Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Low Slope Roofing Choices for Mid-Century Homes

I have a confession to make.  In the last 3 years, I've become borderline obsessed with roofs.  I notice them when I drive, I stop and look at them, and I note where all the interesting ones are so I can go back and show my husband.  (He plays along although there may be an eyeroll or two....or some slow blinking.) 

Yes, I've become a roof stalker.  The only thing I haven't done is stop and knock on doors.  I haven't had the guts to do that.  Not yet anyway.  There's still time, though.  (Or maybe I can get my husband to do that...)

In my last post, I shared our roofing woes with you all.  To recap, our 8 year old roof is failing.  We did not have it installed, it was already here when we purchased our home in 2010.

The existing roof was installed incorrectly, on a slope that is too low for shingles (a little less than 2:12), and we need to do something.  There are 3 basic problems that we can figure out:

1.  Ice and water shield was not used over the entire roof, only at the edges of the roof.
2.  The shingles were "cheated" in the installation; i.e. they were not overlapped properly so some of the nails are not completely covered by the higher shingle.  During heavy rain storms, water can actually wick uphill and get under the shingles through the nailholes. 
3.  Flashing is failing--probably poor installation here as well if it was replaced at all.

I have met with 5 different roofers and received 9 quotes of varying materials, opinions and price levels.  In addition, I had an architect come out and do a roof consultation.  This was money well spent--I highly recommend it if you are in a similar situation.  I felt like I had an honest broker's opinion to compare to the roofing companies.  And the first words out of his mouth when he came here for our consult were, "Is this a Don Hershey home?"  Bingo...I found the right guy.

I selected roofers to come and look at the roof based on several criteria.  Most of the roofers I selected did both residential and commercial roofs.  I tried to get a commercial-only roofer to come out but they declined saying they only do commercial roofs and won't look at residential.  So I didn't try that again.  I only looked at roofers that had decent reviews in Angie's List.  This is the first time I've used Angie's List and I found it quite helpful.

Our roof is 50 squares...that is really, really big.  Quotes ranged significantly--surprisingly, actually.  And the range didn't correlate with my perceptions of the quality of the work.  I should note that one roofer came out, measured the roof, and then never submitted a quote.

Here are the choices that we investigated  and the collective opinions.  (There may be others...but in here's what people have to choose from based on my experience in upstate New York):

1.  Shingles:  Two of the roofers said that we could do shingles on this roof if we used an ice and water shield over the entire roof.  I should also note that two roofers said they wouldn''t put shingles on this roof at all and wouldn't do it if we wanted to.  The architect said that the only way this would work is if you used a higher grade ice and water shield over the entire roof--he recommended a product called WIP 300 made by Carlisle.  The other roofers recommended a product made by Grace.  The idea is that conventional ice and water shield expands and contracts in our weather. Eventually (as in 10 years down the line), the material would not expand and contract the same way and it would leave small gaps around the nailholes.  At this point, we could get leaks.  The higher end ice and water shield (like the Carlisle WIP 300 product), has material properties that prevent the expansion and contraction problems that the lower grade one has due to a higher melting point. 

2.  Standing Seam Metal:  This is the most expensive option but it will basically last 100 years or more.  Essentially, long sheets of metal are mechanically welded on site to provide a seamless roof.  There are products made just for low slope roofs all the way down to a 1/4 pitch.  The architect recommended using a full ice and water shield underneath as well.  This is the option that the architect recommended.  It was also the most aesthetically desirable.


http://st.houzz.com/simgs/c461979c00802745_4-5943/-exterior.jpg
Standing Seam Metal Roof on low slope


3.  Rolled asphalt roofing:  I would simply describe this as rolled shingles.  It is less expensive than metal, but the look isn't as great.  It is only warrantied for 12-15 years as well.  Usually used on porches, not on an entire house, although I have seen it on an entire house.

 http://stpaulroofing.com/Product_Logos/Roofing_Materials/Flat-Roofing-Gaf/Liberty-Flat-Roof-Brown.jpg

4.  EPDM. Black rubber.  It's not as expensive as other options, and its water proof, but you basically have an inner tube covering your roof.  It has a good warranty--20+ years.  It's glued down so you don't have any nails.  But it's not a great look if your roof is visible, like ours.

 http://www.guymarcompany.com/resources/EPDM-flat-roof-fulham-laying-sheet.jpg

5.  TPO.  This is another synthetic roof membrane.  Comes in a few colors.  Heat welded onsite.  Warranty of 30-40 years. Used a lot in commercial applications.  I've never seen this in a residential application although I did find this picture on the internet.

 http://www.tporoofing.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/tpo-roofing.jpg

6.  Torch-down.  Not recommended--insurance won't cover your house if it burns down.  I think my neighbor has this, however, and it's coated with a silver paint.

In my next post, I'll tell you what we picked.  We are deciding this week!  We are also addressing some insulation issues and lack of bathroom fan issues as well.  So stay tuned!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Roofing Decisions We Need To Make

I normally like to spend my money on pretty things for the INSIDE of the house and my patience for spending money on FIXING my house is running thin.  My intention for writing this post, and one of the reasons for writing this blog, is so other people can learn from my experiences--the good and the bad.  There are many mid-century homes out there with low-pitched roofs, like ours.

