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Why Replace the Roof if it's Not Leaking?

For most homeowners, the idea of taking on the expense of replacing their roof when it doesn't appear to need replacement makes little sense. Especially if the roof isn't leaking! We understand – while the roof may look a little aged and worn, it’s not leaking so why bother replacing it, right? On the surface, this makes total sense. But what many homeowners don’t realize is that the deficiencies of a roof aren’t always visible, and by the time a roof actually starts leaking it may already be well past its expiration date, which often leads to additional deficiencies pertaining to the structure of the roof that were buried and now have to be addressed in addition to installing a new roof.
For example, let’s say your roof is 15 years old. The shingles look a little worn and there are a few areas where they are starting to lift and curl, but the roof isn’t leaking so you figure you can probably get another couple of years out of it before it needs to be replaced. Later that year some shingles blow off in a strong wind, but you have a roofing company come out and make a repair. All is good. You can rest easy knowing that your roof is secure for another year. Next year rolls around and you start to obtain quotes to replace your roof. You settle on a contractor that provided a fair price and one that you felt comfortable dealing with. The contractor begins the work and then halts – he informs you that the entire back side of your roof is completely rotted and all the plywood in the area needs to be replaced. This adds another $4,000 to the cost of the job – an amount that you never budgeted nor prepared for. But it needs to be done in order to complete the job.
What Lies Beneath - Stories like this happen every year and it’s unfortunate because it’s entirely preventable. In the above scenario, in order for the entire back side of the roof to have become completely rotted water would’ve had to have been penetrating this area of the roof for years. And while the leak may not have manifested itself in a visible and obvious way (e.g. stains on the ceiling, dripping noises, etc.), water was getting in underneath the shingles, pooling on the plywood, and slowly eating its way through it. Not only has this damaged the structure of the roof, but it has also ruined the insulation in the attic below (this will also need to be removed and replaced, which adds even more to the cost).
Rotted plywood on a residential roof Rotted plywood on a residential roof Rotted plywood on a residential roof
Underlayments - For many roofing contractors in York Region, installing proper underlayments on a roof are viewed as an unnecessary expense for the homeowner. These same companies are also the ones that rely on homeowners’ lack of education and understanding on the importance of roofing underlayments. Simply put, had underlayments been installed on the roofs in the above photos, there wouldn’t be any damage to the roof decks and sheathing. Underlayments are extremely important, and they serve several purposes. There are two types of underlayments that need to be installed on every roof – ice & water shield and synthetic wrap.
Ice & water shield is a coarse membrane that is installed a minimum of three feet up from all of the eavestroughs, as per Ontario Building Code, and should also be installed in all valleys and should also be wrapped around any protrusions like chimneys or skylights. The purpose of this membrane is to protect the most vulnerable areas of a roof from ice/snow/water backup and penetration. In the event that water gets underneath the shingles, the ice & water shield prevents it from ever penetrating the roof. It also acts as an additional seal for the shingles when they’re nailed into it.
Ice and water shield and new metal valley installed on a roof
Synthetic underlayment gets installed after the ice & water shield and wraps the remainder of the roof. This breathable membrane is thinner than the ice & water membrane and its purpose is three-fold: to provide protection for the roof deck, to act as a secondary barrier against water penetration, and to help the shingles seal to the roof once they’ve been nailed in.
Ice and water shield and synthetic underlayment installed on a roof Synthetic underlayment being installed on a roof
It’s also important to note that failure to install proper underlayments completely voids the manufacture warranty, which is often kept secret from homeowners.
Reusing Old Materials - One of the major culprits of both premature roof wear and additional damage to the roof is the reusing of old roofing components to save money (and make a quote look more attractive). This is all too common around York Region. Every time a new roof is  installed, ALL of the old roofing components need to be replaced – not just the shingles; ALL of the roofing components! If you just have your shingles replaced, you’re setting yourself up for major issues down the line.
