Home repair: Check to see if roof was installed properly

Posted10/2/2011 12:01 AM

Q. Two years ago, I had a new roof put on my house. During the winter, I noticed in the front under the overhang that when snow/ice melted, it dripped and froze on both sides of the fascia. This has never happened in 45 years. I am very concerned the water is collecting in the overhang, then dripping, and eventually will rot the wood and attract carpenter ants. If the roofer put down a 6-foot water barrier, how can this be happening?

The roofer went out of business as soon as he finished doing a few jobs in the neighborhood, even though he guaranteed his work for 12 years and was insured. All his references, including a doctor, were called and were satisfied with his work.

How can I check to see if he actually put down the water barrier? He also took the chimney down to the roof. As you can see from the enclosed photos, many of the bricks near the roof were not replaced and were not in good shape. He took cement and just plastered it over the bricks. Is that an OK solution to combat any problems that might have come from a chimney in this shape?

A. So much for guaranteed work. This is why one should deal only with well-established firms that have been around for a long time, assuming this contractor had not been.

The photo you sent would indicate the roofer did not install the double row of ice- and water-protective membrane you contracted for -- probably to save money, since he was planning to go out of business and charged you for it.

Your fears are well founded, and to cure the problem, you should have such a membrane put on. Checking for the presence of the membrane is easy. If you are able to do so, gently lift the bottom row of shingles in a couple of places along each fascia. You should see the membrane over the metal drip edge as a shiny, rubbery black or gray sheet. Otherwise, have a contractor take a look at it. If the membrane is indeed lacking, it is possible to have 2-year-old shingles taken up and put back once the membrane is installed.

The photo you sent me shows the chimney before the roof was put on. The roofer replaced all the bricks above the cuts in the mortar joints where the counter flashing is inserted. So don't worry: The bricks in poor shape you are concerned about would be covered by the counter flashing that should be inserted in the open mortar joints, which would then be tuck-pointed.

Q. I live in Vermont and when it rains, water drips in the back of my gutters instead of in the gutters. I had a contractor give me an estimate on putting in a new roof, and he told me he would make the drip edge longer. Do you think that will take care of my problem?

A. It's a good idea, but not only must the drip edge be longer, it also needs to terminate in a 45-degree angle so that water cannot creep back by surface tension. Lamb & Ritchie (L&R) makes such a drip edge, which is called Positive "Rite Flow." You can see it on the company's website, www.lambritchie.com. Click on Catalog and click again on the Catalog Navigation drop-down menu to "Roof Edgings."

If your contractor can make a similar drip edge, go for it, or have him or her get it from a distributor or dealer. Call Lamb & Ritchie (which does not sell retail) at (781) 941-2700 for the name of the nearest dealer.

Q. I am an avid reader of your articles, and they have been very helpful in some of my projects. I have a concrete driveway that is 15 years old. I do not apply salt to it in the winter. Each year I have been getting more and more pockmarks like on the attached picture. My question is, what would be the best way to repair these defects?

A. Over time, concrete can develop these pockmarks for a variety of reasons. They can be repaired with a product like Top 'N Bond, which you can buy in masonry supply houses. Home Depot sells Sika Concrete Fix that also should do the job.

Q. Is September or October a good time to replace a shingle roof in Vermont?

A. It's a great time to do so. The hot summer temperature and sun have gone, and the roof is likely to be cooler to work on. Walking on hot shingles can damage them, so it's always best to shingle a roof in cooler temperatures and on cloudy days, as long as the roof deck is dry.

Q. I have enjoyed your column in the newspaper for some time. Now it is my turn and I hope you can advise me. We recently had a seal coating applied to our newly installed asphalt driveway. It had not yet dried when a heavy rain came and splattered (big time) the diluted coating onto our new siding and garage door, leaving a terrible, hard-to-remove mess. Is there a solution available to take it off?

A. Your best bet is to contact PMSI in Worcester, Mass., at (508) 767-1000 (www.pmsi-usa.net) and order either one of the products it sells and ships for that purpose: Oil-Flo or Solvall. These products are sold in quarts or gallons.

Q. My house is open to weather -- no trees, pasture. It was built in 1997 and I bought it in 1998. About five years ago, I noticed some of the spruce siding was rotting. The builder used Tyvek under the siding. I remember awhile back that your column noted that Tyvek is an incorrect application. The enclosed photos depict and describe the problem areas, always the west and south sides and never the east and north sides.

Next summer, my project will be to replace all siding and any rotting underlying particleboard in areas noted in the pictures. So my question is, since Tyvek is not acceptable, what should I use as a vapor barrier?

Also, your advice on two other questions would be helpful. Should I caulk where the siding meets the windows? When I paint the siding, I assume it is best to go lightly where siding meets siding, thus allowing for air movement and any moisture to evaporate. Is that correct?

A. First, housewraps such as Tyvek are not really vapor barriers, but vapor retarders. A vapor retarder needs to be installed inside between the drywall and the wall insulation in climates that depend more on heating than cooling, whereas it should be installed under the siding in climates where cooling is prevalent.

Tyvek and other housewraps have been associated with rotting of OSB (oriented strand board, for those not familiar with the acronym) sheathing in cases where the siding was applied directly over the housewrap. When in contact with wood siding, housewraps can become wet and allow moisture to pass through and soak the sheathing. This is believed to be caused by the sun, which drives moisture in wood away from it instead of drawing it up, turning the moisture into steam. Although housewraps are made to allow vapor to pass through them -- in this case, steam -- once they are soaking wet through repeated contact with wet wood, which destroys their water-repellency, they cannot dry or let the water in liquid form from the sheathing pass back to the outside. They turn black with mold and can actually rot and become useless. OSB is particularly vulnerable to water absorption and subsequent rot, whereas plywood can take a lot more punishment.

In earlier days, we used asphalt-impregnated felt paper, which absorbed and released moisture in liquid form, whereas housewraps cannot do that. We also always backprimed all wood and field cuts before installation, which very few builders do nowadays.

You can safely use any housewrap if you install a rain screen over it, which provides a channel for water to drain harmlessly and for vapor to be ventilated away. Typar makes a combination of housewrap with Benjamin Obdyke Home Slicker, so the two are combined into one labor operation.

The reason the clapboards on the south and west sides of your house are affected, whereas the east and north sides are not, is that they receive most of the rainstorms and sun exposure. All wood sidings, regardless of their coatings, will eventually absorb water unless they are kept painted or stained in a timely fashion. I also suspect that the builder may not have backprimed or treated all field cuts with paint or wood preservative. Some of your photos show end rot on the clapboards, an indication of this failure.

If you backprime the siding, coat all field cuts before installing each board, use a rain screen, and make very tight joints between different boards, you do not need caulking.

The last question has been answered above in the description of board preparation before installation.

Q. Is there any way to "renew" or "recoat" the enamel bottom on a cast-iron, heart-shaped red pot? Bearing "Le Creuset, made in France," our cherished, 20-year-old iron pot has sat, its contents hopelessly charred by being left on the burner too long. The bottom has chipped, flaked and is now rusting. Can such a favorite be restored and the bottom of its inside be recoated in any way?

A. Unfortunately, Le Creuset tells me there is no way to repair the enamel on your cherished pot. Since the chipping of the enamel is not a manufacturing defect, your pot is not covered by the company's warranty, but Le Creuset can offer you a considerable discount on a new one, if that is your wish. Contact Le Creuset by phone at (877) 418-5547 or through its website, www.lecreuset.com, to find out how.

• 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 henridemarne@gmavt.net. His book, "About the House," is available at www.upperaccess.com and in bookstores.

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