When we purchased our home in August, 2010, we were told it had a 5 year old roof.  30 year GAF architectural shingles.  I had just put a new roof on my old house and I was pretty happy that I wouldn't have to address that again for a long time.  Plus, this house needed so much TLC that I was relieved that wouldn't have to redirect my funds towards a roof.  Or so I thought...



We had our home inspected as is customary in real estate--the inspectors spent about 4 hours and actually caught a lot of problems, including alerting us to the rotten wood on the screen porch and the siding--and we got a fair bit back at closing to go towards fixing those issues.  But the roof was given a "Good" on the inspection report.  They missed the fact that the pitch is probably too low for shingles, or that the roofing job that was done was poor.  And I didn't know that the roof pitch was low and the impact that would have so I didn't think to ask.


The previous owners gave us the paperwork to the roof on closing and it showed that the roof had been installed in 2005.  It also had a piece of paper slipped in there that showed the roof had at least one problem and that another roofer had been hired to re-flash around the hood in the kitchen.  Ominous.



The  problems started for us with ice damming over the winter of 2010-2011.  It was a particularly "bad winter" and we got over 120 inches of snow.  Here was the summary of that winter from the National Weather Service


THE WINTER OF 2010-2011 WAS A VERY DEEP AND CONSISTENT ONE. IT WAS
NOT PARTICULARLY LONG...STARTING AFTER THANKSGIVING...AND PETERING
OUT ABOUT ON SCHEDULE IN LATE MARCH AND EARLY APRIL. THE WINTER WAS
REMARKABLY CONSISTENT WITH VERY FEW THAWS. TOTAL SNOWFALL WAS ABOVE
NORMAL EVERYWHERE (EXCEPT ON THE TUG HILL)...BUT NOT SUBSTANTIALLY
SO. THIS WAS DUE TO THE HIGH FREQUENCY OF THE SNOWFALLS RATHER THAN
THE SIZE OF ANY STORMS. SNOW COVERED THE GROUND JUST ABOUT THE
ENTIRE PERIOD FROM EARLY DECEMBER THROUGH MID MARCH WITH JUST A FEW
BRIEF BREAKS. ALL FOUR COLD WEATHER MONTHS (DEC-MAR) AVERAGED COLDER
THAN NORMAL.

IT WAS THE COLDEST AND SNOWIEST WINTER OVERALL ACROSS OUR REGION IN
EIGHT YEARS (SINCE 2002-03). NEARLY ALL OF THE SNOW THROUGH JANUARY
WAS OF THE LAKE EFFECT VARIETY...WHILE VIRTUALLY ALL OF IT IN
FEBRUARY AND MARCH WAS SYNOPTIC.  


I chalked the ice damming problems up to the fact that it was a very bad winter and to "getting to know the house".  From that point on,  we made sure to use the roof rake to get the snow off the roof.  (For those of you in more temperate climates, ice damming is a problem that those of us in high snowfall areas have to worry about.  Basically, it's a problem with lack of insulation and venting of the roof.  Snow melts and refreezes in the gutters, forming ice that backs up onto the roof and under the shingles.)

Then spring finally came in 2011 and it rained BUCKETS for weeks on end.  We had so much water coming in the foyer that we had to use 3 buckets at once to catch it.  It resulted it this damage to our original grasscloth.

Damage to original grasscloth from 5-year old roof leaking.

Fortunately my insurance company covered the damage and I used the money to get the roof fixed over the foyer.   We had about 5 or 6 roofers come out to fix our roof and we had trouble getting a quote from anyone--they all said that the roof needed to be replaced.  They said that the shingles weren't installed properly on this low of a pitch--which is 2/12 or just under.  

Finally, we found someone who was willing to fix the area above the foyer (along with some other work) so we thought we were going to be ok for awhile.   We were wrong.

We have plugged (aka caulked) leaks in the valleys of the house, next to the fireplace, 2 leaks in the garage (not near any flashing) and in a soffit area outside my daughter's bedroom.  We have had water come through two of the recessed lights in the family room and the "repaired" kitchen hood.  My husband and father have caulked so many areas of the roof.  I joke that our roof is held together by bubble gum.  Basically, I cringe every time in rains.  Here is some other nice damage photos.


Recent water damage.

Cracked plaster from water damage.



 The company that put on the roof is non-responsive.  I consulted an attorney a couple of years ago.  We have two choices:  We can sue the person that we bought the house from but we have to prove that they knew about roof problems when they sold it and didn't disclose it.  Or we could try to sue the inspector.

The person we bought the house from was the original owner and I don't think he tried to deceive us intentionally.  Besides, my conscience wasn't going to let me sue a guy in his 80's.

Our inspector is protected by so many caveats in the contract that the likelihood of winning a case was low, so I opted not to go that route.

Basically, we will be funding a new roof.  Ourselves.  Ugh.

In the last two years, I've done extensive research into roofing and contractors.  And I've consulted an architect for his opinion on what we need to do with the roof.  At this point, I know way more than the average bear about roofing--something that is coming in quite handy when talking to roofers.  I've interviewed 6 of them--their answers and the architect's view are the subject of my next post.