Understanding Roof Opinions
- To protect the asphalt coating from UV rays.
- To add color or aesthetic beauty.
- To provide fire resistance.
You should note the one thing missing from our evaluation on roof replacement is the age. Why? Because the actual age, while it is useful information, is the least important thing to know. Age is not an indication of the useful life remaining as it does not indicate the external conditions which affect the shingle. A 20-year rated shingle can last 25-30 years or it may need replacement in 12 years. Exposure, damage, workmanship and maintenance determine the longevity of a shingle. Stating a shingle needs replacement due to age is not supported by any manufacturer or testing agency – and these are the only two authorities with credibility. Age charts issued by home inspector associations are simply another “opinion” and they are not supported in fact and should not be used as a basis for an independent roof evaluation. What if the actual age is unknown – how does the inspector determine the actual age? The true answer is, he doesn’t. There is no way to know. Shingles do not come with serial numbers or date stamps. A Seller, for example, may report the roof was replaced five years ago (which could be seven) but the replacement was not permitted. Again, while the information may be useful, it cannot be relied upon and therefore the inspector should discard it. An inspector cannot determine the actual age of a roof; he can only offer an opinion on what they perceive to be a useful life expectancy based on normal wear patterns such as overall granule loss, brittleness and uniformity of the roof system. The actual age is generally irrelevant. In Florida, we have an unprecedented and grossly erroneous insurance industry which attempts to minimize roof losses by basically mandating someone, other than them, identify the age of the roof so they can place a life expectancy of 70% on a 3-tab shingle and 80% on a dimensional shingle. They believe you should replace perfectly functional roof systems well before needed so they will not get any claims. In the interest of serving customers and creating revenue, they have a willing audience of unsophisticated home inspectors who are all too willing to do their bidding. So, all 3-tab shingles only last 20 years or 14 years for insurance purposes and all dimensional shingles only last 30 years or 24 years for insurance purposes. They are even willing to put an “age” on the roof when, as I’ve explained, is impossible to do. The whole system is predicated on useless and unsupported information and I do not have a clue how any inspector could ever justify their opinion of the age if forced to do so, in the absence of actual documentation. Yet, they do it. What buyers, sellers and realtors should understand is there is little credibility present in the majority of opinions due to inadequate knowledge, ulterior motives and general fear of reprisal. In most cases, you will need to consider all information and form your own opinion of the actual condition. Again, the matter is further complicated by unreasonable demands by the insurance industry. It is useful to know shingle manufacturers have complained and even threatened to sue Florida insurors over these unsubstantiated and overzealous rating guidelines. The insurors argue it is their right to use whatever risk management procedures they wish. While the manufacturers complain their product is being unjustly demeaned, in the end, they sell more shingles and ultimately, I suppose that is why they have not followed through on their threats of legal action. The insurance industry avoids losses. The roofers get more jobs. The buyer, seller and realtor get frustrated when deals fall apart unnecessarily and the consumer loses by having to replace perfectly good roofs to obtain/maintain homeowner’s insurance. To add insult to injury, there doesn’t seem to a single thing you or I can do about it. When it comes to roof evaluations, researching building permits to obtain the date installed (when available) may result in a disservice to both the Seller and Buyer based on the current posture of insurance carriers. If they continue to improperly rate shingle performance on age alone, without benefit of the actual expected performance rating or condition, inspectors may be condemning the sale without realizing it. Inspectors are required to provide an age on insurance forms (Roof Certification, 4-Point and Wind Mitigation) and insurors improperly refuse to accept an estimated age. As stated earlier, age is the least significant factor in the roof condition. No inspector can certify, with any reasonable basis of fact, the age of a shingle. We can only estimate the useful life remaining based on the current condition. We have an “age” problem in the process. Realtors, inspectors, and consumers should be demanding the insurance industry institute reforms to the evaluation process as it distorts the facts completely in favor of the insuror. I hope this presentation has given you a better understanding of the roof evaluation process. There are no national or state standards and the process is subjective. While we cannot remove the subjectivity of each inspector, we can hold them to a reasonable interpretation of industry guidelines for assessment of shingle roofs as developed by the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), or Haag Education. Most of these guidelines are used by the insurance carriers today. Simply stating, “the roof should be replaced” or “there is two years of life left” is simply not sufficient. Opinions must be based on fact and not conjecture. It should further be noted the standard As-Is, Offer to Purchase Real Estate contract provides that normal weathering or minor curling/cupping of shingles is not considered to be a defective condition. What should be included in a Roof Evaluation: Type of shingle _____ Roof geometry _____ Slope/pitch _____ Evidence of moisture in deck _____ Condition of flashing _____ Condition of drip edge _____ Evidence of moisture in eave _____ % of granule loss overall _____ Significant curling/cupping _____ Significant hail damage _____ Significant flaking _____ Significant Fishmouthing _____ Significant buckling _____ Significant blistering _____ Significant nail pops _____ Loose/missing shingles _____ Workmanship _____ Sealed Roof Deck _____ Meets FBC 2001 or later _____ Needs immediate repair _____ Needs replacement _____ Estimate of Useful Life _____ Basis of opinion: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Qualifications of Inspector: ______________________________________________________________________________________ License #: __________ Years qualified __________ If you use a roofer to obtain an independent evaluation, pay them and alert them that you would not use them to make repairs or for replacement if needed. Be upfront. You should not expect to get an independent evaluation for free (you generally get what you pay for). A proper roof evaluation should cost between $275 to $350 for most homes up to 3000sf although complex roofs may cost more. Understand roofs with slopes over 4:12 may not be accessible. Keep in mind, cheap roof inspectors are part of the problem.
William Chandler Certified General Contractor Licensed Home Inspector ASHI Certified Inspector
The author has over 38 years of building construction and inspection experience.
Property360 provides residential and commercial building inspections throughout central and northeast Florida. High value inspections are provided nationwide.