Measurement is usually an exact science; it’s why we do it twice

Joe Nelson of Eco Roof London constructs a frame that will bear a new steel roof on a home in London, Ontario on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. . DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Today we examine case No. 622, titled “Measure twice, order once,” involving a Mr. Joaquin D. Aster, aka the “walking disaster.”

Actually, Mr. Aster’s life isn’t so disastrous, but it is riddled with errors, errors that could be avoided by implementing a few procedural changes in his lifestyle.

Essentially, Joaquin is a risk taker, and for example, consistently walks into the grocery store without a written list. As a result, he always forgets the butter. Remembering milk and bread is easy, but without a list, forgetting to pick up the butter, unless you see it in someone else’s cart, is practically a given.

Coincidentally, Mr. Aster refuses to get the gas gauge fixed on his automobile, relying simply on whether the car feels heavy or not, and predicts the daily forecast based on the severity of his nasal condition.

To know one’s surprise, the walking disaster often finds himself trudging along the roadway, in the rain, carrying bags of groceries in both hands, still missing the butter.

Joaquin’s antics rarely involve personal or collateral injury, but this pattern of behaviour will cost a person time and money.

Which brings us to the case in point: Our Mr. Aster is looking to purchase a metal roof for his 40-plus-year-old home.

Installing steel roofing on a home is an excellent investment, and one that should last the full 50-year warranty period. However, and like a whole lot of quality products, things go a whole lot better when measurements are absolutely exact.

Achieving this goal requires that measurements be checked, then verified once again, by whomever will be installing the product.

I’m still amazed by supposed carpenters who enter a building supply centre, let the salesperson know their looking to build a deck, or frame a wall, then ask the question, “So, what am I going to need for the job?”

What kind of carpenter, or person given the task of building something, needs the help of a salesclerk to figure out what materials he would need to get a project constructed? And, who the heck hires such unqualified people?

Regardless, it happens too often.

In Mr. Aster’s case, he brought in a lined drawing of his roof structure, a relatively large roof outlay which included a number of peaks and valleys, and requested roofing tin be ordered according to the measurements on the plan.

Although there were no numbers or any indication of actual lengths on the drawing, Mr. Aster indicated the scale was of the standard quarter inch equals one foot type of measurement.

Ordering steel roofing is not like ordering asphalt shingles. One or two bundles of shingles under or over the estimated number required is of little consequence, due to asphalt shingles being relatively inexpensive and a product commonly carried in stock by most building retailers.

There are three manners, in general, by which steel roofing is ordered.

One, the installer simply dictates the lengths and number of sheets required.

Two, the installer measures the roof, peaks and valleys, then goes over these measurements with the salesperson, who orders the product.

Or three, and in the case of a new build, the truss lengths are provided to the salesperson by the roofing company, with the steel sheets and necessary trims and moldings ordered off these exact measures.

In this case, Mr. Aster refused to take the time to supply the salesperson with either of the first two options, and since there was no existing truss plan to follow, was insistent the roof drawing was accurate.

When Joaquin was informed of the possible risks of ordering off a paper drawing, he dismissed the advice to produce accurate measurements, signed the requisition, and informed the salesperson to go forward with the order. Weeks later, the steel roofing supplies arrived, with several sheet lengths being incorrect.

Who pays for this lost time, money, and frustration? Unfortunately, it’s the walking disaster. Case No. 622 closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Start from the top down

A qualilty underlay felt is important when roofing, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

Today we wrap up our three-week tenure on roofs with a few tips on how to get the most out of your asphalt roofing shingles.

Why so much talk about roofing? Because a roof in poor condition is to a home what Dion Phaneuf is to a defensive corps of professional hockey players.

Essentially, the potential for damage is extreme, with an aged roof eventually springing up leaks faster than Dion’s ability to cough up pucks in his defensive zone.

So, realizing that maintaining a home free from the damaging effects of water infiltration starts with your roof, we need to do all we can to ensure the long term success of our roof investment. Remembering that every layer of shingles represents one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne parked unnecessarily on your rooftop, if you’re redoing a roof’s surface, we start by removing every layer of existing shingles.

