Summer is one of the busiest times in the real estate market and many families are trying to purchase their new home and move before their kids go back to school. With all of the considerations there are when buying a house, it may be tempting to assume the whole house is in great condition, as well as the roof. But it's best to take some time and get inspections by professionals, especially on the roof as it's one of the expensive parts of a house to replace. Here's a few things to look for when you're house shopping.
How old is the roof?
The best way to know if a roof is in good condition is if you can ask the homeowner or if this information is on the seller's disclosure form. If you can't get this information, in a case where perhaps the current owner is not the original purchaser of the home, you may want to get a structural inspection from a professional. Even if the roof looks new, a roofing company may have just shingled over previous damaged roofing materials instead of replacing the whole thing.
What type of material is the roof?
Composite shingles are one of the most common types of roofing materials. Roofs made of composite shingles are usually very durable and do not require a lot of maintenance. A composite shingle roof that was properly installed at the start will last a very long time. If your roof has a roof made from another type of material, for example tin, tile or cedar shingles, these may require more work to maintain them. If you're buying a home with a roof made of another material besides composite, get the condition of your roof inspected and find out what the annual cost of the roof maintenance will be.
One of the biggest problems that can happen if your roof is not in good shape is water leaking into your house. A small water leak can cause big damage to the interior walls and ceilings. Look at all interior roofs and walls and ask any about any signs of water damage. A roof leak can come from gutters, valleys, plumbing vents, and many other sources.
Other Roof Considerations
A few other items to consider are mold, attic ventilation, and downspouts, just to name a few. Mold can build up on the roof, and it's not always going to be black in color. Also, if the home previously had mold buildup and the owner fixed it, they may not have addressed the source of the mold. When looking at the home, review if there is proper attic ventilation, as improper ventilation can damage your roof from the inside. And always consider whether gutters are draining properly and directing water where it should go. You want all water to drain away from your home instead of seeping directly into the ground around it.
These are just a few tips to help you when you're looking for your new home. If you are uncomfortable, call a roofing professional for advice or an inspection. The cost of an inspection before you purchase a new home will be well worth the money spent in the long run.
When it comes time to preparing bids, I really like a homeowner that wants to make the best decision, not just the cheapest roof they need for their house. A homeowner that is planning on living in that house for the foreseeable future, and not just dressing it up to sell, flip, or other short-term gain. These are homeowners that understand that short term cost decisions have long-term ramifications; and that saving money today may well not be saving money in the long run.
And the most common question, should I upgrade my shingles to 50-year shingles (depending on manufacturer, these might be called 50-year, plus, premium, lifetime, or perhaps other marketing terms)? When they are looking at a baseline of Architectural shingles, we tend to think in terms of 30-year life. They understand that a good roof is expensive, so why not pay a little more now for upgraded materials if it means longer life, no hassle in the future (do you plan to be alive in 50 years?), and understanding that the cost of the roof is more than just the cost of the materials as it includes labor, equipment, trucks for my crew, insurance for my workers, etc.
While I am typically criticized for my answer, most people are surprised when I recommend not upgrading from a 30-year architectural shingle. As a reputable Lees Summit roofing contractor, I want to make sure I'm doing the best I can for my customers. Sure, those upgraded shingles do look nicer, and if you were to see two houses, side-by-side, you could probably pick out the homeowner that spent a bit and cared enough to upgrade.
I base my recommendation on a couple of factors, and I will prepare subsequent blogs to provide more information. Here in tornado, hail, ice and snow, and high summer UV country in the Midwest, we will never get 30 years out of a 30-year shingle. Longer life shingles haven’t really been tested in the real world. A new roof qualifies for a significant insurance discount (check with your agent). And if you are going to invest in your house (a new roof is a significant investment, your house is likely your largest single investment) you want to be assured of payback on that investment.
DIY-capable homeowners do their research. They select the best products, they shop for the best prices. Certainly warranty of the underlying material is part of what drove you to selecting your roofing materials. A new roof is a significant investment with a long life (30-50 years on asphalt shingles). A good warranty could save you a bundle, in the event there are problems in the future.
