How Long Does a Roof Last? • Roof Lifespans by Roof Type
With the Typical Warranty Period for Each Type of Roof
By Jack Gray, Roof Online Editor • Updated April 25, 2023
Table of Contents
- How Long Does a Roof Last?
- Roof Lifespan Information on the Internet
- About This Roof Lifespan Chart
- Table: Roof Life Expectancy by Roofing Material
- Factors That Determine Roof Lifespan
- Length of Roofing Warranties
- Related Pages
How Long Does a Roof Last?
Asphalt Shingles – Average Lifespan
The most common roofing material found on houses in North America is the asphalt shingle. The asphalt shingle roof has been around for over 100 years, and a lot of product improvements have been made in that time.
There are currently three standard tiers of asphalt shingles. The cheapest are strip or three-tab asphalt shingles, which will typically last 15 to 25 years.
The most popular asphalt shingles in North America today are “architectural” shingles (or “dimensional” shingles). Architectural asphalt shingles can typically last for 25 to 35 years before you’ll need a roof replacement.
Premium or “luxury” shingles can be expected to last from 30 to 45 years, or possibly even a little longer for the absolute best asphalt shingles.
Clay & Concrete Tiles – Average Lifespan
Tile roofs have a longer roof life expectancy than most other types of roofing. Concrete tile roofs will generally last anywhere from 40 to 100 years, depending on the usual factors (see below).
Clay tile roofs can be expected to last 50 years at the very least and high-quality clay tiles can last up to 150 years or more if they’re treated right.
Metal Roofing – Average Lifespan
There is a wide range of different metals, different panel types, different panel thicknesses, and different installation methods for metal roofing.
All of these play a role in the lifespan of a metal roof. But very, very generally, aluminum roofs will last 50 to 80 years, copper roofs will last 90 to 150 years, and steel roofs will last 40 to 60 years.
Single-Ply Membranes – Average Lifespan
There is a very wide range of materials (EPDM, PVC, TPO), attachment methods, and material thicknesses involved in single-ply roof systems, and these are the main factors that determine the lifespan of a single-ply roof.
But generally, a 45-mil single ply will last from 15 to 30 years, a 60-mil single-ply will last from 20 to 35 years, and a 90-mil single-ply will last from 25 to 40 years.
Slate Roofs – Average Lifespan
Slate shingles make the longest-lasting roofs, hands-down. Slate roofs can last over 200 years with proper care and a little luck. It’s also the most expensive roofing material, but a nice slate roof has a lot going for it.
Generally, you can count on a slate tile roof lasting 100 – 200 years.
Wood Shingles & Shakes – Average Lifespan
The lifespan of cedar shingles and shakes depends in large part on how thick the shingles or shakes are.
But you can typically expect wood shingles to last 25 – 40 years, and wood shakes, which tend to be thicker, can last from 30 to 50 years.
See the full list of life expectancies for all the different roofing materials and roofing systems in the table below, as well as typical warranty periods.
Roof Lifespan Information on the Internet
Professional roof consultants have to know how long a new roof is going to last, and how much life is left in an old roof.
It’s a pretty important piece of information, and the expected lifespan of a given type of roof is a prime factor in how we advise our clients regarding roof repairs, roof rehabilitation, and roof replacement.
Most roofs will last between 20 and 40 years before they need to be replaced. How long a roof will last depends on the roof, of course.
Roofing Contractor Websites
I’ve seen dozens of other websites that claim to tell you how long you can expect a roof to last. These are almost all roofing contractor websites and I was amazed at how consistently bad the information was.
Almost every single one of these sites claimed that any given type of roofing has an expected lifespan that’s about 20% to 30% shorter than it really is.
I keep seeing claims that architectural shingles will only last 20 years. I actually saw one contractor’s website make a blanket statement that EPDM roofs only last for 12 years, which is completely absurd.
Then again, the more often that roofs need to be replaced in general, the more work there is for roofing contractors.
A roofing contractor will make a lot more money replacing old roofs than he will from helping to maintain them and making sure building owners get the longest possible life out of their roofs.
You should be aware that roofing contractors consistently underestimate roof lifespans, and it’s in the contractors’ interest for people to believe they need a new roof sooner than they actually do.
If they can convince you to replace your roof sooner than you have to, that’s good for them.
The bad information makes sense.
