Asphalt shingle is the most common and most affordable residential roofing material. It is found on millions of American homes. But the lifespan of asphalt shingle roofs varies widely. Some need replacement after just 10 years, while others can last 25 years or more. Some roofs even make it to the 50-year mark. So what accounts for such different lifespans? In this article, you will learn how to extend the lifespan of your asphalt shingle roof to get the most out of your investment.
How Long Can an Asphalt Shingle Roof Last?
Before we discuss how to extend the life of your asphalt shingle roof, we should determine how long a roof can really last. The answer is that it varies widely. There are lots of factors that can affect the lifespan of an asphalt shingle roof. Asphalt shingle is the cheapest and most common residential roofing material in the United States. It is relatively inexpensive to buy and easy to install. However, the cost efficiency and easy installation contribute to the wide range of lifespan expectancies for asphalt shingle roofs.
The first factor you need to know about with asphalt roofs is that not all asphalt shingle is created equal. It is an incredibly common roofing material, but it comes in hundreds of varieties. Some cheap asphalt shingles are just not built to last. Other, more premium brands are built to withstand high wind, severe weather, and other factors, and can last up to 50 years.
There are also two distinct types of asphalt shingle: three-tab and architectural.
Three-tab shingle is the more common of the two, and what most people things of when they think of asphalt shingle. Three-tab shingles are so called because the shingles come in strips that have slits cut in them so they look like three separate shingles. These shingles are flat and regularly shaped. They provide a completely even look over the whole roof.
Architectural shingle is a newer innovation. Architectural shingle, also called dimensional shingle, is built up into much thicker shingles. The shingles are manufactured in varying shapes and sizes to look more organic and to mimic more traditional roofing materials such as wood shake and slate. The greater thickness also means they last longer. In most cases, an asphalt shingle roof that lasts 50 years will be one made with architectural shingles.
The Importance of Granules on an Asphalt Roof
An asphalt shingle starts with paper or some other synthetic material (usually fiberglass) that is saturated in asphalt. The shingle is then covered in small granules of slate, schist, quartz, vitrified brick, stone, or ceramic. These granules protect the asphalt from both physical damage and harmful UV rays. Without the protective granules, the asphalt would quickly degrade in the sun. Because of this, a significant factor in the lifespan of an asphalt roof is the quality of the granules and making sure that they are not knocked off.
Preserving the granules is mostly achieved by avoiding activities or situations that could knock granules loose. One common way that granules are knocked loose is through the negligence of homeowners and unscrupulous roofers. Foot traffic on the roof should be kept to a minimum. If the homeowner or a roofer needs to get up on the roof to clean, inspect for damage, or make a repair, they should tread lightly. Knocking granules loose with heavy footsteps is a recipe for roof damage.
Other ways that granules can be knocked loose include hail and falling debris. Both of these usually occur during severe storms. After a severe storm, it is a good idea to inspect your roof for damage. This is especially important if can see fallen debris on the roof or signs of hail damage on other outdoor areas of your home.
Dealing With Weather
The factor that will cause the most damage to your roof over its lifespan is weather. Heat, cold, sun, rain, and storms all affect your roof. After all, a roof’s primary function is to protect your home from the elements, so it makes sense that it will take the brunt of all sorts of weather. While weather damage is inevitable–it is the leading cause of roof aging–there are ways you can help reduce the damage.
To prevent your roof from being damaged in a storm, keep an eye out for trees that overhang your roof. Strong storms with high winds are relatively common here in Georgia. They can knock down large branches and sometimes even whole trees. If you notice a dead tree anywhere near your roof, you should have it removed. A dead tree is at high risk of falling during a storm. If it falls on your home, you will have more damage than just your roof. If you have a large tree with branches that overhang the roof, have them cut back. This will prevent damage from large branches that get knocked loose during a storm and fall on the roof.
While less common in Georgia, hail from severe storms can also damage a shingle roof. The main danger comes from hail strikes that knock loose the protective granules on your shingles. Small hail is unlikely to do much damage. But if the hail was large enough to cause visual damage to other parts of your home or outdoor structures, it would be wise to have the roof inspected. Hail damage can be hard to spot, so it’s a good idea to call a professional roofer like Eagle Watch Roofing to conduct an inspection and replace any damaged shingles.
The Importance of Attic Ventilation
While much of the damage to your roof comes from above, there is also a significant threat of damage from below. On a warm summer day, the temperature in a poorly ventilated and insulated attic can soar to 160 degrees or more. That can kind of heat can start to fry your shingles from underneath. The extreme heat can also cause the wood decking and framing that support the roof to become warped, weakening the roof structure. In addition to heat, an improperly ventilated attic can also build up moisture. When moisture accumulates in an attic, it can start to rot the wood that supports the roof. It can even spread moisture to the underside of the shingles themselves, causing them to rot and degrade.
Adequate ventilation is usually achieved by placing intake vents under the soffit of the roof and exhaust vents along the ridge of the roof. The Federal Housing Administration recommends 1 square foot of ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic space. For example, a house with an attic that is 900 square feet would require 3 square feet of venting, split evenly intake and exhaust vents. Other types of ventilation include gable vents and turbine vents, though they are not as highly recommended as soffit and ridge vents.
Over time, it is very common for asphalt shingle roof to develop some algae. Algae usually grows on the north facing slope of a roof or any area that is mostly shaded. The algae can appear as dark green or black streaks along the roof. Roofers disagree as to whether the algae itself is harmful. Many suggest that the main damage from algae is aesthetic.
However, many homeowners choose to clean their roofs, if only to improve curb appeal and make the house look better. If you do decide to clean your roof, how you clean your roof can make a big difference in the longevity of your roof. The first important rule is to never, ever use a power washer on an asphalt shingle roof. The high-pressure spray from a power washer can easily knock the granules off the shingles, causing widespread damage. Instead, most roofers recommend a soft wash or even a plain garden hose.
Algae can be removed with a mixture of bleach and water. Before you clean your roof, make sure to cover bushes and grass below so they are not harmed by dripping bleach. Any patio furniture or other movable objects should also be moved away from the roof. If possible. Place buckets by the downspouts of your gutter to catch the bleach mixture as it drains off your roof. There are also more eco-friendly washing solutions available that do not contain bleach and are biodegradable.
Due to the danger of knocking granules loose and the possible damage caused by walking on the roof, many homeowners choose to have their roofs professionally cleaned. Just make sure that you use a reliable roofing company like Eagle Watch Roofing, as poor technique can do more harm to your roof than good.
Regular Maintenance and Repair
Making sure that a roof is regularly maintained and repaired will also extend its life. Taking care of small repairs as they come up can prevent larger, more expensive damage. Roofers recommend having your roof professionally inspected about once every three years. In a professional inspection, a roofer will walk your roof and look for cracked or curling shingles, missing granules, and other signs of wear. Broken or missing shingles will be replaced, preventing further damage.
Rainwater that doesn’t drain properly can also harm your roof. In an inspection, your roofing will check your flashing to make sure that it is properly draining rainwater. Flashing around chimneys, vents, and other roof penetrations will also be checked to make sure there or no gaps that could cause leaks. It is also a good idea to keep your gutters clean so rainwater can drain efficiently.
If your roof is ready for an inspection or you need any repairs, don’t delay. Taking care of small repairs to prevent large repairs is a great way to extend the life of your roof. Contact Eagle Watch Roofing today to schedule your free inspection.