Of all of man’s accomplishments, one of the most basic but important is discovering how to build the very common but vital roof. Roofs protect us from bad weather, shield us from the sun, hold in warmth in winter, and yet, almost all of us take the roof over our head, wherever we are, for granted.

That reality often leads to discovering we need to replace our roof only after a leak or major damage when the signs were there all along.

So that does not happen to you, here are some basic signs you need to replace your roof.

Dark Streaks

Roof Dark Streaks

A major deluge often brings a leak to our attention, but many roof leaks start with much less. Most roofing leaks go on for some time because almost no one visits an attic unless they must. Few homeowners regularly inspect their roof, so one of the sure signs of a leak or imminent leak gets missed.

The easily seen but often missed sign is black streaking up in your attic, usually along the rafters. The streaking means the water has gotten to the underlayment and is only slightly pushed away from becoming a full-on leak. Whether you discover it before it gets that far does not matter, as the takeaway from your inspection is that water is getting in, and you need roof repair.


Roof Leaking

Following the dark streaking is the ceiling that suddenly develops brown stains or even gets as far as dripping, leaving droplets of water on the floor. When this happens, you know your roof needs attention immediately. The trick will be finding out where the leak is occurring.

Inspect your attic and look for those brown streaks. Also, be alert for any discoloration of the rafter wood as well as any presence of mold. If you cannot find a leak from the inside, you need to get a professional to inspect the exterior roof. You will also likely need a roof replacement or significant maintenance.


Roof Sagging

Almost all roofs on normal-sized homes have one main ridge. When your roof is in good shape, that ridge is perfectly straight. If it sags, your roof has structural damage. Sagging is called a “saddleback,” If you ignore it, the most likely outcome is a leak developing along a stressed seam.

There are a few things that can cause a sagging main ridge:

  • Excessive weight from ice or snow
  • Installation issues
  • Materials quality issues  
  • Over-settling of the house from foundation damage

If your roof is sagging, you likely need a new roof as the damage is structural, which can lead to collapse if left alone.

The Roof Is Old

The Roof Is Old

As much as we would like, roofs will not last forever. The average roof lasts about 20 years, depending on its construction quality. Even if the roof is in great shape, roofing technology in installation techniques and materials have advanced enough to make a replacement, something you should consider.

Single-layer roofs typically will last longer than multi-layer roofs. If your roof has reached that 20-year mark and is multi-layered, you want to get it replaced. You can wait if you have no problems, but you should up your inspection frequency as the older the roof gets, the more likely it will develop issues.

Missing Shingles and Exposed Underlayment

Missing Shingles and Exposed Underlayment

Shingles loosen, crack, break, get pushed or pulled off when the snow gets cleared off the roof, or are the victim of wind damage. When that happens, it is just a matter of time before the underlayment gets exposed and then permeated with water. Once water gets in the underlayment, mold grows, and rot starts.

If your roof has exposed underlayment, or you find water has gotten into or beneath the underlayment, you need to get a major roof repair or replacement. The longer you ignore it, the greater your risk of developing a full-on leak problem.

Interior Watermarks

Interior Watermarks

This sign aligns closely with leaks, but often, people put watermarks off on leaking from a nearby window. If the watermarks are not directly adjacent to the window, the leak probably did not come from there. Even if it did, a closer inspection is warranted.

Watermarking is a sure sign of seepage or a full-blown leak. Even if the watermark does not appear “fresh,” it does not mean you do not have a problem. Inspect the exterior roof if you see watermarks, paying attention to any vents or flashing. Look for loose flashing, broken seals, and roof rot.

Gutter Debris

Gutter Debris

Gravity and water ensure that when your shingles start to deteriorate, the debris makes its way to the ground. Look for roofing materials in gutters directly below the edge of the roof. When you see that, inspect the roof itself next and locate where your shingles are starting to fall apart.

Also, remember that one shingle falling apart, absent of some direct damage, means your other shingles are starting to get to the age where degradation is inevitable. The question at that point is not “if” but “when” the rest of them begin to crumble.



Missing, ripped, damaged, and loose flashing is a sure sign your roof needs help. The flashing is impenetrable, but water can make its way into your home once it loosens. Leaking is a major problem where flashing is present because it gets placed in high water runoff pathways. 

In many cases, caulking underneath the flashing has rotted and cracked and led to the flashing damage. Caulk rots or dries over time, and when that does, flashing gives way. 

Final Thoughts

Your roof takes a beating day in and day out, so it is reasonable to expect that eventually, that will show. Recognizing the signs of a roof replacement early is the key to getting ahead of the problem and preventing damage to the rest of your home. If you see these eight warning signs, you should contact a roofing professional immediately.

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