Fire safety with wood shake roofing
Q: In a past article, you cautioned readers against the use of wood shake roofing because of fire-safety issues. Haven't you ever heard of fire-retardant shakes and shingles? They are ICC rated and are listed with many fire-safety agencies as an approved product. Statements like yours are harmful to the manufacturers of fire-rated shakes and shingles, and I'd like to see a retraction of your misstatements about these products.
A: Cedar shakes and shingles were popular roofing materials during the 20th century, owing to their aesthetic appeal at the time and their relative longevity. In recent decades, however, they have become a rarity throughout the U.S., owing to their high degree of flammability as compared to other materials. As market demand has declined, roofing manufacturers have infused wood shakes and shingles with fire-retardant chemicals, but other kinds of roofing are preferable for the following reasons:
1) The fire-retardant chemicals in fire-rated shakes and shingles do not last as long as the roofing material itself, because the chemicals wash out after years of exposure to sun and precipitation. It makes sense that this would occur, because wood is porous. Eventually, fire-rated shakes and shingles lose the fire-safety advantages they had when they were new.
2) Homeowners insurance companies commonly decline coverage or charge higher premiums for homes with wooden roofing materials, regardless of alleged fire-resistant qualities.
3) Wood shakes and shingles owed much of their former popularity to their 30-year longevity, compared to asphalt composition shingles that used to last around 15 to 20 years. Today's composition shingles are commonly rated at 40 years, and some are even warranted for 50 years. This means that new asphalt shingles will outlast wood shakes at a much lower price.
4) For those who are willing to pay higher prices for roofing, cement or clay tiles, metal tiles and metal panels are better choices with regard to longevity and fire safety. These materials are permanent, when properly installed, and some tiles are even fabricated to look like wood shakes.
If the primary objective is fire safety, why would anyone choose chemically-treated wood over cement or metal? Given the choices in today's roofing market, it's hard to justify a preference for wood shakes or wood shingles.
Q: A prospective buyer has requested an inspection of my home. That's fine with me, but I'd like to be there when the inspection takes place, just to be sure everything is in the same condition as before the inspection. The buyer (through her Realtor) has refused my being present. Is this normal, or should I insist on being there?
A: Buyers often prefer to have their home inspection without the sellers being present. However, buyers and their agents should understand is that you own the house. It is your castle, and no one has a right to tell you when you can or cannot be there. Thousands of home inspections take place with buyers and sellers all in attendance. There's nothing unusual about that. The one thing to keep in mind, however, is that the buyers should be allowed to discuss the findings of the inspection privately with their inspector. After that, you should receive a copy of the inspection report.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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