Roofing 101 - What you Need to Know
I have no clue how many new roofs are installed in the USA each year, but it’s got to be in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps a new roof is in your future or in the next few years. If so, you’d be wise to retrieve it from my AsktheBuilder website when it’s time for you to meet with a roofer.
Most roofs installed in the USA are asphalt shingles. The reasons are many, but for the most part they’re easy to install and they’re affordable. The issue is the asphalt shingles of today are nothing like the ones that were manufactured even 40 years ago. I exposed the shortcomings about five years ago in my Roofing Ripoff book. You might want to read this short book. It will absolutely put your head on a swivel as to all things asphalt shingle. I discovered while writing the book how to make asphalt shingles last 40, or more, years. It’s all in the book.
Where do Most Roofs Leak?
If you’re like most homeowners, you wring your hands worrying about leaks. It’s a valid concern! Understand the vast majority of roof leaks on the average home almost always are at a flashing. Rarely does a leak form in the giant open field of shingles.
What is a Flashing?
A flashing is a transitional material that connects your roof to something that’s not a roof. Here’s a short list of where you’d find flashings:
- plumbing vent pipes
- any other vent that is popping up through the roof to expel air from your home
There’s a common plumbing vent-pipe flashing many roofers use that has a rubber boot attached to an aluminum flashing base. The issue is after ten years or so, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun cause the rubber to crack and split where it touches the plumbing vent pipe. Water can enter here.
I’ve discovered a better plumbing vent pipe flashing made from powder-coated steel and it has a special siliconized-rubber boot. My guess is from my own testing it might last fifty, or more, years. It’s made by Lifetime Tool. CLICK or TAP HERE to purchase this amazing flashing. It's the one I used in the video just below.
Here's a video I recorded about this amazing flashing:
How Can I Discover More about Flashings?
You can start by reading all of these articles here on AsktheBuilder.com:
You’d do well to educate yourself using different books, shingle manufacturer’s installation instructions, and even some YouTube videos about how flashings should be installed. Once you grasp this somewhat simple topic, you’ll know the right questions to ask the roofers you’ll get bids from.
Is Caulk an Acceptable Flashing Add-on?
Don’t even think of using caulk on a roof to help seal joints in flashings. Caulk is not a permanent roofing material. Once again, it’s also very susceptible to damage from UV rays. Flashings should be made from metal that you can solder. Copper is an excellent flashing material. Tin used to be used for decades but stringent EPA regulations have all but killed the tin market. Talk to your roofer about flashing materials that can be soldered.
What are the Best Skylight Flashings?
As for skylight flashings, I’ve had the best luck with Velux. They have pre-engineered aluminum flashing kits. The base and head flashings for the bottom and top of the skylight don’t require any soldering. I’ve installed them on countless jobs and have these on my own home and have never had a leak.
What are the Best Nails to Use with my Shingles?
The nails that are used to fasten your roof to your home are extremely important. Once again, read the written installation instructions from the shingles you decide to use. See what nails they require so you maintain your warranty. Pay attention to the length of the nail and how far it must penetrate the wood roof deck. Hot-dipped galvanized nails are the best. The roofer that installed the shingles on my New Hampshire house, I didn’t build the house I currently live in, used nails with a thin electroplating of zinc. Read all about different galvanized roofing nails here.
When I re-roofed my home six years ago, many of the nails I was taking off were heavily rusted. They were only eleven years old! The nails you use should last longer than the actual roofing material.
Should I Use an Underlayment or Watershield?
You may wonder about underlayments or watershields. I happen to live in the Northeast where ice dams are as common as kids swimming in our wonderful lakes here in the summertime. Ice dams can form at any location on a roof, although most do form down at the bottom of a roof where the roof passes over the exterior wall of the home.
I decided for the ultimate peace of mind to install Grace Ice and Watershield over my entire roof. I lapped it up on the sides of my skylights and connected it to my plumbing vent pipes as well. You can’t see any of this as it’s all hidden by the other flashings that cover these roof penetrations. I now don’t have to worry at all about dreadful leaks caused by ice dams.
My best advice is for you to select the roofing material you’re going to use. Do this before talking with any roofer. Once you’ve made your decision, get the full set of written installation instructions from the roofing manufacturer. Read them.
Do You Have a Handy Bidsheet I Can Use to Discover the Best Roofer?
Yes, CLICK or TAP HERE for an instant download bidsheet that will help you identify the most professional roofer to do the work. It comes with a 100-percent money-back guarantee.
You’ll quickly discover the instructions are easy to follow and understand. Once you understand how your roof should be installed, you can ask the right questions when talking with roofers. Be sure you put in your contract with the roofer that he’s to install the roof exactly as the instructions say. Period.
This article was featured in my September 12, 2021 AsktheBuilder Newsletter.