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 by your roofing contractor.

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.
  • Better Quality – Since the entire roof is being replaced, roofers will be able to repair high risk areas, and new flashing 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.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 one, your labor costs will be considerably less.
  • Less Time – Again, as there is less labor, your home will be under construction for a shorter period of time.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.