Should You Tear Off the Current Singles or Layover the Existing Layer?

tearing off the old layer

Pros and cons to consider when deciding to tear off existing shingles VS overlaying new shingles over the existing ones. 

It’s no secret that your roof is one of the most integral parts of your house. It’s the part of the house most exposed part to the elements – rain, heat, snow, wind. Even sleet and hail.

As a result, it suffers more wear and tear than any other part of the house…and while it’s always possible to go just up there and repair damaged sections or broken shingles, there does eventually come a point where more and more repairs just won’t do anymore.

At that point, most professionals would likely just recommend that you replace your roof instead of further repairing it. Repairing an overly worn, damaged old roof repeatedly…will eventually just cause more harm than good.

But how do you know which one – repair or replace – is right for you and your roof, and when?

Keep reading and we’ll sum up these two different methods of getting your roof in tip-top shape. And we’ll go over the pros and cons of each, as well as everything you need to consider when making the weighty decision about which option will work best for your home and budget.

What Does it Mean to “Tear-off” A Roof?

Tear-off describes the process of removing the old shingles and replacing them new ones. It’s essentially the complete removal and replacement of your old roof with a new one.

This is obviously a time-consuming and expensive process. All old shingles must be removed and carted away, and you’ll also have to rip up any old underlayment, flashing or sealing, and toss those away as well (and replace them with new ones, of course).

What Does it Mean to Overlay New Shingles?

Overlay, on the other hand, refers to a reroofing technique where existing roofing is kept intact…and a new set of shingles is placed over your existing roof installation. It’s also sometimes called roof “recovery,” as you are essentially recovering what is left of the old roof and supplementing it with new roofing. 

With this method, there is no need to tear up the old shingles, or even the underlayment or flashing, in most cases. You just lay new shingles right over the old ones and fasten them down (with nails, glue or preferably, both). Voila – your “new” roof is ready to go. 

This method – overlaying – is cheaper and easier than tearing off and replacing the whole roof…but can only be done once. Once an overlayment has been put down, it can’t be done again – and further repairs will likely mean replacing the whole roof. It shouldn’t be done if there is extensive mold or water damage to the roof, or if the current shingles are extensively curling from heat and sun. 


As we mentioned, there are pros and cons to each of these methods…and each has situations in which one will work better than the other. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at both and breakdown their pros and cons. 


pealing off the shingles


1. Full Replacement = Brand New Roof

When you opt for a tear-off roof repair…you’re essentially just getting a brand-new roof. You’re tossing away all the old roofing materials, underlayment and seals and putting in a brand new one.

As such, any old issues you have with your roof are gone – and you’re essentially resetting the clock on your roof. If there’s a chance the decking has been damaged or if you suffered from leaks…those are wiped completely clean, and your new roof will last for the next 20 – 30 years. 

Additionally, since the roofers are in there removing all your old shingles, they are able to get underneath and closely inspect your roof’s exact condition. If there are any problems with your decking underneath, they can get in there and make any repairs right away – before putting on the new shingles.

The result? A brand-new, stronger roof equipped to last decades of repeated use.

2. You Can Upgrade Your Roof

There’s always a great deal of upside to upgrading your roofing. If you’ve ever wanted to upgrade to a new kind of roofing – say, slate or metal roofing as opposed to asphalt – then this is your chance to do it (provided you have the cash).

And if you’re spending that cash, you might as well upgrade the rest of the roof – including the decking, the water barrier, and the flashings. Upgrade them to newer, better materials…or simply replace them and give them a fresh coat of sealant to ensure a leak-free watertight home.

3. It’ll Last A Lot Longer

We already mentioned this above…but it’s worth noting again. Since you’re getting an entirely new roof…you’re resetting the lifetime clock on there (for another 20-30 years). And keeping your roof to a single layer extends lifespan further, as a single layer of shingle traps less heat than the multiple layers an overlayed roof creates. 

That alone is an important factor to consider living in the Phoenix, (or other hot climate areas)…where you need quality materials that last longer and withstand extreme temperatures more efficiently than in cooler climates. 

