Should You Recover or Tear Off Your Old Roof?

At GreenPoint Roofing, one question that is frequently asked by our clients is, should you recover or tear off your old roof and install a new one? The answer to this question depends on the state of your roof, the material it’s made from, local building codes, the weather in your area and your future plans. We can help our clients make the best decision for their home by explaining the pros and cons of both. If you’re undecided on what to do with your roof, keep reading to get a better picture of your options.

First off, if your roof is in bad condition, you should have a roof inspection as soon as possible. Putting off an examination can allow the roof to deteriorate further. Only roofs in reasonable condition offer the possibility of restoration, so if you want to have that option, you need to act quickly. An inspection by a qualified roofing specialist will let you know whether your roof is a candidate for restoration.

Can My Roof be Recovered?

Only roofs with asphalt or composition shingles can be restored by laying a second layer of shingles over the existing ones. This type of restoration is not suitable for wooden shakes, slate shingles or terracotta roofing tiles. You cannot lay new asphalt shingles over a different roofing material, only over previously installed asphalt shingles. Of course, a roof with multiple layers is not necessarily a stronger, superior roof. Usually, the second layer of shingles is laid down in an attempt to save a weakened, failing roof.

Why Choose Recovery?

When deciding should you recover or tear off your old roof, the main attraction of a roof restoration or re-roofing is that it’s fast and inexpensive. The other option is to completely tear off the old, damaged structure and install a brand new roof. Because tearing off a roof is such a major project, some homeowners will avoid it if possible and just have an old roof covered by a layer of new shingles.

Recovering the roof by adding a second layer of shingles is faster than completely starting over, but it does require some prep work. Misshapen or buckled shingles need to be removed in addition to the vents and ridge caps before the new shingles are installed. The roof’s flashing will also need to replacement when the new shingles are laid down. It can quickly become an intensive project in itself.

Downsides of Roof Recovery

Recovering a roof seems to be the obvious choice when it comes to convenience and cost. While it is an attractive option, re-roofing usually just prolongs the inevitable task of tearing off the roof and installing a new one. If the underlayment or sheathing of your roof is damaged, or if your current shingles have a serious issue with mold or mildew, re-roofing only conceals problems while allowing them to progress further, even spreading damage into your home. If that happens, then you’re not exactly saving money!

With a complete tear-off and new roof installation, the underlayment layer of waterproof tar paper will be completely replaced. In snowy climates, a new ice and water shield will be applied to the sheathing along the eaves of the roof. This rubbery membrane is designed to protect the roof from damage caused by ice dams. If you choose recovery, you will not have the opportunity to replace these components of your roof for updated and more efficient materials.

Asphalt shingles are designed to be laid down on a flat surface. When you re-roof over existing shingles, the irregular surface can make it harder to achieve uniform rows of shingles giving it a not so pleasant appearance. Any misshapen or curling shingles in the first layer will affect the second layer, making it look bumpy and uneven.

Adding a second layer of shingles will also double the weight of your roof. The support structure of a roof is designed to withstand one set of shingles, plus the maximum weight of a heavy snowfall, with an added safety margin. Doubling the number of shingles on the roof can bring it closer to breaking the safety margin. Overloading a roof that has an old or damaged structure can risk collapsing the roof!

Another risk of recover instead of replacing your roof is the possibility of voiding the warranty on your new shingles. Some warranties lay out specific installation and maintenance requirements. Using the shingles to re-roof over old material often fall outside of the standard uses of the product and invalidate the warranty. Be sure to check product warranties and local building codes before commencing a re-roofing project. In certain areas with high hailstorm activity, like here in Colorado, the maximum number of roofing layers permitted by building codes is either one or two.

Finally, a recovered roof will certainly be noted in a home inspection report and is usually considered a negative element. There are more potential problems associated with a recent re-roofing than with an entirely new roof. Eventually, the two layers of roofing will need to be torn down for a new replacement to be installed, and that will double the cost of the roof removal. House hunters may be put off buying a home with two layers (or more) of roofing shingles.

Making the decision to reroof or tear off and start from scratch can be difficult. It is tempting to save a few bucks and forgo tearing off an old roof. Considering all the advantages and disadvantages, it usually makes more sense to go the extra mile and tear off your old roof then start fresh. The new roof will offer better protection, last longer, look new, be protected by a warranty and attract future buyers.

If you absolutely cannot afford the additional expense of tearing down the roof, consider restoration. Remember this option will only be viable if your existing roof is in relatively good condition, your local building codes permit it, and you don’t experience severe hail or ice-dam problems.

When it comes to should you recover or tear off your old roof, just be sure to hire a licensed and experienced roofing contractor to do the job. GreenPoint Roofing in Longmont offers affordable residential roofing solutions to clients across the Front Range of Colorado. Currently, we offer a lifetime workmanship warranty on all shingled roof replacements, so there has never been a better time to get in touch with us if you are considering replacing your roof.