Roofing should last about 20 years before leaks appear

August 28, 2009|By PAT LOGAN / Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: The shingles on my roof are about 18 years old now and there are a couple of leaks over the garage. I am debating as to whether to repair it or replace the roof. I will try it myself. What do you recommend? -- Jessica G.

Dear Jessica: Most typical shingle roofs should last about 20 years before you start to notice leaks. Some factors, such as leaves on the roof, mildew and moisture, can make them deteriorate even faster. Also, you will often find the south-facing side of the roof is in worse condition because of years of more direct exposure to the sun.

Garages can be particularly bad because they often do not have adequate attic ventilation. This allows the roof shingles to get extremely hot, which breaks down the materials. Once the granules come loose, the sun's ultraviolet rays quickly degrade the base shingle material.


Since the roof is already 18 years old and it is over the garage, I would recommend you install an entire roof rather than åtry to repair the leaks. Some additional damage will be done just walking around on the roof attempting to find the sources of the leaks. Once you find them, if you can, you will have to disturb old shingles near the repair areas. This can result in additional leaks.

Tearing the old shingles is the most difficult part of re-roofing a house. Laying the new shingles is actual a pretty straightforward, simple job for homeowners. The most difficult part of the job is handling the heavy bundles of shingles and keeping your balance on the roof.

With a roof that is only 18 years old, you may be able to just lay a new layer of shingles over the old ones. This is commonly done to save money and it works very well. The key to a good job is making sure the old shingles are not crumbling and the edges are not badly curled. If they are, the new shingles will not lie flat enough over the old ones. Also check your local building codes about re-roofing.

Take all the appropriate safety precautions when working up on any roof, even a relatively low one. Don't work alone and always have your cell phone with you. Even if you do not fall off the roof, you may get caught in an unbalanced position and need assistance.

Only work on a roof when it is dry and wear soft-soled shoes for greater traction. It may be overkill, but I prefer to use some mountain climbing gear (rope, harness, repelling equipment) and tie myself off to the chimney or a tree. It is not too cumbersome and it allows you to let yourself down slowly to the ground should you accidentally slip.

The shingles are overlapped on the roof so gravity carries the water from one over the next. There is quite a large overlap so wind-driven rain does not back up under the shingles and get into the garage.

To make sure you have the shingles in a straight line, snap chalk line first along the roof. Don't just try to eyeball it, or it surely will end up looking like a do-it-yourself job. Using a nail gun makes the job much faster, but a hammer still works well for shingles. Carefully flash around a chimney or valley.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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