If your home’s roof is getting up there in years, it may be time for a roof replacement. While this can be an expensive project, your roof is what protects your home and your family, so you want to make sure you get it done right.

What a lot of people don’t know is that when you get your roof redone, you can choose to either shingle over your existing roof, or tear-off the original roof, and start over. It’s important to know that there are pros and cons to each of these options, so we thought we’d outline them for you, so you can decide which option might work best for your home and budget.

First, let’s define each method:

Tear off: The tear-off method is exactly what it sounds like: when the roofing company you hire tears off your existing roof, and then puts on an entirely new roof.

Overlay: An overlay roof occurs when keep your existing roof as is, choosing instead to shingle on top of it. It’s good to know that you can only choose this option if your roof has not been overlaid previously.

So, what are the pros and cons of each?

Tear Off


  • Full Replacement – When you opt for a tear-off roofing job, your new roof will be just that: new. Everything will be as if it were a brand new roof, which has a lot of benefits. If you had any rotted decking or leaks in your roof, they’ll be gone with the new roof. Since the roofers have to take off all of the shingles, they get a clear look into what’s going on with your roof, so the finished product will be perfect.
  • Better Quality – Since the entire roof is being replaced, roofers will be able to repair high risk areas, and new flashings can be installed, ensuring that your home is watertight for years to come.
  • Lasts Longer – On that note, a full tear-off roofing job will last you much longer than an overlay will. This is mostly due to the fact that a brand new roof traps much less heat than a roof with multiple layers. Extra heat causes shingles to curl and break down much more quickly.
  • Adds Value – A brand new tear-off roof can add to your home’s resale value, and is a major selling point. So if you’re thinking of selling your home a few years down the road, this is the option for you.


  • More Expensive – A tear-off roofing job is likely to run you as much as $1,000 more. It’s for this reason that many people choose to go with an overlay roof rather than a full tear-off. The additional price is mostly related to the extra labor that goes into a tear-off roof.



  • Less Expensive – Since you’re simply adding another layer of shingles on top of the old roof, your labor costs will be considerably less. That’s why many people opt for the overlay method if possible, as it can be much cheaper.
  • Less Time – Again, as there is less labor, your home will be under construction for a shorter period of time. This is great if you need a new roof immediately, or if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on lodging for the duration of the project.


  • Won’t last as long – Generally speaking, the shingles that are laid over the old roof won’t last as long as their natural lifetime, due to extra heat trapped by the added layers.
  • Adds Weight – You’re literally adding another roof to the top of your home, so if your home is older, or is not structurally sound you may not even be able to complete this type of roof job. Another roof adds weight to the top of your home, which can put the structural integrity of your roof into question.
  • May not look as good – Since your previous roof had seen years of wear and tear, it likely was not level, and had shingles that were curling or lifting. By placing shingles on top of a damaged roof, you’ll affect the way the roof looks. Since it’s being put on top of another, less than perfect roof, it’s likely that it may not look as good as a brand new roof would.
  • More difficult to check deck – When you tear-off the old roof, you get a look at what’s underneath. You don’t have this opportunity with an overlay. Unless your roofer notices something when they’re walking on the roof, or doing an initial inspection, you’ll have no idea what condition the decking of your roof is in. That means if something is rotted or leaking, you won’t know about it until much later.
  • Can’t track leaks – If you develop a leak, it will be considerably more difficult to figure out where it’s coming from with multiple roof layers. The water can travel between the layers, and then poke through somewhere else, making patching a real chore.
  • Eventually you’ll have to replace it – The problem with an overlay is that sooner or later you’re going to have to replace it. And when you do, you won’t just have one layer of roof to replace, you’ll have two. That means double the labor and debris just when you’re taking the roof off. So even though an overlay might be good in the short-term, it’s likely to cost you more money in the long run.
  • Negative resale value – If you opt for an overlay, note that it might not be the best decision for your resale value. If you plan on selling your home anytime soon, an overlaid roof can have a negative effect on your resale value.
Whether you decide to go with a less expensive overlay option, or bite the bullet and tear off the old roof, Werner Roofing is your first call! We’ll visit your home before we do anything, so we can properly inspect your roof and give your our honest assessment. Give us a call at 616-844-5382 or apply for your free estimate online today!
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How do you know when it’s time for a new roof? The only way to be sure of your residential roof’s current condition is to have a licensed professional personally inspect it. Werner Roofing is proud to offer free roof inspections for every client, so you can be sure of your roof’s condition. Every Werner Roofing inspection comes complete with our promise: “We won’t recommend or sell a roof replacement unless it’s necessary.” 

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