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Roof Process and Product Advancements

Posted on 15 December, 2015 at 12:21 Comments comments (241)
Updated 2/4/2019
Like most things in life, roof products evolve continuously. Manufacturers compete with one another, using the latest science and technologies to one-up each other improving their particular products' durability, efficiency and sustainability.
In turn, its very important for contractors to stay informed on these products and are properly trained on the various applications of each.
In this article, I'll share some recent improvements made for various roof types to help you make more informed decisions on any upgrades or repairs you make to your home or building's roof.
Tile Roof Products:
 With few exceptions, Roof Tiles themselves have generally remained unchanged over the past several decades. And why not? Cement tiles especially are pretty durable and can last half a century or more. The big improvements have recently been made for these roofs where it counts most- Underlayments and adhesives. While undamaged tiles will repel over 95-99% of rainwater, its a given that some moisture will make its way through the hundreds of seams, gaps and mini archways. Cracks and breaks caused by wind lift and human traffic will dramatically increase rainwater penetration. Its also important to note that when water enters through 1 broken tile, it will continue to run beneath every tile below that one.
Underlayments most commonly used on these roofs since their inception have been various grades of rolled asphalt sheeting. The basic makeup of this asphalt sheeting is very similar to heavy cardboard, which is then treated with an asphalt coating. Some of the better grades add a fiberglass mix to their cardboard. In any case, the big drawback to using these asphalt "felts" is that the asphalt wears down with time. Add the extra moisture due to damaged tiles and that asphalt layer wears away rather quickly, leaving only disintegrating cardboard "protecting" your roof.
For some time now, roof product manufacturers have been experimenting with better alternatives as tile underlayments. Initial products they rolled out weren't very successful due to higher cost, installation complexity and other reasons. Within the past several years however, most manufacturers have introduced new types of composite underlayments which are much more able to withstand the most extreme conditions. The most common names are GAF's "Tiger Paw", Tyvek's Pro-Tech, Titanium,  OC's "Deck Defense", "Feltex" and many more. The primary advantage is that none of them will crack or break down when subjected to weather extremes as asphalt products do. Material cost of these per sf is only slightly higher than regular felt. Installation is fairly easy but its important to note, these new products have specific installation guidelines as well as which fasteners and proper nail spacing to be used. Its imperative that the installer understands these specifications and follows them precisely in order to maintain that advantage.
Some other improvements to tile roof applications made in the last decade or so have been made with regard to adhesives and cement. Most tile colors and types become obsolete over time and it sometime becomes nearly impossible to locate exact tiles to match. That's why it helps to repair rather than replace tiles that are simply cracked and not shattered. The new tile repair adhesives are made specifically for this purpose and have upgraded additives which adhere to tiles and resist weather conditions. They can be found in a variety of colors to more closely resemble most tiles. While these can't be found in most local home improvement stores, roofing supply stores are usually happy to help you find the product and color you'll need. They are also the best source to find the latest, modified roof cements and membranes if your underlayment simply needs repair.

Flat Roof Products and Coatings:
Advancements have been made over the past several years to roof coatings and patching materials, especially with the elastomeric variety. Almost none of these coatings can be equated to simply "painting" your roof deck surface any more. The better patch compounds are light years ahead of the old roof caulks that initiated the trend in the 1980's.
The better coatings of today contain additives homogenized within them to give much better adhesion and superior tensile flexibility during seasonal expansion/ contraction of asphalt base products they protect. All this leads to much greater solar reflectivity, durability and a higher resistance to breaks and "alligator" type cracking, which in turn means a much longer life span and spacing in between coats.
Different brands use different additives - some use polymers, others "Siliconized Beads", "EPDM" rubber additives and a few others. All of which were engineered after many years of scientific and field testing. There are even several new roof repair products on the market now which can be used in pouring rain and even underwater!
What has gone unchanged throughout these years is that the contractor or installer need to be well versed in the proper preparation and installation techniques of any of these new products before attempting to use them. Some have specific mixing requirements before or during their use as well drying times between patching and additional coats. Its also important to monitor temperature and weather conditions, following manufacturer recommendations for each.
Another thing that has NOT changed, even with all these advancements, is the need to properly prep and clean the surface to which these materials will be applied. Even the best materials will tend to flake off after awhile if its applied to a surface that's already loose or flaking. And very few products will adhere well to a dirty surface. Please be sure your installer is properly preps and cleans your roof prior to any new work being done or you will be re-doing it again in the very near future!
Aside from the surface coatings, there have been several welcome advancements in low-sloped roofing technology as well. Most notable is the new generation of self-adhered rolled products, which have almost ended the need for "Torch-down" rolled roofing. When self-adhered rolls were introduced a couple decades ago, they came with problems which made them impractical for large-scale use. primarily their lack of long-term adhesion, need for costly, specialized base material and lack of retention during seasonal contraction and expansion.
However, those issues appear to have all been addressed with several newer products recently rolled out. On these, adhesives are now far superior even to torched rolls! Granules and even the center core on these new type rolls are embedded with new synthetics or composites which add retention, strength and durability which add up to a much longer lasting surface. Just be forewarned, while most SAP rolled products look alike, not all brands use this vital new technology. Please do your research.

Shingle Roofs:
These roofs have pretty much stood the test of time since the early 80's when fiberglass was added to their composition. While many shingles have remained almost unchanged for decades,- there are several notable exceptions being in the more costly, commercially used 40-50 year types. 
At the 2018 Roofing Expo, I was introduced to a new generation shingle manufactured by Malarkey Roofing Products, which has now replaced their entire Architectural shingle line. They upgraded most aspects on the new shingles from the moisture resistant backing to a new, longer lasting synthetic core and polymer technology for added granule retention, wind resistance and pliability. Even the granules themselves, featured in TIME Magazine's 50 Best Inventions of 2018, now harness sunlight to convert smog into water-soluble ions, actively reducing air pollution! While this is limited to this one manufacturer, I have no doubt the others will all soon be producing similar shingles, if some haven't by now.
Changes have also  been made in the underlayment and roof cements used along with them. Most underlayments used beneath roof shingles is not meant to be completely watertight. Its primary function is to prevent asphalt oils from seeping into the wood decking, thus drying out and wearing the shingles prematurely. However, this can create a problem, especially in high wind zones where shingles are prone to wind lift and damage over time. When this occurs, rainwater will eventually find its way in. So as not to be repetitive, the new underlayment products used in tile applications noted in the first section, are also now being used by some installers to avoid this problem. Again, these products need to be installed according to manufacturer's guidelines.
Advancements have also recently been made in asphalt type patching materials. As noted in the previous section, some of these products have been created for specific use in very wet conditions. Their adhesive qualities even surpass others made for dry conditions. A new product which I like using dries to a rubber-like finish. Its only been out 2 years but appears to maintains that same consistency after that time and I have no doubt the researchers test it thoroughly for much longer periods.