The reason it’s so important to ensure you’re getting a full roofing system installed is because modern day roofing system components are engineered to work together to not only protect your home from the elements, but also protect the structure of the roof while providing durability and longevity. If you replace your shingles but re-use the same valleys, flashings and roof vents that have been on the home for 20 years, you’re inviting problems to brew. Especially if there’s no underlayments or starter shingles being installed.
There are many roofing companies out there that cater to homeowners looking for an attractive quote that only replaces the shingles. Homeowners see an appealing price and assume they’re getting a new roof, but all they’re getting are new shingles. Sure, the shingles are new, but they’re surrounded by 20-year-old valleys, pipe boots, roof vents, and no underlayments or starter shingles. So what?
Well, for example, the base plate of the roof vents and pipe flashings, in most cases, is a thin plastic layer that has already been penetrated by nails and screws (from the original installation 20 years ago). If you re-use that same component, it must first be removed in order to install new shingles around it, then reattached to the roof via new nails/screws. In this case, you’re inviting water to find its way under the old base and collect underneath the shingles.
Cracked pipe boot flashing on a roof Old roof vents reused on a new roof that are cracking
Re-using old valleys are very common among cheaper roof quotes, and this is one of the most vulnerable areas where water can penetrate a roof. The function of the valley is to create an area for water/snow/ice to collect as it descends towards the gutters. This way, the valley takes the brunt of the resting water and not the shingles. Today, most valleys are installed as a single piece of metal, but 10, 15, 20 years ago, multiple pieces of metal were installed and overlapped to create a valley. With this type of installation method, the pieces of metal need to be sealed together, either via nails, screws, or roofing caulking. Over time, the joints become corroded and lose their seal due to the water/ice/snow resting on them. If these pieces are reused, you’re inviting problems to occur.
An old valley on a roof with a roofer putting his hand through it An old valley on a roof that has cracked An old and worn valley on a roof
What Can Homeowners Do? - There are a few things homeowners can do to avoid problems with their roof and ensure it’s in sound condition and functioning properly. It doesn’t matter if the roof is leaking or not – if the roof over your head is 10+ years old it’s time to keep an eye on it (especially if you weren’t the one who had it replaced).
  1. Get a Roof Inspection - the easiest way for homeowners to get a sense of the state of their roof, its performance, and its life expectancy, is to have a professional roof inspection done. A proper roof inspection will evaluate the overall condition of the roof and all of its components, document the findings in a report, and provide maintenance or replacement options for review. The small cost associated with the roof inspection is well worth it, especially if it saves you thousands in unexpected costs when it comes time to replace the roof. 
  2. Full Roofing System – if you’re getting quotes to replace your roof, steer clear of those that do not showcase a full roofing system. A full roofing system installation follows the requirements set forth by the manufacturer and includes the removal of all of the old roofing components, the installation of ice & water shield, synthetic underlayments, starter shingles, the main shingles, new roof vents, new valleys, and refreshing the caulking on all wall flashings. Installing a full roofing system will provide decades of protection and peace of mind, and will also ensure that any warranties associated with the work remain valid for their term.
  3. Due Diligence – we all know the importance of doing one’s due diligence for large home improvement projects. But when it comes to your roof, one of the easiest ways to assess the company you’re considering is to simply talk with them! Ask questions that matter to you and see how they respond. Also, be sure to check out their website to see photos of their work and look to see if there are photos of the installation process or just the completed work. You definitely want to see photos of the installation process because it will give you insight into how they install a new roof and what components are/aren’t being used.
Replacing your roof is a big expense, so it’s understandable to put it off as long as possible. Especially if the roof isn't leaking. But keep in mind that just because the roof isn't leaking it doesn’t mean that the roof is sound or performing the way it should. Roof inspections, quote comparison, and dialogue with roofing companies are the best ways for homeowners to truly understand the condition of their roof and how much life it actually has left. It’s also the best way to avoid surprise costs when it comes to time to replace the roof.
Rovis Roofing offers residents of Newmarket, Aurora, Stouffville, Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Thornhill, and surrounding areas, full roofing system installations. Contact Rovis Roofing today for more information about our services and see why we’re the #1 roofing company in York Region. Do it once, do it right with Rovis Roofing!