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Our Roof is About 20 Years Old, and It’s Looking Pretty Worn. I Think It Might Be Time to Replace It.

old roof

Hey there, Southwest Michigan homeowners! My name’s Collin, and I’ve been in the roofing business for over 20 years. From small cottages to large family homes, I’ve seen my fair share of roofs. One thing I can tell you is that a roof never lies about its age, especially around the 20-year mark. If you find yourself saying, “Our roof is about 20 years old, and it’s looking pretty worn,” you might be onto something. Let’s dive into why that’s the case.

Understanding the Lifespan of a Roof

Typical Lifespan of Common Roofing Materials

Roofs are not like fine wines; when they age, they do not all age equally well. Depending on what your roof is made of, the amount of UV exposure, tree coverage, and ventilation of the structure, you’ll find different life expectancies based on these and other factors:

  • Asphalt Shingles: Usually good for about 20 years
  • Metal Roofing: Can last 40-70 years
  • Slate or Terracotta Tiles: Anywhere from 50 to even 100 years!

Here in Southwest Michigan, though, things like heavy snowfall and strong winds can bring those numbers down a bit.

20 Years – A Critical Point

A funny story from my early years in roofing: I was inspecting this home, and the homeowner was adamant that their home was recently built and only 20 years old so the leak they were experiencing could not be from the roof…. But when we climbed up to inspect it was obviously that the roof shingles were deteriorated and the original installation method was not up to building code so the roof didn’t last long. So, why is the 20-year mark so crucial? It’s often when those small issues start becoming real problems and more recently it is because in the year 2000 the State of Michigan changed its building code pertaining to roofing (click this link to learn more).

Recognizing the Signs of a Worn-Out Roof

Physical Signs

Here’s a checklist for you:

  • Missing Shingles: They tend to vanish after big storms and you’ll find small pieces in your yard or around the house.
  • Curling or Buckling: They can let moisture in and will continue to deteriorate as the asphalt and oil in them has been zapped by the UV exposure over the years.
  • Granule Loss: It makes your roof more vulnerable to Michigan’s weather as the shingle breaks down so does the protection from things like hail or even debris.  This is when your roof is most vulnerable and can begin to spring a leak in the field or facet of a roof making it hard to locate vs a penetrating leak like a vent pipe or chimney.

Non-Visual Signs

Sometimes it’s not about what you see. I once visited a home where the owner’s energy bills were skyrocketing after recently having new insulation installed. A quick inspection revealed a worn-out roof and improper venting, which did not allow the heat to escape trapping it in the second story of the home. This is when mold or other negative factors can come into play and is why if you are not able to visually inspect areas of your property it is important to have it done every few years to verify things are as they should be. Check out this information from GAF on roofing ventilation and best practices (click here).

Evaluating the Need for Roof Replacement

Professional Roof Inspections

A professional inspection can make all the difference. I remember inspecting a roof that looked fine but was experiencing leaking. When I got up on top I found that a raccoon had chewed a huge hole in a random area of the roof! If the homeowner had waited longer, the costs would have been astronomical as water was pouring in every time it rained!

Roof Replacement vs. Repair

Sometimes, a repair is enough. But when you hit that 20-year mark with an asphalt shingle roof, replacement is often the way to go. Delaying it can lead to serious structural issues and as referenced above your roof may not have the underlayments it needs to protect the structure as the shingles wear down and become vulnerable. Trust me we unfortunately get these calls everyday!

Choosing the Right Roofing Material for Your Home

Considerations for Southwest Michigan’s Climate

You’ll want to consider our unique weather here. For instance, metal roofing handles snow well but can be more costly upfront. It all depends on your needs and budget.  We are recommending more and more Class 4 shingles vs Class 3 shingles which are more standard on the market today.  A class 4 impact rated shingle is one like the GAF Armorshield II shingle (check it out here)

Read more: Save Money & Boost Home Value: Ultimate Roofing Materials Guide

The Roof Replacement Process

How to Prepare

Getting a new roof is like getting a haircut. It can feel like a big change, but it’s often for the best. Just prepare for some noise and ensure that your valuables are protected inside by taking glass objects or sensitive items down off walls or shelves.  Think about pets or small children the day of installation as it will be loud and there will be a lot of people and movement on site.  Also consider things around the yard like landscaping or deck items and have a plan on how to move them or protect them during the installation of the new roof. 

Character Exteriors is a customer focused local Kalamazoo roofing contractor who specializes in asphalt shingle installation and as such we have tools like an Equiptor RB4000 (learn more about the Equiptor here) to manage debris and materials keeping your property clean and safe during roofing replacement.


Listen, I get it. Replacing a roof is a big decision, but like an old car on its last legs, there’s a point where holding onto it costs more than letting it go. If you find yourself nodding along to, “Our roof is about 20 years old, and it’s looking pretty worn,” it might be time to consider a replacement or at least have our team of experienced roofing professionals come out to take a look and verify.

Call to Action

If you’re in Southwest Michigan and need a hand, don’t hesitate to reach out. My team and I are here to help, and we are excited to speak with you about options that may work best for you and your families roofing needs.


Q: How often should I have my roof inspected?

A: It’s good to have a professional look at it every couple of years or after a big storm. Regular inspections can save you a lot in the long run.

Q: Can I repair my 20-year-old roof instead of replacing it?

A: It’s possible, but it’s often like putting a band-aid on a bigger problem. An inspection will give you the best answer.

Q: What’s the best roofing material for Southwest Michigan?

A: It depends on your home and budget. A professional can help you choose the best option for your specific situation.

Q: How long does it take to replace a roof?

A: Typically, a few days, but it can vary based on the size and complexity of the roof. We’ll always keep you informed during the process.

No Payments for 12 Months

Zero percent down, low monthly payments, and affordable solutions to help you finance your exterior remodel in West Michigan. Just give Character Exteriors a call today to request more information!

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