Archive for the ‘roofing’ Category

Help, I need a new roof!

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Replacing a roof on a home is a big investment.  How do you know which products will get you the best bang for your buck?  Who should you have install it?

 First you need to find the right contractor.  Just thumbing through the yellow pages and dialing the first name that jumps off the page is not going to cut it.  Find 3 or 4 local firms and start doing some research.  Does this company carry insurance in case someone gets hurt at my house?  Is this contractor licensed?  What happens if there is a rainfall during the process or removing my roof and my home is not protected?  What kind of warranty does this installer provide?

Poor installation can ruin a roof job.  Notice the joints of successive rows are in line with each other

Poor installation can ruin a roof job. Notice the joints of successive rows are in line with each other

Other more subtle questions that don’t often get asked might include “Does this guy really know what he is doing to my home?”  I have been to so many calls where a brand new roof is leaking, and it’s always the installation that causes the problem.

A good roofer can make the poorest of products work, but in the hands of a poor contractor that doesn’t understand what he is doing, even the best products will not perform.

The most important things you can do are to check references, check references, check references.  Ask the contractor for names and addresses of past clients so you can go see his work and talk to his customers.  What kind of work does he really do?  How does he treat customers?  How does he respond to warranty issues?  A little extra time and effort can save a lot of trouble later.


What about products?  Is one shingle better than another?  The market is flooded with different shingle types and manufacturers.  Shingles have come a long way from the tar blobs of the 70’s and the fiberglass curlers from the 80’s.  Today’s shingles now boast a combination of a fiberglass mat for tear strength and stability, and an asphalt additive which provides the water resistance and bonds the shingle together.  In addition to the actual product, you must consider the manufacturer behind them.  Is this company in good financial standing?  What happens if there is a problem 10 years down the road and this shingle company is out of business?  What kind of warranty does this company provide for their products?

I recommend CertainTeed Corporation®, an innovative company that has been around for quite awhile and appears to be staying put.  CertainTeed manufactures many types of building products and is an industry leader in shingle technology.  By first educating and then working with contractors, they provide a warranty that is second to none, and the best part of it is that it doesn’t cost the customer.

Generally homeowners are only concerned with two areas when it comes to putting on a roof:  the color and style of shingles.  However, a good roofer knows that the roof is comprised of more than just the shingles alone.  A roof system that will last the test of time must be designed and applied to shed water underneath the shingles, as if they weren’t even there; because guaranteed: water will find its way under the shingles.

In addition to providing contractors with the proper education to install a good roof system, CertainTeed also requires the use of quality underlayment products and flashing procedures.   Details like flashing, penetrations, ventilation, and ice dams, to name a few, can ruin a roof job and potentially other parts of the home if installed incorrectly.  Other manufacturers also carry similar warranty programs.  Make sure you select a certified contractor from the manufacturer where your shingles came from to receive the best warranty possible.

Three areas are key in deciding what product to use on your roof:  Quality, Cost, and Curb Appeal.  The better the curb appeal, the higher the cost.  The cheaper the shingle is, the more the quality will suffer for it.

Landmark Series 50 year Burnt Sienna

Landmark Series 50 year Burnt Sienna

CertainTeed provides several options for any homeowners taste.

 The Landmark Series® shingle is an architectural (often referred to as laminate or “fake shake”) line of shingles providing a good quality shingle at an affordable price.  As the name suggests, the shingle is comprised of two layers laminated to each other to provide a nice weighty shingle that has increased wind resistance and sealant capabilities.  The Landmark is available in 25 different colors and three different durations.

The cheapest shingle by far on the market today is the old style three tab or three in one, which was very popular from the late 40’s to the early 90’s when the architectural style began to take its place.  This shingle is thinner and has issues with wind resistance, particularly out in the country, because of its light weight and design.

Three Tab Shingles are becoming outdated.

Three Tab Shingles are becoming outdated.

We do not typically install these shingles unless we are matching an existing roof or have a special situation that requires their use.

