Which Is Better: A Roof Overlay or Tear-Off Roofing?

Becca Stokes
Written by Becca Stokes
Updated October 21, 2021
Family home with a shingled roof
Karamysh - stock.adobe.com

Roof overlay or tear-off roofing both have their pros and cons

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Roofs should last for years. Still, you need to replace even the hardiest ones after a while. While replacing your roof isn’t cheap, it’s a natural part of making sure you keep your home (and those inside it) safe and dry. But did you know that you don’t have to rip off the entire thing to replace your roofing? We’ve broken down the two most popular roof replacement methods—roof overlay or tear-off roofing—to help you decide which is the best option for you.

Roof Overlay Pros and Cons

Pros

Roof overlay is one of the most popular methods of roof replacement. So many people use it because it’s affordable and relatively quick to install.

Cost

Overlay is the most affordable option for roof replacement. With this method, a roofing professional in your area will cover your existing, damaged shingles with a new layer. This means the cost of labor and materials will be lower than with other methods.

Time

Less labor means less time spent on the project itself. If winter’s approaching and you’re worried about getting the job done before snow arrives, roof overlay is the method to pick every time.

Cons

You may eventually forfeit the time and money you save when replacing your roofing sooner than you would with other methods.

Durability

Unfortunately, while less expensive and quicker to get in place, that new top layer of shingles isn’t as durable as other roof replacement methods. That’s because the new shingles trap heat which strains your shingles.

Structural Stress

When you add an entire new layer of shingles over your old shingling, you’re essentially putting another roof on top of the current one. If you have an older or damaged home, the added weight can cause structural strain and stress over time.

Appearance

Unfortunately, overlay isn’t the most visually appealing choice in every case. Your finished roof overlay will only look as good as your previous; dips and curls in the shingles will inform how the new shingles look.

Deck Assessment

When roofers tear off your entire roof, they get an opportunity to examine the deck on which all those shingles sit. During this process, they can assess your deck for potential issues like leaks or rot. With overlay, that process doesn’t happen and can cause trouble down the line.

Leak Repairs

If you have more than one layer of roofing, it’s very difficult to track and identify a leak’s origin. Any trapped water can move too, appearing in other places, making patches a problematic and ongoing issue.

Resale Value

Using roof overlay can negatively affect the resale value of your home. Prospective homeowners aren’t looking to replace the roof of the place they just bought, and eventually, with roof overlay, that’s exactly what they’ll have to do.

Tear-Off Roofing Pros and Cons

Man removing shingle roofing
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Pros

Tear-off roofing lasts longer, gives you a better sense of its structural integrity, and is of higher quality.

Durability

Plain and simple, the tear-off method lasts longer—because you’re literally tearing off your old roof and replacing it with a brand new one. This means that new shingles will trap less heat, leading to a longer lifespan.

Maintenance

Because you have a brand new roof, it’s easier to detect leaks or other problems. You don’t have to deal with the biggest problem of overlay roofing: tracking leaks as the water moves between shingle layers.

Resale Value

We can’t overstate this one: if you put a brand new roof on your home, it will increase its value. If prospective homeowners learn that you just added a new roof, they can expect to pay for the luxury of not replacing it themselves.

Cons

Of course, for all of the pros, there are a couple of cons. Let’s break them down so you can decide how they balance out for you.

Cost

Because you are paying for more than the cost of new shingles when you factor in the cost of a new roof, the cost of having your roof replaced with the tear-off method is higher than other methods. It can cost between $1.20 and $4 per square foot to tear off and replace a roof from scratch. But be mindful that the higher quality of materials you use, the more you’ll spend.

Time

Another con to worry about is time. Replacing all of your roof’s shingles doesn’t take a lot of time, but tear-off roofing does. Because a pro will also evaluate your roof’s structure, it’s good to know that should your roofers find other problems you need to address first, you can expect to add more time to solve them.

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