The Most Common Roof Error I See

Photo #1- This home in Portsmouth features an outside corner to the immediate left of the trash barrel that is exactly the scenario most likely to be done wrong. The inside corner that’s just a touch up the roofline is also a common culprit.

Photo #2- If you click on this image to enlarge it, you will see there is a gap between the copper step flashing going up the roof line and the horizontal copper apron flashing.

You may have learned by now that I’ve never been known for brevity. This blog post, however, should buck that trend a little bit. Why? Simple, because this common error is very easy to identify and resolve. So easy, in fact, that it doesn’t make much sense why these things are almost never done properly in the first place.

The scenario is this: Any time an out side wall corner or an inside wall corner comes down to intersect with a roof plane, assume it’s not flashed properly. Now, this does not mean that it leaks, necessarily. It may not leak due to a proper insurance layer of ice and water shield underneath the shingles. Conversely, the lack of water signs inside the corresponding portion of the home does not mean that it is not leaking. Wood, especially real wood as opposed to “particle board”, has the ability to absorb water, and then dry out. This can happen over and over again, as long as it can dry out. Or, The initial plywood and framing components that are coming in contact with the water that is infiltrating are sometimes not able to properly dry out, and thus rot. The components that lay below these “first absorbers” will get wet, but not necessarily beyond their saturation point. If the lower levels of wood are absorbing the water without exceeding their saturation point, the water may never make it to the drywall layer to display to the homeowner that damage is being done. This explains how a home can be taking on water without showing signs of it on the drywall, for instance.

Photo #3- Just a simple piece of lead flashing to transition between the planes.

What is the error at these corner/roof intersections that is causing these problems? Well, the lack of incorporating nice, wonderful, beautiful, malleable lead flashing into the mix. Am I in love with lead? Maybe just a trifle, but hey, what’s not to love? Standard aluminum step flashing runs up the abutting cheek wall that the roof shingles butt into. And aluminum can sometimes also be used to flash the siding down over the roofing at those wall planes that run parallel with the shingles. But what aluminum cannot ever do is to turn that corner seamlessly. Lead, however, has the ability to hit all these multiple planes seamlessly. Mmmmmmmmm.

Photo #4- This is a home in Hampton. Look how easy this stuff is to spot, yet home inspectors rarely pick up on it, even though this home has stained drywall in the garage underneath.

Photo #5- See the close-up of the hole there. Simple to identify a lack of lead.

It’s comical the things that I sometimes see. I will pull apart these layers to correct and end up seeing layer after layer after layer after layer of aluminum flashing. Each one torn right at the crux of the corner, every time. So, the predecessor’s solution for recognizing that the flashing was tearing: Keep throwing more layers at it. Awesome.

These are flaws that are easy to identify, simple to fix yourself if you’re comfortable on a roof, or inexpensive (unless there is widespread rot) to hire a professional to solve. It may only cost $200- $300 to un-weave some shingles, remove a corner board, install some lead flashing, install a new corner board, and weave the shingles back in. The most difficult challenge you may face might be finding the professional that knows how and when to incorporate lead flashing. Here’s a catchy little reminder when vetting a repair contractor: Find someone with a passion for flashin’. No. I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon.

I must leave you with one last tidbit of information. I mentioned that aluminum can usually be a good flashing choice for the planes that don’t need to wrap around a corner. When it’s not a suitable choice is when there is copper in the vicinity. Copper is ranked higher on the Galvanic Scale of Nobility and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, copper and water runoff from copper interact with aluminum and cause the aluminum to rot right out. That’s also why aluminum is no longer acceptable to use as a deck flashing, because pressure treated lumber is treated with copper. Now you’re prepared to go tackle this one, safely of course.

 

 

By John Bradshaw

 

 

Simple Roof Upgrades to Stop Chronic Leaks

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Not long ago I was asked to consult the realtor in charge of obtaining proposals for removing a steeple and re-roofing a church in Rochester. He had obtained many bids and there was quite a big price difference between the top and bottom. I looked the project over, took pictures, measured it, and analyzed what a winning game plan might be. Then, I looked at all the proposals. One of the proposals stood out for its outstanding warranty. It was from a roofing contractor that I know of to be very reputable and skilled. There was a common theme amongst all the proposals, though: They all included the bare minimum to meet code.

Fix leaky roof

This is the bottom of the troubled valley. It’s clearly been repaired, heat tape added for ice dam solution, and notice gutter right down onto the roof plane.

proper metal valley

This is the properly installed open metal (aluminum) valley. Notice we cut back the gutter to allow drainage.

Normally, that may not be a problem. In this case, my professional advice was that this approach was narrow-minded. As soon as you climbed on the roof, it was plain to see that they had chronic ice dam and water infiltration problems. The 2 valleys had been pulled apart and re-done, and the front one still had electric heat wire in it to mitigate ice damming. Furthermore, the gutter at the bottom of the valley butted right into the adjacent roof plane, preventing water from clearing under it. I determined that this roof required a small heaping of extra effort to ensure problem free performance for another generation.

finished roof

This is the finished roof project. You can see the construction storage trailer that we used throughout to keep the site super clean at the end of each day.

I suggested to the pastor that he choose the roofing contractor with the great reputation and warranty, but request some adjustments to the proposal. I suggested he ask for Certainteed architectural shingles instead of Iko. Iko shingles don’t hold up nor do they stand behind their warranty, in my experience. I recommended stipulating Grace brand ice and watershield or other non-granular surface product, and I also recommended extending the ice and water shield protection 9’ up the roof line instead of the minimum 6’. This will be absolutelynecessary during heavy snowfall years to avoid water damage from ice dams. Finally, I recommended installing 2 open metal valleys. This would convert the valley from a liability that promotes ice damming to an asset that helps clear ice dams. The open metal valleys really allow water to run and heat up and melt ice in subfreezing weather if the sun hits it.

The pastor said that all of those items were exactly in lock step with what one of his engineer parishioners had recommended. Because his confidence in me was high, he asked me if I would provide a number for the roof project. When I provided a detailed proposal that was $4,000 less than the nearest competitor it was a done deal. Take a look at the finished product.

 

By John Bradshaw