There are a number of reasons, any one of which means it’s time to make the change.


Most people don’t worry about their roof until they are faced with an actual problem, such as water leaking in through one of more openings. And the problem usually becomes obvious only during or after a big storm, where significant amounts of water have leaking through, enough to find their way to a ceiling or wall inside the house. Now that you see the damp wall, your first suspicion is that it’s coming from a hole in your roof, although sometimes it is a plumbing leak problem. In any case, a quick roof inspection is in order, and your suspicions are confirmed: You need a new roof because several of your shake tiles are beyond their useful life, more are due to fail, and it’s only going to get worse if you ignore the problem.


Replacing a whole roof can cost the same as buying a new car. It’s not a trivial expense, so it can often make more sense to continue to repair one small problem after another, even if it has to be done twice a year. Eventually, though, the yearly cost of repairs grows beyond the amortized price of replacing the roof, and you have to bite the proverbial bullet. Besides having to repair it so often, a weakening roof is probably letting in more water here and there, and doing other damage you might not be fully aware of. So there’s the price of maintenance and the price of potential other damage. Even a small leak – and often so, because it may go unnoticed for a long time – can do damage far in excess of the price of a roof replacement.


Natural cedar, for example, does not readily burn. Yes, in a massive forest fire, the heat will be so intense, aluminum will burn. A forest fire can dry a live tree out and heat it so intensely that it spontaneously combusts, but a piece of fresh cedar won’t easily burn, and especially if it is treated with the correct treatment on the roof of you house.

Cedar shakes do work pretty well without treatment, but not for anything like as long as they will if you get them treated right after installation. If you clean and retreat your cedar shakes every two years or so, they should serve you for 25 years or more. Not treating them means they will last half that time. Either way, though, they will age. Weather eventually takes its toll, and the beautiful wood cedar shakes begin to decay and crumble. They become more susceptible to fire with each passing year. A dried-out twenty year old shake tile will catch fire a lot faster than one that has been cut from the tree a week ago. That’s why old roofs can be more dangerous with respect to fire. It’s not as much of an issue here in the Pacific Northwest as it is, say, in California during a dry spell, but it’s all a question of numbers. If you’re away on vacation during a hot Seattle summer and your neighbor’s house catches fire, your house may also be in danger. A single burning ember might land on your roof during the fire and grow into a raging fire of its own several hours later.

Although a fire department my hose down neighboring homes in the even of a house fire, they won’t hose down the whole street. And flying embers can travel quite a distance. Your house might be two blocks away and still be the recipient of such dangerous embers. Old roofs can become a fire hazard in this way.


A single tile failure in a roof can cause a small leak to do a lot of damage over time. In extreme cases, the rafter and general support structure of a house may be damaged beyond repair, and the existing roof tiles have to be replaced entirely before the rafters underneath them also have to be replaced. You must remove the tiles, the waterproof lining, and the plywood before you can even begin to think about replacing the rafters. That’s a big job, obviously, but when it has to be done, it must be done, or the scope of the repair may grow and grow until you finally bite the bullet.

A home takes maintenance. On the positive side, you are at least investing in an asset that gives you living security, comfort and peace. Just like a motor vehicle, it will serve you better – and cost you less in the long run – if you maintain it regularly, and not wait until a problem surfaces.

If you do end up having to replace several layers of the roof, think about the opportunity to make a big improvement. With house prices being what they are, it might behoove you to add another room or more. Since you are going to do a major replacement anyway, why not consider it!


A typical roof in Puget Sound is no match for Mother Nature in a storm. If a tree falls on the roof of your house, it can do serious damage. And if it hits it in a certain way, it might require than a lot or all of your roof has to be replaced. Once tiles are removed, it is unlikely any of them can be used again, and a lot of a roof replacement cost is in the actual labor, so even if you could reuse the tiles, it might well be more economical to simply buy and install new ones. That way, you begin again on Day One of the tiles life expectancy.

In an manual – stick shift – car, if you ever need to replace the clutch, it is usual to also replace the clutch plate. While you have the clutch container open – and most of the cost of clutch repair is the labor – you might as well spend another $30 for a clutch plate while you’re there. It’s the same with a roof. If you ever have to take it completly apart, it’s often cost effective to replace everything you dismantle.