I'll conclude as I began- These materials continue to evolve and improve with continuous research and field testing. It's up to the contractor and installer to fully understand each product's specific preparation and application requirements. Once that's achieved, you can go back to enjoying your home and all its contents without giving a second thought to what's overhead protecting it!

Roof Coatings: Options, Benefits and B.S.

Posted on 15 March, 2015 at 20:40 Comments comments (60)

With this article I'll attempt to provide an unbiased perspective of claims made by the manufacturers of the various coating products found on the market today. I'll also dispel some of the false claims, myths or what I refer to as BenefitS without the "enefit", of others. While many will view this as but one man's opinion, I haven't arrived at these conclusions lightly. Not only are they based on my over 40 years experience working in the industry but also from opinions of manufacturers' and independent researchers after many years of scientific studies and field testing.
Take the time to read the analysis of several roof coatings below and hopefully you'll be in a much better place to make a decision on your building.
Most coating options for both of these types of roofs have been widely debunked by experts. Because of this, I won't devote too much time here on either of them.
Tile Roof Coatings.
This is a trend that has surfaced only recently, perpetrated primarily by unscrupulous contractors. The National Federation of Roofing Contractors disputes these claims in the following article: http://www.roofapedia.com/Roof-Info-Centre/3/Roof-Coatings.aspx
"There are companies who specialize in cleaning and re-coating or painting existing tiled roofs. The claims made by these companies include statements that the application of a coating or surface paint will increase the thermal efficiency of a roof and will prolong its life. They also claim that mosses and lichens‘ eat into the strength of the tiles and roof tiles are not waterproof. Unfortunately, none of these claims are true, but before you read about why, we should also talk about price. It is not uncommon for home owners to be quoted prices for roof coatings that are equivalent to a completely new roof. If you are considering a tile roof coating, it pays to ask for a quote for a new roof from a reputable roofing contractor, as a comparison..."
The article goes on to explain their conclusions in greater detail. To me, the idea that tile roofs will lose their strength or efficiency in this manner is quite ludicrous.
Asphalt Shingle Roofs:
Most of my business these days consists of repairing existing roofs. When called upon to repair a shingled roof that's been coated, I usually won't give it a second look. The 2 main reasons people tend to coat them are to add insulation value and preserve the granules from premature wear. From all I've read, the added insulation value may not be any higher than 1/10th of 1%. Certainly not enough to move your electric bill's needle. As for preserving the shingles, quite the opposite is generally true. The alternating space in between each shingle and tab- known as "Chimes"- is critical for proper runoff. When coating shingles, its virtually impossible to cover each chime as well as the horizontal seams. In doing so, I've often seen where ponding is created backing rainwater onto the nails beneath. Rusty nails will eventually loosen, then eat into the overlapping shingle. Worse yet, this coating will inhibit the asphalt's ability to contract and expand properly with seasonal temperatures resulting in premature wear, cracks and breakage to the shingles. Its also almost impossible to locate leaks and repair them on coated shingles. For that reason, I won't even attempt it.
While Roof Coatings may not be the best solution for every roof, most building owners of low-sloped roofs- especially here in the South-West- know they can be a lifesaver in keeping the inevitable, costly complete re-roof job at bay for possibly decades.  When it is decided to be your best option, how does one decide which roof coating is best for your roof?
Aluminum and Asphalt Emulsion Roof Coatings
These are the coatings I first became familiar with as a youngster in the mid 1970's while working in my father's construction company. Although he wasn't a roofer by trade, we always installed our own rolled roof products on any patio, carport or other flat roof additions we built. In those days, we'd most often use inexpensive, granulated rolled roofing material. The aluminum coating actually did add significant life to those. In coating older worn flat roofs, we'd often use a fibered asphalt emulsion to add pliability prior to the aluminum coating. This is asphalt which is actually emulsified with water crystals to increase adhesion. Its a rather inexpensive product but I've learned since that many other materials don't easily adhere to it unless its well cured. Even then, that adhesion eventually breaks down and no surface coating can restore it.
The advantages touted by proponents of aluminum roof coating supporters is their relatively low cost and reflectivity. One of the most significant cost considerations of aluminum coatings are the application requirements. The temperature must be just right for the material to be properly applied. There are also often requirements of primer usage on the roof to obtain proper adhesion..
Reflectivity is an advantage of all roof coatings, so it is not really a selling point of aluminum over any other roof coatings. The reflectivity is an advantage over other systems that don’t provide the reflectivity, but any roof coating can be reflective.
Aluminum roof coatings may be aesthetically pleasing when first installed, but that look often fades and they can become somewhat of an eyesore if the building is in sight of others. Also, while its reflective abilities help preserve asphalt materials quite well, aluminum coatings tend to retain much more heat than white coatings, adding virtually no insulation value.
Acrylic Roof Coatings
This is the less costly version of a seemingly "elastomeric" white roof coating. While it may look the synthetic blended elastomerics described below, it is far inferior in most aspects.
It is widely believed that the most significant advantage of acrylic roof coatings is the price. While acrylic roof coatings are typically viewed as the most cost effective roof coatings, this is a common misconception that has cost many building owners a lot of money. Sometimes even unknowingly, as some installers with sell homeowners on the idea that their lower costs as being strictly due to lower labor charges.
Acrylics are the cheapest white coat material in the flat roofing market. But if you're a do-it-yourselfer, please keep in mind it takes more acrylic coating to cover the same area as most other coatings, and acrylic often requires a primer upon installation. Acrylic has a much shorter useful life than most other coatings, and must be replaced, which means more cost. Acrylic coatings also do not provide the same protection from the elements as other coatings, so repair and energy costs are often higher.
Acrylic coatings are extremely common in the flat roof market today, mostly due to the not accounting for their true material life costs. They are also often chosen thanks to their reflectivity, which keeps the interior of the building cooler, but this characteristic is available in all roof coatings. They also have a much lower tensile strength, which means they don't stretch out as the building flexes thus becoming more susceptible to wear and tear. This often decreases the value provided by the coatings as they do not last as long as expected.
Most experts agree, acrylic coatings are not right for many situations. They appear to be the less expensive option, but often end up costing more than all other roof coating options would have. On top of their cost structure, they do not provide the same value other coatings are capable of providing in terms of protection and lifespan.
Elastomeric Roof Coatings With Synthetic or Polymer Additives:
Elastic/Polymer based roof coatings were originally developed for metal roof applications, but soon became most popular on many flat roofing systems. These coatings are typically water-based, and one of their greatest strengths and main purposes is to reflect UV rays and resist picking up dirt.
Each manufacturer formulates their version of this type coating a little differently and some have even patented their formulations. Those formulated and tested in like climates as yours will usually be best suited for your roof. After visiting several of these factories and test facilities, I've come away very impressed with a few brands I prefer.
While other coatings can often lose their reflectivity over time, the formula in these products allow them to resist UV rays for longer without fading or losing effectiveness.
The surfaces of roofs with this type coating, when analyzed microscopically, are extremely smooth. Most roof coatings, and roof surfaces in general, have small imperfections on the surface that can hold onto dirt and other debris, making the roof surface very dirty very quickly. However, Elastomeric roof coatings are specially formulated to have a very smooth surface once dry, which allows dirt and debris to quickly run off the surface of the roof. For this reason, Elastic/Polymer coatings are often chosen on buildings where aesthetics and reflectivity are of utmost importance.
The most important considerations with these particular coatings are proper adhesion and manufacturer's recommended spread rate.
In order to achieve maximum adhesion, the sub-surface beneath must be thoroughly cleaned and any loose prior coating or patch materials must be scraped and repaired, otherwise you're attempting to adhere it to those sub-standard surfaces. In most cases, I will pressure wash the roof first to remove built up grime and any loose previous coating. However, I'd only recommend this method if you're familiar with how much pressure to reasonably apply to prevent further damage. Its also crucial to use manufacturer's guidelines for gallon per sf spread rates when applying these coatings in order to meet their full warranty standards.
One of the biggest benefits white coatings have over all others- including the more costly options which follow- is the higher insulation value, which can add up to an impressive 5-10 points of R-value to your existing insulation!
EPDM or Silicone Based Roof Coating:
These rather costly coatings have many characteristics that make them the best solution in many situations. They have a much higher solids content than other roof coatings, which means they can be applied thick in a single coat with losing the integrity of the system. These are the ones you see on stadiums, airports and other high use and public facilities.
EPDM roof coatings can have low labor costs as compared to other roof coatings. They rarely require a primer to achieve proper adhesion, can often be applied in a single coat, and need less fabric reinforcement than most other coatings.
While the initial cost of these materials will be higher than other roof coatings, the true cost of the roofing system often ends up lower than other systems. Thanks to their long lives- lasting 2 or 3 times as long as the better elastomerics-, life-cycle costs can actually be deemed as fairly low.
Other benefits of EPDM and silicone roof coatings include UV resistance and stability, somewhat easy installation for contractors, and the lowest VOC content on the market, which is good for the environment.
Do-it-yourself'ers need to keep in mind, these products require a catalyst to be mixed in at the point of application, which eliminates preserving any left-over product.
Most manufacturers offer "Limited warranties" on their products, some for an impressive 10 years or more. However, as with most warranties, the devil is in the details. Reading further in those warranties, you'll find enough exclusions to cancel out almost any claim. Here are a few out-takes of actual exclusions I've pulled from some of the warranties I've encountered:
"Faulty or improper application of the White Coatings or White Coatings
not installed or applied exactly in accordance with (mfg's) written instructions or
leaks or damages resulting from any one or more of such causes." Its virtually impossible to prove this years after the fact.
"Leaks or damage to the White Coatings from any cause other than
inherent manufacturing defect in the White Coatings." According to this one, it seems they won't even warranty their own material unless it can be proven to be defective.
"Damage caused by foot traffic during installation, maintenance or use of equipment
installed on the roof, including, but not limited to, air conditioners, heating units, antennas, power lines or solar systems." I guess regular AC or other equipment maintenance requires the use of a hovercraft, as walking on the roof can be deemed as damaging in this detail.
"Damage caused by factors that are beyond the control of (Manufacturer)." A last ditch stand-by if all other exclusions fail.
I'm not saying they're being purposely deceptive. I'm sure they have to protect themselves from the many unqualified installers in the industry.
For these reasons, its most important that you use a reputable installer who offers their own warranty. Most of my full coating jobs include a 5yr material & workmanship warranty with very few exclusions. Most qualified professionals will do the same.
Without knowing the specific details of your buildings, it is very difficult to make recommendations on the exact roof coating you should choose. However, hopefully this post provided enough information that you can use to help you determine which one is best for your particular roof. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please use the "contact us" link on my home page. I'll attempt to respond to all requests within a reasonable amount of time and no sales tactics.