 The Presidential style shingle is a very nice, heavy shingle that performs very well and promises great wind resistance capabilities and a long life.  The shingle is composed of three layers, giving it a meaty appearance with very stark profile contrast for enhanced aesthetics.  This heavier shingle will add cost both for the material and the more intensive installation cost.  The Presidential line comes in 14 color options.

In the past I have suggested to people to delay replacing their roof as long as they can to increase the relative longevity of the next roof, but in today’s fast changing and unstable market, that is no longer the case.

Presidential shingles have a distinct profile appearance

Presidential shingles have a distinct profile appearance

As fluctuations in the oil market drive costs, shingle prices continue to increase as well as other asphalt based products involved in building a home.  Any large investment in your home should pay you dividends down the road.  Taking a little time and effort to make good decisions now will benefit you in the long run.

Synthetic Felt

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The building industry is always coming out with new products to benefit both the homeowner and the builder.  Although most of them seem like a great idea at first, they all need to be tested – not just in a lab somewhere, but in the field where real professionals use them and real situations occur.  Only then can the potential of a product be fully realized.

We have been using felt paper (sometimes called black paper or shingle felt or underlayment or tar paper)  for a long time for a variety of uses.  We use it wherever a drainage plain needs to be established, such as behind siding in conjunction with flashing windows and doors and under shingles.  Felt paper is very reliable and has proven itself so for many, many years.  We have discovered what is considered modern day felt paper on homes built as far back as  the 1920’s and 30’s.  Felt paper has its own characteristics that must be considered in the building process.   Its advantages are obvious:  excellent water resistance, good tack and traction on inclined surfaces, easy to work with.  Some of its disadvantages are not so obvious:  It does not breathe well, it absorbs excess heat, it scuffs and marks other objects it comes in contact with, it does not resist wind well.

Felt paper wrinkled after a rainfall

Felt paper wrinkled after a rainfall


I recently discovered another disadvantage of felt paper when a customer called me to tell me his recently papered roof was leaking water.  This rainfall had occur ed during a project in which we were replacing the roof on the house.  We had torn all the shingles off and the felt paper was protecting the home until all the new shingles would be installed.  We take extreme care in making sure the home is watertight during this process for this very reason.  I don’t want to fix ceilings, and I don’t want the homeowner upset for any reason, especially not water coming into his home.  Now the leak was not bad, and it didn’t do any damage because I came over immediately and took care of the problem, but I was surprised at what I found: 

I first looked at the leak in the house.  There was some water dripping from the canister of a recessed light.  I then went onto the roof to find the location of the water leak.  I expected to see some torn felt paper, because we do not leave a job that is vulnerable to water damage.  We put more nails in the felt than the minimum required by the manufacturer, and we design the underlayment to drain as well as the shingles, so after checking the flashing around the chimney and a pipe vent, I found no reason for water to be coming in the house.  I proceeded to investigate the attic, where I discovered the problem.  There were probably 10-12 areas on the underside of the sheathing that were wet, some wet enough to be dripping water.  The leak in the can light had come from water soaking through the sheathing, falling into a joint between two sheets, and running down a rafter and onto the ceiling drywall and thus into the can light.  I was perplexed that so many spots were wet when the felt paper was not damaged or compromised in any way that I could see.   Back on the roof, I looked a little closer and could see what was going on.

I have never had this happen before, but after some careful thought, I had determined the cause.  The night before after we had applied the paper, it was smooth and dry.  In the later hours of the night we got a small shower – which did not leak into the house.  The shower did wrinkle the felt paper, as it does when it gets wet.  The next morning we received another small shower on top of the already wrinkled felt.  Instead of draining the water off, the wrinkles were causing the water to stop, pool up, and finally to run backward under the previous row of felt.  This roof was 4/12 pitch, which is common for a lot of ranch homes built 30 years ago, but it is not the best for roof drainage.  Many shingle manufacturers do not recommend applying their product to a pitch any shallower than this.  If this had been a steeper roof, this problem may not have happened.    It was so humid between the two showers that the felt could not dry out enough to smooth down some of the wrinkles, and the repeat shower caused the damage.  This was the first and the last time that felt paper will let me down in this situation.

