Solved! How Long You Can Expect Your Roof to Last
Learn about the lifespan of your roof shingles—and what a replacement or upgrade might cost.
Q: We recently bought a house and its roof is 15 years old. While the home inspector didn’t find any specific problems, I wonder how much longer the roof might hold up. I don’t want to invest in a new one before it’s necessary, but I don’t want to put it off too long and have to contend with leaks. How long does a roof last?
A: Materials and workmanship—as well as the weather elements in your location—determine the lifespan of a roof. While many types of roofs last longer than 15 years, some can hold up well for 50 years or longer, barring a serious storm or a large fallen tree. Not surprisingly, cheaper roofing materials won’t last as long as more expensive types, and the price range is quite broad. At the lower end are shingles costing $70 per square (in roofing terms, a “square” is 100 square feet) and at the higher end you can pay as much as $1,500 per square—with shingles in the top price range potentially lasting longer than the house itself. So read on to learn how long different types of shingles are likely to last so you can judge the lifespan of your roof.
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Asphalt shingles last 15 to 30 years.
Asphalt shingles, the most common type of roofing material sold today, are installed on more than 80 of new homes because they’re affordable (averaging $70 to $150 per square) and include warranties of up to 25 years. Comprised of a variety of ingredients, including organic materials and cement fibers, they provide a durable layer of protection from UV rays, wind, and rain. The shingles’ underside features a layer of black asphalt that becomes sticky in the hot sun and seals the roofing in place to form a watertight seal.
Architectural shingles are a premium type of asphalt shingles that last 25 to 30 years.
While architectural shingles seal in the same manner as standard asphalt shingles, they’re up to three times thicker to form a denser, more resilient roof. Costing between $250 to $400 per square, architectural shingles are considered more attractive than their standard counterparts, with homeowners able to choose from styles that mimic even more expensive roofing, such as wood, slate, and tile. Warranties vary by manufacturer, with some as long as 30 years.
A wood shingle roof can last up to 30 years but requires annual upkeep.
Cedar is the preferred choice for wood shingles (also called “shakes”) because it’s rot- and insect-resistant. Wood shingles look great on just about any house, weathering over time to a soft silvery gray, but they’re especially well-suited to Tudor and cottage-style homes. Because wood is a natural product, it’s not uncommon to occasionally find a few warped or split shingles. A wood shingle roof should be inspected annually, and any split shingles should be promptly replaced. You’ll pay $250 to $600 per square for a wood shingle roof and warranties run up to 30 years.
Clay tile roofs can last 50 years or longer.
While clay tiles are available in a host of earthy colors, this roofing is best known for its bold terracotta tones extremely popular in the southwest region of the United States. You’ll pay $600 to $800 per square to have a clay tile roof installed, but you won’t be replacing the roof any time soon. The durable, low-maintenance tiles can easily last 50 years, and manufacturers offer warranties anywhere from 30 years to a lifetime.
Metal roofs are attractive, durable, and can last up to 70 years.
Metal roofing runs the gamut of price and quality, starting around $115 per square for standing-seam panels in aluminum or steel and up to $900 dollars per square for stone-coated steel tiles and standing-seam copper panels. When it comes to metal roofing, quality also relates to thickness; the thicker the gauge (lower in number), the more durable the roof will be. At the cheaper end, you’ll find thinner metals (26 to 29 gauge) with a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. High-end metal roofing (22 to 24 gauge) is popular in northern regions due to its ability to send snow sliding from the roof, and it’s durable enough that it can easily last more than half a century. Manufacturers offer warranties ranging from 20 years to a lifetime, depending on the quality of the metal.
A slate tile roof can last a century or longer.
Slate—a natural metamorphic stone with a fine grain appearance— is perfect for being cut into uniform roofing tiles. Though a pricey option, ranging from $600 to $1,500 per square, a slate roof can take just about anything Mother Nature dishes out (except perhaps a powerful tornado), retaining its structural integrity and beauty. Slate tile manufacturers offer warranties ranging anywhere from 50 years to a lifetime, and should a slate tile ever break, it can easily be replaced. The biggest downside to slate tile roofs (besides the cost) is weight. Standard roof framing is not suitable for supporting these heavy tiles, so the roof’s rafters must be beefed up before they can be installed.