How Long Should I Expect My Roof (or Roof repair) to Last?

Posted on 25 September, 2014 at 11:49 Comments comments (136)
Quite often, I'll meet customers with roof issue who'll comment, "I was told when I bought the house that this roof was guaranteed for life!" Or, 10, 20 or 30 yrs, depending on the roof type..
In this article, I'll offer a realistic guideline to what the life expectancy of various types of roofing materials should actually be. I'll also touch on how and how often each should be inspected and maintained to maximize its life cycle. That will vary widely depending on your particular house, location and of course, the type of materials used.
Shingled Roofs generally are the simplest of all roof types' lifespans to predict. That's because manufacturer's throughout the 20th century pretty much perfected their formula for knowing almost exactly how long each of these types can be expected to last. If you'll notice, each bundle of shingles will announce it's own life expectancy in big, bold letters. Whether its a 20, 25, 30 or 50 year pronouncement, in my experience each one is almost spot on as to when deterioration ultimately sets in. For those of you with common 3-Tab style roofs, most older ones will carry a 20yr "Limited" warranty. During the past 10 years or so, the 2 major manufacturer's (GAF & Owen's Corning) have begun replacing these with their 25yr models, although they look exactly like the 20yr shingles. For single family residences, the most commonly used Laminated or Architectural type Shingles are the 30 year variety. Look-alike 40 and 50 year shingles are usually reserved for commercial and multiple unit complexes, due to the much higher cost. That plus the fact, most of us can't wrap our heads around the idea of staying in one place for more than 30yrs.
As I stated here, as well as in previous articles, this life expectancy- while quite accurate on its own- largely depends on the cooperation of outside elements. Here in the Southwest, as in many other parts of the world, it seems to me at least that the "100 year storm" has become a quite frequent occurrence. I honestly don't know how that term came into existence but these strong storms can pack enough wind, hail or wind-driven rain to obliterate any shingle's life expectancy. The damage is usually pretty evident. However, often times these storms will cause wind lift in the shingles which merits much closer inspection. This will result in loosened or bent shingles which will fail prematurely, although it may take years before you actually notice. If this happens, its quite crucial to catch it early. While manufacturer's warranties include an exclusion absolving them of liability, this type of damage is usually covered in your homeowner's insurance policy. That is unless its not noticed until too long after the fact. Its very common for us to be called to repair shingled roofs where those wind lifted shingles have broken off or leaked through. Usually by then, so much time has passed that most insurance companies won't even consider covering the resulting damage. Any good shingle repair- like ours- should always outlast the original roof. But if after any strong storm you notice lifted, loosened or displaced shingles, its a good idea to make a call to your insurance agency.
Tile Roofs. These types of roofs are some of the trickiest and frustrating to predict. With these roofs, I very frequently hear the homeowner describe the realtor's sales pitch as including a "lifetime" roof. Reminds me of my father's description of lifetime guarantees, "Not your lifetime, the life of the item"- when it dies, the lifetime guaranty dies with it! There are a few reasons these can be so frustrating. First, the tiles themselves are just the roof's primary defense against the elements. In a perfect world, yes they will last our lifetime. But in our imperfect environs however, seasonal winds frequently shift, displace and can even lift and break even the heartiest of those tiles. That's where the roof's secondary defense- the underlayment- is tested, sometimes to extremes. The underlayment most often used beneath is a heavy type of asphalt coated felt paper- or cardboard, if truth be told. Usually nailed onto it are wooden 1x2s or "Batten" strips. As you might imagine, this secondary surface is meant to repel water for only short periods of time, until the damaged tiles are repaired or replaced. The problem with that is obvious- most people don't want to even think of walking around on their tile roofs to inspect for damage. And by the time a leak is noticed in the ceiling beneath, the underlayment and even some of the batten strips can be so deteriorated that wide swaths of tiles now need to be removed to repair and replace what's underneath. This can be and often is a very costly undertaking. To prevent this from happening to your roof, its vital that you have a qualified professional you can trust, inspect your roof at least every few years and more frequently if you live in an area prone to the above mentioned storms. As is the case with your vehicle or your own health, preventative maintenance always costs much less than waiting until disaster strikes! With regular checkups and maintenance, your tile roof actually may last your lifetime.
Low-Slope or Flat Roofs.
The lifespan of these can be almost as difficult to assess as with tile roofs. That's primarily because of the variety of products which are used on today's flat roofs, many of which can appear exactly alike on the surface. Whether yours is smooth surfaced or mineral surfaced, asphalt products used most often here have the same finished look yet greatly vary underneath, which will vastly affect the life expectancy of each. For example, to the untrained eye a simple rolled roof when new- with a 5yr life expectancy- can look exactly like a torched or self adhered APP roof, which can last 10-15 years. Likewise, a smooth torched roof can have the same appearance of a Built-Up-Roof, which are meant to last even longer. any of these latter surfaces can then be coated with either an aluminum or elastomeric coating to extend their life almost indefinitely. But those coatings also make them harder to differentiate. Other factors which can affect the life expectancy of any of these low-slope materials are ponding areas, vegetation and other debris, scupper sizes and flow rates, adhesion to adjoining building materials, exposed flashing- to name a few. That said, the biggest culprit in curtailing the life of a low-slope roof is lack of maintenance. Seasonal changes affect these roofs more than others mainly because the asphalt materials used on them expand & contract during hot & cold weather respectively. This expansion/contraction effect seems to be amplified in this situation where (1) Unlike shingles, these materials are laid out in 12' to 16' lengths and (2) Unlike tile underlayment, these asphalt sheets are continuously exposed to the elements. Its not a matter of if but WHEN this push and pull begins to wear at the seams, joints and other places. That's why its so critical to do a thorough check of your flat roof, if not after every season, at least once a year. Especially if yours is "Santa Fe" style with a parapet wall and scuppers around it. Its imperative that its kept free of debris and rainwater's allowed to flow freely. Also that even the smallest cracks and other defects are properly repaired as soon as they become evident. Leaving them untreated will allow moisture into the sub-surface materials which will greatly add to the repair cost later, even if no leaks are evident from below.
Metal, EPDM & Other "Lifetime" Materials:
