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Why tear off roof?

Posted by scrappykat (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 15, 11 at 23:21


We have the original roof (asphalt shingles) on our 25 year old 2-story house. We need to get a new roof to keep our home owners insurance (requires new roof at/before 25 years). The roof is fine, never any leaks or problems.

We've had 2 independent estimates so far and both said we need to tear of the existing roof first then lay new shingles (please don't suggest a metal roof---I think they're ugly-JMO!).

Why? Back 25-30 years ago, it was common to lay another set of shingles on top of the original roof (I know because we did this on the house I grew up in when I was a kid).

Other than making the roofers more money, why should I do this. I'm going to continue to shop around until I find a roofer who will do it my way, unless someone on this board gives me a compelling reason to do the tear off ; )

Thanks for your opinions and expertise!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why tear off roof?

Second layers are still common, though not nearly as common as they used to be 20 or 30 years ago, when tear-offs sometimes weren't done until there were already three layers on the roof.

My local code prohibits shingling over an existing roof, most towns and locales do allow overlay applications.

Heavy shingles may do fine over 3-tabs. But 3-tab or lightweight might look rippled over a heavy laminated shingle.

The expected life of the new shingles can be reduced when installed as an overlay.

Warranties can be up in the air. A roofer may not warrant the installation since they have no control over the first layer or the existing flashing. Unless they replace the existing flashing, but that usually does not happen. Some shingle manufacturers may not warrant the product when installed as an overlay. Even if it is warranted, the fact that it was an overlay gives them an easy out. Not that I think shingle warranties are worth a whole lot in the first place.

Again on the flashing. With a tear off you'll get new ice/water membrane, new felt, and new flashing. With overlays, guys usually just nail up the shingles and go away. Is your existing flashing in good enough shape to last another 20 years? Or will the guys doing the overlay give you new flashing?

"Butt and run" overlays are pretty easy and go fast compared to doing a tear-off with the associated cleanup and dump fees. The guys who have bid your job might actually be trying to give you the best installation versus just taking more of your money.

RE: Why tear off roof?

Thanks for your input Mongoct. You made some interesting points--didn't convince me though ; ) I just hope my city allows another layer of shingles! My current roof is great so I wouldn't be worried about the warranty.

Re:flashing--the current stuff is fine, but I want it replaced with a different color so that would still be done anyway.

If the whole job is quick and easy, that's fine with me I would just hope the price reflects that!

RE: Why tear off roof?

A house I sold in 1987, built around the turn of the 20th Century, had five layers of shingles. No leaking.

If you want to take your chances and save a few bucks, your choice.

RE: Why tear off roof?

Shingling over flat(single thickness shingles) is a very common procedure. As stated, most codes set the layers at three. Over shingling two or three layer shingles(double ir triple thickness shingles) is not as advisable.

Now, why is that number three?

Basically, it is because of the weight of the material versus the structure of the roof support members and the decking. Most codes call for 24" on center spacing and 1/2" thick sheathing(decking). Roof joists were usually at least 2x6 and had to have cross connecting rafters.

That was fine when 1/2" plywood was well constructed, or when actual boards were allowed for sheathing.

Newer styles of trusses allow for 2x4 construction and many newer 1/2" ply sheets have much more flex. I have seen code compliant roofs sag between roof members immediately after the shingles were installed. And that was using single thichness shingles(minimum weight)

Your house was built within the time frame of which I speak. The older houses which had successful layers installed were built with the older framing and shingles.

Why has your roof lasted without problems? Obviously because it was well built initially. And the materials used were capable of lasting 25 years.

Now, go out and look at your roof. Are any sections/areas sagging? Go up into the attic and inspect the entire underside of the decking and the structure. Any problems?

Just because moisture has not come into the living area does not mean there is no moisture problem.

If there are absolutely NO problems, and the existing shingles are single thickness, and you are going to install single thickness new, and you are willing to face possible problems in the next decade that might force the tear off/repair/replacement of the roof---by all means do a second layer.

However, if you consider the tear off as insurance, you should be good for the next 25 with few worries.

RE: Why tear off roof?

Worthy and Handy mac,

Thank you both for your input---extremely helpful! I will go up in the attic and explore the condition. The roof has had a few tabs come off in storms, but we immediately had them replaced. Otherwise, the roof looks fine---there is quite a bit of the gravelly stuff coming off the existing shingles though.

I do think our house was well built compared to what has been going up in the past decade. I'm going to shop around and see about getting more estimates, but when I call to set them up I'll ask if they will even consider putting a second layer on---if not then they don't need to come.

RE: Why tear off roof?

OK, I just talked to a real live roofer : ) He's been in business for 18 years. He said that he usually does tear offs, mainly because "industry standards" have changed from 20-30 years ago, and shingle companies aren't wanting to fully warranty shingles put on over the top of existing shingles.

I asked about going into the attic to see if there's any sign of damage and he said if I've seen no evidence of water damage on the interior of the house (stains, bubbling/peeling paint, etc.) that there's no reason to look in the attic. He said I might see something that looks like water damage up there, but its really just signs of moisture/evaporation. He's going to come and take a look next week----should be interesting!

RE: Why tear off roof?

You actually do not know if the roof deck has any damage from water until you tear off the old shingles.

The only thing you know is that water has not yet made it through the deck to the attic.

Replacing flashing will go a lot faster in conjunction with a tear off.

Get a 'per square foot' repair cost in any proposal, in case any part of the roof deck needs repair.

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