Whether you just bought a new house or have been in your house for a few years, it’s important to know how long your roof will last so you can budget for a replacement. So let’s get right to it—how long does a roof last, exactly? A roof lasts 30 years on average. But they can last anywhere from 20 to 175+ years. Why such a big range?
Factors That Affect How Long a Roof Lasts
How long a roof lasts depends on a variety of factors. Extreme heat or cold can shorten a roof’s average lifespan, as can exposure to damaging winds and hail. Improper installation and lack of routine maintenance can also shorten a roof’s lifespan. Perhaps the most important factor in how long a roof lasts is the type of roofing material used.
Roofing Materials Lifespan
How long does an asphalt shingle roof last? What about a metal roof? Here’s what to know about the life expectancy of common roofing materials, according to KEBS:
- Asphalt shingles (most common roof type): 20–30 years
- Metal: 40–80 years. Copper can last 70+ years and zinc can last 100+ years.
- Wood shakes and shingles: about 25–30 years, but can last up to 50
- Clay/concrete tile: 50–100 years
- Slate: 60–175+ years!
1. Asphalt Shingles
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Asphalt shingles last 20 to 30 years and typically come with a 25-year warranty. They can be found atop over 80% of American homes, according to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association.
Why are they so common? Asphalt shingles are affordable, low maintenance, lightweight, and durable, standing up to snow, rain, and sun. However, repeated exposure to extreme heat and sun can damage an asphalt roof faster, shortening its lifespan. Extreme wind can be a problem for asphalt shingles, too, especially if they are not properly installed.
The type of asphalt shingle roof you have will also influence how long your roof will last.
- 3-tab asphalt shingles: last about 20 years. These are less expensive.
- Architectural asphalt shingles: last about 30 years. These are more expensive and simulate the look of wood and slate shingles.
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Metal roofs last anywhere from 40 to 80 years and come with warranties that can range from 20 years to a lifetime.
They are made up of steel (galvanized, galvalume, or weathering), tin, aluminum, copper, or zinc. They are extremely durable and can withstand wind gusts up to 140 mph. They are, however, more expensive than asphalt shingles.
Plus, the type of metal roof you have will influence how long your roof will last. Steel, for instance, lasts about 50 years. It is the most common metal roof. Copper can last even longer—70 years or more. However, because it is so expensive, it’s typically reserved for roof accent pieces, rather than full roofs. A zinc roof can last 100 years or more. As a result, zinc roofs are used widely in Europe and growing in popularity in the U.S.
3. Wood Shakes and Shingles
A wood shingle or shake roof typically lasts about 25 to 30 years, with warranties of 20 to 30 years. Shingles and shakes are primarily made from cedar that is pressure-treated with preservatives to help extend its lifespan. A heavy cedar shake roof that has been treated can last up to 50 years.
Wood shingles and shakes tend to last longer in colder climates. Hot, arid climates can shorten their lifespan.
What’s more, wood shingles and shakes require regular maintenance to ensure they last 25 years. This includes mold, mildew, and moss prevention, as well as repainting or staining every five years.
4. Clay and Concrete Tiles
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Clay tile roofs—and their similar but less expensive counterpart, concrete tile roofs—can last between 50 and 100 years. Warranties can range from 30 years to a lifetime.
Typically, clay and concrete tiles resist the rot and insects that can cause other roofs to deteriorate. They can withstand hurricane winds, too, and they are fire-resistant.
However, they are porous and can absorb water. As a result, clay and concrete tiles are susceptible to cracking during severe freeze/thaw cycles that occur in colder climates. That’s why they are used primarily in the coastal and arid regions.
5. Slate Tile
Slate roofs take the crown when it comes to lifespan, a whopping 75 to 175+ years! Manufacturers typically offer warranties of 50 years to a lifetime.
The type of slate tile can also affect how long it lasts, with Pennsylvania slate lasting about 60 years, New York and Vermont slate lasting more than 125 years, and Virginia Buckingham slate lasting more than 175 years. There are even some slate roofs that date back hundreds of years.
A type of rock, slate holds up to extreme weather conditions and temperatures. It also requires little maintenance. Apart from copper, it is the most expensive roofing material.
How to Extend Your Roof’s Lifespan
To ensure you get the maximum amount of life out of your roof, there are a few key things you can do:
- Keep the gutters clean so water can properly flow away from your roof.
- Remove leaves, which can trap moisture and cause damage.
- Dislodge snow with a roof rake. Snow can result in ice dams forming, which can lead to water getting trapped under your shingles.
- Hire a pro to powerwash your roof to remove moss and mold.
- Have your roof inspected regularly by a roofing contractor, who can fix minor problems before they become major ones.
Here’s how to help your roof live a long and prosperous life
How to Know If You Need a New Roof
Ultimately, a roof inspection is the only way to truly know if you need a new roof. Nonetheless, there are definite warning signs that indicate you need a new roof, so grab your binoculars and don’t forget to examine the attic for signs of water. Here’s a quick breakdown on what to check:
- Asphalt roof: Cracked, loose, curling, or distorted shingles
- Metal roof: Large patches of rust and roof leak damage
- Wood roof: Rotting or splitting shingles, mold, mildew, or algae growth, or pest damage
- Clay/concrete tile roof: Cracked, chipped, or slipped tiles, missing mortar, pieces of tile in gutters, and roof leak damage
- Slate roof: Missing, chipped, cracked, or slipped shingles