As with most of the other types of roof surfaces discussed above, any break, shift or defect in these materials which allows moisture onto the sub-surface will cancel out its life expectancy and most assuredly void the warranty. In these cases, it may even be worse, as the sub-surface materials below them aren't meant to repel any moisture at all. After any excessive wind storm, it is crucial that you do at least a surface check of these materials' integrity, as well as the joints and adhesives used for each.

As you may notice, the common thread of any roof surface's life expectancy is regular checkups and maintenance. Even a "Lifetime" roof usually requires a lifetime of care. If you prefer to have a trusted professional check your roof and offer his assessment, most will do so at no charge. If he does come back with a list of items needing correction or repair, a second opinion might be warranted. Even if you do end up having to pay for repairs and/or maintenance, I usually adapt Ben Franklin's quote in this case, "An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure!"

Is my roof repair a "Do-It-Yourself" type project?

Posted on 13 April, 2014 at 12:19 Comments comments (278)
Even the most avid do-it-yourselfers can be intimidated when it comes to roof repair issues.  And for lots of good reasons!  Our roofs are key in protecting every investment contained beneath them. When it fails, the repair cost can be multiplied many times over.
Even so, I've been called out to look at many problems where the solution was such an easy fix that I felt it my obligation to instruct the homeowner on how they could do it themselves, saving the labor cost- which is often many times that of materials. Some will happily accept the advice while most feel much more comfortable paying for the "expert" to do it- along with the written warranty I always provide. [Like most good businessmen, I'd much rather lose a momentary sale to gain a customer for life].
That lack of a warranty is just one of many drawbacks when tackling the repair yourself. In this article, I'll compare the risks and benefits, as well as giving you some How-To advice for those brave souls willing to take on the challenge.
HEIGHTS: The most obvious risk of course, is knowing you'll be working 10-20' above the solid ground. As I've found, fear of heights can affect anyone. Just within the past 2 weeks, I had a middle aged female customer walking an entire roof with me totally unafraid, an 82yr old customer climb onto a 2nd story roof with no trepidation at all, while another customer- A healthy 30yr old man- told me he absolutely doesn't do ladders! I myself have never suffered from that fear. But over the years, I've gained a healthy respect for the dangers of working at those heights. When I was young, I fell completely through a soft spot on a flat roof, landing on the concrete floor below. No broken bones but sprains and bruises galore. A few years later, I witnessed a co-worker fall onto a pool deck and shatter his hip and femur. He's been on permanent disability since. Then about 7yrs ago, I had a ladder slip below me as it began to rain. I fell 10' flat on my back and fractured my femur. I was fortunate as it healed swiftly and completely. So even if you have no fear of heights, you must always maintain a very healthy respect for it.
DETERMINING DIY: It goes without saying that some roof problems and solutions are so apparent, it doesn't take an expert to see them. Examples are: Blown off or damaged roof shingles; Broken and cracked tiles; Obvious holes and cracks on flat roof surfaces. Even if the problem isn't quite as obvious to you, it may be to one who's experienced it numerous times. It never hurts to ask a trusted professional if you suspect there may be a simple solution to your particular roof problem.
I should also caution that there are many times when unexpected surprises turn up once you get into the project. Damaged underlayment or plywood is often hidden beneath the surface and will need to be replaced once its discovered. I recently did a shingle repair around a chimney and discovered a huge gap behind the shingles that needed to be filled in with wood and new flashing. Those surprises are quite common so be prepared for the unexpected.
MATERIALS: Another problem you'll face when attempting the repair yourself is finding the correct materials for your particular situation. There are several places you can go to seek advice regarding which is best for you. However, I'd steer clear of seeking it from my neighborhood do-it-yourself store. Quite often the employees are biased towards the materials their store carries- not always the best- yet actually have no first-hand knowledge of its application and durability. On the other hand, material yards that deal specifically in roofing products (RWC, ABC, Allied, etc), usually carry a wide assortment of professional brands and most of their sales people are trained first hand on their products' use. They are also usually very eager to share that knowledge even with the average homeowner. My only advice there is to try and get there (or call) during their least busy hours, usually late morning to mid-afternoon, especially Tuesday thru Thursday.
EXPERTISE: As I mentioned at the outset, I have no problem advising a customer on remedies, especially if I feel that no real expertise is required for their situation. But their are many other sources these days anyone can utilize in fixing a problem yourself, especially online. While I have been known to make fun a time or two of "This Old House" type TV shows, they do have several excellent advice columns on their website regarding some of these projects. Whether its step by step shingle repair instructions:
Or a Q & A of some of the most common roof problems:
Also mentioned in the previous section, salesmen at roof materials yards are a great source of information on DIY repairs. Depending on the problem, they may even have written instructions and diagrams they can share. Plus, some of the roof product manufacturers have those instructions on their websites for all to see as well. Sifting through them can be a tedious task but I'd strongly urge anyone to fully familiarize yourself with the process before attempting such repairs. Roof shingle manufacturers even list detailed installation instructions on every bundle of shingles they sale! If you're ambitious enough to handle a complete re-shingle project yourself, I strongly advise you to read and understand those instructions completely before you begin.
WARRANTIES: One of the biggest mental hurdles in repairing a roof problem yourself is the idea of possibly not getting it right the first time, then having to do it over again if the leak persists. This is especially a valid concern on certain roofs, particularly flat or tile. It even happens to the best of us occasionally. I've discussed in previous articles how many roof companies will not warranty these repairs, for this reason primarily. However, there are other legitimate contractors like myself who have no problem offering such warranties, even on difficult situations. Doing it yourself means of course, you need to be prepared to RE-do it yourself if need be. That can be very discomforting especially when you live in an area like mine, where a good rain test can be months away- when you may be many miles away.
Even if you are intent on taking on your roof repair as a Do-it-Yourself project and want a professional's advice on the right approach, myself and other professionals would be willing to spend a few minutes to do just that, when we can spare the time. Believe me, I'm very much aware of the value of saving whenever and wherever possible. All I ask is that you please, please be realistic and aware of your own limitations.