Next, fiberglass asphalt shingles need to be nailed onto plywood. Spruce plywood, or an equivalent OSB (oriental strand board) roofing product, will provide the necessary stability, and are the only underlay materials suitable to support the more ridged fiberglass shingle. So, if the existing roof has been covered by 1×6 or 1×8 pieces of spruce lumber, cover these planks with a 3/8” plywood, or the 15/32” OSB product.

Next, and still on the theme of stability, create the proper environment for your fiberglass shingles by ensuring your attic is adequately vented. Basically, you want the surface temperature of your shingles to match that of the underlayment, or, that the air temperature in the attic, matches that of the exterior air. The only way to achieve this is by creating an effective draft whereby outside air will enter the attic space via the soffit, then exit through a vent, or series of vents, located near the peak of the roof.

Venting through the soffit is pretty straight forward, and requires no calculating, because the strategy is to simply insert Styrofoam baffles in between each truss.

The Styrofoam baffles get stapled to the roofing plywood, and are positioned so that they reach down into the soffit space, thereby preventing the attic insulation or blowing wool from blocking this key point of air entry.

The air exit strategy will be satisfied by a Maxivent. Maxivents are the not so attractive, chimney-like devices you see on most roofs these days. There are alternatives to the Maxivent, such as using ridge venting, or a series of smaller, slantback vents, or even solar power vents that operate with their own fans.

However, with no moving parts, and only one maxivent needed on most roofs, which means only one hole to cut out and seal, none of these alternative products can compare with the ease of installing, general efficiency, and long term viability of the Maxivent.

How to calculate your maxivent needs? One #301 Maxivent will service up to 1200 square feet of attic floor space, or meet the needs of your average 40’x30’ home. If you own a larger or smaller home, or have a garage or addition that requires venting, optional Maxivents include the #303 model (satisfies 800 sq. ft. of attic area) or the #302 Maxivent (satisfies 500 sq. ft. of attic floor space). Essentially, you can’t have too much ventilation, so if you’re not sure, go bigger.

Next, use a quality underlay felt. Your fiberglass shingles will require both an ‘ice + water shield’ product, used along the roofs edge, and in any valleys, along with a felt paper on the balance of the roof. ‘Ice + water shield’s’ are pretty standard, however, there’s a world of various felt coverings to choose from.

Recommendation? Avoid the paper felt, and buy the best synthetic felt available. A quality synthetic felt offers that key, secondary line of defence against water infiltration and ice dams.

Finally, if your home is situated in a wind tunnel, have your roofer follow the extra nails, extra caulking procedures related to better shingle tab adhesion.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Asphalt shingles still number one

Asphalt shingles are still the most popular shingle, price being one of the main reasons. Postmedia Network

Asphalt shingles have received a lot of complaints.

Some people have complained so much about their asphalt shingles that they’ve decided to form a club, referred to as a class action suit, by which they formally issue a legal complaint against the asphalt shingle maker. Then, after getting some pittance of a settlement, enough to certainly cover a Tim’s run for the fellows tearing off their perceived defective shingles, they feel vindicated, then go out and buy asphalt shingles all over again.

Now, it should be mentioned that said class action suits against the asphalt shingle manufacturers were as a result of perceived problems with their line of ‘organic’ asphalt shingles, which stopped being produced in 2010. The term “perceived” is defined quite clearly in the class action results, and refers to the fact these shingle manufacturers never actually admitted to making defective goods, but have offered some type of compensation regardless, because they’re all really nice guys, once you get to know them.

Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass matting, as opposed to the original paper felt, and are referred to as fiberglass asphalt shingles. So, with all these complaints and class action stuff going on, why do 90 percent of homeowners still choose asphalt shingles?

Two reasons. First, there’s the price, where at about .75 cents per square foot, asphalt shingles are minimally half the cost of regular steel roofing, and one quarter of the price of composite, cedar shake, or the more decorative steel roofing options. And two, there’s the issue of lifespan.

Essentially, the average consumer buying a roof for their home either believes he or she will not be at their present address for any great length of time, or, are doubtful their remaining days on earth will allow them to take full advantage of a premium roofing product. Often, the customers will do their ROI (return on investment)/lifetime expectancy calculation right at the service desk.

