February 11, 2022

How Long Do Shingle Roofs Last?

Shingle roofs may have a 30 or 35-year warranty, but with the unavoidable wild weather of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, you can expect them to last about 20 years.

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The key to a strong roof is a good shingle. Cheap shingles may look like they cost less, but the reality is that they’re made by cutting corners. When it comes to the average lifespan of roofing shingles, you really do get what you pay for. The imported economy brands aren’t going to last very long - the asphalt is never good enough to protect your home long-term. So, while you may think you’re saving money, you’ll actually end up paying more for repairs and early replacements.

But, if you go with a good quality shingle? How long can you expect your roof to last then? 

Some companies like to make you think that their shingles will last for 30 or 35 years by calling them 35-year shingles. In reality, that’s really based on their company’s warranties, not how long your shingles and roof will actually last. There are a lot of factors that affect the shingles on your roof, and no one can predict how well they’ll hold up in all regions. How long your roof lasts will depend on several things, but the most important is your weather and climate.  Here in Dallas-Fort Worth, we can have some pretty extreme weather. Obviously, if high winds come through and rip the shingles off the roof, you’re going to be doing repairs a lot sooner than you want.  But there are two main factors that are going to determine how long a roof in this area lasts - the heat and the hail.

Texas Heat

No one’s going to argue that we have mild summers around here. Texas summers can be brutal. Here in DFW, the average day hits 95 degrees - and that’s just the average, many days go even higher! That heat can wear down a lot of things, from our tires to our tempers. And that includes your roof.

By far the most common shingles you can buy on the market today, and the ones almost everyone uses on their homes, are asphalt shingles. As the name implies, these shingles are made primarily with asphalt, with a fiberglass interior and a broken ceramic finish on top. The fiberglass is there to help with keeping water out (we’ll talk about that more shortly), and the broken ceramics embedded in the top is designed to help deflect the heat of the sun.  That ceramic protection helps some, but down here there’s only so much you can do.  During our hot summers, the rays from the sun are going to beat down on your shingles and bake them. That is not good for your roof.

In fact, in the DFW area, heat is the number one thing that’s going to affect your roof’s lifespan. Of course, there can always be disasters - a storm with high winds could blow through, ripping shingles off your roof, or smashing tree branches into your home.  Those types of things can happen any time, and there’s no real way to plan for them or prevent them. But when we look at the things we can predict, the Texas heat is the thing that’s going to put a ceiling on how many years your roof can last, no matter what the company’s warranty says.

Manufacturers actually use the sun’s heat to help make your roof better. I know that sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but it’s true. To get a good, solid roof, the shingles all need to be brought together into one cohesive whole. When your roofers install the shingles, they’ll make sure that they overlap correctly and are all nailed down in a way that bonds each row to the one before it.  But that’s just the first step. The shingles are actually specifically designed so that the asphalt will get soft under the heat of the sun. That little bit of melting will actually make them start to stick together so that each shingle becomes permanently melded with the ones around it. It’s a pretty ingenious system. In fact, if you’ve ever seen a freshly installed roof and thought it looked a little lumpy, that’s why.  The shingles need time to settle in the heat before they are completely bound like they’re supposed to be. 

So heat is an important process of making sure your asphalt shingles function properly.  The problem is, here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that heat can get pretty intense. Instead of just loosening the asphalt so that the shingles bind properly and give you a nice seal, over the years they start to bake in the heat.  Each year that goes by, the asphalt gets a little drier. This, in turn, makes it more brittle, more prone to cracks and breaks, and less capable of keeping moisture from seeping through to your decking. 

By the time 20 years have passed, the asphalt is going to be completely dried out and the shingles will be brittle and damaged. Even if your shingles were advertised as a 30 or 35-year shingle, it’s not likely to make it much past that 20-year mark here in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. In other parts of the country, they might last longer, but here, the heat is going to do them in.  

Still, 20 years isn’t a bad lifespan for a roof. While replacing the roof of your home can be stressful, it can make it a little easier when you can plan ahead.  Just remember, no matter what the label says, make sure that you plan for a new roof about every 20 years, that way you won’t be taken by surprise. Hiring a good contractor to install your roof can add years to its life, but even we can’t fight the natural climate of Texas. We live in a hot area of the country, and, while we love it here, we have to deal with the reality of our weather. 

