Do you need a new roof? Or just a repair? Is it time to replace the decking and underlayment? What about your shingles – how much longer will they keep your house leak-free?
The amount of roofing lifecycle questions is enough to send any homeowner into a tailspin. Because roofing is such a specific skilled trade, many homeowners are unaware their roof has layers – much less the basic anatomy of their roofing system. No matter your roofing knowledge base, though, there are three basic phases to every residential roofing system. We’ll walk you through them all, and share tips on how to make the most of each one.
The first phase of your roofing system’s life begins right after installation. The choices made before installation – like whether to install drip edging, an ice and water shield, or enhanced shingles -- determine how your roof will perform, how it will age, and when it needs to be replaced. Immediately following installation, roofing materials experience their first full 24-hours of exposure. Each layer of your roofing system has its own function, and it expands and contracts slowly as the temperature changes throughout the day. This first year of your roof’s life will experience the most significant visible changes as the materials settle into daily exposure, but this is a normal process for every roofing system.
This is the longest phase of your roof’s life cycle. The second phase begins right after your roof’s first birthday, and will last until there are very visible aging signs. This period can run anywhere from a handful of years to decade after decade of healthy protection; again, this depends on what materials were selected and how well those materials were installed. When your roof gets to Phase 2, the materials are no longer in “shock”; the materials have adjusted to constant daily exposure, and the aging process slows down significantly. As this period stretches on, there are few noticeable
changes to the roof’s appearance; once the roof materials settle in, they begin their natural expansion / contraction as the temperature increases or drops.
After the long stretch of Phase 2, your roof once again experiences rapid changes as it enters the final phase of its life cycle. Known as the ‘Decline’ stage, Phase 3 is when most of the highly visible degradation occurs. Algae growth can happen when the roof is holding too much moisture; once the granules fall off, your roof’s surface can develop bald spots or blisters, which allow for water to seep into the underlayers. This in turn causes mildew, mold, and fungus to develop on the roof surface itself. Black mold causes dark streaks to appear on a roof, and can be an indicator that a roofing system is in its final phase of life.
Once your roof is in Phase 3, it’s important to have an experienced contractor evaluate your roofing system. Analyzing your roof’s lifelong performance can provide powerful insight into material choices. Everything from a roof’s color, composition, and architectural pitch can affect its lifespan; reflecting on the performance of your roof over the years can inform your decisions during your next roof replacement, and benefit you for years to come!