Roof hasn't forgotten last winter, either


January 28, 1995|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

From what we've been hearing, last winter's ugly weather left more than bad memories for a lot of people: all the ice, thawing, ice, thawing, ice and so on left lasting damage to roofs throughout the mid-Atlantic.

While ice may not have damaged the shingles, or surface of the roof, it did insidious damage to flashing, gutters and drip edges, where the roof ends at the gutters. All of these places may need to be caulked, tightened up or replaced.

One problem with roof repairs is that they are hard to make when they're most needed -- while it's raining for two straight weeks, or when they're covered with snow. Roofers get a lot of calls when the roof is leaking, and not many when the sun is out and the roof is just resting up, waiting to leak again. However, while they may not be able to work on the roof, most roofers would like to see where it's leaking. Call the roofer as soon as you have a problem, but expect to wait for good weather before anyone goes up on the roof to make repairs.

It's also possible that when roofers get up there, they'll discover the problem is not exactly in the roof, and that flashing is the culprit.

Flashing is the flat metal strip that connects chimneys and vents to the roof, so water doesn't run under the shingles. Flashing is sealed to the chimney by a flap that is mortared into a brick joint, then lapped over the shingles. Ice may have cracked the joint at the brick, or pulled the flashing away, so that what leaks is the chimney, not the roof.

Problems can also occur if a wall surface adjoining the roof is not in good shape -- loose siding or siding shingles, for instance, could mean the roofer won't be able to make the flashing tight enough not to leak. Preventing leaks will mean repairing surfaces next to the roof too.

Flashing comes in a roll, and must be cut and bent by the contractor to fit the roof application. That means every flashing job is a "custom" one that takes a lot of labor to do properly. If you need flashing repaired, it's a good idea not to try to "save" money by skimping on labor costs for this step.

(If you're having repeated roof problems, you may want to figure out how many layers of shingles are on your roof. Generally the advice is not to reroof more than twice (that would make three layers). We wouldn't recommend reroofing more than once (two layers); shingles are heavy, and adding that much weight, especially in an old building, could damage the structure.)

Last year's freeze-and-thaw cycles also led to problems with ice damming -- when water runs off the roof edge, freezes at the gutter, backs up under the shingles and then, when it thaws, leaks back into the house. Ventilating the roof can help, so it stays cooler and melting occurs more evenly. If you are reroofing, consider installing a drip edge that forms a tight seal to keep ice from getting under the shingles. In an extreme case, it might be a good idea to install heat cables at the roof edge, which keep the ice from forming.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.