Thinking of a steel roof?

DEREK RUTTAN/ The London Free Press /Postmedia Network

Upon being asked to relay my thoughts on whether investing in a steel roof is a good thing, I decided to secure an opinion straight from the horse’s mouth, well, actually, Jim Hoarce’s mouth, one of our longtime local professional steel roofers.

“So Jim” I inquired, “after installing steel roofs for the last 30 years, would you recommend steel roofing to the average homeowner?” To which Jim answered, “If the customer is prepared to pay for the proper underlay materials, follow the recommended installation procedures, and use only approved flashings, gaskets, and snow stop brackets, then steel can make for an excellent roof”.

OK, sounds pretty simple, all a homeowner has to do is ensure his roofer follows the installation instructions.

Unfortunately, its human nature not to follow instructions. We purchased a high chair for my grandson recently, and it was my goal to not have to read the instructions, after all, I was looking at maybe 20 parts.

Now, I understand there’s a reason why my chosen profession is in retail, and not engineering, but 20 parts?

Regardless, after 2-3 minutes of assembly frustration, I searched and found the instruction sheets at the bottom of the box. Thankfully, they came with pictured diagrams, which were essential in successfully assembling this unit in under 15 minutes.

Conversely, when an amateur, or your cousin’s buddy, is on your roof, and there’s a cool wind, and it’s getting late, or almost time for a Tim’s run, what are the chances this fellow’s going to take the time to read the instructions should he be faced with an installation dilemma?

Or, might he just plant a few more screws around the issue, and be done with it? According to Jim, the number of calls he receives each year from homeowners asking him to come over and repair, or find the leak, on a roof that was installed by somebody else, indicates how often steel roofs are not installed as per instruction.

A steel roof is great, until it leaks.

Therefore, choose only an accredited steel roofing professional. Next, start with a 5/8” plywood sheeting underlay. Because steel roof sheeting is screwed in position, Jim strongly suggests the heavier 5/8” plywood, as opposed to ½” sheeting, commonly used for asphalt shingles.

A 5/8” plywood offers superior rigidity, and better accepts a screw. Should steel roofing be installed over existing asphalt shingles, thereby saving the dumping fees? Or, can steel be installed over a boarded roof that’s been stripped of its shingles? What about strapping an existing asphalt roof with 1×4 spruce?

No, no, and no.

People regard steel roofing as being relatively lightweight, which it is if you’re handling one 10 ft. sheet at a time. However, stack ten of these sheets together, and steel gets heavy real fast.

So, steel is relatively lightweight when compared to asphalt, but it’s not that light, and if layered upon existing roofing, will provide an unnecessary burden on your trusses.

Plus, an asphalt shingle base is too spongy, which may cause the steel screws to loosen over time. When screws loosen, water gets in.

Boarded roofs and 1×4 strapping underlays are strategies of the past. Why? Because they lack the stability of plywood, with these planks shrinking and warping over time, loosening the screws.

On top of the 5/8” plywood Jim recommends either a UDL50 Titanium underlay, or Lastobond, high heat rubber membrane (similar to an ice and water shield), offering an essential second line of defense.

Next, Jim’s two final recommendations are simple.

One, buy heavy. Heavier gages of steel lay straighter, dent less easily, and just look better.

Two, decapitation is real. Not that the heads of unsuspecting homeowners are found in our snowbanks every February, but snow and ice sliding down a steel roof can be a very destructive weapon. So, invest in heavy duty snow stop brackets. The little polar blocks will do little to stop a weighted avalanche of snow and ice.

Thanks Jim. Good building.

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

Covering up

Man in a blue shirt does window installation. Model Released GALITSKAYA / GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Week three regarding file  No. 921, titled Meltdown, has us wrapping up the case of cold enticing hot, involving home owner Jack Frosty Snow and his bid to make his drafty home more comfortable for Barb Ma Barker, his new partner.

So far, the suggested plan of attack for making this 1970’s home more energy efficient has been pretty rudimentary, including the sealing of the more notable cracks and areas of air infiltration, and beefing up the attics insulation levels to today’s standards.

However, the next step in making this 50-year-old home more energy efficient, and more Barb appealing, is going to involve a more serious evaluation of Frosty’s situation.

On the one hand, continuing on a course to real home efficiency will involve new windows, ridged foam insulation, and new siding, a pretty significant overhaul requiring a whole lot of time, effort, and of course money.

On the other hand, Barb is a wonderful lady, owns her own swimsuit business, fills a bikini in the same manner sand pours into an hour glass, and to top it off, Barb’s a Habs fan. In other words, this lady’s a keeper.

So, with the decision to move forward likely, Jack is looking for a plan of action. Albeit a costly renovation, replacing the windows and exterior siding within the same time period is as effective a one-two renovation punch as you can get.

The curb value of the home receives a significant bump up, and the homeowner gets an excellent return on their investment.

The suggested course of action will be as follows; step one, choose a style of window, be it casement, guillotine, or slider, and the exterior door models, measure the openings, then place the order.

