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posted: 10/14/2012 5:50 AM

Metal valleys on roof replacements are the best option

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Q. Do you have an opinion on open vs. closed roof valleys? I've had six estimates done, and all of the higher estimates cite open valleys (with a metal flashed valley), while the lower estimates cite a woven "California cut" valley. My opinion is that a California cut valley, with heavy Vermont snow loads, would cause the shingles to stretch (stress) and cause fissures to open. Regardless of open or closed, this of course presumes that a Grace water/ice membrane is used. I further feel that an open metal valley would flush faster, without wearing away the granules.

In looking at the Fabral metal roofing supply catalog, it has a valley flashing that from the end looks like a "W." That center point (only about 1 inch high) actually minimizes the wash effect of a larger surface area hitting the valley and washing up the adjacent roofline.

A. Woven and close-cut valleys are indeed vulnerable to early wear for the very reason that two roofs are draining down them. The protective mineral granules wear out faster and expose the asphalt medium to the damaging UV rays of the sun.

But this is not the only problem with these valleys. They require extreme care in their installation, and it is not possible to make sure this care was taken, as three steps are concealed and not visible.

In my many years of inspecting roofs, I haven't seen many such valleys done as they should be. Roofers like woven and close-cut valleys because they are faster to install than metal valleys, but the best roofers I know use metal exclusively.

Grace Ice & Water Shield or its equivalent should be installed in the valleys and at all roof perforations. It is even becoming more common for contractors to cover the entire roof with this membrane, although there are arguments against doing so.

Fabral's valley flashing is the way all valley flashing should be. The inverted center "V" is popularly used in the Northwest, but not commonly used in the East. This inverted "V" prevents the water from a larger roof plane or one receiving more water because of the wind direction from running over the weaker roof plane. Its hemmed edges are to secure its installation with clips to allow for expansion and contraction; valley flashing should be nailed only at the top.

I suggest you consider only the roofers using metal valleys. And if I may add, getting six estimates for a roofing job is excessive; three is normal. Preparing estimates is costly for contractors, and the chance of getting the job diminishes in relation to the number sought. More than three estimates are sometimes requested on much larger jobs designed and handled by architects, but even this should not be common practice on residential work.

Q. We are considering getting some sort of device to provide ventilation for our basement. What are your thoughts on basement venting and on the EZ Breathe system?

Our basement is half underground. It is rather dark and gets little daylight, but it does not get a lot of dampness. We use a dehumidifier 24/7, but do get some mold buildup.

A. The EZ Breathe system brings in outdoor air to make up for the stale air it exhausts; it is basically an air exchanger. It introduces outside air to the main floors (first and second) of the house and circulates it through all the rooms, creating a positive pressure from which the air is drawn to the basement by the EZ Breathe fan, which creates a negative pressure in that space.

For it to function year-round, in the summer you need air conditioning. Otherwise, the purpose is defeated because it will draw warm, moist air from outside and spread it throughout the house, adding to the basement's usual higher level of relative humidity because its air is cooler.

If you have a warm air system, either the heat must be on in the winter and the air conditioning on in the summer, or the windows must be open in cool and dry weather and the basement door open. (If the basement door is closed, it must have a minimum 1-inch clearance at the bottom.)

If you have a hydronic heating system (hot water baseboards), the doors to every room, including the door to the basement, will either have to be kept open or have their bottoms cut off to leave a 1-inch clearance to act as a return from all the rooms.

Basement ventilation can also be accomplished by having adequate heat and air-conditioning supply and return ducts properly balanced. With a hydronic system, you will need to use an adequately sized dehumidifier to keep the basement moisture under control in the summer.

Q. My ranch home in suburban Chicago was built in 2008 using fiber-cement siding, 6- to 8-inches wide. Eighty to 85 percent of the seams have separated due to shrinking, and where this has occurred, the siding has pulled away from the building. Not only do I not know who the manufacturer was (not James Hardie, though!), I am unable to locate the builder or installer.