“Well Deloris, whaddya think, do we go steel or asphalt?” her husband Alfie asks. To which Deloris replies, “I don’t know Alfie… you’re 76 and I’m 72, how much longer are we going to be around?”

At this point in the conversation I usually interject with a helpful, “Listen folks, I agree, the Grim Reaper is likely sitting in the back seat of your car as we speak, regardless, the advantages of a steel roof are many, including better roof performance, enhanced curb appeal, and a sign to the next buyer that you’ve put quality products into your home”.

“Nah”, Alfie states. “You guys sell a 10-15 year shingle here?” Alfie questions, after doing some predicted lifespan mathematics on a scrap piece of paper. “Unfortunately no,”, I reply, “the least warrantied shingle is one of 25 years” I confirm. “OK, then let’s go with that,” Alfie says. And, that’s the way things generally roll in the asphalt shingle biz.

However, if a fiberglass asphalt shingle is installed correctly, there’s no reason why a homeowner couldn’t expect to get 25-30 years, or longer, out of their chosen product.

As stated in last week’s column, the keys to fiberglass shingle and steel roofing longevity, starts with stability. Stability comes in one form, and that’s plywood. So, if there’s an existing shingle on the roof, or maybe even a layer or two of shingles, remove them. If upon removing those shingles you discover a plywood substrate, terrific! Simply verify that the plywood is still in good condition. If not, repair or replace as necessary. If you discover a 1×6 or 1×8 spruce planking underneath, which was a common substrate 30 years ago, don’t remove it. Instead, cover it with a 3/8” spruce plywood.

Fiberglass shingles are a relatively rigid product that doesn’t like to bend or in any way compromise their position, kind of like the average male once they lay down on the couch to watch the hockey game. So, we avoid nailing shingles to anything but plywood.

Next week, more keys to shingle longevity.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Your choice in roofing

Yeah, you need to take the old shingles off before putting on the new. Postmedia Network

At some point in time, your home is going to need a new roof.

Whether the reasons for this expenditure are due to your present roofing showing signs of severe wear and tear, or simply because you ran out of pails this past weekend in a frantic attempt to control the drips leaking down from the ceiling, eventually, roofs need replacing.

Essentially, you’ll have two choices, them being steel or fiberglass asphalt shingles.

There are rubberized and composite type shingles out there, but they’re considerably more expensive, and are not so readily available locally. And, with this column being very much pro-local shopping, along with encouraging the pro-local hiring of tradespersons, we won’t be considering these products.

What about cedar shake roofing? Real, cedar shake shingles, whether they be hand-split (varying texture) or rough sawn (more uniform texture) look terrific, especially on a stone or colonial styled home. Unfortunately, and regardless of their traditional good looks, cedar shakes are probably not the best choice for our climate zone. Simply put, our climate is too wet, too cloudy, and we have far too many trees casting shadows over our roofs. So, with these cedar roofs rarely achieving even relative dryness, you can pretty well expect algae and mold growth within a year or two. Combine this with the three to four freeze and thaw sessions we experience over the course of a winter, and you’ve got all the reasons as to why putting a wood product on your roof is a bad idea.

If your budget has the wiggle room to accept the price of cedar shakes, then you should be considering a steel shingle. However, before choosing between steel and fiberglass shingles, let’s examine what’s underneath your existing roofing.

In the olden days, with ‘olden’ referring to the days of organic shingles, and otherwise recognized as the days when Canadian based teams won Stanley cups, shingles could be layered up to three thicknesses deep. Plus, it was very common to carefully remove the 1×6 planks of wood that served to form the foundation walls, once the concrete dried of course, then reuse this lumber as roof sheeting. When it came to steel roof application, the support, or underlay strategy back in those days had the installer simply installing lengths of 1×4 rough strapping at every 16 inches on-center over the roof trusses, and that was it.

Were these install strategies misguided or reckless? Not necessarily. They were simply justified practices in accordance with what was known and understood during those times, just like bloodletting was the treatment of choice in the 1700’s for those who had fallen ill with anything from laryngitis to an upset stomach.

