Welcome to our blog. This page is important because many people in the roofing business have absolutely no business being in the roofing business. The huge amount of negative customer reviews on the Internet is mind boggling. You need to stay away from these folks (aka Cowboy Roofers*) and know how to get the best roofing job for the best price possible. This blog will help you do that with fun, informative, and educational factoids about all aspects of roofs and roofing.
*Cowboy Roofers are the folks you should avoid hiring because they put their interests above yours and are marginally to moderately skilled at best. Cowboy roofers give a bad name to the roofing trade and worse yet they give a bad name to the large number of quality-oriented roofing contractors out there. Check out our Hall of Shame for examples of what happens when cowboy roofers get on your roof.
If you have a question that you would like SuperRoofer Joe Sardotz to answer in his blog or FAQs, please complete the Ask SuperRoofer form. Visit Joe's Contact page if you would like Joe to provide roof consulting and inspection services for you.
Oregon Roof Consulting (ORC) has been very busy during late Summer and Fall 2013, with roof inspections, supervising roofing projects start-to-finish, a few happy discoveries of roofs well-done, and several candidates for the Roofing Hall of Shame. Most jobs are addressed quickly though at times there is a waiting period as I have no employees and do everything myself. I intend on keeping this an owner/operator business. Here is a summary of each job, with links to more details and picture galleries. (Dates are approximate, reflecting when we updated the website for projects completed during late Summer and Fall 2013.)
At the 52-unit Avalon Park HOA Townhouse complex in Beaverton, ORC was hired to inspect and advise about the roof, get bids from quality contractors, and monitor the work to be done.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Roof Inspection: Avalon Park HOA Townhouse complex in Beaverton (Oct 2013")
ORC has been hired to manage this roofing project in West Linn, Oregon, from start to finish. ORC wrote the installation specs, found good roofers to bid the job, will monitor this roof until completion, and will do a final inspection.
November 18, 2013 update: The West Linn roofing project is done.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Residential Roofing Job Management Start to Finish (West Linn, Oregon, Oct 2013")
ORC recently wrote the install specs for and managed this new roof for homeowners in Milwaukie, Oregon.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Residential Roofing Job Management Start to Finish (Milwaukie, Oregon, Oct 2013")
For a shake roof in Beaverton, Oregon that needed replacing, ORC wrote the installation specs for the roofers, and will monitor the work and perform a final inspection.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Residential Roofing Job Management Start to Finish (Beaverton, Oregon, Oct 2013")
A homeowner in Milwaukie, Oregon was hoping for a roof certification, but not a chance. This roof should have been replaced years ago.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Roof Certification: Failed (Milwaukie, Oregon, Oct 2013")
ORC was hired to inspect roofs on three houseboats along the Columbia River area of Portland, Oregon.
More images at Roofing Gallery ("Houseboat Roof Inspection (Portland Area, Oregon, Oct 2013")
Oregon Roof Consulting (ORC) was hired to find a reliable and customer service-oriented roofing company for a large, ongoing HOA repair/partial reroof project in Beaverton's Avalon Park. We contacted a top long-time local distributor for referrals and also surfed the Internet.
We contacted several long established roofers and provided them with all the necessary information about the project, including photos to show them the scope of work prior to their visiting the property.
The websites of all the contacted roofers proclaimed they are “One of the best in the region” with "excellent customer service." Uh-huh. Reminds me of a lyric line in that Dire Straits song 'Industrial Disease', "Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong". Keep in mind these are the “Top tier’ companies — supposedly.
Best Roofer #1 in the Region: Roofer was excellent with the initial contact, but it was all downhill after that. The estimator went out twice, and after 15 days and two polite emails requesting bid status, neither the property manager nor ORC has heard from them. No email. No message. Nothing. We would have been better off calling the three gentlemen pictured above. 11/19/13 & still have heard nothing.
The other Best Roofer #1 in the Region: Roofer sent an email after two emails requesting bid status12 days after initial contact advising that their insurance will not allow them to do the work — after 12 days!
The other Best Roofer #1 in the Region: Roofer said “The shingles are too far gone and I am not interested in repairing them (No other roofer said this) but I would be interested in appearing before the Board and explaining my reasons". Keep in mind these shingles are only 16 years old! This roofer was not interested in doing $8,000.00 worth of repairs and helping these people out but he was more than willing to make a pitch for a quarter million $ roofing contract. Kind of disingenuous if you ask me. Elitist.
The other Best Roofer #1 in the Region: Roofer did pretty much what the first Best Roofer #1 in the Region did though this one (did) provide a price for one of the homes that needs attention.........after 13 days......... but not the other 11 homes that were on the detailed list initially sent to them. This roofer was sent three emails requesting bid status. Never received bid after requesting one and waiting 2 1/2 more weeks. Amazing.
None of these #1 Best Roofers in the region were ultimately hired...............................................amazing.....................
If these ‘Professional Roofers’ don’t want to do the work or can’t do the work or are too busy then they should just say so instead of stringing people along who want roof work done before the weather patterns change for the worse. ORC has contacted three more supposedly "best roofers in the region" for a bid. We’ll see how it goes.
After 93 years at their original location, Dealer's Supply has moved into their new home in NW Portland just off I-405. Find them at 2345 NW Nicolai Street. » map
Dealer's already was the premier distributor in the region, but this will raise the bar even further. With their huge inventory and excellent service and technical advice, they are unsurpassed. Understandably, the other distributors are likely a bit nervous, especially the ones that specialize in cedar shakes as Dealer's now sells arguably the finest cedar products obtainable in the region.
They kept their four vintage 1930's Standard 'Form Flow' material list units. Dealer's called to inquire about replacement parts and were told that these machines simply do not exist. The manufacturer wanted to buy these machines to put into their product museum! The beautiful wood at the front counter was culled from the old location and restored.
October 2013 Update: Dealer's Supply now has a roof recycling station. You scale in, unload, and scale out. The debris are separated and 100% recycled. More photos of the roof shingle recycling station are in the " Dealer's Supply" section of the Roofing Gallery page.
A beautiful new facility in a great location. Congratulations to Dealer's Supply! For more photos, please visit our Roofing Gallery page.
We recently bid on supervising a partially completed roofing job for a resort on the coast of Oregon. During the bidding process, we offered the property owner some free advice about nailing, protrusions, pipe jacks, rake edges, and starting roof jobs late in the season when they might encounter rough Oregon coastal weather.
Probably the most crucial aspect. So far this year, I have had two brand new roofs torn off because of very bad nailing. If you hear the roofers going super-rapid-fire with the nail guns, that is a big red flag. ALL nails must be perpendicular to the deck and flush with the surface of the shingles. Use six nails per shingle and use stainless steel nails. Sides of roof facing ocean should also be hand sealed. Nails must be placed at certain points, not just anywhere. Nails that are tilted, raised, or pushed in too far are not acceptable and could void the blowoff portion of your factory material warranty.
All roof protrusions should be double sealed, meaning that sealant should be used both between the top of the shingles and the bottom of all fixtures/protrusions as well as the shingles that cover the tops of all fixtures/protrusions.
I hope they are using two piece lead plumbing pipe jacks and not the rubber/NCF "no-caulk" jacks. And, they should be using continuous ridge vent or copper attic vents; no steel vents as they will soon rust. Plastic vents most economical approach but keep in mind that the plastic vents will fail and need replacing before the shingles do.
Rake edges (if any) should have a bleeder strip that is sealed between the gable/rake edge flashing and the underneath side of the bleeder strip. Shingles and bleeder strip should extend a good quarter inch past the edge of the rake metal.
Weather in Coastal Oregon:
We have been blessed with this dry run weather wise, but it will end soon and what is in store for us at the end of that rainbow? When the weather goes south, it may REALLY go south. You may want to consider stopping the roof work at a certain point and finish next year. It will soon get to the point that for each step forward, you may very well take two steps backward and expose yourself to weather related 'issues'. Your roofing company should have manned the job with more guys; but then again, they would have if they could have. I know how these guys think. I am kind of surprised that such a large project was started so late in the year.
Oregon Roof Consulting & Inspection was hired to inspect a new 50,000 sq. ft. roof on Linden Grove Health Care Facility in Puyallup Washington in July 2013. The shingle is a 30-year Certainteed 'Landmark' laminate that was installed after the old composition roof was removed. The property owners wanted an independent third party to inspect the entire roof and document that it was done to manufacturer specifications. ORC found a few minor/superficial items that took about three hours to correct. Other than that, the roof passed inspection.
The Contractor was Centimark Corporation, based in Pennsylvania. The roofing was installed by Centimark Corporation in Auburn Washington.
Project Management Commissioned 4/30/13: Oregon Roof Consulting (ORC) has been commissioned by a busy professional to manage this residential roofing project from beginning to end.
ORC will be responsible for:
having quality-oriented roofing contractors bid the job;
writing the specifications for the job;
assist in deciding who does the roof;
monitoring the job on a daily basis;
photo documenting all aspects of the work;
emailing each day's photos to the owners to show the progress;
inspecting the completed job.
Managing your roof job is just one of the many services offered by Oregon Roof Consulting. I can save you time, money, and headaches and will make certain you get what you pay for. Guaranteed!
Bid Update: 5/15/13
The difference in bid prices was amazing considering that all five vendors were presented with the same list of products and specifications. Prices were requested for five different shingles: the difference in price for the same thing was up to $21,000! If the roofing companies were left to bid it their way, one would expect pricing to be all over the place. However, considering all were bidding the same job the same way, the pricing should have been closer. Bid monitoring is just one reason to have a qualified third-party owner advocate assist in the process, literally saving the property owner tens of thousands of dollars for the same job!
Successful Job Completion: 7/23/13
After the old shakes were removed, 1/2" plywood was installed. The plywood was gapped 1/8" everywhere, staggered properly, and all end joints are on rafters. Where necessary the original spaced sheathing was either raised or lowered so all horizontal plywood joints are over solid wood. The roof is Certainteed lifetime 'Landmark TL' in black. Included components are but not limited to:
Lead pipe jacks sanded, primed and painted.
9" continuous ridge vent.
Replace two 2X4 skylites with double E glass units.
Use two different color metal flashings (Black / White) depending on location.
Use 6" 'stem' or 'flapper' vents for all utility vents. Metal (never) plastic.
Ice & Water shield in all valleys and at all protrusions.
5-ply lifetime 'Mountain Ridge'.
Oversized 'D' metal at rake edges with bleeder strip.
6 double 'D' ring anchors evenly spaced around roof.
Chimney counter flashing sanded, primed and painted, then screwed to chimney flashing with 1/4" hex head sheet metal screws.
Shingles 6-nailed instead of the typical 4 nails.
Both chimneys pressure washed and sealed prior to the roof install.
The Price Comparison Sheet above is for a residential roofing project that Oregon Roof Consulting is managing (see "Residential roofing job management start to finish"). All bids came from top companies and all were presented with the same installation specifications and shingles to bid.
There is quite a contrast among the bids. We typically recommend tossing out the low bid, but in this case a very qualified vendor placed the low bid.
This roof installation project will be monitored and managed by Oregon Roof Consulting (ORC) to make certain it is done correctly. ORC has saved the homeowner up to $23,000, depending on which vendor, shingles and other options are chosen.
Why the differences in pricing? Some typical reasons include:
Higher overhead from one company to another.
Estimating accuracy. (An estimator can make or break a company).
Some companies want higher profits with each job.
Some companies are busier than others. If busy, they bid high; if slow, they bid low.
Some companies feel that getting 80% of the desired price for a job is better than not getting the job at all.
The bottom line: It isn't enough to just take (or toss) the lowest bid. One needs to be smart about it, know the vendors, know the materials, know the proper roofing techniques, and make sure the roofing contractors follow through on the specifications. Contact Oregon Roof Consulting to help you find the best vendor with the best price and follow-through for your roofing job.
Unfortunately, many roofing companies avoid jobs managed by a third-party owner advocate like Oregon Roof Consulting (ORC). They simply are not accustomed to being scrutinized and monitored by a fully-qualified third party, and this is very uncomfortable for them.
I’ve found that for each company that is willing to cooperate with us, two more want no part of it. Contrary to being a bad thing, this reluctance by “the other two” weeds out potential issues and likelihood of conflict before, during, and after the roofing project.
If a company is confident in its abilities, there probably is nothing to be concerned about. A confident, competent company – especially one that is willing to be managed by an owner advocate – makes perfect sense to ORC. I see it as a win for all involved. The legitimate roofer gets a nice job, ORC saves another homeowner, and – most important – the owners paying for all of this are assured of value and quality with a roof they won’t have to worry about in their lifetime.
Recently Bob Villa of “This Old House Fame“ wrote an article asking the question “Should You Replace or Repair Your Roof?” He begins:
Making good decisions is the key to minimizing near- and long-term costs related to any home improvement. This is especially true for large, complex jobs like reroofing. In this particular case, some of the most important decisions should be made before you hire a contractor or choose a shingle manufacturer.
His article covers several topics, including:
Whether to simply patch leaks and damaged areas
Whether to partially reroof or completely reroof
Whether to tear off or roof over
How to find the right contractor
Joe Sardotz at Oregon Roof Consulting encourages you to read this article from rafter to eaves. Then contact Joe to help you make these tough decisions and take you through the entire process.
This roof in Lake Oswego had to be redone. The specifications for the install were clear and the contractor knew it would be inspected. The ball was really dropped here. (Click images below for larger views in new window. Scroll down to read the rest of the story.)
Removal of damaged plywood overhang due to use of too-long nails
Replacement of damaged overhang plywood
New roof (second install)
New roof (again)
What was wrong? Lots!
The contract specified 30lb felt, 15 lb was used.
Edge flashing used was not as specified.
Vents and pipes were not laid in sealant.
At least 85% of nails were either set too deep, blown through (indication of air gun malfunction), at an extreme angle, and/or improperly placed. This does not occur if a roof is hand nailed.
All manufacturers are very specific about fastening, and even though a little 'wiggle room' is allowed, this was not even remotely close. Way too much wiggling! Also, the roofers used nails that were too long at the exposed overhangs, which damaged the plywood such that the owner demanded it be done again. Two days after the job was completed, the new roof was torn off and done again. The difference between the two installs was like night & day.
This incident created a lot of unnecessary stress for all parties, cost the roofer a lot of money, and was an embarassment for the company and the roofers themselves. Just a bad situation all the way around.
Do it right: First time, every time!
The moral of this story is: "Do it right the first time! Do it to manufacturer specifications. Do what the contract says."
Don't let this happen to you. I hate to think of how many badly done new roofs are out there and how many property owners have no clue about it. Have Oregon Roof Consulting inspect your new roof!
Joe's 25 Point "WOW Factor" Will Transform the Typical Mediocre Roof Installation into a High Performer
Almost four decades of roofing experience have enabled me to develop a 25-point checklist for installing pitched roofs and an 11-point checklist for installing flat roof systems. When implemented, these checklists produce a significant upgrade in a roof's waterproofing abilities as well as its overall appearance, far exceeding the quality and integrity of at least 98% of other "typically" installed roofs. Guaranteed.
How is this Accomplished?
By upgrading certain components, but mostly by adjusting installation techniques and taking just a little extra time. These installation methods greatly contributed to my success as a roofing contractor. The added cost to a project is just 3% - 5% (plus or minus), depending on the configuration of the project, and the added time is insignificant when compared to the end result. This extra care benefits the property owner, contractor, builder, remodeler and anyone else involved.
I have sent photos and text descriptions of jobs that I have done using my methods to executives of national shingle manufacturers, presidents of major materials distributors, architects, planners, and others in the building trades. Their response has always been "WOW!" -- which is why I call my system "Joe's WOW Factor." No gimmick. No sales pressure. The method speaks for itself.
When I have mentioned some of my methods to various roofers in the past, the typical back-of-the-hand response is something like:
"You can't make no money doing all that stuff, it's way overkill." **Note improper grammar**
"The homeowner will never know about or be able to see this stuff."
Coming from these so-called 'roofers,' intended negative comments like the above turn into compliments (like Mom always told me, "Consider the source. If someone insists on making a fool of themselves just get the heck out of the way"). I may be "crazy" but at least my roofs don't leak or blow off.
The roofing trade is a solidly regulated industry. Manufacturers have specific guidelines for the installation of their products, and failure to follow these specifications can void at least part of the material warranty. Countless boards, associations, and panels also have rules and guidelines. Unfortunately, way too many roofers ignore most of these guidelines or simply are not aware of them. A very high percentage of roofers simply have not been trained properly and have a lot of very bad habits, which are a few of the reasons why the roofing trade has a deservedly tarnished reputation.
Shingle manufacturers such as Cerainteed have installer designations such as "Master Shingler." A small percentage of all roofers hold Master Shingler or similar designations. But even with the ones that do, there is no guarantee that these guidelines are being strictly adhered to.
What Happens to Roofs Without "Joe's WOW Factor"?
Some of my Joe's WOW Factor roofing techniques are visible; however, many are not -- at first! But as the roof ages, even a little, the differences between a mediocre roof and a great roof become all too apparent. Here are just a few examples of what happens when roofers cut corners or don't adhere to roofing installation guidelines (see my Hall of Shame page and other blog entries for more examples):
Peeling paint on improperly prepared gas 'B' vent components, lead pipe jacks, and other items painted by the contractor create an expensive and unnecessary callback / service call to the roofer and a headache for the property owner;
At least 85% of all roofs are (not) fastened to manufacturers specifications thereby likely voiding the wind blowoff portion of the material warranty. Every shingle wrapper by any manufacturer has a diagram showing proper nailing. They are very specific and are there for a reason;
Components, valleys, and flashings not adequately sealed; Many times they are not sealed at all;
Inferior components used and critical corners cut most of the time;
Sheathing improperly fastened, spaced, and staggered;
Property owner discovers gutter and/or siding damage after a roof installation because the roofing company didn't bother to protect the gutters and/or siding. This is a frequent occurance;
Property owner discovers big black gouges and divots on their brand new roofs caused by roofers damaging the shingles as they walk atop them on a hot day without taking simple precautions that are easily implemented but rarely are;
Property owner's new roof install job is so bad that it is necessary to tear it off and start over. See 'Blog'.
** These are just a few commonplace installation issues. I have 18 more that deal with layout; fastening; flashing techniques; quality of components; chimney & skylite details; wall protection, sheathing; and many more that will surprise you. Guaranteed..
Ensuring that Your New Roof has "Joe's WOW Factor"
I have read the Master Shingler course from cover to cover. I also know like the back of my hammer the installation guidelines set forth by material manufacturers and other industry governing bodies. While the Master Shingler rules and even the material manufacturer and governing body guidelines include some Joe's WOW Factor points, many of these important installation details are nowhere to be found. If I am involved with your project, I will:
Define all the necessary specifications, in writing, for the entire job. Specifications will include my Joe's WOW Factor checklist items, as well as all relevant manufacturer and industry guidelines.
Inspect the finished job to make certain all these guidelines have indeed been implemented correctly, per the contract, before you pay the final bill.
It took me nearly four decades to figure all this out, so I cannot share the specifics of Joe's WOW Factor roofing techniques here. However, rest assured that:
While tile is unique and very beautiful, it is not a practical system and it doesn’t work well with our Pacific Northwest cocktail of moisture, humidity, and long periods of days with little sunlight. Moss loves it! The appearance of tile declines with age as the UV rays damage or dissolve the top slurry coating. Eventually the concrete becomes visible. This does not occur with colorthru tile but the initial vivid coloring fades to a noticeable dullness. Also, birds, bats, bees, and other critters just love making their home within your very expensive tile roof. See below link for amazing video evidence of this!
Over time, the water channels clog up with debris and sediment accumulates at the bottom of the valleys, which then diverts water where you don’t want water to go.
Tile also is very expensive to maintain and repair. Count on many being broken if anyone is walking on the tile roof for any length of time. I put tile on my other house and regret it.
When an appraiser/inspector is expected to say a roof is bad, should the seller just accept the inevitability of that conclusion? Or should the seller preempt it? How can the seller minimize exposure...as well as cost, while still presenting what seems to be a serviceable home to the buyer? What better answer could there be than a signed "roof certification" presented by a bonded roofing contractor to back their contention that the roof is good? How valuable is this shield, and for whom does it work best?
Ryan Bowen makes some good points about the roof certification process. Many roofers simply are not qualified or experienced enough to provide an accurate assessment of a roof, just as many are not qualified to install or repair a roof. According to the Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB), roofing has one of the highest rates of complaints, lawsuits, conflict, and other issues of all trades.
A roofing contractor's first priority is to sell or repair a roof. A certification costs a fraction of what a new roof costs, so for sheer business reasons, contractors automatically will veer away from the roof certification option.
However, it is the seller's duty to find a qualified person to do a roof certification, just as it would be the seller's duty and responsibility to hire a competent contractor to repair or replace the roof. It's on the seller.
A certification done by a qualified individual is a perfectly legitimate tool to be used in the process of selling a home. If the home needs a new roof, replace it. If it's good, leave it alone or complete any minor repairs that are needed to extend its life for the new homeowner. If a newer roof of 5 to 15 years of age needs certification, odds are it still has plenty of life left. The best way to obtain a legitimate certification is to hire an impartial third party such as a home inspector or a roofing consultant who has nothing to sell.
I was a roofing contractor in the Metro area for the better part of three decades. Now I am a roofing consultant and inspector who also does thorough roof certifications and other roof-related consulting services for property owners. I am an independent owner advocate with no allegiance to any contractor, distributor, or material manufacturer. I tell the property owners up front that there is a chance I will find out something about their roof that they do not want to hear. My certification forms cover all aspects of the roof and its various components.
» Sample certification form (new window)
» Recent roof certification jobs
As with anything else, you get what you pay for on a roof certification, if you are lucky. People often do not get what they pay for. It is the owners /sellers responsibility to do the homework and seek qualified vendors, regardless of what type of help they are seeking. If they settle for the 'cheapest guy in town' or are not careful about whom they choose as their vendor, then they only have themselves to blame if things go south. This is true for roof replacements and it is true for roof certifications. Choose your vendors well, and the odds are in your favor for a good outcome.
This week I performed four Portland-area roof inspection and Portland-area roof certification jobs. Two roof inspections revealed the need for new roofs. One roof could be certified as is. One roof needed repairs prior to being certified.
For the Sellwood, Oregon, and Lake Oswego, Oregon, roof inspections that revealed the need for new roofs, I explained to the owners what they had, what they needed, and the best way to do it so they don't have to worry about the roof in the future. I wrote the roof specifications for the jobs and these specifications were presented to all bidders. Once all new roofing bids are received, I will review them with the owners and make my recommendations on whom to hire. After the new roofs are completed, I will inspect each finished product to be certain it was done to specifications and indicate any needed corrections. The owners can then issue the final payment to the roofing companies.
The other two jobs were roof certifications in Southeast Portland and Northeast Portland, Oregon. The first roof, I couldn’t certify because it was not in good condition. The second roof was in good condition; it just needed some vents installed and some minor chimney detail work.
This house in Sellwood needs a new roof and some overhang repairs.
I wrote specifications for a new roof on this duplex in Lake Oswego.
Lake Oswego job. Skylights were leaking due to the seals failing.
Roof certification in SE Portland.
A house in NE Portland. Could not certify because the roof was too far gone. New roof needed.
I have a folder with seventy-three bids from various roofing companies, which I have collected since about 1983. Some bids were offered, some were asked for. Most are specific and clear about how the roofing work will be performed.
Unfortunately, many are quite vague. A few basically say "We will do your roof for this price," with virtually no explanation of the components to be used or mention of any labor warranty. What astounds me is how many of these so-called 'Roofers' actually get roofing jobs!
Labor warranties range from one year to the life of the roof. But that's just the start of what you need to know about roofing bids.
Avoid the Cowboys! Do your homework. Or let me do it for you. Hire me to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Oregon Property Owners:Contact Joe Sardotz before you roof and let him steer you clear of cowboy roofers. If you've already hired a roofer, let Joe help guide the project and inspect the work at every step.
Which is better: Synthetic underlayment or traditional felt underlayment? Bottom line: Underlayment is a vapor barrier.
Synthetic underlayments are a good product, but the advantage is primarily to the installer:
Synthetics are lighter in weight, so a 1000 sq ft roll weighs about what a roll of standard 15lb 400 sq ft asphalt-saturated felt weighs.
Organic (traditional) felt underlayments will 'breathe' whereas synthetics will not. Many roofers prefer 'felt' for this reason.
Synthetics will not wrinkle overnight like felt will, so the roofer does not need to slice the felt the next day to flatten it out, which saves a little time. Note: If the felt receives 15 minutes of sunlight, it will flatten out. If the roofer covers the felt with a tarp at the end of the workday, it will remain flat overnight.
Synthetics cost more money than standard felt. Of course that cost is passed to you but the roofer has one less time-consuming issue to deal with (time is money) so the profit margin can be higher with synthetic underlayment rather than with felt.
Simply stated, synthetics are more expensive than felt, lighter, and can be quicker and easier for the installer to use. Traditional felt is less expensive than synthetic underlayment, is a little more sensitive to the elements though it can be easily managed with a little extra care.
* The space sheathing on the left is typical, just like the picture on the right — EXCEPT instead of installing plywood over the boards, they put boards between the spaced/skip sheathing. This is one of the ultimate, supreme Cowboy rodeo ripoff tricks that robs property owners of their hard-earned money!
Spaced or ‘skip’ sheathing is installed on roofs when wood shakes or shingles are used as the roofing material. This sheathing allows the wood to ‘breathe’. (Occasionally you see shakes over plywood but rarely. Plywood is not the correct deck for wood roofs, as the roofing and the plywood will fail prematurely due to moisture buildup.)
Switching from a wood roof to a composite shingle roof requires the installation of a solid deck, preferably real plywood and not OSB (waferboard).
Shown above left is a classic cowboy roofer ripoff trick where they installed boards between the spaced sheathing! Look at the wide gaps all over and note that a significant percentage of nails will not hit solid wood. Hand nailing can avoid this failure to hit solid wood, but with air nailers (which 98% of roofers use), the roofer cannot ‘feel’ whether the nails are hitting solid wood. This is one of many reasons why hand nailing is far superior to air nailing.
Which is better? Hand nailing or air nailing? That is the question. Here is the answer: Hand nailing is far superior. Air nailing not even remotely close in quality to hand nailing. Too bad almost nobody does hand nailing anymore. I hand nailed everything, including plywood. I didn't even bring an air compressor to the job unless it was for blowing dust off the roof or my clothes.
98% of 'roofers' use air guns, which is the main reason at least 85% of all roofs are installed incorrectly. By using air power, it is very possible that the blowoff portion of your manufacturer's warranty will be void.
Air nailing is beneficial to both the contractor and the installer, but NOT the property owner! Good for the contractor because the job goes faster. Good for the installer beacause nearly all companies pay PIECEWORK, which encourages speed; so the more the installer does in a day the more they earn. Natural inclination.
If you hear an air nailer going so fast that you cannot differentiate between the individual trigger pulls, then your roof is likely being installed IMPROPERLY. All manufacturers are VERY SPECIFIC about nailing. EVERY bundle of shingles made by EVERY manufacturer includes a diagram regarding nailing. The nails MUST be perpendicular to the deck. The nail heads MUST be flush with the shingle surface and not raised above or pushed through. The nails MUST be precisely placed. You cannot put them just anywhere.
I was a special witness for a homeowner who caught the roofer not abiding by the contract. He refused to pay for the roof. Lawyers became involved. The huge production-oriented local company was pulling out all the stops. I was asked by counsel to take 100 photos of the improper nailing. I pried up 100 shingles and found nails pushed through, applied at an angle and incorrectly placed, as well as not the correct number of nails per shingle.
I marked each black shingle with my yellow crayon. Each was numbered 1 through 100. I made documents explaining what was going on in each photo. One day before the case was to go to trial, the 'roofer' threw in the towel. We prevailed. The homeowner got a free roof and all attorneys costs paid. True story. The homeowner's testimonial is on the Testimonials page.
Another negative about nailing guns is that you cannot 'feel' whether the nail is going into wood or air. With hand nailing you can. Many roofs are installed over 1X8 shiplap boards, which were used in the old days before the introduction of plywood. These boards have wide gaps and many knot holes; therefore, a percentage of the nails will not go into solid wood. The likelihood of blowoff increases.
Any roof with 1X8 shiplap should be covered with plywood. By doing this, you know every nail is hitting solid wood; but most roofers will not do this because the other way IS CHEAPER. Another benefit of 1/2" plywood over 3/4" thick shiplap is that you end up with a total of 1 1/4" of wood for the fasteners to bite into. Walking on a roof deck with these two layers of wood feels like you are walking on the ground. Installing plywood raises the price of the job, reducing the contractor's chance of getting the job when the competition omits plywood. However, installing plywood is the right way to do it!
Virtually nobody will lay it out for you as I just have. Either they don't know this or they don't care. I see it ALLTHE TIME. Production and profit trump quality. And really, a good hand nailer can nearly keep up with a gun user. But most important, with hand nailing you know that 99% of all nails are correctly applied.
If you ask most roofers about hand nailing, just wait for the funny look they give you. Nearly all installers have never done it with a hatchet (roofing hammer). The idea terrifies them. Pay a little extra. GET IT HAND NAILED.
* About Roofing Hammers
Roofing hammers (aka hatchets) are funny looking. They have a round pin at the end, which is the 'gauge'. The gauge makes the rows straight. Althought bottom liners and General Managers look at you like you're nuts if you bring up hand nailing, any architect or (real) builder will tell you hand nailing FAR superior for all the reasons I laid out.
Installing composition shingles in very warm or hot weather requires special considerations. All composition shingles become soft in the heat and scuff or scar very easily with foot traffic. This severely compromises the integrity of the shingles and will shorten their lifespan.
DO NOT allow anyone on your composition roof in hot weather unless absolutely necessary. Tell them to wear soft shoes with smooth soles and not to twist their feet back and forth. Walk CAREFULLY.
In extremely hot climates like Southern Arizona, roofers will be on the roof by dawn, quit at mid-to-late morning, then return later in the day, even working under lights after sunset.
A way to beat the heat in the Pacific Northwest is to stay on the shady sections and relocate when the direct sun comes your way. Some roofers will keep a hose nearby and hose off the shingles periodically, which will stiffen the shingles and lessen the chance of scarring.
I used to save the plywood offcuts from previous roofing jobs. Then I made plywood trails on the roof and kept as much foot traffic on the trails as possible. Little tricks of the trade!
While cedar shake roofs are unique and beautiful, they are gradually pricing themselves out of the market. They also are sensitive to our damp Pacific Northwest climate, require constant maintenance, and are very costly to repair.
If you do choose cedar shakes, be sure to choose the CCA chemically treated ones. These treated shakes are old growth Canadian cedar with 100% vertical grain. Raw shakes are only 60-65% vertical grain and are made from younger trees. All trees are not the same.
The raw shakes will last 20 years maximum (if that) and will split and lift, resembling ski jump ramps long before treated shakes will.
Do not use a #2 or #4 starter course of cedar shake shingles. Instead use the #2, and preferably #1, CCA treated shingles as a premium starter course.
With treated shakes, the mills advise using a hot-dipped nail (NOT electro-galvanized and NOT STAPLES), with stainless steel nails preferred.Stainless steel staples also are acceptable.
For best results, install granule coated metal roof vents (Stonecoat) or a hidden ridge vent. Granule coating blends in nicely with the shingles and offers a nice touch. If you choose a shingle color that doesn’t perfectly match the available Stonecoat vents, a custom vent can be made. Expect to wait about a week for a custom roof vent.
Plastic roof vents are another example of part time pieces on a full time roof. Plastic vents warp, fade, and crack over time due to the UV rays. If a falling tree branch hits them, they can easily break, causing a leak. Most 'roofers' use these plastic roof vents. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAP. Use metal vents, granule coated metal vents (Stonecoat), or a hidden ridge vent instead. If you are having a 15-year roof installed, plastic vents will save a few dollars; for a quality, longer-lasting roof, forget plastic!
This photo shows Certainteed ‘Mountain Ridge’ roof ridge shingles. Malarkey calls theirs ‘EZ Ridge’. These ridge products are 5-ply in thickness and are designed to pair with 50-year (lifetime) shingles such as Certainteed ‘Presidential’ or Malarkey ‘Legacy’ to name a few.
Many roofing companies will sneak in a product that is a good quality 1-ply high-profile ridge product, but it will not last 50 years. Use the 1-ply on a 30-year roof (not a 50-year roof).
Why do they put a 30-year ridge on a 50-year roof? BECAUSE IT IS CHEAPER!
Lead pipe jacks (unlike neoprene pipe jacks) are quality components that last. Sure they cost a bit more, but the lead ones last and are attractive.
Lead comes in all sizes for all pitches, and a good lead shop such as A&B Sheet Metal can make custom units for those odd applications.
For power masts, they make a 'split' lead, which consists of two pipe wraps, one split in back and the other split in front. These are fastened with a stainless steel hose clamp similar to what is used on hoses attached to your car engine. Sand, prime, and paint these to match your new roof color.
The neoprene rubber pipe jacks are cheap, which is why most 'roofers' use them, but they will not last as long as any composition shingle on the market. Like an old Slovakian friend once said, “I’m too poor to be cheap.” In other words, don’t save a few bucks by buying inferior products that do not last.
Neoprene pipe jacks offer part-time components for a full-time roof. Avoid them! These will not last as long as any shingle made by any manufacturer, yet 90% of roofing jobs have these! Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAP. A 'roofer' will charge at least $150 to come and replace ONE of these failed neoprene pipe jacks, so in the end, you won't save a dime by using them.
I've always used the two-piece lead pipe jacks on every job. They will last through multiple roofs. They cost seven times what the cheap rubber ones cost, but they last.
I see these pieces of junk even on higher-end lifetime roofs! Not only do they wear out, but they are UGLY. Real roofers don't use this rubbish. Period.
Composition can be used on slopes less than 4/12 down to 2/12, but NOT lower than 2/12. ALL manufacturers require an ice and water shield peel-and-stick membrane on these applications. Otherwise part of their material warranty is void.
The only ice and water product that warrants the ‘Gasket Effect’ is made by Grace. Their product attaches to anything that penetrates it, so leaking and ice damming cannot occur. With this membrane, standard underlayment is not needed. There are cheaper ‘entry level’ membranes, but they can’t touch the performance of Grace Ice & Water Shield.
Solid roof decks are either 1X8 ship lap, which is 3/4" thick standard boards (rare) or plywood, usually 1/2" thick. Occasionally you'll see 3/8" plywood (BAD IDEA!) or perhaps 5/8", which is much stronger than half-inch.
Thicker plywood is a benefit in high wind areas because the fasteners have more wood to bite into; thus more 'holding power'. The half-inch CDX is usually 4-ply, but 5-ply is available and is significantly stronger and should be used when spanning rafters. If putting plywood over 'skip' or 'spaced' sheathing boards (which is used on a wood shake roof), then the 4-ply is fine.
Plywood is graded as having an A, B, C, or D side. AC should be used at open visible overhangs with the A side down. An alternative to this is CCPTS, which means two 'C' sides with one side (PTS) plugged (with little football shaped patches) and touch sanded. Standard 'CDX' plywood translates to a 'C' side and a 'D' side, with the 'X' meaning exterior glue.
Avoid OSB (wafer board)! Unfortunately, many ‘roofers’ do use it. Why? BECAUSE IT IS CHEAP. IT IS RUBBISH. OSB can swell with moisture and is not nearly as strong as real plywood. If you are using plywood spanning just rafters with no spaced sheathing, then upgrade either to a 5-ply 1/2" CDX or 5/8” CDX. DO IT RIGHT!
Hidden continuous ridge vent came on the scene about 25 years ago. The keyword here is 'continuous'. With continuous ridge vent, ventilation is more even and dead spots are virtually eliminated.
Ridge vent is 2 1/2 times more efficient than standard vents. The roof also looks cleaner because all those ‘box’ or ‘mushroom’ vents have been eliminated.
This product comes in multiple brands and styles. The best ones have a baffle to ward off wind-driven rain, along with a fiberglass screen inside to prevent bug invasion. This product is a very good bang for the buck.
Ventilation with proper air flow is crucial to any roof system. There are certain ratios for soffits to ridge.
Box or 'mushroom' vents are typical, but a hidden continuous ridge vent is much more efficient. With a ridge vent, the roof also looks 'cleaner' and works better because many protrusions and possible water entry points are eliminated.
For proper ventilation, you need openings at the overhangs as well as at the peak.
Soffits have multiple options.
Use metal screens that come in a variety of colors and sizes;
Or for narrow soffitts, use these round screens, which also come in various sizes. Just drill a hole with a hole saw and push the screen. They have tabs that prevent the screen from wiggling out.
If you do not have soffits, you can use special vents called 'stealth' vents that go near the bottom edge of the roof. These are either painted metal or granule coated.
Newer homes 30 years old or less usually don't require any repairs unless the roof has been leaking quite a while. Homes that are between 35 years old and up usually require at least some repairs. The older the building, the more repairs that are likely necessary.
Careful examination of the roof can reveal that at least some repair work is needed; however, It is difficult to exactly judge how much repairs are required until the roofing is removed (another reason to never put additional layers on a roof).
Surprises are possible. Roofing is not a perfect science. An experienced roofer and an inexperienced roofer may be looking at the same thing, but they do not (see) the same thing. Tearoff is always the best way to go.
It is cheaper in the long-run to do repairs during the re-roofing process than it is to return after-the-fact and dig into the structure.
Moldy plywood (above left)
Fan not connected (above right)
Mold-covered, warped plywood
Water entry via diffusion
Closeup of the new fan
4" 'flapper' exhaust vents with
clamped connection tube
This repair job in Rock Creek demonstrates water 'diffusion,' the process in which water molecules pass through most materials, including concrete, lumber, plywood, sheetrock, etc. For 7 years, two bathroom fans caused diffusion by pumping moisture into the homeowner's attic, creating hundreds of gallons of moisture intrusion into the attic.
In this case, connection tubes from fans to vents existed, but were knocked down. The owner believes the insulation guys may have knocked down the connection tubes, and he just didn't notice (neither did they!).
Even heavy concrete tiles can blow off in high wind. These roofers should have used ‘hurricane clips‘ and also nailed each tile. For composition shingles, there are several ways to battle high winds: Extra nails; ring shank roofing nails; hand sealing to name a few.
Just noticed on a contractors’ website that they were boasting about working all day on a roof in winter while it was snowing and how happy the homeowner was when he came home to find the job completed.
What the owner and apparently the ‘roofer’ didn’t realize is that putting on shingles in freezing temperatures is not something a (Professional) roofer does. Why? Because shingles freeze and become brittle. They fracture when handled. Nail guns shatter the material around the nail shaft. In other words the unknowing homeowner is the one that got shafted. I wouldn't let this happen to you!
A few contractor websites justify roofing in freezing temperatures by saying "Roofers have bills to pay year 'round" or "all it takes is a little extra care in handling the shingles." I believe all credibility goes out the window (and the roof) with those statements.
Bottom line: DO NOT have composition shingles or membrane or shakes installed in freezing temperatures. Metal roofing is OK, but even then I would hesitate. I'm not selling roofing jobs, so I can be completely honest here.
Residential and commercial roofing project consulting in Oregon; Portland Metro, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Washington State; and the Pacific Northwest area. Offering professional roof consulting, inspections, project monitoring, and certifications for property owners and homeowners.