Roofs and Gutters

Alternatives to Gutters

Is there an alternative to gutters?

Without gutters, rain from the eaves can beat down on the ground near the house and possibly cause basement water problems. One alternative to gutters involves installing a paved drip path. Use bricks or paving blocks to create a hard surface underneath the eaves where the water falls. Embed the bricks or blocks in the soil so they are just above the ground’s surface and slope away from the house.

Asphalt / Fiberglass Shingles

What is the difference between asphalt shingles and fiberglass shingles?

The two types of shingles are similar. Asphalt shingles are formed from a mat of organic felt, while the base for fiberglass shingles is a fiberglass mat. Fiberglass shingles contain up to 50 percent more asphalt than asphalt shingles, and often have a longer warranty and better fire rating. ln spite of the extra asphalt, fiberglass shingles weigh less, and may be more easily lifted by wind. To prevent this, most come with seal-down strips, which work best if the shingles are applied in warm weather so the strip’s asphalt has a chance to soften and adhere to the next shingle. Regardless of your choice, be sure the shingles meet underwriter laboratory requirements for fire resistance and wind lifting, and come with a warranty against wind damage. Application is as important as the shingle’s quality. Be sure to check the contractor’s references. Look at jobs that were done several years ago and ask previous customers if work was done correctly at the contracted price. Also check the contractor’s insurance on his or her employees and against property damage.

Chimney Repairs

How can I determine when a chimney needs repairs?

Start by looking at the chimney yourself. The cap or crown is the most common source of problems. If it is cracked, it lets water into the brick work below. Brick with the face breaking off and missing mortar are other indications that water is penetrating the masonry and the chimney needs attention. Efflorescence, which is a whitish haze on the brick surface, is an indication that water from inside the chimney has come through the brick, leaving behind the soluble salts. There are some other problems that need to be checked from the inside. For example, many chimneys have tile liners that deteriorate and send debris down the chimney. If you aren’t comfortable checking the chimney yourself, contact a chimney sweep or mason to do the inspection. Be extremely cautious of contractors who come to the door offering chimney inspections and repairs. Carefully check references and get a business address so that you can call back after checking with other contractors.

Galvanized Gutters Durability 

What can be done to galvanized gutters to make them last longer?

Regular cleaning is the most important maintenance. If shingle aggregate or decaying leaves and other debris are allowed to remain in the gutter they will speed rusting and shorten the life of the gutter. On the other hand a gutter that is clean and able to dry quickly after a rain can last many years without additional painting. If the insides of the gutters are rusted a coat of paint will help. Metal roof paints or aluminum paint are good choices. Use a steel brush to remove loose rust and be sure gutters are clean before you apply the paint.

Gutter Problems

 Why does water run down the outside walls of a house rather than into the gutters?

The gutters may not be catching the rain water. This may be because they have pulled away from the wall, allowing the roof run off to fall between the house and the gutters. It also is possible that the roof does not hang over the gutter properly. The shingles and drip edge of the roof should extend beyond the facia about one-third of the width of the gutter.

Heat / Reflective Properties of Shingles

Do dark-colored shingles make a house hotter in summer?

A study by the staff at the Florida Solar Energy Center suggests that a truly reflective roof can keep a house cooler. Unfortunately, white or light colored shingles have so much black showing through the mineral granules that they only reflect back 25% of the sun’s energy while black shingles reflect back 5%. Another study from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories cautions that in northern climates while light colored roofs may keep the house cooler in the summer they may add to the heating costs in the winter when the heat from the sun can keep the house warmer. In northern parts of the country, a well insulated and ventilated attic will generally have a bigger impact on keeping the house cool then the color of shingles.

Ice Dams

What are ice dams and how do I get rid of them?

Ice dams are a mass of ice forming at the bottom edge of a sloped roof. The ice results primarily from heat escaping to the attic from the house causing a warm attic. Snow in contact with the warm roof then melts. The melted water runs down the roof to the eaves where the roof temperature drops and the water refreezes. Subsequently water ponds behind this ice on the eaves first making the ice dam larger and then backing up under shingles and entering the house.

