Seeing Red

As you look at the roof, the right portion has been pressure washed already, but the right portion not. You can also see that the butt edges of the shakes that have already been washed will need a quick zip over them with the stiff bristle brush. We don’t want to be too aggressive spraying up at these butt edges. Also notice there are a few small shingles under the bottom of the skylight flashing that we’ll have to re-nail. Plan on a little bit of that.

I was recently contracted by a long time homeowner in Newcastle, NH to go through the exterior of his home and look for problems and areas needing attention in anticipation of putting the home on the market in the spring time. He only spent a moment with me, just long enough to mention that he wished he could get the cedar roof replaced for less than $30,000. Then, he left me to evaluate the home and report back.

This assignment threatens me with an anxiety attack every time (fortunately, I’m not prone to anxiety attacks). I never want to tell clients that they have unexpected problems. This home happens to be just a touch over twenty years old, not an era renowned for fine craftsmanship.

Good news: Nothing more than a handful of rotten trimboards, seal the chimney, clean the moss and lichen build-up off the roof, and we’re home-free. I delight in reporting that the home was very well built.

So, we took care of the rotten trim, sealed the massive chimney, and treated the moss build-up with ‘Wet and Forget’. The problem was that the moss build-up was so entrenched that I estimated that it would not just wash away over time after this treatment.

The homeowner was really concerned about the roof, and rightly so. I eased his concerns a bit by stating that the cedar roof is actually in great shape and has another decade of life ahead. Buh-hut, I also had to offer that roofs, windows, and heating systems are the 3 big ticket items that either turn away prospective buyers or take $ out of the seller’s pocket. He agreed 100% and asked what I could do about it. “Well, we could pressure wash the roof. It would tear off the old and dead skin cells, so to speak, and reveal the beauty underneath. Let’s exfoliate your shingles!” The reason we could pressure wash his shingles is because they are California- Hand – Splits. They’re about twice as thick- and irregularly shaped- as regular cedar shingles. He jumped on board, and then one-upped me, “Then, we could spray the ‘Wet and Forget’ on the roof to prevent future build-up.”

Sounds enough like a winning plan, now we just have to execute. When wet, the roof is like a ‘Slip and Slide’. We would have to use roofing harnesses and walk it with the pressure washing wand to clean it. We started a pool to see how many times I would slip and eat cedar shingles on day 1. Only twice, and they weren’t half bad. It was actually pretty rewarding to turn a client’s old roof into a new roof. But, it was mind-numbing work.  Not that the work I do is rocket science, but every now and then it’s nice to have a non-cerebral day. I only wish I had chosen a better last song. The last song I listened to in the truck was Def Leppard, now stuck in my head like the guy in the x-ray that didn’t see the javelin coming.

This back side of the garage roof took me about 5 hours to wash. This is after drying.

On day 1, it took me 5 hours to pressure wash a section of roof measuring approximately 30 feet wide by 16 feet up. It took an additional hour and a half to spray it with the “Wet and Forget” to keep moss and lichens from building up again. Remember to test out which tip to use with the sprayer so you don’t tear apart the soft cedar, and try not to spray uphill too much, this could cause leaks, obviously. Also, keep in mind that cedar turns gray in the sun, no matter what. So if you’re thinking it’s going to look like brandy spankin’ new forever, you may want to rethink that.

This is the front side of the garage after washing. We usually ask clients to at least shut their car doors before pressure washing above.

If you’re thinking about doing a project like this, please remember that a bit of pre-planning can go a long way. Don’t let Def Leppard pour sugar on you all day long! Enjoy.

 

By John Bradshaw

A Great Trick Learned from a Master

When I was a younger apprentice and journeyman carpenter, I always tried to work for the finest craftsmen I could, even when it meant leaving money on the table. I’m fortunate to have had 3 years of learning from one of the best carpenters I’ve seen, Brian Leavitt. This simple trick is straight from him.

Repairing cedar shakes can be a little tricky and time consuming. They are woven and overlapped and it can be a real chore to dissect them in a manner so as to be able to weave new ones back in properly. I’m not going to get into all of the particulars for cedar shake repairs, just offer a tip.

Once upon a time I was working under the tutelage of Brian and weaving cedar shakes back together on a wall right at eye level on a deck that’s used for lots of entertaining. Brian said, “Do you know how to slip a new shake in under an existing one and nail it so you don’t see nails on the face of it?”

“No, I don’t.” And as a matter of fact, I thought he was messing with me (I am super gullable). How could this be? Sliding a new shake in underneath the course directly above it and no face nails? No way.

Photo #1- This is the new shake to be installed. I have access to nail the left side of the shake at this point, but can still illustrate the trick for hiding nails with the left side of this shake.