4. It Boosts Home Value

This is more of a bonus…but putting a whole new tear-off roof can greatly add to your home’s resale value. Homeshoppers looking into buying properties usually have one major factor on their minds: cost of potential repairs.

Having your roof re-done through the tear-off technique means the work is already done for them…and they’ll gladly pay more money for that. 


1. Cost + Time

No two ways about it – the tear-off technique is a LOT more costly than the overlay method. There is not only a lot more work involved in the process (meaning higher labor bills), but there is also all the additional costs of things such as dumpster rental, haul away and landfill fees. 

On top of that…you also must buy the materials (shingles, underlayment, seals, flashings) for an entire new roof. 


new roof shingles


1. It’s Much More Affordable

If the major downside of tearing-off the old roof is cost…then the major upside of overlaying is that it is much more affordable. 

Essentially, the process requires nothing more than adding another layer of shingles on top of the existing ones (and typically nothing more, except some new nails and maybe some glue). As such, labor and total project costs are much, much lower and much more manageable. 

2. Overlay Is Simple and Easy

Overlaying is simple and straightforward, requiring very little in the way of tools, time or process. Just lay the new shingles down, glue or nail them into place, and you’re done. That’s why it costs so much less money…and why so much, less time is required to complete the job. If you want to expend as little time, hassle and money to get your roof redone, overlaying becomes the obvious solution. 


1. It’s Not Very Durable.

This is perhaps the biggest concern when it comes to overlaying. Since the purpose of the technique is to just cover the existing roof, any necessary repairs to the roof or decking underneath can be missed. Or even worse, ignored and literally smoothed over by new shingles. 

And, as mentioned, two layers of shingles means more and more heat from the sun is trapped inside the roof – which leads the shingles to wear down much faster. 

2. It Can Look Terrible

This isn’t a given…but shingles with years of wear and tear on them can sometimes have some bad defects, like uneven surfaces and curled and or lifted shingles. A damaged base will result in poor installation of new shingles – as well as a generally shabby look. Instead of a new , fresh-looking roof, you get one that looks uneven or patched (and doesn’t hold up as well over time). 

3. It’s Harder To “Deck-check” In The Future

Installing a new layer of shingles over the top of the existing ones doesn’t require means you may never get a look at the true condition of the underlayment and decking underneath. 

That can be troublesome in the future, as any existing leaks, cracks or damage will only continue to get bigger and more prominent. And that means more trouble down the line.

4. It Becomes Harder To Trace Problems

Since an overlay will give you essentially two roofs, it also gives you two sources of damage and leaks. damages. Water can travel in between the layers and leak anywhere in the ceiling…but it can be impossible to find out exactly where that leak is actually coming from. 

5. There’s No Resale Value

If you’re getting your roof overlayed in anticipation of selling…there’s no added benefit in terms of resale value, and having a overlayment could be even be a negative in the mind of buyers…as any existing damage or leaks will make repair more difficult and maybe even require a premature roof replacement further down the road. And there’s usually no way to know until you’re putting your house on the market and consulting with realtors. 

Final Thoughts

A soundly built, solid roof is essential for your home’s integrity, and provides protection from extreme weather conditions. That’s why the decision between using the overlaying or tear-off techniques for your roof repairs should be taken so seriously, and you must make sure the long-term durability and quality of the roof outweigh the upfront price (or vice versa).

If you’re still stuck and need some help, don’t be afraid to reach for professional advice. Roofing repairs aren’t for the DIY handyman – even if that’s how you tend to do things. Your roof is arguably the most important component of your home and is definitely not a place you want to cut corners. 

So do your research and call the pros when necessary. Your roof, your home and your peace-of-mind will all thank you. 

TeamEstrellaAuthor posts

Juan del Leon is the owner of Estrella Roofing Company in Phoenix, Arizona. He has severed Arizona since 1997 with repair and installation services. Throughout the years he has gained knowledge of of the industry and utilizes his website as a place to blog about his experiences and share his expertise.

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