Roofing: How Long Should It Last and How to Make It Last Longer

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 24, 2019

Shingle roof

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 roof 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 hiring a qualified professional roofer for installation, 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.

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 finding a roof inspector near you, 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!

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  1. Rosemary Peel, March 7:

    I found your information very useful. Can you assist me with additional information.
    What is the life expectancy of lead flashings?
    I have a Californian Bungalow built in 1920’s and planning replace the original roof.
    Should I also replace the original lead flashings?

  2. Sadie, March 12:

    Could u mention the costs of different roofs

  3. Vicki Gordon, March 23:

    We are buying our first home and the shingle roof is 20 years old and we are having it inspected can we make the cellar put on a new roof?

  4. Gregory Golphin, July 5:

    Water leaking in my kitchen, had the roof done 2 years ago, what went wrong

  5. Bill White, October 2:

    Great info! Having regular inspections can make a huge difference!

  6. Brian Clark, April 20:

    I wanted to mention something extremely important to sustaining all roofing systems. Proper intake and outtake of ventilation. In my personal experiences as a roofing consultant , manufacturers rep, and contractor, ridge and rake vents only perform minimally. If the screens get dirty (always) they will not work at all. 90% of all ridge ventaltion that we’ve inspected was clogged, did to lack of roof maintenance. We used Ohagins or commercial roofing custom vents. By changing the color of your commerical roof, black asphalt to white Acrylic, no doubt you’ll cut your energy costs way back , even up to 40% less. cheers

  7. Brian Clark, April 20:

    Lack of proper ventilation on residential sloped shingle roofs will eventually boil, blister and fail. This is not at all, a manufacturers defect. This is carelessness of the roofing contractor. Average residential roofing costs are seriously expensive (2018). The cost to add proper outtake is less than $500.00

  8. Jon henry, September 21:

    Can you tell me about or have any information, experience on solid block foam insulation roofs?, jon

  9. Scott, December 28:

    As a rep and inspector with the largest residential re-roofer in the country I’ve been in 1000’s of attics with shinlges on them ranging from 2-45 years and more commonly the 2-10 year old shingles completely failed because they were installed on 40 year old 3/8 inch wood with no ventilation or insufficient at best, no proper protection from ice damns no drip edges proper breathable underlayments etc the list goes on…what do they all have in common? Owner was told shingle was a 25 or or even up to 50 year and although it may have looked pretty the day after install or a few years later it was not done up to manufacture code and therefore failed prematurely as expected which is why nearly all asphalt roofing warranties are prorated starting at as little as 3 years in after install and more than 85% void of manufacturer warranty due to improper installation by contractors who are ironically never around when problems arise or direct you to the manufacturer who has already safe guarded themselves from the situation…best of luck, when you buy a home educate yourself on how it functions what it needs what it has don’t read generalized advice from a website that clearly gives a broad view on a topic that is unique to nearly each and every home

  10. Tracey, April 1:

    We bought a rancher & home inspector said roof would be ok for another 5 years. We hired a trusted local contractor for some other work that the house needed (including attic insulation). I’m glad we did, apparently although we had outtake vents we did not have intake so that was installed before new insulation. That roofer said we’ll get ten years out of the existing roof! Do your maintenance, it pays to spend a little up front!

  11. Steve Lynch, June 19:

    Asphalt roofs are very unique when it comes to making them last longer. Certain conditions like wind and hail can shorten their lives dramatically, unless you use upgraded shingles.

    An inexpensive shingle upgrade that just costs a small amount up front can save thousands of dollars by extending the roof’s life by decades. Some manufacturers even offer a lifetime warranty on their upgraded shingles!

    Just thought I would add my two cents.

  12. Rose Bienkowski, August 24:

    I bought a ranch home recently. The inspector estimated another one or two years on its life. It was covered with moss over some parts over the garage front and much more on the back of garage roof. My home owners insurance company told me I must have it removed. Previous owner told me it comes back. Why does moss grow on a roof? Is this going to happen on my new asphalt roof? Is there a moss resistant shingle, other than having an expensive metal roof installed?
    Another problem is the dark shading across some areas of the roof. If this happens with my new roof, is there a spray that a contractor can apply that will clean it up?
    The front of my home faces Northeast and the back is Southwest.

  13. steve, September 10:

    Had a metal roof put on two years ago on a solid wooden house built in 1920’s and have never had mildew in the house but since the roof was put on had nothing but problems with mildew, I think that they put it on they did not put wood strips in for the roof to breath and a good thick felt down . what do you think I should do to correct this matter?

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