Most homeowners are unaware of the structural integrity of their roofs, so they might ignore tell-tale signs of costly problems lurking. Here's how to create a cost-effective and long-term fix for any roof problem.
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Roof replacements can be a costly fix, with a national average cost of $8,000. However, it's important to consider the costs of a roof replacement before moving forward.

The extent of the damage can help determine if a repair is a better option. In addition to shopping around for quotes from at least three licensed roofing companies, homeowners are cautioned not to just take a roofers' word for it. After all, it's in the company's best interest to have a roof replaced (which costs on average $5,000 to $10,000) versus simply performing a repair (which costs on average from $315 to $1,000+).

There are several proactive steps you can take now to anticipate the costs of a roof repair or replacement and to save appropriately for the eventual need to do one or the other. Here are key things to keep in mind.

pitched roof colonial style home
Credit: Edmund Barr

The price depends on your roof type.

Leonard Ang, CEO of iPropertyManagement, an online resource for landlords, tenants, and real estate investors, says that "the real trick with roof replacement and repair is that you rarely know which you need until you start taking your roof apart. This means you always have to financially plan for a replacement whenever contemplating roof repairs."

Using an online quote service like HomeAdvisor can help you gather estimates without a full roof assessment. But at some point, you'll have to ask the experts to physically go on the roof and survey the damage. Much of the estimate will depend on the kind of roof you have.

"Generally speaking, standard asphalt shingle roofs are the cheapest to repair and replace, then wooden shakes, then ceramic tiles," said Ang. But prices can be region-specific, where roof types are similar and materials are readily available. To understand your repair or replacement costs, you have to know what kind of roof you have.

These are a few common types of roofs:

  • A Mansard roof has two slopes on each side of the roof and four slopes on the front. It is often seen in European architecture and some of the more expensive homes in America.
  • A flat roof has no slope or angle. It has a smooth surface. Flat roofs are typically used for commercial buildings like warehouses or factories, but older cities (like Baltimore) still have residential homes with these kinds of roof structures.
  • A Shed roof is built with short walls that allow for maximum ventilation. The steeper the slope, the more protection it offers for the rain and snow.
  • A Butterfly roof has multiple curved panels that create a V-like shape that looks like butterfly wings.

The price depends on the materials used.

Roofing materials are different from one another. Wooden roofs are common in Europe and North America. They are durable and relatively low cost unless the cost of lumber goes up as it has over the last year. There are also metal, slate, asphalt, and gravel roofs.

In addition, you'll need to know if the insulation has been damaged too (or should you insulate an attic that wasn't properly insulated before)? These material questions can affect the cost of a repair because materials are subject to availability.

According to HGTV, there are six main types of materials used in roofs and their associated costs.

Type of Material

Cost per square ($)

Lifespan (Years)

Asphalt Shingles

$70 to $120

20 to 25

Clay and Concrete tiles

$300 to $500

40 to 50

Metal Roofing

$100 to $300

40 to 50

Slate

$600+

50 to 100

Wooden Shingles

$100 to $150

25 to 30

Synthetic Roofing

$300+

50

If your roof is severely deteriorated and is 15 to 20 years old already, it might be worthwhile to replace it rather than repair it. New-generation roofs have an average lifespan of 50+ years. Some materials, like slate, last up to 100 years, making it a more valuable investment than a patchwork repair.

Still not sure? Check your insurance policy.

While it is intimidating to become a self-proclaimed roof expert in the face of an immediate need, the reality is that homeowners often have ample lead time to learn more about their homes and to prepare for these large-scale repairs. A major question that can be answered in advance: Under which circumstances will homeowner's insurance pay for a repair or replacement?

Call your insurance agent or company now to ask how your home insurance coverage would address repair or replacement due to damage from wind, rain, snow, or natural disaster incident. Doing so before a weather incident or accident could minimize out-of-pocket expenses.

Also, research if the roof is under warranty. If you've recently inherited or bought the home, this info might be in the sales and transfer documentation. Otherwise, if you live in a small town, you might want to call the licensed roofers to ask if your address is in their records. Chances are someone will have a record of servicing your home. The materials, if not the labor, might still be under warranty.

If your neighbors are friendly, ask what kind of roof they have, who they used to repair or install it, and how much they paid to get the work done. Not only will you likely learn more about your home and your options, but you'll also be able to weed out contractors who are historically bad or those who have never taken on a job in your area.

Aviva Sonenreich, a commercial real estate owner, broker, and property manager, says if you "bring two roofers to a property, you will be left with three opinions. Roofing is quite literally the wild west in every respect." Roofs are a massive purchase, and she has seen homeowners get scammed by roofers. "You know you need a roof when it is no longer working! Leaks on the inside of your house or skylight will be your first clue."

She says to start saving for roof repairs well before you need to. When asked how best to budget for a new roof, Sonenreich says "Make a reserve account. Put money into your reserve account monthly. Future you will appreciate your thoughtfulness." 

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