain and 20% common grain. These are usually somewhat more expensive, but may work better for your roof due to their more consistent shape.
  • 100% straight grain: As the name suggests, this top-tier grade of cedar shakes features completely straight grain. This allows the wood to lay flat against the decking or underlayment without curling (which can weaken the integrity of your roof). While it may be somewhat more expensive, 100% straight grain cedar shakes are the most ideal choice for a new roof.

Cost

On average, cedar shakes cost anywhere from $20.00 and $30.00 per square foot. Higher grain and/or fire treated cedar will be more expensive per square foot. Also, other factors still can come into play. For example, tapersawn “perfection” cedar shingles are more expensive than hand split shakes because it takes longer to install them.

Benefits

While cedar shakes are more expensive than asphalt shingles, they are more durable and wind resistant than asphalt shingles. You may even find some that are treated for fire resistance.

Beyond that, cedar shakes can provide additional insulation to your home, which helps you preserve energy inside. Being made of wood, they are both environmentally friendly and beautiful. Many homeowners choose them for their natural look which makes them stand out among most other homes.

Synthetic roofing

Synthetic roofing (also called polymer composite) is made from recycled plastics and rubber. Some may contain varying amounts of fiberglass, paper, or asphalt. While it is considerably more expensive than most other types of roofing, this roofing type is becoming more and more popular due to its durability, longevity, and curb appeal.

Lifespan

When installed correctly, synthetic roofing can last anywhere from 30 to 50 years. You may only have to replace your roof one other time over the course of your lifetime.

Types

Synthetic roofing is most often designed to resemble more luxurious materials, including:

  • Synthetic shakes: These synthetic shingles are made to resemble cedar shakes. However, they aren’t as susceptible to water damage since they are made from recycled plastics and rubber. Many also come with a fire resistant coating, making them a good choice for areas prone to wildfires.
  • Synthetic slate: Slate roofing is sleek and beautiful when installed, but the material is both incredibly expensive and heavy. Synthetic slate aims to capture the beauty of slate roofing without the weight or cost.

Cost

Cost is the main barrier to many homeowners choosing synthetic roofing. Synthetic roofing materials typically cost $20.00 to $35.00 per square foot. You will likely also want to pay a higher cost for a top-tier roofing company with the right industry knowledge to install it correctly.

Benefits

In addition to a longer lifespan and a luxurious appearance, synthetic roofing also offers enhanced durability. Synthetic roofing materials are engineered for better wind and impact resistance. They also hold up well against UV rays, and many have Class A fire ratings. Since they are already made of recycled materials, synthetic roofing is also better for the environment.

How to increase the lifespan of your roof

No matter what material you choose, your roof is going to wear out eventually. However, most roof damage that leads to premature replacement is largely preventable. It’s good to be aware of these factors so you can take proper care of your roof and help it last for many years to come. Let’s look at the elements that can affect your roof’s lifespan and how you can prevent damage from destroying your roofing investment.

Weather

The main job of your roof is to protect your home from the effects of weather. As a result, it’s going to come in contact with several elements that will cause it to erode over time. The worst of these include:

  • HailHail damage is often subtle, but can create big problems later on. Even a small dent, crack, or section of missing granules (if it’s an asphalt roof) can leave your shingles vulnerable to UV ray damage and leaks.
  • Rain – If your roof is properly installed, rain should erode your roofing material very slowly. However, without proper flashing or rainwater management (gutters and downspouts), water can leak under your shingles and wear through your roof decking.
  • Wind – High winds can bend up the corners of your shingles and even blow them completely off. However, this most often occurs when a roof hasn’t been installed correctly or doesn’t have enough sealant.
  • Ice dams – Ice dams occur when gutters and flashing do not allow for proper water runoff and ice forms in large sheets covering the edge of your roof. This can create leaks and even damage the edge of your roof.
  • Heat and UV rays – As asphalt and other materials are exposed to heat and UV rays, the material will begin to warp. Any cracks, tears, or holes will quickly become worse and create leaks.

While there is no way to prevent weather from affecting your roof, you can take action to prevent it from having a drastic effect. Regular roof inspections can reveal damaged areas that you might not notice at first glance, allowing you to make small repairs as soon as possible before they become bigger problems.

Proper roof flashing and gutter maintenance also play a key role in making sure water runs off and away from your home correctly. Otherwise, it may pool up on your roof or run back against your fascia (causing major water damage). Over time, this can destroy your entire roofing system and even your home’s foundation.

If you live in an area like the Midwest, where hail storms and high winds are especially prevalent, you may wish to invest in a roofing material with a higher wind or impact resistance rating.

Poor ventilation

As hot air rises through your home, it can get trapped in your attic and create excessive heat underneath your shingles. While this may seem like a minor issue, that excess heat combined with the heat from the sun can quickly cause your shingles to warp from underneath. This weakens your roof’s integrity and makes it vulnerable to leaks, shortening its overall lifespan.

What’s more, poor or improper ventilation creates moisture issues. Part of proper ventilation is making sure that moisture dries up and has room to evaporate out of the house. The goal is to have controlled ventilation that allows the air to escape through vents. If you have cracks or holes in your attic or roof system, that means air is both escaping and entering your home in unwanted places. As temperatures change, condensation can create excess moisture underneath your roof and deteriorate your roof decking.