Beware of These Common Roof Scams...

Posted on 12 February, 2014 at 11:47 Comments comments (31)
Most of you may have seen "Consumer Watch" type specials on your nightly newscast reporting sad accounts of people- especially the elderly- who fell victim to some of these roof scams. They're usually followed with warnings of several age-old scams like "The door-to-door Salesman", "Gypsy Roofers", "Storm Chasers" or "Insurance Fraud Schemes". To be sure, those are all scams we should all be aware of - But there are also a few lesser known and sneaky tactics I've seen perpetrated even by some unscrupulous employees of seemingly legitimate roofing companies! I'll try to give a rundown of most of these well known and little known scams that I've run into during the 40 years I've done this work. Even so, I'm always on the look-out for levels of shoddiness so if any of you wish to comment on any I might have missed, feel free to add it below:
Gypsy Roofers & Storm Chasers:
Out of all the roof scams, the out-of-town storm chasers are the most publicized, yet people all across the country still fall victim to them. Also known as roofing gypsies, these roofers travel around the country following the paths of storms looking for homeowners to exploit. These chasers pay attention to areas with extreme weather readings and they know what insurance companies will allow for roof replacement in those areas.
The way the scam works is the storm chasers will blanket an area hit by hail or wind damage and look for unsuspecting homeowners. They’ll pass out leaflets and even show up unannounced, offer free inspections.
They usually know how the insurance companies work, and based on the square footage of the roof, they can figure out how much it will cost to put on a cheap new roof. The homeowner gets burned because the storm chaser only does the bare minimum to replace the roof, but doesn’t address any other problems, or restore the roof to its original condition. The homeowner is then left with a poorly constructed roof, and the fraudulent company that was once so ready to help has vanished. The storm chasers have no incentive to produce high quality work, and there’s really no way for them to be held accountable because they will be gone by the time a problem arises.
Sadly, I've been called out to many of these leaking roofs- usually shingles- that carried a 20-30year warranty, yet failed within 5 or 6 years. The homeowner is often has to foot the bill for removal and full replacement, since the insurance company will refuse to pay out a 2nd claim in so short a time.
Insurance Frauds & Paid Deductible Promises:
This is the favorite in the world of scamming because homeowners don’t realize it’s a scam and they go along with it so easily. This scam is used by out of state roofers, so-called roofers and even some legitimate local roofing companies and that’s why you need to know who you can trust. The scam goes just like this: The scamming roofer/sells rep will  tell you that you don’t have to pay your insurance deductible. They'll say they have a way around it by:
  • Paying you X amount to place a sign in your yard and call it an advertising fee
  • They just won’t collect the final payment at the end of the job
  • They will let you keep the depreciation when the insurance company sends it.
In any case, insurance fraud is a felony! But the scammer is right about one thing, they do have a way around it, for them not you. The homeowner is made out to be the fall guy for the person who is going to take the rap, pay the fines and/or do the time.
Homeowners are being tricked into committing felony crimes and this could affect you and the people you care about. It sounds outrageous that the simple act of getting your roof repaired or replaced could find you committing insurance fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud. But it is happening every day in Tucson & across the U.S.
Phantom or Unneeded Work:
I've been called out to many homes, especially the past few years, where previous "contractors" or handymen have given the owner a list of work needed that is either unfounded or unheard of. One of the strangest making the rounds lately is a shingle roof in need of "caulking" (A correctly installed shingle roof should never need to be caulked). There are many other false claims that seem legitimate but turn out to be hoaxes. Of course, no matter what type of roof you may have, you're not immune to this type of scam.
In many cases, the "contractor" performing the inspection will accidentally or even purposely cause the damage where repairs are then actually needed. I've been on many tile roofs where its evident that an unqualified inspector didn't know how to walk on them and cracked entire rows or sections of tiles. I've also seen numerous flat roofs with punctures or broken areas along parapets where someone obviously stepped. Then there are those with suspicious gouges or knife marks made to create leaks that will need to be repaired.
Short-cuts & Short-shifts:
Some scams are much harder to detect, mainly because one needs to be aware of the proper installation procedures in order to spot them. A few examples are:
  Shingle Roofs- Staples and staple guns are much less costly than nails & nail guns but are much more prone to wind-lift during storms and are NOT recommended by roofing product manufacturers. Also, leaving extra reveal on the shingles (5" to-5-5/8" is recommended) can save the installer time and money but cost the homeowner valuable wear time on his/her roof. I recently inspected a 30yr shingled roof where installers had left over one extra inch of reveal per row, creating leak issues after only 2 years! The installers of course, were nowhere to be found.
  Tile Roofs- An unscrupulous roofer can save time and money by using inferior base materials or omitting required batt strips and flashings, causing many resulting headaches down the road. These repairs can be extremely costly.
  Flat Roofs- On repairs especially, I've seen where repairmen have covered over problem areas rather than take the time do cut them out in order to perform a proper repair, especially at scuppers and flashing points. Resulting ponding and slow leaks can be much more devastating than the original problem.
There are many more examples I could give but suffice it to say, short cuts are never a good thing, especially on something as critical as your roof!   
Bait & Switch Schemes:
These are also areas where one needs to pay very close attention. For example, 20 year and 25 year shingles look almost exactly alike to the unsuspecting eye, as do 30, 40 & 50 year shingles. The same with flat roof materials, on the surface at least. Whether its granulated or smooth surfaced, its not always easy to tell if its the actual material that was paid for. I recently worked on a roof where the homeowner was told a heavy "SBS" material was installed. What I found was a similar looking mineral cap sheet- about a third of the price and a fourth of the life. The installer was nowhere to be found, of course. Inferior tile underlayments are even harder to detect after installation, as no-one wants to pull up tiles just to verify the correct ones were used.  
Rookie Mistakes by Unqualified Help:
The last one I'll touch on may be the easiest for the homeowner to detect. That is, the contractor who sells himself on experience, yet leaves inexperienced and sometimes clueless cheap labor to do the job- while he's out selling to more unsuspecting victims. The results are pretty obvious and can be quite devastating. If I'm not doing the actual work, the man I leave in charge will have over 15yrs experience and his qualifications are obvious by his ability to do the work or answer any question the owner has.