Sometimes, even our most intelligent people get it wrong.

Today, we understand that both fiberglass asphalt shingles and steel roofing panels require stability. When things move, nails and screws will loosen. When that happens, the next Nor’easter wind will be forcing shingle tabs up, and peeling back your steel roofing panels like the skin on a ripe banana.

The answer to providing a stable roofing underlay is plywood. So, if you’re building a new home, addition, or garage, whether the finished roofing product is fiberglass shingles, or steel roofing, the underlay material must be plywood.

Can fiberglass shingles or steel roofing be installed over an existing shingled roof? Although this strategy will save you dumping fees, stacking one roof over another is going to cause a number of problems. One, the average roof requires about 65 bundles of shingles, which equals about 4600 pounds, or the weight of a 1965 Pontiac Parisienne. So, with every layer of shingles representing one 1965 Pontiac Parisienne left unnecessarily on your rooftop, you can see how this practice could eventually overwhelm an aging truss structure. Plus, a layer or two of shingles will have a certain sponginess to it, preventing the installer from effectively securing a new shingle tab, or tightening down the screws on steel roofing.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Roofin’ it

Need some roof work done? Best to let the pros handle it, says our handyman. Postmedia Network

I remember going up onto a roof once, once!

I would frequent my roof more often if it didn’t require the use of an extension ladder. Understanding that every step upwards on an extension ladder exponentially increases the odds of the homeowner dying, I naturally avoid this otherwise key component to general roof repair. My only regret to avoiding extension ladders is that I’m now forfeiting the feeling of calm exhilaration one senses when your leading foot touches down on the grass after taking that last step down.

So, with my generosity in home repair responsibilities being sincerely unbounded, I wholeheartedly recommend that these moments of death defying exhilaration be unselfishly shared with licensed professionals. In other words, if you need your roof repaired, call a licensed roofer.

When should you be inviting a member of this fine class of tradespersons over to your home? Hopefully, it’ll be well before you experience a leak. That’s like waiting for a blowout in order to justify replacing your balding car tires.

Generally, asphalt roofing shingles last about 15-20 years. Today’s asphalt shingles have a fiberglass base, and are often referred to as “fiberglass shingles”, or simply “glass” shingles. Regardless, these fiberglass based shingles have the same ceramic coated rock surface, embedded into asphalt, as their organic (paper based) predecessors. So, even though the warranty on a fiberglass shingle may be 40 years, or a lifetime (considered 50 years), if you’ve gotten 20 years out of your shingles, without a hitch, they’ve served you well.

Why can’t a 40 or 50 year warrantied roofing product actually last 40 or 50 years? They can, of course, under the right conditions, such as the middle US states, where temperatures are consistently and moderately mild, and in the arctic, where things are consistently and moderately cold. In our part of the world, where weather conditions are about as consistent as Carey Price’s goaltending, there’s little hope for any product lasting more than 20 years outdoors, let alone a roof. Other than age, look for shingles tabs that have broken off, or curled up in a very obvious manner. Fiberglass shingles don’t curl so much, due to their more ridged backing. So, if you’re experiencing shingle curl, your shingles are most likely organic, and could be getting close to their expiry date.

Shingle curl, often referred to as ‘winter curl’ was relatively common in an organic shingle. However, the summer season would see this tab curl mostly flatten out. If the tabs aren’t going back, they’ve most likely dried to the point of no return. As a test, you could have a roofer attempt to push a curled shingle tab downwards. If the tab refuses to go down, or because of its dried leaf consistency, would likely crumble, then there’s no saving this roof. Be sure to wait until the outside temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius before attempting this procedure, otherwise you risk breaking what was a healthy shingle tab.

If the tabs can be pushed down into position without effort, then consider putting a loonie sized dab of plastic cement under the lifted tabs. This will help settle the tab, prevent future wind blow off, and maybe secure you a few more years of roof life.

