Should I re-cover my roof or not?

Inside The Mind of a Roofer: To re-cover or not to re-cover. That is the question.

I get asked all of the time about the pros and cons of doing a re-cover (layover) of an existing roof. Every roofer has their own opinions about this, but many of their opinions are also affected by the fact that re-covers are significantly less work and less cost to the roofer to install. The ease and profitability of installing another layer generally cause roofers to misrepresent the pros and cons. More money for less work is a winning recipe for us, but in most instances it is not the best for the homeowner.

The first question to answer before putting another layer on top of your roof is; Are there any existing leaks? If there are leaks, then don’t do it.  What about fixing the small leaking spot and then adding a layer over the top of that? It’s better than just putting a layer over, but leaking roofs damage the roof deck of everything down slope from the leak as well. This area doesn’t generally get repaired in these types of instances, and if it does then it cuts into the money you would save to do a re-cover in the first place.

The pros of a re-cover for a homeowner are cost and convenience. In our market, doing a re-cover vs. a full replacement will save you anywhere from $80-$120 per every 100 square feet. The average roof here is about 2000 square feet, which equates to a savings of around $1,600 to $2,000. Re-covers are also a lot less of a hassle for a homeowner. No dumpster blocking your driveway, no tarps on the ground smashing flowers and killing grass, no excessive debris falling and destroying your flowers, etc. Most re-covers can generally be completed in 1 day with a crew that knows what they are doing. Cheaper and less hassle is a good selling point, but lets get to the cons so we can weigh these benefits against something.

The cons of a re-cover for a homeowner are less peace of mind, more liability, and more expensive roofing services in the future.  If you want to know 100 percent that your roof is watertight and structurally sound, the only option is to tear it off and start from the beginning. By the time your shingles wear out, the underlayment (most often 15 or 30 lb. felt paper) have been sitting in the heat baking for 20 to 30 years. With a re-cover you are going to double the amount of nails (penetrations in your water barrier) going through the old underlayment by putting another layer over the top. Very few roofers, if any, will give the same no leak guarantee for a re-cover as they do a full replacement. This puts all of the financial responsibility for a leaking roof onto the homeowner. In addition, if you do have any leaks and need to get the roof repaired it is significantly more expensive and much more difficult to identify the source of a leak. The $2,000 you saved up front can easily disappear if you have to have some repairs completed. Another future cost comes when the roof is replaced. Roofers charge extra for extra layers of tear off. On a 2000 square foot roof, my charge is about $700 extra per additional layer. So if you plan to live in the same house for a while, your $2,000 of savings doesn’t save all that much in the long run.

Now you have all the facts about a re-cover. As a roofer, I will never put another layer over my own roof. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snow and ice, it is more feasible to put a layer over the top because your chances of having leaking issues diminish with the diminished chances you have for precipitation. As far as I am concerned, any roofer that pushes you toward a re-cover without explaining these pros and cons is looking at your roof from a perspective of what is best for him. Be wary and think long term. It’s not a significant enough amount of money to justify scrimping on the thing that stands between your home and the weather.