As I mentioned at the outset, these are just a few examples of roof scams being perpetrated every day. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to exposing these and numerous others.  The bottom line for the homeowner is get to know your contractor - licensed or otherwise. I've worked for licensed contractors that I can only describe as crooks, yet some are actually protected by that very license! The best measure is to get legitimate and verifiable references as well as to investigate any workmanship complaints against your potential contractor. I also welcome a second or 3rd estimate if that makes the client feel more comfortable and I never, EVER use hard sell tactics. Qualified and legitimate contractors don't need them.
Please try your best to avoid getting burned by doing your homework and asking for real, local referrals. A scammer will run from any investigative work you might do!

"I was told I need a new roof. Can my OLD roof be fixed?

Posted on 6 January, 2014 at 9:50 Comments comments (41)
In a previous article written here, I stated some reasons why most roofing companies will refuse to offer warranties for repairs performed by their employees. Not so surprisingly, most inspectors and salesmen (usually one and the same) from those same companies are taught and pressured to sell a new roof job to every potential customer, even when only simple repairs are needed. In fact, in most cases, they are offered lucrative incentives to do just that. How do I know? After working my way up in one of the largest Roofing companies in Phoenix, I became an Inspector/salesman for them and later, held the same position for another similar company.
This second company however, did things a little differently than most I'd known of. Being a family owned and run company, they valued their overall integrity a little more, which extended to the sales staff. While we were still encouraged to sell potential clients a new roof whenever possible, those of us with years of repair experience were allowed to perform minor repairs, if we were sure that was all that was needed. The catch - or several catches were - the one who sold the repair would have to perform or oversee and guarantee each repair. In doing so, we'd split the profits after material costs. I saw this as a win-win for myself, the customer and the company. But as you might imagine, most salesmen were reluctant to give up the higher incentives of new roofs- not to mention the air conditioned, non-physical work they'd grown accustomed to, to get back out and actually work on another roof. Especially there, during Phoenix's summers.
Looking back, I learned many valuable lessons from those years that have served me well since. Not only did I gain a much more keen awareness as to what is and isn't repairable, I also came to understand how much such information is appreciated by most customers, whether or not they can afford the full replacement cost of a new roof. Now, enough about me - Let's talk about your roof.
The easiest types of roof to determine whether full replacement is needed or not are asphalt shingle roofs. The manufacturers make it rather simple by the fairly accurate lifespan estimates of their products. Most conventional shingles have a pre-determined span of either 20 or 30 years. Only in rare cases of wind, hail damage or other catastrophe would I recommend replacement over a repair job before that time span is up.
Flat and Tile roofs are another matter entirely. I've done repairs on countless ones of each type where the homeowner's been told by other contractors that a full replacement is needed only to find, that's not the case.
For flat roofs, there are several obvious signs that will determine if it can be repaired or not- and a visual inspection isn't always the most reliable. I've seen many flat roofs where the coating is worn and flaking, giving the appearance that a new roof is in order. Yet if the integrity of the roof base hasn't been compromised, power-washing, repairing and coating will usually add many years to its life. However, I have also seen a number of roofs that look perfectly fine by appearance only to find on further inspection that the whole thing needs replacing. A repair I did on one of these in East Tucson 4 years ago, to my regret, is still under warranty by me for another year. In that case, the roof leaked in a couple areas, which we repaired. The rest of the roof looked to be in good shape except for the somewhat worn coating. So we did a 5yr coating on it. I did notice at the time, a kind of "crunchy" sound and feel as we walked on the roof. I knew this meant that the bottom layers of this built-up roof had been compromised and were starting to break apart, but I thought it could be salvaged for one more stretch (plus, the elderly homeowner on a fixed income couldn't afford the replacement cost). My mistake has now cost me a couple trips back there during the past 2yrs, as new leaks have sprung up in new locations. We've repaired, double coated and even triple coated some areas. Even so, this new elderly friend will need to have her entire roof stripped and replaced once my warranty is up next year.
Another sign to look for on flat roofs are "soft spots", where water has permeated and damaged the plywood beneath. If those soft spots are limited to one or several small areas, especially around scuppers, roof drains or evaporative coolers, that's a fairly common occurrence and can be spot repaired by a qualified professional. If however, you notice soft spots thru-out your roof, that's a sign of a more serious problem and your roof may need to be fully stripped to expose the plywood sheathing's condition. One last, visible sign that a new roof may be in order is if your flat roof has been worn down to the point where the fiberglass fibers are jutting out. In those cases, re-coating is only a very short term solution.
On Tile roofs - as I've noted on other articles here - the underlayment is the primary cause of concern. Once most of these underlayments are exposed to the elements over a period of time due to wind shifted, cracked or broken tiles, the underlayment will break down and deteriorate, allowing rainwater to pass thru joints in the plywood beneath. In fact, lower grade underlayments used by some contractors are actually just a type of asphalt soaked cardboard!  Even so, with very rare exceptions, I don't generally see the need to replace underlayments of an entire house that's less than 40 years old. In most cases, valleys, hips, roof-to-wall flashings, skylights and end tiles tend to be the most problematic areas. Field tiles are usually only compromised if shifted, broken or affected by those other problems listed above.
In each of the listed scenarios, many minor leaks will not even be visible inside your house, especially here in the desert. That's because often the rainwater can be absorbed into the wood and insulation before reaching the drywall, then dry quickly until the next rainfall, leaving you with the false sense that no problem exists.
I take pride in knowing that I can honestly assess most roof problems without feeling the need to run the cost up by selling customers more than they need. I still attend every new training session offered my manufacturers on new products as well as new processes. As you read above, I still make mistakes from time to time but I own up to each and make good on every one of them. I also make sure the men working for me are fully qualified and willing to do the same. In fact, each is more like a partner, sharing the rewards and the risks as well.
If you'd like a truly honest assessment as to whether your roof needs replacement or can simply be fixed, please don't hesitate to call. My promise is to never pressure you into doing something you don't want - Or need!