The best first aid for the situation is to clear the snow from the roof a few feet back from the eaves with a roof rake if you can reach the roof from the ground. You need only remove snow far enough back so that liquid melted water does not reach the ice dam. It is not necessary to remove the snow completely. By leaving a thin layer of snow you minimize chances that the roof rake will damage the shingles. The thin layer of snow will either leave the roof cold enough so that no more water flows down the roof to add to the ice dam or it will melt. A roof rake is like a garden rake except that it has a rectangular piece of aluminum where the teeth would be and a handle that extends to 15 feet in length. If you can’t reach the roof from the ground consider hiring professionals who have the necessary safety equipment.

The long term solution to ice dams is to be sure the attic area is cold so that the problem melting does not occur. This means having at least 12 inches of insulation on the attic floor and ventilating the attic so the cool air flows in through vents in the eaves and flows up and out vents near the ridge. It is also important to prevent warm air from the home leaking into the attic around plumbing chases, chimneys or attic access points.

Inspecting Roofing

How do you know when it is time to reroof?

Asphalt-strip shingles on a ventilated sloped roof have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. You are wise to think ahead, rather than wait for drops to fall on your head or a wet spot to appear on your ceiling. A sign that you need a new roof is granules from the shingles surface accumulating in the gutter or at the base of downspouts. These granules, which provide the roof’s color, also compose the surface that absorbs wear. Cracked or broken shingles are another sign, as are cupped or bowed shingles which may result from poor attic ventilation. Badly rusted or deteriorated flashing around chimneys or in valleys between gables can also be a sign that work is needed.

Loose Shingles

What causes roof shingles to lift and blow off?

Shingles today come with a strip of adhesive on the underside. This strip is designed to stick to the shingle below it and prevent lifting. The adhesive is usually heat activated. Lifting and blow offs can occur if shingles are installed late in the season when sun angles and temperatures are such that the adhesive isn’t activated.

Metal Roofs

Are metal roofs a good idea for homes?

Advocates for metal roofs cite many advantages. They claim that they can last 50 years or more. That is at least two to three times longer than conventional asphalt shingles. Metal roofing is lightweight so it can be installed over an existing roof when the structure might not be able to bear another layer of asphalt shingles. Metal is inherently fire resistant and is reported to be more wind and hail resistant. According to an article in the September 2002 issue of Rural Builder, metal roofing generally carries Underwriters Laboratory’s highest hail rating. These hazard resistant qualities can sometimes mean insurance discounts.

While in the long run metal roofs may be less expensive, the initial installation cost can be considerable higher than standard asphalt or fiberglass shingles. It is also important to have a knowledgeable installer.

Nail Pops

What causes roofing nails to pop up causing holes or dimples in the roof?

This can happen because the nails didn’t penetrate through the roof sheathing, the nail heads were too small or the shanks were too smooth. In any of these cases temperature and moisture changes can cause the nail to loosen and back out of the wood. Roofing nails should always penetrate through the roof sheathing unless the sheathing is at least three-quarters of an inch in thickness.

Removing Moss

How can moss or lichens be removed from asphalt shingles or cedar shakes?

The first step is to remove as much of the moss as possible with a putty knife or some other tool that won’t damage the shingles. Next, wet the affected areas of the roof with a solution of one quart bleach and one gallon water. Let the solution stand for half an hour, then rinse well. Protect any plants that may be under the drip line so they won’t be damaged by the bleach water.You can slow the return of moss and other biological growth on the roof by increasing the airflow and sunlight that reaches the roof and by keeping the roof clear of debris from trees. There are also zinc strips that can be installed near the ridge of the roof that will discourage the future growth of fungus and moss.


Is it better to remove old shingles before putting on a new roof?

If your roof has only one layer of shingles, you can add the next layer over the top if the existing shingles lay flat and the roof deck underneath the shingles is sound. If you should need to reshingle in the future, you should expect to remove the previous two layers and start over again.

Shingles that Buckle

Why would shingles on a new roof buckle?

Probably the roof deck has dried or absorbed water and changed dimensions, according to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association. This can occur if the roof deck is installed when it is wet and later dries, or when the attic under the deck is not adequately ventilated and absorbs water from the home. If you notice the problem in the spring, it is probably due to a lack of ventilation. Unheated attic areas should have at least one square foot of open ventilation area for every 150 feet of floor area.

Related Links:
Asphalt Roofing Manufacturer’s Association