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Deferred Maintenance of Your Roof: How Much Can It Cost You?

By Steve Hembree

 

What to do about your roof, and when? What results from deferred maintenance?

How old is your roof? What material is your roof made of?

Answering these two questions right now can help eliminate, alleviate, or mitigate potential losses on your home due to deferred maintenance, be it your primary residence, or a home you bought to serve as an income generator, such as a flip or a rental.

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First, please allow me to tell you my perspective on this as well as my “credentials” when talking about this topic. Deferred maintenance is the very first thing I looked for (and still do) in my past lives as an insurance inspector, as an inspector for banks and brokers, and currently as a property inspector. That may encompass the roofing, the siding, the yard, the plumbing, the electrical service, foundation, the window glass, and much more. If it is part of the house, I look at it.

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This article is on roofing deferred maintenance, and there is a lot of information to pass along, so let’s dive in.

 

 

Quick note: This involves the house you live in, or are looking at buying. If it is rental that you already own, take caution. Nothing freaks out a renter faster than the owner simply showing up on site and examining the house, especially unannounced.

 

If you have an occupied rental, ALWAYS let the renter know you’re coming, when, and why, provided it does not violate terms of your contract with a management company. In that case, let the property management company do the heavy lifting for you.

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Is there deferred maintenance on your roof, and how can you tell?

Roofing repairs can be extraordinarily expensive, but being on guard and vigilant can not only save you money, it can save you a lot of time and stress. However, sometimes with roofing, “it is what it is.” What I mean by that is sometimes roofing just flat wears out, but catching it in time and acting on it can make a huge difference.
Let’s tackle this below.

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How old is your roof? What’s it covered with?

First off, when was the house built? This is simple logic. If the house is 15 years old, the roofing is too, right? Usually it is, but not always. If there have been roofing repairs due to wind or tree damage, usually most of the roof will be the same age as the house, with some newer roofing. You can usually spot a roof repair from ground level, due to differences is the color, wear, and even style of roofing used on the repaired area.

If the house is, say, 20 to 30 years old, or more, then the material of the roofing becomes the next question.
If the roof is asphalt and it is original, you can look forward to having roofing work done in the near future. Guaranteed, it will be a full re-roof costing you about 8 grand or more. You can spend less by roofing over the old roof; and if done right, you may get another  15 to 18 years of life out of the roof, but odds are the roof will be lumpy and bumpy.

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Cost of replacing your roof

All costs I’ll list below are based on a 1600 square foot home in southern California, and with decking replacement. If caught early enough, you can save thousands off these prices.

Asphalt roofing is far and away the most popular type of roofing material, due largely to its ease of use and cost, but ironically, that new house with the asphalt roof that you have a 30-year mortgage on will almost certainly need a roof before, or right about the same time you finish paying the house off.

Regular asphalt roofing also called composite roofing, and e-tab roofing, has a lifespan of 20 years, as a rule, but can last from 15 to 30 years. Expect north of $8,000+, installed.

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Architectural shingles are asphalt tiles (aka composite shingles) which are also known as dimensional shingles. They look 3D, meaning not flat, and oddly like square fish scales. These generally last 30 years, but 40 is not unheard of. Expect $10,000+, installed.

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Single ply asphalt rolled roofing has a similar, but generally lower, life span than does regular asphalt roofing, is the cheapest of the asphalt materials. Consequently, it looks it too. Unless you have a flat roof, just don’t. The neighbors will talk, you will be shamed in public, and your kids will forego college to live forever in a commune, eating grass and bugs.

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Hot mop roofing consists of liquid tar applied hot (usually with a mop), and is usually covered while still hot with rocks or gravel. While rare in housing applications, it lasts a similar amount of time, on average, as asphalt shingles. Expect $8500+, installed.

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Concrete shingles and clay Spanish tiles. Do not walk on these! Ever! Many “Spanish” roofs are actually Spanish style concrete tiles roofs, which are hardier than clay, and much less expensive than clay tiles. Installed right (and not walked on) clay tiles can last 100 years, concrete from 50 to 100 years. Expect north of $22,000+ for concrete tiles, installed, $24,000+, installed for clay tiles.

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Slate roofing has a similar lifespan, but is usually found on much higher end homes, and lasts 40 to 50 years. And it is expensive! Expect about $24,000+, installed.

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Metal roofing. Forget tin, it will rust out; however, there are some great metal roofing materials which can last 40 to 70 years or more, but at about three times the cost. Metal roofs do not catch fire, which is a great benefit. Expect $22,000+, installed.

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Wood shake and wood shingle roofs Most people think they are one and the same, but they are not. A shake roof has irregular sized wood used as shingles, some thicker than others, some wider than others. Wood shingle roofs, however, are pretty homogeneous and consistent in the shingle sizes. Expect 30 to 40 years of life. $12,000+, but why would you do this?

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Here is a pretty good calculator I found online: Click

Bearing all that in mind, a 50-year-old house with any asphalt roofing ought to be on at least its second roof, and is probably near the end of its life on that second roof. This is where inspecting the roof becomes very important.

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Inspecting my roof: how and why?

Why should I have my roof inspected? So, you don’t take a financial beating later, that’s why!
Believe it or not, as a non-roofer, you usually do not need to scale the roof of a house to inspect it. Using the common-sense logic above, and carefully examining the roof in person, sizing up a roof from the ground is surprisingly accurate.

