Ridge caps on shake roof can be reattached if pieces haven't deteriorated badly

Inspector's Eye

August 11, 2002|By Dean Uhler

Sheila Murphy recently settled on the house that she and her husband bought in Baltimore County. The home inspection they had done prior to purchase of the house found that the cedar shake roof on the house needed repair.

The repairs consisted of replacing damaged shakes at scattered locations and repairing loose ridge caps. The home inspector's opinion was that the ridge caps could be refastened, rather than replaced, to minimize the cost of the repair.

A roofing company that was called in for an estimate wants to replace the ridge caps rather than refasten them. Her question is whether replacement is necessary.

The ridge cap on a roof consists of the shingles or shakes that cover the ridge, or peak, of the roof. On a shake roof, the ridge cap typically consists of a single course of shakes at the top of each slope of the roof, installed perpendicular or crosswise to the slope of the roof, so that the shakes in it overlap side to side, rather than top to bottom.

Each shake on one side of the ridge cap has a companion shake on the other side, with the ends of the two shakes being even with each other. Thus, the shakes on the two sides of the ridge cap form an inverted "V" which fits over the roof ridge. The shakes on one side of the ridge cap are fastened to those on the other side with staples or nails driven through them where the shakes come together at the top of the inverted "V".

Ridge caps tend to be the highest-maintenance part of a cedar shake roof. All cedar shakes will expand and contract slightly as they absorb water during rains, then dry out afterward. On most of the roof, this doesn't affect the attachment of the shakes to the roof. But in the ridge cap, expansion and contraction tend to cause the staples or nails holding the shakes together to gradually loosen. If the shakes are not refastened periodically, they will separate and might fall out of place.

Shakes in the ridge cap also tend to deteriorate faster than the other shakes on the roof. As a result, it may be necessary to replace the ridge cap at some point during the life of the roof to maintain a reliable and attractive roof.

Whether loose ridge cap shakes can be refastened, or must be replaced, will depend on whether they have deteriorated and whether they are still holding together enough to remain in place. If there is no advanced deterioration of the shakes, and if the shakes are still attached to each other (even though they have partially pulled apart), the ridge cap shakes can be tapped back together and secured with new staples or nails.

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