Picture syn felt

Synthetic felt does not behave the same way as tar paper

There is another product that we have begun using that eliminates this problem from occurring.  It is called synthetic felt.  A smart alternative to felt, it is water’s toughest opponent, creating a secondary water barrier that reduces the incidence of leaks caused by storm damage, wind-driven rain, ice dams and worn roofing materials. It is a waterproof, synthetic polymer material that will protect your home against moisture intrusion.  There are several advantages to this product over felt:  it has a higher perm rating (breath-ability), it is much more wind resistant, it covers the roof faster because it comes in larger rolls and has a wider coverage, and it is much lighter and doesn’t leave a tar residue on anything it touches.  It also is a more stable product and does not wrinkle when it gets wet, so I have decided to use it to protect both the homes I work on and the relationships I have with the people who own those homes.

We make it a point to provide the best possible products and services to our valued customers and their homes.  If you are considering a roof and want a company that cares as much about every aspect of your roof as you do, give us the opportunity to provide you with a detailed quote.

Ice Dam Prevention

Friday, March 5th, 2010
Damage to Roof Sheathing from Ice Damming
Damage to Roof Sheathing from Ice Damming

Ice damming can occur on any home with a pitched roof.  Winter snow begins to melt from the heat escaping from the attic on the underside of the roof sheathing.  As it melts, water runs down the roof towards the eaves.  The portion of the roof that extends past the wall on the bottom of the roof (commonly known as the overhang) does not receive any of the heated air rising out of the attic, so the snow does not melt at this location.  When the water reaches this point, it becomes trapped and begins to cool, resulting in an ice dam.  As water begins to pool behind the dam, it will begin to rise until it has enough pressure to run backwards up the roof.  Shingles are designed to drain water runoff from one direction only.  When water reversed direction, there is not protection.  Water can get up under the shingles as it travels backward up the roof until it finds a relief where it will again descend the roof plane – but this time under the shingles.  This problem can not only happen at the eave location, but also in valleys, areas around protrusions such as pipes, skylights, and vents, and also at locations where the roof meets a wall.  Damage to the eave line can also be caused by gutters that have not properly been cleaned.  If eaves troughs are full of leaves and water can not get away, it will sit on the roof long enough to build pressure and find its way under the shingles.

Application of WinterGuard

Appliction of WinterGuard

We design our roof applications so they will handle any type of water infiltration.  The last layer of defence against the elements is the first layer applied to the sheathing, and it should drain as well as the top layer.  That is why it is so important to use a product like WinterGuard.   WinterGuard is a composite material of asphalt polymers, formed into a rolled sheet. The asphalt makes it vapor-tight, and the polymers make the asphalt elastic and sticky. This protective barrier is able to stretch and seal around nails driven through it. Placing WinterGuard a minimum of 24″ past the interior wall line at the eave provides the best line of defense against ice damming.  WinterGuard is warranted against manufacturing defects and to remain watertight for the same period as the warranty duration carried by the shingles applied above it — up to a maximum of 50 years.  This product can also be used under metal roofs and in other applications involving flashing details.

We use Winterguard as part of our underlayment process on a roof system, which is just as important as the shingles themselves.  Shingles are designed to shed water, but they are not waterproof.  When water does get underneath the asphalt, the sublayer must be able to handle it. 

Some sure signs that ice damming may be occurring:

  • Snow is melting but there is a line of ice or snow at the eaves that is not draining
  • Water is dripping out of the soffit or gutter
  • Shingles appear worn or faded on overhangs
  • Shingles have rolling humps or dips on eave line
  • Interior side of walls or ceilings have water damage under eaves

If you are concerned that ice damming is occurring on your home, give us a call and we will be glad to come out and make an inspection.