To fix this issue, be sure to have proper roof intake and exhaust vents installed. Roof vents come in many different forms and may accomplish different ventilation goals depending on the shape of your roof. Make sure all vents are free of debris, as any leaves, sticks, or loose granules will obstruct airflow.

You’ll also want to check your soffit to make sure it’s in good shape. The soffit is the horizontal piece facing the ground that lines the edge of your roof, perpendicular to your fascia. Most soffits have holes in them to help with proper attic ventilation.

Poor installation

According to a study from Texas Tech University and Haag Engineering, the most important factors in preventing wind damage with asphalt shingles are:

  • Strength of the sealant
  • Physical properties of the shingle (fastener pull-out and stiffness)
  • Quality of installation

If you hire a roofing contractor without ample roofing experience or who cuts corners on installation quality, your new roof won’t be worth the money. When installing a new roof, there are several pieces to account for, including shingles, the underlayment, sealant, flashing, drip edge, and more. Even the highest quality materials can fall apart in just a few months without proper roofing installation.

To prevent this problem, look for a roofing company with a reputation for high-quality workmanship. Check local review sites, testimonials, and look at their previous work. When you are thinking about hiring a particular roofing company, ask them about the scope of the project — what kind of checklist do they have to ensure they are properly installing your roof for longevity?

As a failsafe against your aging roof, it’s also important to ensure your materials are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. With this, you’ll need to know that your roofer is responsible enough to handle that kind of claim if the need arises. Most roofing contractors go out of business in less than five years. The ones that stick around for 10 years or more are still in business because they do great work and provide fantastic customer service. They’ll be in business to take care of any needs you have down the line.

Lack of roof maintenance

Roof damage may not always be obvious, especially if you don’t have much experience with roof repair or replacement. Debris such as leaves and sticks pile up on your roof over time, which can deteriorate your shingles and decking and even cause roof sagging.

Regular roof maintenance is so important for avoiding preventable roof damage. Maintenance usually involves:

By making sure your roof is inspected and repaired on a regular basis, you can preserve your roof for its full lifespan.

However, doing roof maintenance yourself is both time-consuming and physically taxing (not to mention somewhat dangerous). Some roofing companies offer a roof maintenance program where they will do the work for you. By opting into a roof maintenance program, you can rest easy knowing that a professional is inspecting, cleaning, and making minor repairs on your roof to preserve its integrity. Roof maintenance programs also come with other benefits, such as discounts and priority customer service.

Don’t wait to replace your roof

Like many homeowners, you may already be considering a roof replacement for one reason or another. Whether you already see concerning signs of damage or you’re thinking of selling your home in the future, replacing your roof is a big decision.

You may also be wary of spending money on a new roof before you know for sure if you need a replacement. However, it’s wise to take action sooner than later. If your roof is already near the end of its lifespan, waiting too long to replace it may leave your home vulnerable to further damage. These issues can create bigger, more expensive problems in the near future.

To know if your roof needs a replacement, take a look at it from inside your attic or outside from the ground. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Bent, broken, or missing shingles
  • Holes
  • Leaks
  • Excessive heat near the attic
  • Deteriorated fascia or soffit
  • Sagging roof
  • Fungus or moss
  • Wood rot

Some of these issues may not be detrimental to your roof. Some may only require quick repairs. The only way to be sure about the condition of your roof (and have peace of mind) is to have it inspected by a professional roofing company.

Replacing an entire roof may seem intimidating. But it’s actually a major home improvement opportunity. In addition to better protection and longevity, a new, high-quality roof can add tangible value to your property. If you’re considering a premium material over classic asphalt roofing, it’s important to consider the fact that financing the roof replacement can save you money in the long run.

Final thoughts

With any roofing project, you get what you pay for. Lower-cost materials typically don’t last as long as those of premium quality. This doesn’t just mean the type of material (asphalt, cedar shake, or synthetic), but the brand and type of the material as well.

That said, high-quality materials don’t matter unless you hire a roofing company that can install them correctly and help you maintain the roof after the replacement project is complete. Great workmanship and proper roof maintenance are the most important factors in a roof replacement project.

To make sure your next roof lasts as long as possible, be sure to hire a professional roofing company with a reputation for high-quality workmanship. While it may cost slightly more than a lower-tier contractor, you’ll have a better roof (and a better customer experience) for it.

At Baltic Roofing, our team is dedicated to providing high-quality roofing in Chicagoland and the surrounding neighborhoods. We’ve been serving the area since 2004, and our reputation speaks for itself.

Whether it’s asphalt, cedar shake, or synthetic roofing, we can do it at Baltic Roofing. We practice the most up-to-date and reliable roofing techniques in our training facilities — not on your home. You’ll get a new roof built by roofers with experience through rigorous testing. Check out some of the work we’ve done in communities like Lemont, Burr Ridge, and Homer Glen.

If you’re considering a new roof, don’t wait to schedule an inspection. You’ll get a professional assessment of how well your roof is holding up to the elements and how much longer it might last. Our team of roofing specialists will inspect your roof in detail and recommend the most preferred options for your roofing project — nothing more, nothing less.

Contact us today for a roof inspection and a roof replacement estimate.

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