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Roofing: How Long Should They Last and How to Make Them Last Longer

by Jon Nunan

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The roof is one of the most important parts of your home, and keeping it in good shape is a priority. There are many roofing materials on the market, and each has its pros and cons. In terms of longevity, some are far better than others, but when you take their price, looks, installation, and required maintenance, some choices that might not immediately seem like the most practical end up being a perfect fit. Since the best roofing material varies by situation, and the maintenance for each can be a little different, keeping your roof in tip-top condition can get a little confusing. If you know what to expect from your roof, however, you'll have a better idea of how it should perform, what kind of maintenance it will need, and how long it should last before you have to replace it.

Asphalt Roofs
As the most common roofing material in the country, most of us are familiar with asphalt roofing and many of its benefits and drawbacks. Since it is often far less expensive than other roofing materials, it is almost expected that it will have a shorter lifespan. Depending on the quality of the shingle, you can expect an asphalt roof to remain in good shape for 15 or 20 years. It is considered a relatively low-maintenance material, but that doesn't mean that once it is up you can completely forget about it! Like anything else, no asphalt roof is completely maintenance free; luckily, it is an easy material to work with and most areas have plenty of professionals who are very experienced with this material. Lengthening the life span of an asphalt roof is mostly a matter of attitude; if you treat it much like a vehicle and get regular inspections as well as a little maintenance here and there, your roof will probably perform just fine for a few decades.

Metal Roofs
When asked to picture a metal roof, the image that many people conjure up is something that is more likely to be found on a hundred year old barn than on a modern home. However, metal roofs have come a long way in the last century and today's models are some of the soundest and most durable roofs around. Whether shingle or panel, metal roofs are extremely low-maintenance, and though they generally carry a 20 to 40 year warranty, there are many that last for even longer. There isn't much you need to worry about as far as extending the life of your metal roof, but you can make a difference in how long it will last when installing it. Though more expensive metal roofing products might seem like an unnecessary expense initially, they often pay off in the long run. By purchasing a top quality metal roof and having it installed by a qualified professional, you're making an investment that can literally last a lifetime!

Wood Shingle and Shake Roofing
Here is where maintenance really comes into play. Though attractive and insulate, wood roofs are prone to problems that simply don't exist with other materials. If you have a wood roof on your home, it will need regular attention if you want it to last for any decent length of time. Since moisture has a significant effect on wood products of any kind (cedar, though naturally rot and insect-resistant and one of the preferred species for wood roofing, is far from immune), it is important to keep wood roofing as dry as possible. This means keeping it clean, as well as keeping the underside of it ventilated. Leaves, dirt, and other debris that collect on a wood roof retain moisture and should be cleaned off as often as possible. Though ventilation should be taken into account when your roof is installed, having adequate attic ventilation can play a part in reducing moisture build-up underneath the shingles, too. In some cases, applying chemical treatments to a wood roof will extend its life, but it is best to get wood that has been treated before it is installed to assure complete coverage. Touching up problem areas with sealant can help, as well, but in most cases, don't expect a wood roof to last more than 20 or 30 years.

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Tile and Slate Roofing
These are the big boys. Tile roofing is especially popular in the south and west, and is an extremely durable material. Depending on how the quality of the tile, these roofs can last 50 or more years without requiring any major upkeep. Some tiles are more durable than others, and especially if you live in a cold climate, you'll want to be very careful about what you purchase. Slate roofing is not what you'd call common, and certainly not what you'd call cheap. However, a high quality slate roof that is properly installed can last 100 years! Extending the lifespan of both tile and slate roofs is not really an issue once they are installed, but choosing a high quality material initially is a must if you want peak performance and longevity.

Roof Inspections
One thing that can play a huge role in how long your roof lasts and how expensive the required maintenance will be is getting roof inspections. Even the best roofs can sometimes be breached during heavy storms or other unforeseen, traumatic events. In many cases, the damage isn't noticeable to someone who isn't trained to spot it. By getting regular roof inspections, you'll be able to identify small problems before they become large ones; this means lower maintenance bills for you, and a longer life for your roof, too!

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.