We Predict Roof Life Expectancy
Anyway, we’re independent roof consultants. Part of what we do for a living is making predictions about roof service life so our clients know when they’ll have to budget for roof replacement expenses.
We’re very familiar with the lifespans of the different types of roofing materials in use today. We thought we’d share some helpful information on roof life expectancy here on our website.
A roof’s life expectancy always depends on how well the roof was installed in the first place, the type of roofing material used, the thickness and quality of the roofing materials, the roof’s maintenance history, and the local climate.
A high-quality asphalt shingle roof typically lasts around 30 years these days. Copper, clay tile, and slate roofs can last over 100 years. The latest generation of flat roof membranes last around 30 years with proper maintenance.
How long does a roof last? See our chart below, and keep reading to learn more about roof life expectancy.
About This Roof Lifespan Chart
The following table provides typical expected useful service life durations for various roofing materials and roof systems.
The values for the expected roof lifespans are based on recent developments in roofing materials technology.
This table covers current roofing products, so in some cases the expected service life we give will be significantly longer than what can be expected from older products on existing roofs which were installed years ago.
The warranty information was taken from actual warranty documents for actual roofing products from actual roofing manufacturers. These aren’t guesses.
Table: Roof Life Expectancy by Roofing Material
|Life Expectancy of Roofing Materials and Roof Systems|
|Roofing Material or System||Typical Useful
|Longest Length of
|Asphalt Shingles: 3-Tab||12 – 25 Years||10 Years|
|Asphalt Shingles: 3-Tab, Premium||20 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|Asphalt Shingles: Architectural (Laminated)||25 – 40 Years||25 Years|
|Asphalt Shingles: Architectural (Laminated), Premium||35 – 50 Years||50 Years|
|Built-Up Roof: Asphalt, 3-Ply||15 – 20 Years||10 Years|
|Built-Up Roof: Asphalt, 4-Ply||20 – 25 Years||15 Years|
|Built-Up Roof: Coal Tar Pitch, 4-Ply||25 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|Built-Up Roof: Coal Tar Pitch, 5-Ply||30 – 40 Years||25 Years|
|Clay Tile||50 – 150 Years||75 Years|
|Concrete Tile||40 – 100 Years||50 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 45-mil Ballasted||15 – 25 Years||10 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 45-mil Fully-Adhered||20 – 30 Years||15 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 45-mil Mechanically-Attached||15 – 25 Years||10 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 60-mil Ballasted||20 – 30 Years||15 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 60-mil Fully-Adhered||25 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 60-mil Mechanically-Attached||20 – 30 Years||15 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 75-mil Mechanically-Attached||25 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 90-mil Ballasted||25 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|EPDM Membrane: 90-mil Fully-Adhered||30 – 40 Years||30 Years|
|Fiber Cement Shingles||30 – 45 Years||25 Years|
|Metal: Corrugated Steel Panels||30 – 60 Years||30 Years|
|Metal: Metal Roof Tile Panels, Aluminum||50 – 80 Years||50 Years|
|Metal: Metal Roof Tile Panels, Steel||40 – 60 Years||30 Years|
|Metal: Standing Seam, Aluminum||50 – 80 Years||40 Years|
|Metal: Standing Seam Copper Panels||90 – 150 Years||50 Years|
|Metal: Standing Seam, Steel||40 – 60 Years||30 Years|
|Metal: Stone-Coated Steel Panels||50 – 75 Years||50 Years|
|Metal: Structural Metal Panels, Aluminum||50 – 70 Years||30 Years|
|Metal: Structural Metal Panels, Steel||40 – 60 Years||25 Years|
|Modified Bitumen: APP Modified, 2-Ply||15 – 25 Years||15 Years|
|Modified Bitumen: APP Modified, 3-Ply||20 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|Modified Bitumen: SBS Modified, 2-Ply||15 – 25 Years||15 Years|
|Modified Bitumen: SBS Modified, 3-Ply||20 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|PVC Membrane: 60-mil Fully-Adhered||25 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|PVC Membrane: 80-mil Fully-Adhered||30 – 40 Years||25 Years|
|PVC Membrane: 60-mil Mechanically-Attached||20 – 30 Years||15 Years|
|PVC Membrane: 80-mil Mechanically-Attached||25 – 35 Years||20 Years|
|Roll Roofing, Asphalt||5 – 15 Years||NA|
|Slate Roofing: Hard Slate (S-1 Grade)||100 – 200 Years||100 Years|
|Slate Roofing: Soft Slate (S-2 Grade)||50 – 100 Years||40 Years|
|Spray Polyurethane Foam||20 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|Synthetic (Composite, Plastic)
Shingles, Slates, or Tiles
|40 – 60 Years||40 Years|
|Thatch||30 – 45 Years||NA|
|TPO Membrane: 60-mil Fully-Adhered||20 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|TPO Membrane: 80-mil Fully-Adhered||25 – 35 Years||25 Years|
|TPO Membrane: 60-mil Mechanically-Attached||15 – 25 Years||15 Years|
|TPO Membrane: 80-mil Mechanically-Attached||20 – 30 Years||20 Years|
|Wood Shakes, Western Red Cedar||30 – 50 Years||25 Years|
|Wood Shingles, Western Red Cedar||25 – 40 Years||20 Years|
Factors That Determine Roof Lifespan
A roof’s lifespan is not something you can predict with absolute certainty. There are many factors that go into the actual length of the useful service life of a roof.
