So how do you really know if your house needs new shingles? Of course, you could have a roofing contractor come out and check for you. But they tend to be like car mechanics. They are going to find something wrong with your shingles or roof (or car) that needs fixing. They might try to sell you something you don’t really need.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of question you want an obvious black or white answer to. You want to know the answer before you have buckets full of water pouring into your living room whenever it rains outdoors. If your ceiling indoors is leaking water you are long past needing roof repairs or new shingles.
Given the nature of the beast, hopefully the following list of things to check will help you avoid uncomfortable indoor weather changes. You won’t find a definite yes or no answer but if you follow this advice and check your roof regularly you will “know” when the time is right to get a new roof.
Indoor Ceiling Leaks or Stains
If there are heavy stains or water leaks in your indoor ceilings you are going to want to do something fast. If your indoor ceiling is leaking there is a good chance the water has damaged attic insulation and the wood framing in your ceilings. The problem may not be your roof shingles. It could be a plumbing problem, poor attic ventilation or a leak around roof flashing. But the point is you want to catch the problem before it gets to this point and get it fixed.
One step up from the ceiling would be to check the attic. Not everyone can get to their attic so you may have to skip this step. But if you can easily get to your attic grab a good flashlight and give it a good inspection. If areas of insulation are matted or crumpled looking there is a good chance it has water damage. If the wood framing in the roof and attic floor is dark or discolored this is also a good indicator that water has gotten into your attic. But here again, you want to catch the problem before it gets this bad. Those dark stains in the wood might be mold and mildew growing inside your house. Definitely something you want to avoid.
By far, the best place to check your roof shingles is from the outside. Walk out to the front curb of your house or back to the back alley, whichever gives you the best view of your roof. If you see any shingles on the ground that match the color of your roof shingles there is a good chance it came from your roof. See if you can spot any missing roof shingles on your house. Next look for any obvious signs that something isn’t right with your roof. Are there areas that are darker than the rest of the roof? Does part of the roof sag or look dented in? Are the roof shingles uniformly flat or are some curled up or frayed at the edges? Are the rows of roof shingles straight or are some crocked? Any of these conditions could mean you need a new roof or need repairs to your old roof shingles. Try to do this curbside inspection twice a year, in the fall and spring. Also, check your roof shingles after a major rain or windstorm.
Up Close Roof Inspection
Most people think you have to climb up on your roof if you are going to thoroughly inspect your roof shingles. You don’t necessarily have to do this. You can use a pair of binoculars or a telescope from curbside and see your roof shingles just as easily as if you were up there in person. Certainly it is much safer. The last thing you need is to damage your roof and yourself by walking around up there. I for one am afraid of heights. So I would probably get dizzy and not see straight if I was up there anyway. There are some advantages to going up there and checking but you don’t have to.
Most roof shingles are asphalt these days so check for missing granules from the surface of the shingles. The shingle granules are the gritty sand like material that gives the shingles color. They also protect the black asphalt underneath. It is normal for some of the granules to come off especially right after installation. So you should expect to see a small amount of shingle granules in your rain gutters and downspouts. But if the granules are completely gone from the surface of your roof shingles and all you see is the black asphalt underneath then it is time to get a new roof.
Also check for roofing nails that have popped up or are missing. Cracked or otherwise damaged roof shingles could also indicator you need a new roof.
Perhaps the best indicator you need a new roof is the age of your current roof shingles. Most asphalt shingles will last about 20 years and then deteriorate fairly rapidly after that. I have seen an asphalt shingle roof last 50 years and another that lasted only 8 years. But those are the extreme exceptions. 20 years is a good point to think about getting a new roof. At least, from 20 years on be extra thorough in your roof inspections. Again, the idea is to change your roof shingles before they go bad. Not after.
Recent Bad Weather
Roofing contractors are extremely busy after a hurricane or hailstorm. There is, of course, a very good reason for this. Brutally bad weather can destroy your roof shingles in a heartbeat. Most asphalt shingles are severe weather rated but hurricanes, tornados and hailstorms don’t read the fine print in the warranty. After severe bad weather check your roof to make sure it survived intact.
Hire a Home Inspector
If you feel uncomfortable doing any of the above inspections you may want to hire a home inspector to do it for you. The couple hundred dollars you spend for a home inspector is almost always well worth it. Unlike roofing contractors, home inspectors are generally not trying to sell you something. You pay for their time and expertise. You might even learn a thing or two about your home from them that will save you big time down the road.