However, the manufacturer’s warranty only covers manufacturing defects in the roofing material itself. Architectural shingles may well include a Lifetime limited warranty from manufacturing defects to the original homeowner. This may even be transferrable to the next subsequent homeowner (if you sell your house). However note that this is shingles only, many other materials (read the under the shingles series) do not have the same warranty.
More importantly, this warranty doesn’t cover two (2) items:
Asphalt roofing companies operate high-technology manufacturing plants; the risk of manufacturing defects is very low; hence why they can offer generous warranties. At the same time, manufacturers are very aggressive in inspecting the roof prior to providing warranty coverage and have identified that most causes of “warranty” claims are due to the installer’s workmanship, and not the material itself. I have seen situations of delaminating shingles where the manufacturer simply dropped a handful of new bundles on the driveway and left. So while you may think you have limited-Lifetime coverage, you may have nothing.
What can you do to protect yourself? As a professional roofing contractor in business for over 20 years, and with intent to stay in business and service my customers longer, I provide warranty coverage against any errors in workmanship. In addition, I am “Installer Certified” for several lines of asphalt shingles that I install; the manufacturer’s warranty includes a reasonable labor or installation cost to repair or replaced manufacturing defects in these situations.
One of the biggest motivations of DIY is saving money. Make sure you understand the limitations of the manufacturer’s warranty. More importantly though, make sure you don’t try to spend dollars to chase dimes. By that I mean, don’t try to save money on your roof by DIY if you think you will have warranty coverage later. And with your house as your most significant investment, do you really want to risk your first line of defense against the weather to trying to save a few dollars? You likely have other home improvements you would like to focus on; leaving roofing to the roofing professionals will enable you to undertake these other projects, and know that you have warranty coverage for installation and workmanship errors as well as labor in the situation of manufacturer’s defect.
This is one of the great advantages professionals bring. We work with our tools every day, so we invest in quality tools and they pay us back. Of course this is one of the greatest advantages of DIY jobs too; with the money you save you want more tools. This is a universal of DIY-motivated homeowners => tools are good and more tools are better!!!
But it isn’t just the tools. You need to understand how to use those tools to get the most out of them. Every time you put a new tool in your hand, there is a learning curve.
A hammer, a Roofing Utility Knife, and a Hack Saw will get you a long way. You could hammer every nail, and old timers certainly did it this way before pneumatic tools, but then there is skill to hammering nails as well (keep them straight, don’t smack your thumb, don’t underdrive the nails, and don’t damage the shingles). Back to some basic math though, a typical roof is 30-squares, each square is 3-bundles, each bundle is 20-shingles, and each shingle takes 4-6 nails (this depends on roof slope and prevailing wind considerations) – this is right around 10,000 nails. Have fun with that.
Again though, DIY jobs are about opportunity to buy a new tool. For a job you are going to do once, you are probably shopping at the discount tool supplier. Let me caution you to NOT do this; good tools are worth the investment. If you are going to nail 10,000 nails, you will appreciate the difference by the end of the job.
Sure, you need a pneumatic coil nailer. Now you need an air compressor too. Are you going to be doing this by yourself, because if you have friends helping you (and those are GOOD friends), you need more nailers and you need a bigger air compressor.
But it isn’t just the tools either. If you set the pressure to your air compressor too low, you will be finish hammering every nail in. If you set the pressure to your air compressor too high, you will damage shingles and have to replace them. If you don’t hold that nailer perpendicular to the roof, you won’t drive nails straight and this again damages shingles. Sure, this isn’t brain surgery, but it isn’t something you pick up and use perfectly the first time either.
And this is simply a single tool you need. Professional roofing contractors bring many other tools to the job, all professional grade, and more importantly we aren’t learning to use new tools on your roofing job.