Are discolored asphalt shingles a problem? Essentially, no. Discoloration of asphalt shingles is normally due to moss and algae growth. Moss and algae growth on asphalt shingles, although unattractive, isn’t a detriment to a roof’s long term sustainability, unless of course things get to the extreme, whereby your home looks like it’s going to be swallowed up by some moss-like creature. If moss and algae are an issue, have your roofer install a strip of zinc metal, available in a 2-1/2 inch x 50 ft. roll, just under the tabs of the capping shingles along the peak of the roof. When it rains, zinc ions will trickle down over the shingles, and kill off the moss and algae.

Next week, more on roofing.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

That’s a wrap

When building, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion exposed so that the wood may be allowed to ìbreatheî or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate. Postmedia Network

I think the inventors of Baggies sandwich bags, and Saran Wrap, are two of the most intelligent and opportunist people in the world. Intelligent because they’ve managed to develop a lightweight, flexible, and user friendly manner of sealing and protecting foodstuffs. Opportunists because they’ve not only developed something useful, but have enabled us, as humans, to fulfill one of our most instinctive and powerful needs, and that’s the simple desire of wanting to wrap things.

What do we do with a newborn baby? Although it’s referred to as a swaddle, we’re essentially wrapping ‘em. Bloody finger? Wrap it. Christmas gifts, sprained ankle, hole in the car’s muffler? Wrap, wrap, wrap.

After supper the other night, I wrapped or bagged 10 different leftover items and tossed them in the fridge. Approximately 50 per cent of these items will see action in the immediate future, two to three things might be caught in time for use, with the last one or two items forgotten and allowed to develop into 15 types of mold. Regardless, they were all good wraps.

What do we do with a staff meeting that’s gone 30 minutes into overtime? We wrap it up. So, what do we do with basically any wood project or structure? Well, if you’re still not sure as to the theme of this week’s rant, for the good of the wood, you wrap it. For all intents and purposes, plywoods, basic framework, and wooden posts, will stick around for the long term if they’re kept dry. The strategy to keeping wood dry in a four season climate such as ours is challenging because wood is a product that naturally absorbs moisture. So, with a “dry season” unfortunately not forming part of the four seasons we experience, our plywoods and 2×4 framing lumber are always in a state where they’re retaining some level of humidity, regardless of the fact the lumber was kiln dried at some point in its production. As a result, we can’t simply saran wrap every piece of lumber because that would trap the humidity, which would lead to our lumber looking like the aforementioned science experiment regarding the 15 types of mold. Instead, we need to wrap or protect most of the lumber, while leaving a portion of the plywood or lumber exposed (with these exposed sides usually facing the interior of the building) so that the wood may be allowed to “breathe” or basically expel moisture at a more natural rate.

So, whether you’re building a shed, or 3000 sq. ft. home, we always protect the plywood walls with a house wrap. Because the interior, or what’s referred to as the warm side of a standard, insulated wall, must have a plastic vapor barrier, in order to prevent moisture from entering the wall cavity, the outside wall cannot be saran wrapped, or covered in the same manner, because that would trap the moisture already in the plywood, and stud framework. So, we cover the exterior wall with a house wrap, a product that sheds water, should rain or snow makes its way past the siding, but is still porous enough to allow the wood to breathe.

Our plywood roofs require the same type of protection. Although asphalt paper was for the longest time the product of choice, synthetic felts are the better product. Similar to a house wrap, synthetic roof felts shed water and breathe. However, they differ from house wraps in that they reflect UV light, and are far superior to paper felts because they can protect a roof for up to six months, which is a real bonus when inclement weather causes unforeseen delays.

Other areas in need of protection are the wooden framework around windows and doors. When the caulking around a window or door frame begins to shrink or crack, water infiltrates into the wall and puddles on the sill, leading to mold or rot. For this reason, we now wrap three out of the four sides of the wooden frames with a rubberized membrane.

Next week, more on wraps. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Watch fall temperatures

If you’re planning on doing some caulking in the fall, make sure the temperature is at least 5 degrees celsius. Postmedia Network.

So, you’re finally getting around to preparing your home for the winter. Great!

Fall is an excellent time to be doing outdoor work. Not too hot, not too cold, and with the days getting shorter, darkness will force you to quit your tasks at a more reasonable hour, placing you safely in your slippers so that you may be fed and couch bound with a beer in your hand, well in time to catch the start of the hockey game.