"My roof was OK in Summer but leaks in Winter" or visa versa...

Posted on 11 December, 2013 at 9:14 Comments comments (24)
As the holidays approach each year and our wardrobes and waistlines expand, the festive weather has quite the opposite affect on most of our building materials. In fact, for those of you living in older homes, this seasonal contraction may become audibly evident with the creaking and cracking you hear each night. The worst part may be that the various materials joined together in our buildings can have very different expansion (during summer) and contraction (during winter) rates. Adding to all this, the very ground beneath us is continuously going through the same gyrations. What's most interesting- and troublesome- is that the affects of these reactions are compounded at each elevation. In other words;
The ground effect adds to the footing's reaction;
The ground/footing effect adds to the wall frame's reaction;
The ground/footing/wall frame effect adds to the ceiling's reaction, etc.
Our poor roof's- which by themselves are usually most affected by seasonal changes, especially asphalt based roof materials- must also deal with the straining affects of everything beneath - Ground/Footing/Walls/Ceiling/ Roof Framing/Roof Sheathing.
As one might imagine, all this movement can take a terrible toll with each passing season and year. Some roof materials that seem impermeable to this - Metal & Cement Tile, etc. - can in fact be most frustratingly affected when leaks show up during one season and not the next.
It's not unusual for us to go do one of these repairs and have the homeowner tell us that the roof was repaired after it leaked last winter, didn't leak at all during the summer storms but when winter rains returned, it leaked again in the same spot. Or visa-versa with Summer leaks. While this can be explained by several variables, the expansion or contraction explanation is by far the most common culprit. During my 35+ years in this occupation, I've seen some pretty strange examples of these.
Many years ago, while crawling through an attic investigating a summer leak, water stained plywood led me to a lone nail as the source. Is seems summer expansion had opened up the nail hole enough to allow rainwater to seep through. Yet just a couple years ago, while investigating a winter leak in much the same way, I also narrowed the problem down to a single nail hole. Except in this case, contraction of the surrounding materials had actually pulled that nail loose, leaving the remaining hole as a leak source.
Another cause of winter leaks during freezing weather can be ice dams that form, allowing water to creep uphill into otherwise concealed gaps & openings. Even after the ice thaws, the subsequent trails can be a continued source of leaks, if not addressed properly. As I noted in another article on this site, cold weather can also be blamed for most of the buckling & cracking that occurs on asphalt based roofs. The resulting leaks can often hibernate until summer storms appear. But heat also provides
many unique challenges- Hot asphalt separating from attached materials, Breaks caused by this expansion, summer storm related effects, etc.
I realize, most of us- myself included- are not going to have our roof inspected every year. But with so many changes occurring with each season, every year, it is vital to your home's health- if not your own peace of mind- to get your roof checked out by a qualified, honest professional at least every 3 years.
Any professional roofer can find defects on ANY roof. It takes one with true integrity to point out only the defects which may have dire consequences if left unchecked.

Building Material Cancers & Proper Treatments

Posted on 18 November, 2013 at 11:44 Comments comments (80)
As a cancer survivor myself- going into my 2nd year of full remission- I now have a greater appreciation for most things in life, including some ironic lessons my Remodeling Contractor father taught me regarding building materials.
My particular cancer happened to be in my intestine and was thankfully caught early. Even so, I was told the most effective remedy was to have that section of my intestine surgically removed- which it was. The irony is, I'd learned at a young age that similar cancers found in various types of building materials need to be treated in the much same manner. The most common of these building material "Cancers" are:
Wood - Dry Rot, Insect Infestation, Rodent & Bird feces;
Steel & Iron - Rust, Corrosion;
Plastics (Incl. asphalt & plastic cement) - Sun Rot, Freeze, Plant Rot Acids;
Aluminum - Solar Ray or Acid Rain Abrasion.
The common denominator in all of these- as with other cancers- is that the best remedy is to cut out and remove the affected area.
I mostly encounter these issues in wood and asphalt materials. Wood rot is most well known to most people. But what many of you may not realize is that dry rot is an actual fungus, which usually continues to grow even when its covered. That's what makes cutting out the source so important. As for asphalt roof materials, well, we all know what happens when road crews simply cover over cracks in our streets - the repairs are only meant to be temporary. Many people may not know that colder temperatures actually cause the asphalt plastics to shrink, adding to these cracks, which then expand again during the warmer seasons. Or when bird feces, leaves and dead plants break down on these surfaces, the resulting acids can eat away at them.
Although those are the cancerous problems we mostly find, its not uncommon for us to deal with any of the other materials.
Most recently, I worked on a mobile home where previous repairmen had simply tried patching over some of these problems on the combination steel and aluminum roof. As you can guess, their solution proved to be very temporary. Adding to this particular situation is the fact that ferrous metals (Steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminum) cannot co-exist together without a non-metallic barrier. Otherwise the molecular corrosion & breakdown of each is expedited. That's why in plumbing, if you try to marry copper and steel pipes together, you need to separate them with a "Dielectric Union". In the case of this mobile home's roof, the progression of rust and corrosion was very visible even beneath the repaired sections. In order for us to properly repair them, we had to cut away then meld new materials on much larger sections of this roof than it would've required if done right in the first place. Obviously, the cost was much higher as well, considering the job had to be done a second time unnecessarily.
After more than 35 years in the business, I'm still perplexed at times to see how many people simply choose to cover over these problems rather than take a little extra time to do the job correctly. Most especially, when its "Professional" repairmen doing so! Having personally experienced the pain and damage caused by medical cancer, I've gained a whole new perspective of just how important it is to not just gloss over these other type of problems, but to cut out their source. Just the peace of mind in knowing that the source of the problem is gone can be invaluable!  If you choose to hire someone else to remedy these "cancers" in your home or building, just make sure he or she is a qualified building material "Surgeon" as well.