Photo #2

Yes way. As in Photo #2, you’ll start by holding the new shake about a quarter of an inch lower than the rest of the same course of shakes you are trying to continue. Next, use some small tool like the mini pry-bar I used to hold out the existing shake that sits over the face of the new one to be nailed. Then, start your stainless siding nail up at a slight angle and as far up under the existing shake as you can. Drive the nail flush with the face of the shake. Use a nail set to help if needed.

When you finish the steps illustrated in photo #2, you’ll have what looks like photo #3. From here, all you have to do is hold a block of wood to the bottom edge of the new shake and tap it up with your hammer until the shake sits in line with the rest of the course as in photo #4.

Photo #3

Photo #4

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are now ready to abandon the old method of face nailing repaired cedar shakes, at least in high visibility spots. There are a couple of other things to take note of, though. First, this repair will be 100% complete when the cedar shakes are pressure washed to all match and hide the fact that any work was ever done. Second, the understanding of how to look at a cedar shake and determine which is the face and which face to nail to the wall is a dying, yet simple art that you should know.

Photo #5- Left face should be facing out.

In photo #5 the camera is looking down the butt edge of a shake. As seen here, the cup faces to the right. That means that the two edges of the piece of wood already curl to the right side forming a “cup”. We always install shakes so that the cup faces the wall. So from this view, the face on the right will face the wall. This is in anticipation of future wood movement. When wood gets wet and dries out, it cups to the side that it dries to. That means that a cedar shake’s 2 edges will turn away from the wall and cup toward the sun. If the shake was installed so that the cup was already facing that way, then this new movement will have such an impact on the shake that it will very likely split and cause the shake above it to pull away and move and just start it’s decline. This is very easy to avoid with just a fraction of a second of extra effort to look at the shake before installing it. You may now proceed well armed for battle, thanks to Brian.

 

By John Bradshaw

 

Timeless Solution to Age Old Problem

Know anybody with wooden gutters? Chances are they enjoy talking about the character and beauty of them, but don’t want the conversation to sway towards the

Rye Beach NH contractor

This was from my initial assessment of the home.

maintenance of them. They do have many checkmarks in the “pros” column for the aesthetic appeal, but each “pro” is also offset but a baneful “con”.

I was referred to these particular homeowners in Rye, NH to replace rotten eave trim and porch trim before having their house painted. Upon arrival I asked the homeowner what his wishes were and what his analysis was, since they have owned the home for 26 years. I then applied this perspective and my professional perspective as I walked the exterior of the house, took measurements and

Home repair Rye NH

This was the typical rotten trim we were asked to estimate. Clearly we were going to have to replicate some ornamental brackets.

pictures, and made notations. I returned to discuss my findings and display pictures with the homeowner. I told him that we could certainly replace all of the rotten trimwork, replicate a couple of the decorative cornice brackets, and tighten things up ahead of a paint job. Unfortunately, I also had to gently disclose that it seemed clear that the wooden gutters were causing the rot all around the home, and it was likely to continue. I asked what his thoughts were about this and he

Wood gutter repair

It can’t be good when my chubby finger can fit into the joint.

remarked, “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that rot is just going to continue to be a problem.” These particular homeowners are very intelligent and do an outstanding job trying to maintain the integrity of the home. I feel as though this response was a result of decades of conditioning by previous contractors stating exactly that. I also had to gently state that I didn’t share this same viewpoint with regards to this specific example, and that after providing a detailed proposal for replacing the rotten wood trim, I would also research to find a winning solution for conquering the age old wooden gutter problem.

By looking at these pictures, you can see that the gutters are placed over the fascia board, but starting to pull away. This creates a wonderful alternative for water seeking to hide. All of the joints in the gutters have separated like Heidi Klum and Seal, no chance of getting back together.

Wood gutter repair Rye, NH

Water definitely should not be allowed behind this gutter.

Compounding the problems greatly, one of my predecessors decided to resolve the issue of gutters pulling away by supporting them with another layer of wood trim applied to the fascia underneath the gutter, and then sealed it together with caulking and paint. While this looked terrific from the ground, it didn’t work out so well from a “water management” perspective. All of the moisture that ran behind the gutter was sealed in with no place to go. Of course it rotted the trimwork, layer by layer. If all this wasn’t bad enough, some of the original downspouts were eliminated and patched over for aesthetic reasons. Fine, except that the gutter still pitched in that direction and now the water would sit there until it evaporated. Another detail requiring attention was where the gutter sections butted into the exterior walls and siding. There was no endcap sealed on to the butt end of the gutter, nothing to protect the wall from this moisture. I showed the homeowner all of these pics and more, so he could see why I felt it deserved attention.