What is the task at hand? To bolster our home’s system of defense. Who is the enemy? The demon is well known, and is the same, notorious culprit that’s been slowly destroying homes for years, that being water. It’s form? Rain, snow, sleet, or basically anything that pours or puddles. Strategy? To seal by means of a paint, caulking, or mastic (roofing and foundation cements), anything that resembles or what might be described as a crack.

There are a lot of products that form the exterior shell of the home, and the cracks are usually found where one of these products, such as your windows and doors, butts up against a foreign product, such as a brick or vinyl siding. The products themselves are usually fine, whereby the inherent design of a window, or the manner in which brick or vinyl siding is installed, are by themselves perfectly functional in diverting the elements. However, the challenge to the builder is joining two products such as these to form a watertight seal. Achieving this goal will require the installer using various membranes and flashing products, with the finishing touch to this assembly being a bead of caulking. Over time, it’s the bead of caulking that’s going to shrink and crack, which leaves the homeowner with no other choice but to re-caulk this important first line of defence.

Start by examining the roof (binoculars will help) specifically where the roofs flashings contact either the roof vents, or the side of the home, and make note of where the deficiencies, or problem areas are. Follow the same procedure for all windows and doors.

Although the fall weather provides a comfortable working atmosphere, the challenge at this point will be the falling temperatures. Caulking, paints or stains, and mastics, install better and more easily when the temperatures are at least 5 degrees Celsius. When the mercury drops below this basic user line, you risk the product not sticking properly to the surface it’s being adhered to. When caulking doesn’t stick, it won’t seal, which will mean having to follow this process over again next season.

Basic step number one, remove the paints, caulking, or mastic products from the car and put them somewhere in the house as soon as you get back from the building supply center. Don’t leave them in the garage, or forget them in the trunk of the car overnight. When caulking and mastics are left in temperatures that are close to freezing, they don’t squeeze out of the tube so well. When a cold caulking is moving slowly up the spout, the novice user will become impatient, and inevitably begin to over-squeeze the caulking lever, which usually results in the caulking blowing out the bottom of the tube. A caulking backfire has yet to result in serious injury, but the resulting gooey hands, and loss of what was a perfectly good tube of caulking, will be frustrating.

Next, watch the weather reports, and choose your time accordingly. You’ll want to install the caulking or mastic (roof repairs) while the temperatures will be in the 5 degree Celsius range for two to three hours.

If you’re hoping to do some fall painting or staining, or if the foundation is in need of parging, then you’ll require a 24-hour window of plus temperatures, due to these water based products taking longer to cure. So, if frost is expected overnight, you’ll have to wait until the next warm spell before proceeding.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Flats overhead

Today we’re talking flat residential roofing, and specifically, how to get them to stop leaking.

Now, why would anyone choose to have a flat roof? Well, like the lawn dart (banned in 1988, after having skewered more individuals than those wounded at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410), and clacker ball toys (banned in 1985, after it was discovered that with vigorous clacking, the resulting explosion was second only to the M67 fragmentation grenade) it seemed like a good idea at the time. Theoretically, flat roofs aren’t a bad idea, and are normally the least complicated way of covering a carport or back porch. Plus, the material cost of flat roof joists are often cheaper than a peaked, or truss system of roof. And, with a little added engineering, a flat roof can be turned into an outdoor terrace, providing a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood.

Having living space on the roof can also be quite private, unless you live by the airport, and provide a unique type of entertaining area for guests. Flat roofs rarely leak because they can’t disperse water properly. After all, flat roofs are like a table top, allowing precipitation to simply flow over the edge into an eavestrough type of system. So, even snow, which melts eventually, shouldn’t be an issue. However, in our part of the world, we get freezing rain, followed by a 24 hour thaw, then 20 centimeters of snow, with a 10 day severe cold spell to wrap up a typical January month end. When that happens, the snow melt buried under the exterior crust will pool in the middle, usually for several weeks, providing a true test of your flat roofing membrane. Eventually, and after years of pooling, the water will make its way through.

