Tear off Vs. Overlay: Which One Is Right For Your Pitched Roof?

aerial photo of tear off roof replacement from elite roofing

Roof repairs can be confusing. There are so many different options, so how do you know what’s best? If your roof looks like it could use some TLC, it may be time to consider a replacement or recovery of the existing shingles. There are two main options for this kind of work; a roof tear-off or an overlay. Some roofs are in dire need of repair or have already had an overlay, and require an entirely new set of shingles. However, if your roof is in better shape, you may not need a complete replacement. We’ve broken down the pros and cons of these two options so that you can make the right decision that maintains the health of your roof over time and meets objectives that clients typically present to us.

Roof Tear Off – Replacement: 

A complete tear-off, or replacement, is exactly what it sounds like, tearing off all of the shingles that are on the roof down to the substrate, addressing any underlying concerns, and re-shingling the roof with proper underlayment. This is advantageous for a number of reasons.

Your roofer will be able to address any substrate issues: 

Underneath the shingles on your roof is the deck substrate. Depending on the age of your roof, as a result of previous leaks beneath the shingles, there could be damage to the substrate that is not visible.
If you have noticed leaks in your home, it is almost certain that there is an issue with your roof. In this case, a tear-off will allow your roofers to see the issues, fix them, and re-shingle your home.

Proper detailing around roof projections:

It’s not always guaranteed that the previous contractor used the best possible materials for the roof of your home and installed proper termination details at roof projections, valleys and elevation changes. A complete tear-off allows for our team to evaluate and complete the proper recommended detailing for your roof. For example, roofing manufacturers recommend that shingles do not get applied directly onto the substrate.  There should be a layer of self-adhesive ice and water shield type membrane and synthetic underlayment installed over the substrate as the first line of defense.  We cannot ensure that the original roof has an intact underlayment without removing the existing shingles.
Depending on how old your home is, there could be new materials that just work better and last longer than what you currently have. By doing a tear-off, you have the option to choose from the most up-to-date options.

Durability and coverage:

Brand new roofing traps less heat than a roof with multiple layers, almost guaranteeing that your roof will last longer than a roof overlay.
Insurance companies are likely to give you a better premium if you do a tear-off replacement that can guarantee the health of your roof for the longer term.

Long-term cost considerations:

The cost of a roof tear-off is undoubtedly more expensive than a roof overlay, however, if you are planning on staying in your home long-term, it will likely repair any underlying issues that may cost you more over time.  Therefore, life cycle costs could actually work out cheaper…
A roof tear-off adds more to the resale value of your home than an overlay because underlying issues are guaranteed to have been solved.
Shingle warranties for a roof tear-off are double the length of time as those for an overlay.

Roof overlay:

A roof overlay involves installing shingles on top of the existing ones. This is only possible to do one time if you want a warranty on the roofing materials. If a roof overlay has already been done on your roof, a tear-off would be required.  Overlay repairs are a great option for your roof if:

You have a very tight timeline:
A roof overlay can be finished much more quickly than tear-off repairs, which saves labour time and stress.
A roof overlay also creates almost no garbage (except packaging from the new materials), which means fewer disposal costs and your team spends less time cleaning up.

You have a short term horizon:
Some homes are intended to be re-developed in the coming years or homeowners are preparing for a near term sale of the property.  In these situations, a roof overlay might meet the client’s objectives.

Budget is a main concern:
Less labour is involved in overlaying shingles, so the overall quote from your roofing contractor will be lower. Keep in mind though, that a roof overlay is a quick fix, and it is likely that there will be further repairs in the future. Remember this when budgeting for your home overall.

While a roof overlay can be in the good short term to enhance the aesthetic value of your roof, there are some issues that an overlay will not fix. If your roof is uneven, a roof overlay will not correct this, and this could cause issues with your new roof in the future.

The most important thing when considering a tear-off or a roof overlay is to consult with an experienced roofing contractor in order to evaluate your objectives and the fitness of your roof for each type of repair. The look and the condition of your roof are something that your contractor should discuss with you prior to making a decision about what scope of work your roof requires.

If you have questions about residential roofing repairs or would like more information about your roofing options, contact us! We’re here to help 24/7, that’s the Elite Advantage.