Alright, if the story in the last blog post in this series didn’t deter your from DIY, at least you have learned to avoid a pitfall. You aren’t going to fall into that trap and focusing solely on lowest delivered price. You are certainly not going to shop at DIY-friendly big box stores, but you know you need to research where the professional roofing contractors shop and ordering your materials appropriately. You might pay a little bit more, you might pay a little bit less, but delivery to your roof => when you aren’t carrying it up the ladder this is priceless.
Next up, roofing looks pretty simple. And if you got the Taunton Press Books I recommended, you have a Standard Operating Procedure of sorts. And these are widely considered some of the best source materials for DIY, so it isn’t me trying to mislead you.
However let me ask you a couple of questions about your profession. I will first assume you are an expert in your field. If I ask you, and five (5) other experts in your field the same question, am I likely to get the same answer? I have a friend who is a Civil Engineer, and he tells me that if you ask five (5) Civil Engineers the same question you are likely to get ten (10) different answers. He will also tell you engineers are pretty dysfunctional like that though.
My point is, you read that Taunton Press Book that was the compilation from Fine Homebuilding Magazine. The authors are all experts in their field, these articles are edited for quality, accuracy, and value to the readers of Fine Homebuilding. And yet in that book, there are at least four (4) ways delineated as “best method” to flash a valley. All published at different times, and all published from different geographic areas. So what is different? Different experiences, perhaps due to different timing of learning or due to geographic considerations? If you are a DIY-capable homeowner, you wouldn’t be expected to be an expert in the field. You are researching to save money, get better quality, pride in your work, or maybe a bit of all three (3). What you don’t have are lessons from experience.
For the record, in my service area (southern Jackson County Missouri) you will find that most roofing professional contractors use an open-valley technique with factory paint finished aluminum flashing. Thicker is better (up to a point), but aluminum is soft, easy to form, and holds its shape so is a DIY-friendly material. Make sure you lap it correctly, and use high quality caulk where necessary. There are exceptions though, and these exceptions are based on specific roofs.
And if we can’t agree on even basic roof valleys, just imagine how our disagreements escalate when talking about more complex roofing details.
A roof is your first line of defense for your most valuable asset. What are the ramifications of not understanding the different potential solutions to a common roof detail such as a valley? Roof leaks? This isn’t the same as mixing your joint compound too thick and having to spend extra time sanding your new sheetrock wall in your man cave, or having to use an extra coat of paint to get good paint coverage. The consequences here are much greater than time or labor.
Roofing is heavy material, and the amount of lifting should not be discounted. Even a basic 20-year 3-tab shingle weighs 225-lbs/square (a square is 100 square feet of roof). A typical roof in my Kansas City roofing service area in Kansas City is 25-30 squares. For 3-tab shingles, it takes 3 bundles/square, so each bundle is just shy of 80-lbs. Most of my customers opt for architectural shingles, and these weigh more but you should always just plan on approximately 100-lbs/bundle. If you like designer series asphalt roofing, we can easily exceed 450-lbs/square. Let’s do some quick math; assuming a 30-square roof, you are easily moving 7,000-lbs. to 14,000-lbs. of just roofing shingles. This doesn’t account for underlayment (60 lbs./roll for 30-lb. felt).
Rather than expound on the amount of labor is here, I am going to tell an amusing story about one of my neighbors (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent). A very accomplished DIY person who was convinced that roofing was within his skillset (a good assumption). As a good DIY researcher, he researched options, made decision, and then went shopping for the cheapest delivered price. His roof was a bit larger than typical, roughly 35-squares. When this was delivered, his roofing materials was unloaded on a pallet and the pallet placed just in front of his garage door, which happened to be the center of a two-car garage opening. Please note that this was roughly 105-bundles of roof shingles, I will leave the rest of the materials out of the weight calculations.
This was over 9,000-lbs of asphalt shingles. So how did that roofing get from his driveway to the roof? Over his shoulder, up a ladder, one bundle at a time. Each bundle weighed 90-lbs. He was up and down that ladder 105 times just to get asphalt shingles from where the store delivered them to a place he could use them. All because he did his research and saved money be using the lowest delivered price. How much was his time worth? How much time did he have invested before he even opened a shingle pack and started nailing? And once on the roof, he still had to distribute the packs to where he was installing them, so it wasn’t simply up and down the ladder carrying 90-lbs every time.