So, how does a homeowner with a flat roof avoid the inevitable? By using the best in materials, and by providing adequate drainage. First, a flat roof, or even one that is slightly sloped, requires a solid plywood base. So, if you’re repairing or replacing an existing roof, remove all asphalt or granular roofing materials that are presently on the roof.

Never apply modern day products over existing materials. One, you’re leaving two Volkswagen Jetta’s worth of material weight on the roof, which will only lead to roof sag, more water pooling, and eventual leakage. And two, the planks or plywood under this existing roof could be in lousy condition, or even close to rotting if the leaking has been ignored for some time. Left unchecked, adding a couple of tons of new roofing material to a flat roof with a weakened joist system, could make things really uncomfortable for the fellow in the top bunk when that first heavy snowfall hits.

With the old materials cleaned off the roof, check the condition of the underlay material. If you discover the underlay to be a series of 1×6 or 1×8 planks, replace the ones that have cracked or rotted, then cover the planks with a ½ inch thick plywood sheeting. Roofing materials, whether it be steel, asphalt shingles, or flat rubber membranes, absolutely require plywood as an underlay.

Next, you’ll be applying a two part roll roofing product such as the Henry Bakor Duratac system. The system consists of first installing what’s referred to as a base sheet, which is a rubberized, self-sticking, 39”x65 ft. roll-on membrane that gets applied directly to the plywood. If applying the base sheet in late fall or early spring, first apply a primer to the plywood to help adhesion.

Next, apply the cap sheet, which is essentially the same type of self-sticking roll as the base sheet, except the cap sheet has a granular surface to effectively defend against the elements. Further keys to a successful flat roof application? Use a heavy roller to effectively seal the membranes to the plywood, and each other. Plus, avoid leakages due to pooling by properly flashing around chimneys, plumbing stacks, and everywhere the roof meets a ledge or wall.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Up on the roof and get ready to shingle

What’s the first thing a homeowner should do upon receiving his load of asphalt shingles, felt paper, and various other roofing materials? Take the receipt, place it in a shoe box labelled ‘House expenses’ and set this box high upon a shelf in the bedroom closet for the next 30 years.

Even if roofing shingles are poorly installed, or get nailed to an unsuitable surface, or are otherwise forced to suffer through conditions that would in no way permit proper tab adhesion, they’ll probably do the job for at least six-eight years. By year nine the granular surface will begin to loosen, rolling down the roof into the eavestroughing. Then the shingle tabs will start to curl and buckle. Years 10 through 12 will show further deterioration, and as the shingles begin to detach from the nails, the next big wind will have the tabs flying off so fast you would have thought a flock of crows had just been disturbed off their perch.

Then the roof leaks. Then the customer questions why their 30 year asphalt shingles lasted barely half that long. That seems to be the pattern for most consumers who fail to keep their roofing receipts. Perhaps it’s just fate, but those persons who keep their receipts, rarely run into issues. So, keep your receipts. Without them, the claim or warranty process will be nothing but frustration.

Which brings to question, what’s with all the class-action lawsuits against the asphalt shingle industry? Because Canadians simply lay blame and brood, while Americans tend to skip this emotional state and move directly into the game of suits and litigation, most of the issues are State side.

With a home’s roof taking the brunt of all weather conditions, while receiving the least care upkeep wise, it’s easy to find a lot of unsatisfied consumers. Basically, most of the claim issues are directed towards what is referred to as an organic shingle. Organic shingles were the original specie, and had a felt base that was dipped in tar, then covered with ceramic coated granules. Production of organic shingles ceased in 2010, and were replaced by what the industry now calls a fiberglass shingle, because the substrate is a sheet of woven fiberglass, as opposed to a heavy paper felt.

However, the process of shingle making remained the same. Impregnate the substrate with tar, then cover with granules. So, an asphalt shingle is basically the same as it ever was, and of course looks the same as before, since the only modification to the new version is the hidden fiberglass base. Why the change to fiberglass? Because it proved to have a higher resistance to heat and wind, which really meant little to the Canadian market, since we lack the necessary trailer parks to attract tornadoes, and might get two days in July with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it was cheaper to manufacture, and that’s all that counted.