Roofing Material Type and Quality
The type of roofing material selected for the roof will set a general limit on the roof’s life expectancy. Some materials simply last longer than others, and all materials have their own design life expectancy.
The quality of the materials and the reliability of the manufacturer is also very important when it comes to actually reaching that design life expectancy.
Workmanship or Installation Quality
Workmanship, or the quality of the installation, plays a huge part in the life expectancy of a roof system. Roofs that are installed improperly have been known to fail immediately after installation. Seam failure, massive leaking, catastrophic wind blow-off, etc.
Even if the workmanship is just slightly below standard, the lifespan of the roof will very likely be shorter than it should be as needless problems develop over the life of the roof.
You can avoid a lot of problems if you have your roof installed by a highly qualified roofing contractor.
Climate or Local Environment
The local environment that the roof will have to endure is also a big piece of it. Even normally long-lasting roofing materials may suffer in coastal regions with high levels of corrosive environmental salt. Almost every common material used in construction tends to deteriorate faster under these conditions.
Many otherwise durable materials don’t perform well in deserts or other sunny climates, with the continual barrage of UV rays.
Asphalt shingle roofs and EPDM rubber should both be expected to last on the low end of the predicted range in a place like El Paso, Texas. Asphalt in general and EPDM flashing material are both highly vulnerable to sunlight.)
The use of proper fasteners and other accessories is crucial to long-term roof performance.
An all-too-common reason for the premature failure of tile roofs, for instance, is the use of low-quality fasteners and battens, which fail long before the tiles themselves would have.
Roof Maintenance Program
Another significant factor, for flat roofs in particular, is the quality of the roof’s maintenance program. If a commercial flat roof has a rigorous maintenance program that includes full inspections twice a year and addresses maintenance issues as soon as they arise, it can last up to 30% longer than the design life of the system.
All other things being equal, though, it’s the thickness of the material that most affects the expected lifespan of a roof. As a rule of thumb, the thicker the shingle, the panel, the membrane, or the tile, the longer the roof will last.
Length of Roofing Warranties
The warranty periods given in the table are for typical manufacturer’s material warranties. A material warranty only covers the performance of the roofing material itself (basically, it just covers factory defects, which are very rare these days).
The initial workmanship of the roof installation and the performance of other parts of the roof assembly, including the roof deck and any other components not produced by that manufacturer, will not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Those things will be covered by the roofing contractor’s workmanship guarantee if they are covered at all.
Contractor’s workmanship guarantees last for a much shorter period of time, usually 1 – 5 years.
Limited Lifetime Warranties
If you read the fine print, however, you’ll see that the coverage becomes “prorated” after 5 – 20 years.
This means that the manufacturer starts to guarantee less than the full replacement value of the roofing material at that point, and progressively less and less as time goes by.
About the Author
Jack Gray is a principal roof consultant and vice president at the Moriarty Corporation, an award-winning building enclosure consultant firm founded in 1967. He is also the editor of the Roof Online website.
Mr. Gray has been involved in the roofing industry for over 25 years, with training and practical experience in roof safety, roof inspection, roof installation, roof condition assessment, estimating, roof design & specification, quality assurance, roof maintenance & repair, and roof asset management.
He was awarded the Registered Roof Observer (RRO) professional credential in 2009.
He also served as an infantry paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and attended Cornell University. Read full bio.