On my last post we talked about an The Bad Furnace.
On an even more recent inspection I had a difference of opinion with a roofing contractor regarding the condition of a roof. My opinion of the roof was that it was near or at the end of its life and there was evidence of extensive past repairs and plenty of evidence for the need for more repairs. While it might be possible to keep going with recent attempts to extend the life of the roof, I felt factoring replacement might be a better option.
I will be the first to admit that figuring out the “actual” age of a roof can be tricky. There are ways however to get a pretty good idea. It usually takes putting together several clues to get an educated guess as to the age of the roof. Things like, when the building was built, remodeled, owner statements as to age, brands and models of shingles all can be factors to be considered in the assessment.
For example lets say the building (not the building with the disagreement) is 34 years old and originally had wood shakes on it (as one could tell by finding skip-sheathing in the attic). The roof has one layer of 3 tab shingles on it. The roof has extensive granular loss and one side and is completely covered with moss on the other side—-this is an indication that the granular loss might be due to age as opposed to pressure washing. There is widening of the tabs, and the corners of the shingles are just beginning to have a slight curl to them. All of these symptoms are consistent with a 3-tab shingle roof with a fifteen to 20 year life that is at the end of its life. Around here if you get 15 (or 20 years max) out of a wood shake roof you are doing pretty well. So lets say the original wood roof was pushed to 17 years. That would make the current roof around 17 years old—and consistent with the way the roof looks. Sometimes however, it is not this straightforward. Multiple layers, pressure washing, factory defects, mechanical damage, color and other factors can make assessment even more difficult.
Another thing one might look for is method of attachment. While this is by no means a “guarantee,” if the roof was “stapled” as opposed to “nailed” the installation would have likely been prior to 2002. I say it is no guarantee because some roofers never used staples. It is just another one of the many things that can be used to access the age of a roof.
While I make no attempt to categorically say how old the roof is in my inspection reports–the exercise in figuring it out is helpful in giving the buyer some idea of what to expect from the roof.
For me the most important factor is the condition of the roof regardless of what I have been told about the age of the roof–or even what I think the age of the roof is. If it is a 10 year old roof with a 30 year warranty, and looks 25 years old due to mechanical damage from pressure washing, I would be an idiot to tell my buyer that it is good to go for another 20 years. I could very well end up buying a new roof that I would not get any benefit from on my own house.
Let’s now come back to the roof that I had the disagreement with roofing contractor over. I was provided a letter stating that the roof was 7-9 years old and would be fine for another 15 years. It was a stapled roof–so it should be at least 10 years old. There was extensive patching due to staples having pushed through the surface. The method of repair was to slide a metal flashing under the tabs to cover the staples. This had been done at over 100 locations and more were needed. This method of repair leaves the tabs vulnerable to wind damage as the adhesive strip is no longer functional. In the following picture of one small area of the roof over 40 patches are visible.
With this roof much of the adhesive strip had failed anyway. Failure of the adhesive strip is more consistent with a roof more than 20 years old, for this type of roof covering. The roof covering is what is referred to as a 25-35 year roof–architectural/dimensional type shingle. Given that the building was 32 years old, these shingles are highly likely the original shingles on the building. Lets pretend the roof is NOT the original roof and say that the roof originally had a 15 year roof on it. That would make this roof maybe 17 years old–still way above the 7-9 years stated by the roofing company.
The staples popping through are likely due to improper nailing when the roof was initially installed and not likely related to the age of the roof “directly.” But indirectly it has led to extensive ongoing maintenance issues as well as shortening the overall life span of the roof. Regardless of the “actual” age of the roof—how it looks now and performs now is way more important.
The roofers assessment was that the roof would be fine for another 15 years.
I am grateful that the roofer was so willing to move the roof from my E&O to his E&O.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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