Nothing lasts forever — especially the roof on your home.
Sooner or later, every roof needs to be replaced simply because of the long-term effects of weathering.
Sun: Heat and ultraviolet rays cause roofing materials to deteriorate over time.
Rain: When underneath roofing, water can work its way to the deck and begin to cause rot.
Winds: High winds can lift the roof edges and force water underneath.
Condensation: The buildup of relatively warm, moisture-laden air is a poorly ventilated attic promotes decay of the wood sheathing and rafters.
Asphalt roof shingles are the most common type of shingles in America. The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C., estimates that 80 percent of all homes in the U.S. have asphalt shingles.
How long the shingles last depends upon the environment.
"Shingles in cooler climates like the northern U.S. last longer than those installed in the warmer climates. The average lifespan being 20 years, give or take, when allowing for climate changes," said Robert Mackes, owner of Mackes Construction in Saylorsburg.
How do you know?
Doing an outside and inside inspection will usually give you enough information to see if the roof is already in disrepair or is aging and a new roof will soon be needed.
"There are several things homeowners can look for on the outside that could indicate the roof needs repair or to be replaced," Mackes said. He recommended walking the house's perimeter to look for broken asphalt pieces on the ground. "While walking around the house, look up at the roof to check for curled or missing shingles," he said.
When you see places where shingles are missing and there hasn't been a recent storm with strong winds, Mackes said, the roof is starting to age and needs to be replaced — or, at least, the missing shingles should be replaced.
If the homeowner has a ladder and can climb up and look in the gutters and they are filled with pieces of dry shingle debris, the roof probably needs to be replaced.
"Year after year, when shingles are exposed to changing weather conditions, the shingles will start curling up at the ends and become brittle and dried out," he said. "Usually homeowners will find (that) the side of the house that has the most sun exposure will go bad first, but it is best to replace the entire roof all at one time."
The National Roofing Contractors Association in Rosemont, Ill., warns homeowners that if they want to check the roof, do not climb or walk on the roof. Only check by standing on a ladder. Going onto the roof itself can be dangerous and may damage the roof.
An inside inspection is not as easy to accomplish, but will allow homeowners to find roof damage not possible to see from the outside, Mackes said.
One quick visual check is to look at the ceiling in the home.
If they are sagging, Mackes said, "it is usually because there is or has been a water buildup caused by roof leaks."
If you can get in the attic, take a flashlight and shine it on the inside of the roof.
If there are marks on the roof's inside, it comes from water leaking through the shingles and staining the wood layer underneath, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association.
One problem that can be fixed: mold or moss growing on shingles. Mackes said, "The sooner you can get it off, the better it is for your roof."
The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association suggests using a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water or mild detergent gently applied with a sponge or hand-held sprayer. Make sure to rinse thoroughly, and never use a power-washer or high concentrations of bleach.
A product made especially for cleaning shingles can be purchased in building supply stores if you don't want to make the homemade solution.
"Just remember not to scrub the shingle surface. Scrubbing will take the stones off the shingles and could cause leaks," Mackes said.
It is a good idea to do an inspection of your roof once a year to find issues and have minor repairs made to avoid a bigger expense later, he said.