The Dramatic Affect Climate Changes Have on Your Roof

Posted on 27 September, 2013 at 11:29 Comments comments (33)
This drama has it all: Life, Death, Intrigue, Heroism, Betrayal, Romance... Okay, maybe not romance (except for the very weird...)
Few of us think about it on a daily basis, but our roof happens to be an unsung hero in our everyday lives. When functioning properly, it offers invaluable protection from all sorts of harmful effects nature brings our way. In doing so, your roof is absorbing those affects and in turn, the damage that comes with it. If you think about it, most roof surfaces are composites of materials found in nature- Asphalt, plastics, cement and metal. All of which are subject to wear and break-down over time. When they do break down and fail, that heroism can turn to betrayal in an instant! Most often however, its not really nature's fault - Its our own failure to properly maintain this silent protector. That's why regular roof checkups- especially in between seasons- can prevent catastrophe and sleepless nights.
I'll focus on the most common material used on most roofs - Asphalt. Not only is it a common surface material, but its also the most common base material used beneath all other roof surfaces.
We've all experienced problems with asphalt on our streets. In many cities, that breakdown and wear I spoke of is very evident in road conditions. In Tucson, AZ, near where I live, keeping up with the endless maze of street failures seems to be a never ending and losing battle. While heavy traffic is partly to blame, the bigger culprit may be the extreme changes in our local weather. And the asphalt on our roof suffers the same fate. A couple obvious hazards are rain and UV rays from the sun. What some may not realize is how damaging the effect is of constant expansion and contraction each season has on these asphalt products. Its part of elementary science that plastic and asphalts expand during periods of extreme heat and shrink back with very cold temperatures. During our summer monsoons, its possible for asphalt temperatures to change by 60 degrees or more in a matter of minutes when rain begins falling on a sun soaked roof. But the gradual roof temperature changes from summer to winter are much more dramatic. Here in the desert, Asphalt temperatures peak somewhere near 150 degrees during the hottest summer hours, then fall into the low teens during our coldest winter days! Much of the resulting damage is very visible, while some can only be seen with a very trained eye. While we mostly associate rain and heat as doing the most damage, cold weather contraction is when most of the real damage actually occurs. A recent University of Oregon study on climate's effects on asphalt noted:
"At lower temperatures even the normally fluid non-polar molecules begin to organize into a structured form. Combined with the already-structured polar molecules, this makes asphalt more rigid and likely to fracture rather than deform elastically under stress."  (http://classes.engr.oregonstate.edu/cce/winter2012/). 
In other words, while many roof failures can be attributed to rain and heat, its the cold that causes most cracking. This affects all asphalt, including the ones hiding below the surface of your non-asphalt tile, clay, composite or steel roof.
Making an assessment of your roof's condition- while necessary- can be a tricky proposition. It usually requires a skilled, experienced and HONEST professional to do so. I've been doing these types of check-ups since the late 1970's. In fact, a couple of my current customers were my Dad's customers in the 1960's!  While there are a good number of other very qualified professionals you can call on to check yours, just make certain the one evaluating your roof has the expertise and integrity to do so.

"Is it really Mold?" A wrong "Yes" or "No" diagnosis can have dire long term effects.

Posted on 27 August, 2013 at 15:49 Comments comments (15)
By now, most of us have heard or read stories of mold's long term harmful effects. So it goes without saying that if there is the possibility of its existence within your home, diagnosing and eradicating it as quickly as possible can be crucial to your family's health.
What most people don't realize however, is just how harmful it can be to your home's long-term health if a mis-diagnosis is made, wrongly claiming the existence of mold, where it minimally or none exists.
Before I get into those specifics, let me first attempt to explain as simply as possible how mold grows, thrives and persists, primarily from a Desert Dweller's perspective.
Mold "Spores", from which mold is produced, are tiny particles naturally found in minute quantities in the air, particularly during very humid conditions. In such small quantities, they are as harmless to the human system as any other dust particles we breathe in on a daily basis. However, certain conditions- specifically periods of high temperatures combined with excessive and continuous moisture- provide a ripe landing spot for these spores to accumulate, reproduce and grow into active mold colonies. Building materials common to our homes (wood, drywall, etc.) provide mold a perfect food source for survival. High concentrations of spores are then released from these colonies which can cause us many ill effects. Coastal regions and other areas where humidity remains above 50% (http://www.fema.gov) most of the time tend to have much higher incidents of chronic mold outbreaks. For those of us living inland, especially desert regions like Southern Arizona, outbreaks are thankfully fairly rare and usually require some neglect on our part in order to thrive. Even during our summer monsoon season, our humidity still averages well below the 50% range needed for mold colonies to persist. For that reason, 99% of mold colonies found in our areas are caused by unintended water ponds or neglected plumbing or roof leaks. For our purposes here, I'll focus only on roof leaks.
Most of our monsoonal storms produce rainstorms lasting anywhere from a couple minutes to several hours in length. Even if your roof has a persistent leak, those wet areas beneath it generally tend to dry out within a day or two. As stated before, mold growth requires a continuous source of dampness, usually at least a solid period of 48 hours minimum. Those spores will die out or go dormant when dry conditions return and temperatures rise above 95 or fall below 70 degrees. Even under ideal conditions, most of the "mold" I've encountered here tends to be of the mildew variety- which is much less harmful and much easier to eradicate. It's fairly easy to tell the difference between mold and mildew with the naked eye. Mildew starts out whitish or yellowy, eventually turning brown then black- but always remains fairly flat in appearance. Mold on the other hand, can be a variety of colors or black as well but always appears cottony and fuzzy. Even so, if its concentrated in a confined area and you wish to eradicate it yourself, its fairly easily done. I recommend one of a variety of treatments found here: http://blackmold.awardspace.com/kill-remove-mold.html
When I was first certified for mold remediation in 1992 through the IICRC in Southern California, I was taken aback a bit by just how lucrative a business mold remediation can be. In most states, to perform this service, one needs annual re-certification, specified insurance and to follow specific guidelines set by the EPA (http://www.epa.gov/iedmold1/table2.html). All this can lead to a very hefty bill - upwards of $150.00 per man hour- when all is said and done. Its no wonder so many unscrupulous contractors will insist that remediation is necessary when either trace amounts or only mildew is found. Some will even sell you on the line that you'll only need to pay your deductible and your homeowner's insurance will cover the rest. This is where you get into the slippery slope of your home's long-term health that I mentioned at the outset.
Most of you are aware that when buying a used car a "Car-Fax" record can easily be obtained which details any record of the car's accident history. But what many aren't aware of is that a similar record can be easily purchased regarding your home's insurance claim record, known as "a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE" file. Every claim filed on your homeowner's insurance is listed there. Each claim filed - and even some inquiries- will cause a spike in your rates on your current AND future homes you own! It can also be a red flag to anyone wishing to purchase your home in the future, which can dramatically affect your selling price.
For this reason alone, its important to be absolutely sure of a positive mold diagnosis and a good practice to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if one is found.
Of course, in rare cases in our desert where mold is found, it's imperative to have it eradicated as quickly as possible. Just make certain your contractor knows what he's doing and isn't trying to over-sell you unnecessarily.