In every home, roof repair is sometimes needed to keep moisture away and keep the structure from rotting. While a well-constructed roof provides many years of service, with all the elements it battles year-round, wear and tear are natural results. Proceeding with roof repair is a big-ticket project loaded with choices impacting the structural integrity of your home, so carefully consider your options before hitting the roof.

Repair or replace? How do you know when it’s time to repair or replace your roof? A well-built, well-maintained roof will usually have a lifespan of around 20 years, and you’ll definitely know it needs attention from such signs as damaged or loose shingles, a film of moss or algae indicating moisture retention, and visible wear around chimneys, pipes and other penetrations.

Spot roof repair may be possible if the majority of your roof surface has plenty of mileage left in it; Otherwise, there are a few roof replacement strategies to choose from.

A whole new roof is one of them, providing the opportunity for secure sealing, the latest in underlayment materials and flashing, and a longer guarantee of material integrity for a lifespan of 20 years or more. The other is to apply a new roofing layer on top of the old, possible only if your existing roofing is one layer thick and in good condition, has strong decking, and has shingles compatible with the new application.

With a second roof layer, longevity isn’t as extensive, being around 25 percent less than that of a single-layered new roof. This is due to the additional heat that will be contained in the original roof and dry out the new layer. If your roof’s condition provides the opportunity to choose between these options, consider the number of years you plan to stay in your re-roofed home. If a long haul is in the cards, a whole new roof is the wise choice, while a shorter stay justifies saving cash with the second-layer option.

Product selection for weather protection. An important part of repairing your roof is the weather protection incorporated underneath the shingles you see. Accumulated moisture is the ultimate enemy of every kind of roofing material and can cut down on its lifespan in a hurry, so an underlayment like Grace Ice & Water Shield is a worthwhile investment. This self-adhered material is applied under the shingles and directly to the roof’s decking, creating a watertight bond that not only protects your roof from pools of water caused by ice dams, but also from wind-driven rains and snow.

Repairing the areas around chimneys, skylights and dormers also benefit the structure of your home, and that’s where a material called flashing comes in. Placed where these features meet the roof, flashing creates a water and air-resistant seal for strength outside and comfort and energy savings indoors.

Choose a roofing contractor with care. Roof repair is a huge investment and should be handled only by experienced and qualified professionals. So take care of your roof and your cash by spending time to research candidate contractors. Start by verifying the roofer’s permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and business license. Before repairing your roof, ask the roofer for proof of insurance, then make sure the roofer is properly licensed or bonded and financially stable (a good roofer can easily provide financial information about his company).

Also ask for a list of references and take the time to verify them. Finally, remember that the best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the system, so be sure to ask what type of safety training and educational programs have been provided for the contractor’s team before you begin repairing your roof.

Warranty warnings. When repairing your roof, another area for careful consideration is the warranty zone. Roof warranties only cover materials, so the skill and training of your contractor can have an adverse affect that won’t be revealed until it’s way too late. A so-so installation can cut a 20-year roof down to 10 years of service, sinking the return on your coverage accordingly. Beware of warranty coverage limits and loopholes when it comes to repairing you roof, and resist the temptation to select roofing material based on a possibly empty marketing claim.

You and your home deserve the best roofing solution that money can buy, and any cash-saving shortcuts will come back to haunt you with the arrival of the first big storm. By taking these steps before repairing your roof, you can ensure that your roof repair will be safe, efficient and long-lasting.

By Tom Kraeutler