Why did the organics fail? Could have been the product, or installation, or any number of factors. What we do know is that to ensure your new fiberglass shingles last as long as possible, we’ll need to change our traditional way of installation. Because all new homes use plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) on the roof, having a smooth, clean, reliable substrate, isn’t an issue. Older homes, whose foundations were framed with 1×8 spruce planks, with these planks salvaged and subsequently installed on the roof, are going to have a problem. Plus, it was also common practice to layer shingles, burying two generations of shingles under a brand new third layer. With the organic shingle of the day being so malleable, and quite adaptable to the inconsistent surface created by the 1×8 lumber and layers of shingles, it wasn’t uncommon to get 20 years out of a shingle. With fiberglass shingles, the practice of layering will need to stop.

Next week, installing the modern asphalt shingle.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Ye old shed, and how to fix it

Just a guess, but we're thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Just a guess, but we’re thinking, tear it down. Handout/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

“How do you fix up an old shed?” This was the question posed to me by a lovely, 20-something young lady, who just recently purchased an older home with a handsome, 20-something young man.

I mention the ages of the participants because timing is significant, and will certainly affect the strategy in addressing the crooked shed issue. If this were an elderly couple, I’d say forget about the shed, concentrate on booking your next tee-off date and getting your meds straightened out, then let the next guy worry about it.

If you’re middle-aged then I’d recommend taking a flamethrower to this mess, or plowing it into the ground with a bulldozer, depending on which ‘over the top’ method of ultimate doom you prefer. Then I’d recommend building something brand new in its place, at least three times bigger (because by this age we all collect too much stuff) along with the real possibility of adding a finished loft area over top.

But, if you’re young, full of dreams, with the weight of the world having yet to have you cry out in pain as you attempt to pull your socks on in the morning, this old shed project will provide an excellent learning experience in basic framing, siding, and roofing.

First, are we talking an old wood shed, or banged up steel shed? Wood we can possibly work with, whereby a steel (or tin) shed, in poor condition, has the approximate value of a couple of Bell Center playoff tickets in Montreal.

What to do with the pile of dented, steel panels, once you’ve completed disassembly? Toss them in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck (make sure all the participants are wearing gloves) and drive this mess over to the local metal scrap yard dealer. At between 100-130 bucks per ton in reimbursement value, this procedure, whereby 200 lbs. of scrap metal might cover the breakfast special at the local diner, is far from a get rich quick scheme. However, it’s recycling, helps fill your tummies for a few hours, and certainly beats the ‘toss it in the bush’ method used by previous generations.

So, what’s the procedure regarding our decrepit wood shed? First, assess the damage. Crooked we can work with, rot or decay we can’t. And, we definitely don’t want to take the risk of this shed collapsing. Therefore, if once the shed’s contents have been removed, you discover that the sill plates and wood flooring are soft due to decay, secure a chain from the shed to the aforementioned pick-up truck, and pull this baby down.

In most cases, the siding (be it wood paneling, plywood, cedar shake, or vinyl) as well as the roofing shingles, will have been severely neglected, and will need to be removed. Once that task is complete, re-assess the floor and stick framework. Wet’s not a problem, soft and splintering into pieces is. So, if all is good, or a few problem pieces can be safely replaced, get the shed back to square and level by adding a few wall studs, and steel cross bracing if necessary. Building permits aren’t required for sheds of 100 sq. ft. or less. Therefore, if your shed is of the popular 8×8 configuration, I suggest extending the floor and framework to the more spacious 8×12 size. What makes a shed more easily usable, while effectively keeping out the varmints, is the entry door. So, spend a few extra dollars on a more reliable double steel door, or roll-up garage door type of system.

Windows or skylights? Natural light is always a good idea.

Type of siding? Choose something that will either match or complement the home. Vinyl siding is a popular choice, due to it’s easy to maintain good value. However, a painted wood siding, such as a board n’ batten, or channel siding, will look quite charming, and definitely enhance the look of one’s backyard.

Thanks for the suggested topic BB, and good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard