1. Recover vs. tear-off and replace
This might be the biggest scam in the roofing industry. You hire a company to tear-off and replace your old roof with new shingles, meet the crew in the morning, and head off to work. You come home ten hours later to the crew just finishing your job. The roof looks great. What’s the problem? Well, while you were gone, the crew decided to not tear off your old roof. They installed new shingles over the old shingles, replacing the drip edge with new drip edge for a clean look, and called it a day. A “recover”.
This scenario plays out more often than you think. Two or three times a month I meet a client who just replaced his roof six or seven years ago. The roof is in terrible condition – curling shingles, missing excessive amounts of granules, and worst of all, leaking. Why did it deteriorate so quickly?
The answer is it was recovered. A recover causes shingles to age prematurely, loose granules, and curl. It’s also the leading cause of mold and fungus infestations in the roof. The only way to diagnose a mold problem is to tear up the old shingles and inspect the decking wood itself, so if this critical process is skipped during a recover, you simply never know.
To properly inspect the roof after job completion (if you can’t be home during the installation), I would ask your roofer to remove a shingle from the center of a random section (because sometimes a “recoverer” will cut back the first three rows of shingles to eliminate a mounding effect). If you see decking, that means there is no felt paper installed. If you see old shingles, well, call the cops. And then me.
2. Insufficient ice and water shield
State law in Michigan requires a special underlayment called “ice and water shield” to be installed 24 inches from the inside wall at all the eaves on the roof. This prevents leaks in case ice backs up underneath the shingles from frozen gutters.
That 24 inches doesn’t start until you’ve moved in past the overhang, the outside wall, the insulation, etc. If you have a two foot overhang, that means your roofer needs to install a minimum of 58 inches of ice and water shield to meet code. That’s 24 inches of overhang, roughly 10 inches of insulation and walling, and then the required 24 inches beyond the inside wall.
Insufficient or improperly installed ice and water shield is a big deal – it accounts for roughly two-thirds of our roof repair business each year.
At Roof-Rite, my crews install six feet of ice and water shield standard on every job. We also use it extensively in known problem areas like in closed valleys, up walls, and around skylights.
Ice and water shield is expensive, so many contractors use it sparingly. I buy it by the pallet to reduce costs, but my mentality is this – it costs me much more to repair an insufficient job later than to do it right the first time, and I’m warrantying the workmanship on the roof for seven years. Six feet is a no-brainer.
3. No starter shingles on eaves
Shingles have an adhesive strip on the back that heats up (activates) in the sun and seals the shingles to each other. Starter shingles are special shingles that get installed at all the eaves so the first row of real shingles have something to which to adhere to and don’t go flopping about in the wind.
I can’t tell you how many tear-offs we do a season with no starter shingles installed. It’s a lot. I always ask these homeowners if they have had problems with shingles blowing off, and they invariably tell me, sometimes quizzically, “Yes!” and I tell them that that’s about to change.
At Roof-Rite, my crews install starter shingles not only in all the eaves (the edge of the roof the gutters run along) but also along all the rakes (the edges of the roof where the house ends). This provides extra strength to each row and gives the roof a much better wind performance rating.
4. Staples instead of nails
Some contractors will install shingles with staples from a staple gun, claiming it works just as well and is easier to install.
This is a no-brainer. Which would you rather have, inch-and-a-half nails holding your shingles on or three-quarter-inch staples you can pull out of the decking with your bare hand?
Staples have no place in roofing. Period. Always use nails.
5. No felt!
Felt underlayment (fifteen-pound weight) gets installed on a roof anywhere that ice and water shield isn’t already installed. It does two jobs: it protects the shingles from chemicals in the roof deck, and if by chance any wind-driven rain makes its way behind the shingles, it directs it harmlessly down into the gutters.
Felt is not as expensive as ice and water shield, but it adds up quickly because it’s installed everywhere. Many contractors see this as an opportunity to save money and not install it because it’s hidden at job completion. Insist on proper felt installation.