On the other hand, that same problem can be turned into an opportunity. While your shingles may have to be replaced more often, you can also tap into the power of the same solar rays that are baking your shingles and install solar paneling.  Solar panels have become cheaper and easier to install in recent years, and they give an opportunity for you to save money on your electric bill. Power companies in some areas even give you a rebate and pay you for the extra energy you create. So don’t worry that your roof’s lifespan may be a bit shorter than you want. Use this as an opportunity to save some money with solar panels. 

Spring Hail

You can’t get away from the Texas heat. It’s going to be with you through all the years. But there’s another way mother nature likes to wreak havoc on your roof - and there’s nothing like solar panels that can help make this one positive. Hail is a real problem in Dallas-Fort Worth. While other parts of the country get to spend their winters having fun throwing snowballs at each other, here in DFW, we spend our Springs with Mother Nature hurling rock-hard balls of ice at us. These seasonal hail storms can cause a lot of damage to our communities.  They can hurt our cars and keep us running for cover.  They’re also the second biggest thing, besides the heat, that tears up your roof and shortens its lifespan. 

You may be surprised to hear how damaging hail is to your roof. After all, your roof is designed to protect your home from the natural elements.  And it’s not like you go outside after a hail storm to find gaping holes in the top of your house. Obviously, the risk of a tree branch breaking through your decking, or wind ripping off your shingles are both bigger problems than seasonal hail storms, right?  Well, no. 

In order to understand why hail is so bad for your roof, you have to know how your shingles work. Asphalt shingles are really made up of a few layers. As mentioned above, on top you have a layer of broken ceramics that is designed to help protect the asphalt from the heat of the sun.  Under that, and surrounding the whole shingle, you have the material it’s named for - asphalt.  That asphalt helps to hold the shingle in place, and it provides a level of weatherproofing protection to your home. But, while the asphalt is your first layer of defense, it is not the primary thing that makes a shingle waterproof.

Wrapped inside of the shingle and covered by the asphalt, is an inner fiberglass core. This is the primary moisture barrier of a shingle.  This fiberglass does a great job of keeping the moisture out of your home.  There is one drawback, though, and that’s that this fiberglass can break fairly easily.

During the months each year, when we have to deal with regular hail storms, your roof gets pummeled by big hard rocks of ice.  While the shingles are designed to last, it’s just a hard reality that taking that kind of beating, over and over again, year after year, is going to cause some damage. 

When a shingle gets hit by something hard like hail, it can crack the fiberglass core.  Once cracks start to form, the moisture barrier becomes compromised. It’s not like when a tree limb goes through your roof. There won’t be a gaping hole.  In fact, you may not even realize there’s a problem, and that can make it even worse for your house.  These cracks will start to let water seep in.  If your roof is older and the asphalt has started to harden, the effects can be even worse.  Then, both of the primary weatherproofing barriers will be compromised, which is a recipe for disaster.

Because these cracks in the fiberglass of your shingles aren’t obvious - you can’t just look at your roof and see that there’s a problem - you may not be able to address it before water starts leaking into your house.  Moisture will start leaking through these cracks in the fiberglass.  It won’t be a flood, but it will be enough to start causing water damage to your decking. With enough shingles broken by hail, the water making it through to your house will increase.  If you don’t fix the problem soon enough, it can cause your decking to rot and leaks to start dripping into your attics and walls.  

You don’t want to leave this problem unfixed, because it will snowball and cause more and more damage. This is why hail is the second biggest reason that your roof isn’t going to last the 35 years that the manufacturer’s warranty promises.  As the years roll by on your new roof, the shingles are getting hit with a one-two knockout punch. Each year they sit under the sweltering sun, baking and drying and becoming more brittle. At the same time, each spring, they go through several months of getting whacked by hail over and over again.  The combination doesn’t give your roof much of a chance.  By 20 years in, the asphalt is hard and dry, which makes the shingles more susceptible to hail damage, causing cracks and breaks in the moisture lining of the fiberglass. At that point, it’s going to be time to replace it and install a new roof. 

What Can You Do

While these weather-related issues put a limit on how long a roof can last here in DFW, there are some steps you can take to get the most years out of your shingles. The key one is to use a contractor who knows what they are doing and doesn’t cut corners.  Even small mistakes, like a misplaced nail, can have big consequences for the waterproofing of your shingles. You need someone who can do the job right and explain exactly what they’re doing so you understand the process. At Parish Roofing Solutions, we’ve got the experience to make sure your roof is done right. We make sure that we do everything we can to give your roof the longest lifespan possible. Reach out to us today for a FREE consultation so we can help you fight back the elements and keep your home safe and watertight for decades to come. 

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