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The 4 Most Common Causes of Premature Roof Failure

April 7th, 2023 | 6 min. read

The 4 Most Common Causes of Premature Roof Failure

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You invested a lot of your hard-earned money into your roof. So, it’s extremely frustrating when a roof that’s supposed to last 20-25 years fails after 10.

Unfortunately, this happens way too often in the roofing industry. Even worse, it doesn’t look like it’s going away. 

But there are ways to avoid it happening to you, so you can truly maximize your roof’s lifespan. 

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has helped homeowners get the most out of their roof investment. That’s why I want to help you get ahead of premature roof failure by breaking down the main causes. 

This article covers the following causes of premature roof failure:

  • Improper roof installation 
  • Inadequate attic ventilation 
  • Lack of roof maintenance 
  • Storm damage to a roof

1. Improper roof installation

The first and most common cause of premature roof failure is improper roof installation. Improper roof installation is caused by a roofing contractor being lazy, using shortcuts to cut costs, or not caring about doing the job correctly.

improperly install architectural asphalt shingle roof

If you bought the cheapest roof you could find in your area, running into this issue is more likely. Keep in mind that no one is perfect, and mistakes happen during roof replacements. 

So, an improperly installed roof doesn’t necessarily mean that a roofing contractor did anything malicious. As long as you made the right hire, they should handle the problems at no charge.

But if you got a cheap and poor-quality roof, it’s unlikely that the roofing contractor will stand by their warranty or provide a warranty at all. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t have problems if a roofing contractor uses correct roofing techniques and gives your roof the attention to detail it needs. 

2. Inadequate attic ventilation

After improper installation, inadequate attic ventilation is the second most common cause of premature roof failure. Your attic’s ventilation system allows your home and roof to breathe properly.

Not only does it impact your home’s energy bill, but it has a huge impact on the longevity of your roof. Without proper attic ventilation, damage caused by trapped hot and cold air drastically shortens your roof’s life. 

In the summer, poor attic ventilation literally burns your roof up from the built-up heat. This causes the adhesives in the decking to deteriorate and your shingles to crack or curl.

poor attic ventilation leading to structural damage on a 3 tab asphalt shingle roof

In the winter, condensation forms from the heat and moisture that travels from your home’s interior into the cold attic. This condensation becomes trapped and leads to swelling in your roof decking, which creates a wavy look. 

The decking also loses its ability to hold nails, load-bearing capacity, and causes mold/mildew to form. No matter if it’s during the summer or winter, your roof will fail prematurely if your attic isn’t properly ventilated. 

3. Lack of roof maintenance

The next cause of premature roof failure is simply neglecting your roof as it ages by not getting roof maintenance. Roof maintenance keeps your roof running smoothly throughout its lifetime. 

Without an annual maintenance inspection, you could have minor issues that snowball into a major one before you know it. This not only leads to spending hundreds or possibly thousands on repairs, but it can also mean investing in a new roof before you should need one.

Another way lack of maintenance leads to premature roof failure is by leaving sitting debris on your roof. While this can lead to a leak, leaving debris on your roof for prolonged periods also damages the shingles. 

debris in roof valleys on an architectural asphalt shingle roof

The sitting debris stays wet, which saturates your shingles and shortens their lifespan. The longer wet debris sits on your roof, the more damage it does to the asphalt shingles.

Roof maintenance is well worth saving hundreds, even thousands of dollars, in preventive measures alone. But while saving money is great, it also ensures you get the most life out of your roof and avoid premature roof failure.

4. Storm damage to a roof

The last common cause of premature roof failure is when a storm damages a roof. While the other causes are problems from installation and neglect, there’s nothing you can do about this one. 

hail damage to 3 tab asphalt shingles(Hail damage to asphalt shingles)

Hail and wind are the two most common types of storm damage to roofs. Hail 1” or bigger in diameter damages asphalt shingles by removing the protective granules and shortens their lifespan.

wind damage to 3 tab asphalt shingles(Wind damage to asphalt shingles)

Wind damage is more obvious because it rips shingles or whole sections off the roof. This exposes your decking, leading to rotting and even structural damage if left alone for too long.

Unfortunately, storms damaging your roof are an act of God that nobody can control. Unlike the other causes, you won’t have to pay for a full roof replacement out-of-pocket. 

Homeowners insurance will pay for a replacement if your roof was damaged by extreme weather. This weather includes straight-line winds (aka damaging winds) during heavy thunderstorms, hail storms, snowstorms, and tornados.

They'll also cover damage from trees or limbs that fall on your roof during strong storms. If there’s extensive damage to your roof, there should be no question it’ll be covered by insurance. 

Just know that strong winds also expose improperly installed roofs. If this happens, your insurance company will not cover your roof and you’ll be on your own to fix it. 

But it all comes down to the insurance adjuster to determine if you have a viable claim and if your roof is worthy of a full replacement.

How do you avoid premature roof failure?

Now you know the 4 main causes of premature roof failure. Obviously, no one wants to experience roof failure after investing thousands of dollars in a new roof. 

There’s nothing you can do about storm damage leading to roof failure. However, you can avoid the other causes of premature roof failure by simply hiring a great roofing contractor.

The roofing contractor you hire has the biggest aspect on the final quality of your roof. Unfortunately, it can be hard to spot one you can trust with how saturated the roofing industry is. 

Luckily, there are things you can look for and ask to weed out the bad companies. That’s why I wrote another with tips that help homeowners hire the right roofing contractor. 

Here are the 7 Tips to Find a Great Roofing Contractor in your area for your upcoming roofing project.

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