On the other hand, professional roofers pay extra for rooftop delivery. Rooftop delivery takes special equipment, and these roofing suppliers generally serve professionals only. My roofing supplier will sell to DIYs, but it is up to the DIY to find the suppliers that cater to professionals, and not DIYs. And the cost for this service, to professionals that do repeat business? Sure I can order ground-drop delivery, but rooftop delivery is generally only $10-20 dollars more, although I do have to accommodate their schedule as not every truck is equipped for this.
This is certainly a pitfall of DIY roofing that isn’t explained in any books.
In previous blog topics, I identified what a sheathing or roof deck is, and different materials that may be used. The last topic on sheathing and roof decks components related to Panel Edge Clips; these are also commonly called H-clips and Panel Sheathing Clips depending on how each specific manufacturer markets them.
Panel Edge Clips are installed on panel edges (either OSB or plywood) at the half-way point between the rafters. This clips adjacent panels together and allows for load distribution between panels. This provides a lot of stiffness at what would otherwise be an unsupported edge. In a previous blog on sheathing or roof deck, I identified that both plywood and OSB panels need to be installed with a gap; the Panel Edge Clips provide a uniform gap.
From a roofing contractor perspective, I really like Panel Edge Clips because the stiffness allows the sheathing or roof deck to remain flat, especially at the panel transitions. As asphalt roof shingles telegraph imperfections in the sheathing or roof deck, eliminating imperfections is critical.
Unfortunately, if your house was not built using Panel Edge Clips they cannot be retrofitted even with a full tear-off of all roofing materials; they can only be installed as the sheathing or roof deck is installed. If I am replacing sheathing or roof deck over a large part of your roof (perhaps as you recover from storm damage), At Williams Roofing & Construction, I always recommend Panel Edge Clips as I find that one or two boxes are all that is needed and the benefits clearly outweigh the minor cost increase in terms of both performance and appearance of the finished product. If I am replacing only a handful of damaged panels, the retrofit opportunity to use Panel Edge Clips really doesn’t present itself.
In a previous blog topic, I identified what a sheathing or roof deck is, and identified that it is commonly plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). I am going to delve a bit deeper; what is OSB and why is it superior to wood planks? Also what makes OSB different than plywood?
OSB is relatively new to the building market, coming only into common construction uses, including sheathing or roof deck, since approximately 2000.
While plywood is made up of several plies that are veneered and glued together with wood grain oriented in specific directions, OSB is specifically engineered and made up of wood strands hot compressed with adhesive. While those strands may look random, the directions of the strands are strictly controlled in the manufacturing process. Plywood may have 5-7 layers; OSB may have 50 layers. In the plywood blog I identified that the plies in different directions increase the strength of plywood vs. wood planks, with OSB this benefit is magnified somewhat as the engineering and manufacturing controls can result in product where the strands are oriented in many more directions. For structural grade plywood, we already identified that there could be knots and defects, and this could result in voids internal to plywood sheet where you cannot inspect the product. OSB is compressed and will have no voids; further demonstrated by OSB weight (a sheet of OSB will weigh more than the same size sheet of plywood). Since OSB is a more highly processed and engineered product, it will be more consistent than plywood.
As with structural grade plywood, since OSB used as sheathing and roof deck will be covered, appearance doesn’t matter. Which is a good thing, OSB does not have an attractive finished surface. It was engineered as a structural product though, and for that purpose it works admirably. As a specifically engineered product serving a specific purpose, it is definitely superior to wood planks.
In a previous blog topic, I identified what a sheathing or roof deck is, and identified that it is commonly plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). I am going to delve a bit deeper; what is plywood and why is it superior to wood planks? Which do roofing companies prefer to use?
