How to tell if the House You’re Looking at Needs a New Roof

house for sale depicting how to tell if it needs a new roof

Summer is traditionally home buying season. The warm weather and sun – not to mention longer daylight hours – make it easier to shop around for a new home. Buyers typically also want to do their moving before cold, snowy or rainy weather hits.

One of the most significant questions on the mind of a prospective home buyer is how long will the current roof last before they need to replace it? It’s the one time the roof of your potential new home will be foremost on your mind.

You need to know how to tell, with a casual inspection, if the roof on the house you’re looking at is in good shape.

The good news is there are signs to look for to determine if the roof you’re seeing will need to be replaced.

Tips on How to Tell if a House Needs a New Roof

Interior Roof Check

You might feel silly bringing a flashlight to your home viewing, but rest assured your realtor has seen it all. With the housing market as tight as it is, you may have to make an offer fast, and you want that offer to be as well-informed as possible.

You can perform a quick interior roof inspection by accessing the attic and bringing a flashlight with a powerful beam.

First look around the attic with the lights off. If you can see daylight through any part of the roof, you will want to have a professional inspection. Sometimes light indicates a problem…other times it is part of the ventilation or flu pipe flashing rings.

Next, with your bright beam, check for dark streaks or stains that would show evidence of leaking on the underside of the roof decking.

Lastly, take a look at the structure itself for any evidence of sagging or rotting in the roof decking. That would be further evidence of water damage and the need for a roof replacement.

Exterior Roof Check

Though this is harder to achieve from the ground, we don’t recommend you get on top of a roof – especially one that is not your own! Fortunately, you can see some of the most prominent warning signs without having to scale a stranger’s roof.

Most homeowners know the approximate age of their roof. If they did their own homework, they would have found out from the previous owners, or perhaps they have replaced the roof in the time they have owned the house. Knowing the age of the roof is usually, but not always, a good indicator of the life left in it.

Next, make a visual assessment of the roof from outside. Take special care to look at these four areas:


Are the shingles curling or buckling? This is a good indication that they are old as shingles become more brittle as they age. Are there shingles missing? While this may not indicate the roof is old, missing shingles will need to be replaced, or the roof will develop leaks.

Roof valleys

Roof valleys are the most vulnerable spots of any roof. Look to see if any shingles or flashing are compromised or pulling away from the roof.

Flashing around the chimney

The chimney flashing is one of the likeliest places for leaks. Same for the flashing around skylights. Make sure any protrusions have metal flashing that appears to be intact and close fitting.

Roof structure

Is any part of the roof sagging? This could be an indication of water damage and leaks.

Check the gutters

The last place you can look to see signs of age on a roof is in the gutters. This might not be possible for a casual house viewing. However, a good inspector will tell you this information should you decide to make an offer on the house.


With these casual inspection methods, you should be able to see visible signs that the roof on the house you’re looking at will need to be replaced. When you are armed with that information, you can give an informed and competitive offer.

Lastly, if you have any concerns, consult with a professional. If you live in the Southeast Michigan area, please give us a call. We would be happy to help.

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