I want to focus on repairing the siding, but I am not certain how. I have considered a heavy-duty, instant-setting mastic such as Liquid Nails, with or without smaller nails countersunk near the seams. I'm concerned that use of a hammer or nail gun would split the siding. Any input or solution would be appreciated.

A. The best procedure would be to predrill holes 1 inch from the ends and 1 inch from the bottom of the boards that pulled away from the building. The holes should be drilled through both the face board and the underlying boards. Use ringed, stainless steel siding nails with small heads, and drive them in gently. Touch-paint them with an artist's brush.

The spaces between the ends of the shrunken boards should be caulked to prevent water penetration, which would cause the cement boards to disintegrate. It would be best to cover the newly caulked joints with metal clips made for the purpose. They, too, can be painted if you can't find them in a suitable color.

Q. I have an asphalt driveway that is about 25 years old. During this time, I have had a professional apply seal coat every two or three years. I have decided to do this job myself this year in preparation for winter. There is one item to keep in mind -- that after 25 years of use by automobiles and many seal coat jobs, the surface of my driveway is very smooth. I have enclosed a couple of photographs to give you a better understanding of what the existing driveway looks like.

I have three questions:

• Should the seal coat be applied with a broom or squeegee? The professionals I used in the past used a broom (or broom-squeegee). The manufacturer of the seal coat I will be using recommends a squeegee. My only concern is that if I use a squeegee on a driveway that is very smooth, would this method remove most of the seal coat and leave only a very thin coat? In other words, just like using a squeegee on a windowpane would remove all of the water.

• What is your opinion of using ice melt or rock salt during the winter on an asphalt or blacktop driveway? Again, I was told by professionals in the past that neither ice melt nor rock salt would harm the driveway. I am of the assumption that both of these products could and would in fact cause erosion and harm, especially to the top layer of seal coat.

• What is the best outside temperature to apply the seal coat? The manufacturer states only that the surface temperature must be at least 55 degrees. I was wondering what the maximum temperature should be to avoid evaporation of the seal coat. Also, should the seal coat be applied early in the morning or when the sky is cloudy (no rain in the forecast)? I am worried about the direct sunlight affecting the seal coat.

The seal coat I am planning to use is called Optimum by Latexite.

A. Here is what Don Jamieson of Jamieson PMSI in Worcester, Mass., my friend of 40 years and an expert in the asphalt maintenance business, says:

"If the Optimum sealer by Latexite has sand blended into it, it could be applied with a soft-bladed squeegee with good results. The sand will help ensure that enough film thickness is left on the surface. The squeegee should have a gum rubber blade (milky white in color) and be very pliable. Not easy to find locally. Try Maintenance Inc. at If the Optimum sealer has no sand, then a broom is probably the best tool.

"Do not use rock salt. Any of the newer environmentally friendly de-icers should be fine.

"Most sealer manufacturers recommend 50 degrees and rising temps, with direct sunlight. Don't forget sealers are emulsions, water-based products, that are dried by the sun and warm temps. It can also be too hot to apply sealer, 90 degrees plus, which can cause the sealer to flash dry, making for poor adhesion and a less durable film. The best conditions would probably be to apply the sealer in the morning on a sunny day with low humidity, and no rain forecast for 24 hours."

Q. How can I remove crayon from my newly painted walls? My grandchildren tried to embellish them while I was not looking.

A. Goo Gone should work. Good luck, and I hope the artwork will not be missed.

A great addition to your diy tool kit: RotoZip recently introduced the RotoSaw, which easily makes circular cuts in wood, plaster, drywall, tile, etc. The great news is that both the spiral-cutting tool and the RotoZip Dust Management System, which connects to a shop vacuum, fit existing RotoZip tools.

With the holidays coming up, this would be a great gift for the handyperson in the house.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at

2012, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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