Because we’ll be increasing the exterior wall thickness, the window jamb depth will need to be ordered accordingly.

The windows and doors may take up to six weeks to arrive, which will allow the renovators to move forward with the balance of the renovation, starting with the removal of the existing vinyl siding.

Because the home is of standard two by four construction, the present thermal value of these walls is R-12. Before installing a new siding, we’re recommending Frosty and Bard consider wrapping the home with a two-inch rigid polyiso insulation board, which will add another R-13 of thermal value to the walls, effectively transporting this home into the 21st century, insulation wise anyway.

With a proposed R-60 attic, and R-25 walls, along with new, energy efficient windows, Frosty and Ma will be able to heat this 1200 square foot bungalow with a Bic lighter.

Due to this home being covered in siding it was the perfect subject for receiving a ridged foam wrap.

Brick or stone homes could be wrapped with foam, but you would be of course forfeiting a relatively expensive siding for a vinyl or composite alternative, which may devaluating the home, and affect its curb appeal.

Can homes be insulated from the interior? Yes, but the cost and inconvenience will be an issue, since the exterior wall electrical outlets will all have to be adjusted, with these same exterior walls having to be refinished with drywall.

The nice thing about insulating the exterior is that you get to live comfortably in your home, relatively speaking, while the renovation is taking place. With the existing siding removed, the home will be covered with a 2 inch ridged foam board, then sealed with a house wrap, which effectively cuts off any chance of drafts, and protects the ridged foam from the elements should the siding not be readily available.

Next, the home will be strapped with one by three spruce in preparation for the siding. The one by three strapping is a good idea, providing an air space for moisture to drain or evaporate, should any rain makes its way past the siding.

Composite and cement sidings will especially benefit from this spacing strategy. With this last bit of information rounding up our energy saving recommendations, case No. 921 was closed.

Good building.

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

Batts in the attic will heat things up

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we continue our examination of file No. 921, titled “Meltdown,’’ involving the relationship between our Mr. Jack ‘Frosty’ Snow and Barb ‘Ma’ Barker.

To recap, Jack owns an older home in dire need of improvements related to energy efficiency. Mr. Snow’s home is drafty and lacks the proper insulation levels, resulting in a home that is frightfully cold for six months of the year.

This of course has been of no concern to Jack, because as owner and operator of Jacks Frosty Treats, he spends half his day in a freezer anyway. Then, in comes his new housemate Barb, a lady who doesn’t like the cold, who doesn’t wear sweaters, refuses to layer, and who would never dream of stepping outdoors in January to build a snowman, no matter how perfectly sticky the snow is.

Essentially, when cold meets warm, warm wins. Or more succinctly, when the needs of the woman, or warm individual in a relationship, differ from those of the fellow, changes are likely to occur.

Because warm air rises, a key area to fortify against heat loss will be the attic. In typical 1970’s building mode, our Mr. Snow has about six inches of attic insulation, providing R-20 of heat loss resistance. This level of thermal value was fine when electricity and gas were a fraction of today’s cost, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups, which at least provided us with a warm feeling in our hearts.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed so much for Leaf fans since the 70’s, whereby life is as dreary now as it was then, only with present day energy costs lending to times that are even more miserable. Today’s attic standards require R-60 of thermal value, or about 18 inches of insulation. So, in order to be current with today’s standards, since they are minimum requirements, we’re going to need to add at least 12 inches of either a blowing wool, or fiberglass batt material, with this 12 inches of fiberglass offering an additional R-40 of insulation value.

Whether this is to be a do-it-yourself project, or not, relies entirely upon your willingness to squeeze through the 20”x30” attic hatch hole. Before adding insulation, the homeowner should make sure the soffit air space is properly protected with the use of attic vents, installed in between every truss.

Fiberglass batt insulation or fiberglass blowing wool? The advantage to using fiberglass pink insulation, which in this case would require two thicknesses of a six- inch R-20 batt, is that the batts can be fitted tightly together, then cross layered, creating a neatly arranged blanket of pink, along with the peace of mind that you’re indeed getting an extra R-40 of thermal value.

If desired, six-inch batts are also available in R-22 or R-24 formats, which will boost your home’s resistance to attic heat loss another 10-20%. Can a homeowner put too much insulation in their attics? No, provided they maintain a minimum two-inch air space between the insulation and the roofing plywood.

Challenges to layering your attic space with fiberglass batts? Only one, avoiding your scrotum being jammed up into your body cavity should you slip off one of the truss joists. As a result, and in order to avoid such mishaps, blowing wool is generally the preferred method of insulating an attic.

Challenges to blowing wool? Only one, which is that this method absolutely requires two people, one feeding the machine with wool from below, and a second person directing the placement of the wool while positioned up in the attic. Although the act of blowing wool requires minimal movement, since the power of the blower will allow wool to be blown a distance of about 12-16 feet, the installer will have to risk some venturing about the truss joists beforehand as they stake the area with paper rulers.

The paper rulers, hung from various truss positions, will help guide the installer in how deep to spread the wool. Next week, case No. 921 continues.

Good building.

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