Finding the winning solution wasn’t so easy. I spent 2 full days talking with other building professionals, talking to the local suppliers of gutter and roofing products, in professional chatrooms, and spending countless hours poring through Google search results. The end result: There was no ready made solution. I was going to have to create one. We could have copper manufactured and soldered to be seamless in place, for over $8,000. Or we could use white rubber roofing and lead for ½ the price.

In order for the gutter to hold the water and direct it properly into the downspouts, we had to ensure that the white rubber roofing liner would be tucked all the way up under the roof-line. Then, we had to find a way to seal the rubber roofing to the top edge of

Wood gutter repair

Time to start putting things back together.

the gutter, where it wouldn’t be seen from the ground. By nailing the lead to the gutter, it gave us a nice, clean, smooth, and impermeable surface to bond the rubber roofing to… for all eternity, ahh, ahh, ahh. But, there was one more critical task we were going to ask the lead to perform. We needed to create a “drip edge” on the outside face of the gutter for overflow water to drip off of, rather than submit to it’s surface tension

Wood gutter lining Rye, NH

Installing the rubber membrane under the roof drip edge and sticking to the gutter and the lead at the top edge of the gutter. All edges will need to be sealed with lap sealant engineered for rubber roofing membranes.

and run all the way down the face of the building components. We did this by adding a

Wood gutter liner

The finished product isn’t so glamorous up close, but looks great from the ground.

spacer to the top outer edge of the gutter and then hanging the lead slightly lower than it. We also added 3 new downspouts where the demand required.

I’m 100% certain that Meticulous Remodeling had not just boldly gone where no man has gone before, but proud of our extra effort and craftsmanship, nonetheless.

 

By John Bradshaw

Wood trim repair Rye Beach, NH

Instead of using solid cedar which would crack and split, we used weatherproof glue to join cedar boards for a more stable product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home repair Rye, NH

This is the finish painted product as seen from the ground. You may notice the unpainted lead at the top edge. Also, the bracket on the left is a new one.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, If You Must Patch a Roof…

fixing roof leaksWhile, unfortunately increasingly rare amongst tradesmen, I find it to be fundamentally sound to properly overlap all building materials so that gravity always carries the water out over the face of the building. There are, however, occasions when that is not practical. One of my regular customers in the historic waterfront district of South Portsmouth has a weather mast at the top of his roof. The weather mast collects data and sends it to a beautiful mahogany display that he fixing roof leaksfixing roof leaksfix roof leaksfixing roof leaksfixing roof leakscreated inside the home. The problem is that the rubber boot that seals around the base of the copper weather mast has dried out, cracked, and opened up to begin letting water in the building.

Strict adherence to the principle of properly overlapping building materials would dictate that the weather mast roof boot has to be replaced. We would have to install a new one to seal around the pipe and be overlapped in with the shingles. There is a problem in this case. Unlike a simple pvc vent pipe, we could not simply slide the new boot down over the pipe. So, should we cut the copper pipe and re-solder it after the boot has been installed? Well that’s not a practical solution either. The mast has lots of wiring running down inside of it. Alright, fine, I give up. Let’s just smear a bunch of roof tar over it and call it a day, right? WRONG!

Roof tar has decent adhesion properties, but it dries out and become brittle very quickly with uv exposure. In this case in particular, that would be a big problem. The weather mast moves a fair amount with the wind. The solution must be flexible enough to withstand this and still perform.

So what is the solution? We use a new breed of caulking. It is bad-posterior side. So, we just smear this bad-posterior caulking on the roof boot, right? Negative. The caulking has amazing adhesion, flexibility, and resistance to breaking down with uv exposure. But, it’s only as good as the substrate it’s bonding to. In this case, the substrate (roof boot) is cracked and brittle. The caulking alone would make this 100% better, but still not 100% good. The solution is to smear a layer of the caulking to the roof boot (time to get messy). Then, cut 2 strips of fiberglass mesh cloth to wrap around the boot and the base of the pipe. These cloth strips are well smeared down into the base of caulking, making sure to smear more caulking over the first cloth strip before overlapping the second cloth strip onto it. It is really critical to make sure to smear the cloth in to the caulking completely. Make sure that the caulking and cloth extend from the aluminum portion of the roof boot, over the rubber portion of the boot, and onto the copper pipe with excellent adhesion. Essentially, we’re looking to bridge over and re-inforce the rubber boot. The final steps are to spread a layer of Geocel brushable liquid caulking over the assembly. This can only be done in layers up to 1/32” thick. After a couple of days to allow the first layer to cure, we’ll add a second layer to provide maximum protection.

The time to complete this repair was one hour. The materials cost about $35. Because we’re relying on caulking, etc., we’ll recommend inspecting it every few years and touching up as necessary, but we feel very confident that we just added another life to this roof boot and saved the homeowner a bunch of dough.

 

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