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For a visual inspection, start at the front of the house, usually at the front right of a property, and scan your eyesight along the entire front of the house and roof line looking for any irregularities to any surface at a distance. Then snap a photo. That photo will help you remember anything and everything later on. There’s plenty more house and roof to be seen; but if the house is inhabited, I can guarantee you that some stranger standing in the yard looking around is generally unsettling. So, do yourself a favor, go to the door and introduce yourself.

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From there, proceed to the left front corner of the property. Do just as you did prior: scan the whole thing, right to left, then look at the property from the center.

See anything amiss? “Like what?” you may ask.
Sagging in the roof, for example. This usually means that the decking beneath is bad, corrupted. It is unable to hold the weight of the tar paper and roofing material. HUGE RED FLAG!

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Missing, worn, shifted, split or cracked roofing tiles, or curled asphalt tiles (or shingles, if you will).
Missing tiles means water will penetrate the roof.
Worn tiles, as in asphalt, is indicated by a loss of granulation, (the sand texture embedded on the tiles) which helps with grip when alone on a roof, but the loss of granulation is also a great indication of a roof’s age.

 

Also, shingles will lose their sharp edges as they age, they will become more rounded at the corners.

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Shifted tiles indicate wind damage, possibly, and permits water to intrude, and cracked tiles will not effectively shed water.
Curled tiles are a dead giveaway to a roof’s age, indicating that it is well past its service life.

 

Walk all the way around the structure and note any irregularities regarding the roof. This includes fascia boards and eaves. Do note any bare wood and peeling paint.

 

See the Deferred Maintenance Wood Rot article.

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If you have doubts on a roof being sound, the attic is the next place to head, but really, isn’t that why we hire Home Inspectors? Remember, there are spiders and stuff up there. [[[shudder]]]

Context of roofing and deferred maintenance

Your roof is the first line of defense, and the single most important element to any home’s “envelope.” The envelope is that which protects your property, or investment, from damage, be it rain, fire, or falling debris. When it develops leaks, get it fixed right away. It could save you between 25 to 95%!

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Types of roofs by their shape. Which do you have? The more complex the roof suffering from deferred maintenance, generally the higher the cost to re-roof.

Gable roofs

Generally, the most common style of roofing is the gable roof. These can be identified by looking at the edge on and seeing an “A” or a triangle shape viewed from the side, or in some cases from a front/rear view.

Gable roofs, open gables or box gables, usually have level eaves and fascia boards at the front and rear of houses, with angled roofing, eaves and fascia boards at the left and right. Gable roofs are cheap to build due to the consistent shape and spacing of rafters; they shed water well and are generally cheaper to repair. However, they do not stand up to high winds as well as hip roofs do.

Their angles vary from shallow to steep.

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Hip roofs


The next most common roof shape is the Hip roof. Just like it sounds, the roof eaves and fascia boards surround the home all the way around on a flat plane, whereas the roof itself rises at an angle from each side more or less evenly to shed water.


Hip roofs are more expensive to build due to complex angles of the roofing and rafters, and generally need to use more decking (the wood sheets which support the roof), tarp paper, and roofing material.

Their angles are usually shallow to medium.

Other roof styles: Flat, Shed, Gambrel, and Mansard roofs.

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Flat roof


Flat roofs are usually covered in single ply rolled asphalt, and aren’t often seen on homes. This style roofing is used a lot on warehouses and commercial buildings. Flat roofs can also be covered in Hot Mop asphalt. Interesting side note, the grand houses of Beverly Hill probably have the highest instances of flat roofing per square foot than any other place.

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Shed roof

 

Shed roofing is next least popular, in my observations anyway. Think “Flat Roofed House,” then cut the roof and raise one edge (usually the front) to about a 45-degree angle, then finish off the front and the sides with new siding and you have a shed style roof.

I have never met anyone who stated, “I want my house to look like a shed,” so I have limited understanding of why anyone would use this style roofing, although it is relatively cheap to build, and “sheds” water and snow wonderfully.

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Gambrel roof

 

Have you seen the film “The Amityville Horror”, or any of the remakes, reboots? If so, you have seen a gambrel roof.

Odd, and to me the least attractive, but overall it is a pretty simple roof, although the sides can get pretty steep!

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Mansard Roof

 

Then we have the Mansard roof. It’s goofy. Think “Addams Family House,” and boom, mansard roof. Roofing material for most of these were originally wood, but as time has marched on and wood roofs have burned away or otherwise rotted, you’ll often find these roofs covered in asphalt shingles, scalloped shaped being common.

Complex roofing, to be sure, and the traditional sloping sides usually end at the top with a small flat roof.

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Final words

 

Do bear in mind that as time passes, the costs I have estimated for various roofing materials will change, that is, climb, and that I am estimating these costs in the now, in Southern California.

Be sure to always get 2nd and 3rd bids too, and also keep in mind that if it is raining, you just may be out of luck in terms of getting someone to fix your roof quickly and correctly.

Not taking care of an aging roof is not an option, as that deferred maintenance will cost you a lot more in the long haul.

Oh, and that tree touching your roof? It just turned your new 30-year roof into a 6-month roof. Ouch.

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