Have you ever seen a Martial Arts demonstration that included breaking wood planks? Perhaps using feet, hands, or even their head? Have you ever inspected the planks themselves? It is easier to split a board with the grain than it is across the grain. Had those boards been cut differently, the Martial Arts demonstration might look somewhat different. Wood structures and wood furniture take advantage of this strength as the any loads or forces acting on the wood support the load itself. However for sheathing or roof decking, what is the direction of the force acting on the wood planks?
Plywood is made up of many thin “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together. Each “ply” is laid out so that the grain is oriented in a different direction. This is called “cross-graining”, and among other things it contributes to dimensional stability, reduced potential to split when nailed close to the edges, and makes the strength of the panel consistent across multiple directions. The thin layers result in a product that is stronger than a single layer of wood, even if the single layer of wood may be thicker. These factors taken together are why plywood is superior to wood planks as a sheathing or roof deck material.
Plywood is graded based on appearance and defects in the plies. For sheathing and roof deck plywood, since it will be covered by roofing materials to the outside and not visible to the inside, the important issue is structural and not appearance. There is no need to purchase Grade A (surface veneers free from all defects) and instead we use CDX (face has knots, defects, not appearance grade, not sanded). CDX is some pretty rough appearance plywood, but for a structural purpose it is more than sufficient. The important factor for sheathing or roof deck uses is that the plywood be exterior grade.
Now then, next time I see a Martial Arts demonstration that involves breaking wood planks, I want to slip in a plank or two made of plywood. That will result in quite the headache…
As a roofing contractor, I field a lot of questions about different components of a roof. Enough so that I think a series of blog topics to educate on all the parts would be useful for my prospective clients (and honestly for any homeowner, even if you don’t call me). Let me know if you find these useful.
Asphalt shingles need to be installed over continuous wood decking; this wood decking is commonly referred to as sheathing or roof deck. In the ancient past, this may have been wood planks. However plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) have long since replaced wood planks, and as engineered wood products these are both superior options to wood planks. When we say, “They don’t build them like they used to,” in this situation I must admit the buildings are superior with engineered wood as the roof deck.
Asphalt shingles are flexible and will telegraph any imperfections in the roof sheathing itself. The most common areas of imperfections in roof sheathing take place at the joints. Plywood or OSB come in four (4) foot by eight (8) foot sheets; these will have much fewer joints than wood planking, greatly reducing potential for imperfections at the roof joints.
Wood is what is known as a “hygroscopic” material => this means that variations in relative humidity can impact its dimensions. As moisture content in the air increases (high humidity), the wood sheathing can absorb some of this water from the air, and this causes the wood to swell and the dimensions increase. As moisture content in the air decreases (low humidity), the wood sheathing will dry out and this causes the wood to shrink and the dimensions to decrease. The wood sheathing is exposed in the attic space; a properly vented roof will have the wood sheathing exposed to whatever seasonal weather fluctuations occur. In my service area of Jackson County, Missouri, our seasonal fluctuations are significant and range from very cold dry air in the winter to very hot humid air in the summer. And if you have a roof leak, the sheathing is exposed directly to water and not simply humidity in the air, making this problem even worse. While any individual component of the roof sheathing dimension may change only marginally; over a space as large as your roof the changes are cumulatively significant. With our local climate, a 4x8 sheet of plywood or OSB may expand and contract as much as 1/8 inch. This expansion and contraction itself leads to imperfections in the roof sheathing that will telegraph through the asphalt shingles.
To compensate for this, when roof decking is installed it includes gaps to account for the seasonal fluctuations. This is usually measured and consistent by using the shank of a nail used to secure the roof sheathing as a guide. I already identified that the most common areas of roof imperfections occurs at the joints, and here we are required to make imperfect joints to account for the wood to expand and contract, so minimizing joints is important.
In addition, both plywood and OSB are much more dimensionally stable than wood planks. Wood planks, when they were used, had to have larger gaps. Again, imperfections at the joints are where asphalt shingles will telegraph imperfections in the roof sheathing; wood planks have many more joints and the joints are larger. They don’t build them like they used to, and as a roofing contractor I am certainly glad they don’t!!!
We are an experienced Lees Summit roofing company with over 15 years experience in repair, service and installation.