Roofing Felt Underlayment – its Origin and Purpose

The most common roofing material used on your average home today is certainly asphalt shingles and probably every shingle roof done in the US today starts with the installation of black paper called roofing felt underlayment.

What’s interesting – remarkable even, is that, in perhaps 90% or more of instances, the installation of this paper is a waste of time and resources.

 

Roofing Felt Underlayment

Roofing Felt Underlayment

The felt we’re referring to is your basic asphalt saturated, thick black paper which is most often used in two thickness, 15lb or 30lb which refers to its weight per 100 SF. The use of felt, dating back over 100 years, probably originated with wood shake, slate and tile – the three “original” roofs. With tile roofing, and particularly two-piece Spanish tile, the system was imperfect. Spanish tiles were handmade, not uniform, and often (intentionally) not laid down in a uniform manner. During any heavy rain, even on a newly laid roof, water would get past the tile so the felt helped to prevent actual leaks. In the case of wood shakes, it helped stop leaks when, after time, the shakes would split open. And so felt served an important role here as well.

Back in the day, homeowners often did their own roofs, or they hired very small and inexpensive roofing crews which could take weeks to months and in these cases felt was adopted for use as a way to “dry-in” a roof that might be exposed to the elements for some time, or for very low sloped roofs which need extra protection from wind-blown rain which may, from time to time, defeat an asphalt shingle system.

At some point the manufacturers of shingles (and felt) and subsequently roofers began pushing the use of felt on all roofing projects to increase sales, even when most roofers knew that it was mostly unnecessary.

But don’t take my word for it.  The following is taken from the 2007 Master Shingle Applicator manual from CertainTeed (excerpted from pg 23): “CertainTeed does not require that shingle underlayment be used under their shingles for the standard shingle warranty coverage to be in effect, on slopes of 4/12 and more.”

There can be no more a definitive statement, than the manufacturer of the product itself, stating their warranty will be honored if you don’t use their own product!

Now it is considered that on low slopes of 2 to 3 in 12 pitch (9-14 degrees), that double roofing felts are necessary (by the manufacturer) and I agree since I have seen that this does seem to be the case. Shingle systems can be defeated at about a 10 degree roof pitch when the worst of circumstances are present, such as a heavy, wind-blown rain storm and the use of double felts can help prevent that.

It has been suggested that these roofing felts are a constituent part of a Class A fire resistant (level) roofing system.  But I find that fairly dubious. As far as I know, there is nothing (chemically) in these felts which prevent fire and the only reason they are a constituent part of a Class A fire resistant roofing system, is because the Uniform Building Code states felts must be used in a shingle system to begin with so it became part of the test but it’s the shingles that are fire resistant. I am pretty sure if you soak paper in asphalt, you have kindling or fire starter, not something that is resistant to fire.

Matt Glass wrote this article on roofing felt and he is part of the Glass Family who owns and operates J and J Roofing in Los Angeles.

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Steps to take to prepare for a reroof

If you’re about to get a new roof then no doubt your roofer will explain certain things to you so that you’re better prepared but not all roofers are very conscientious about explaining what to prepare for. Generally speaking the following does not apply to minor roof repairs.

The first thing to know about most roofing jobs is that they are usually very noisy, dusty, and dirty and as a necessity, they start early (7am). In fact most roofers would prefer to start earlier, to beat the hot sun even more, but the law in most places will not allow working before 7am.

If you’re getting a full reroof including your existing roof removed there’s going to be a lot of dust and debris flying. Of particular concern are old rusty nails that will get into your grass in your garden which can play havoc on your pets and children so you want to make sure that your roofer uses rolling magnets several times throughout your entire property. If the edge of your roof is very close to your property line it is quite likely some debris will fall into your neighbor’s yard. It’s a good idea to let all your neighbors know when you’re getting a reroof.

If you’re getting your garage done as well, there’s a very good chance that a lot of debris will fall inside if your garage does not have an attic or finished ceiling. If your car is in there you’re going to want to get it out of there. It’s a good idea to get some light painters plastic to cover things up in there. The roofing company may or may not clean that out for you and you should just ask them if it’s part of the job.

J and J Reroof

Prepare for a Reroof

The contractors are going to need your driveway for the duration of the job. They are not going to want to park their work trucks a block away and walk to them every time they need a nail or another bundle of shingles and keeping your contractor happy and saving him time is a good thing and will only help you.

If you have pets and they seem to be sensitive to loud noises this will not be a happy time for them and you should consider getting your pets to a pet sitter. In as much as possible keep your windows and doors closed and try to stay out of the workers way. Its not a good idea to simply march outside your backdoor without warning anybody that may well be working near the edge with hammers nails and heavy objects. You want to take care when getting a reroof.

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Hiring A Good Roofing Contractor

While there is no exact science to hiring a good roofing contractor there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of avoiding a bad one.

Hire a licensed roofer! That may seem obvious, but unlicensed, and uninsured roofers are much cheaper than licensed ones but you could be risking a lot more than you think if you hire them.

Perhaps the most telling sign for a roofing contractor is whether or not he has a visible presence on the Internet.  Not having a website is not a good sign. Check different rating services such as Angie’s List, Yelp, Google, etc., to see whether or not he has many good reviews. And bear in mind that a roofer with no reviews is almost as bad as a roofer who has lots of poor reviews.

Go to your state’s CSLB web page and check his license number to make sure he doesn’t have complaints. Having even a single complaint is not a good sign because they can be resolved and cleared, so that means he hasn’t bothered or it’s very recent.  The license check and verification page for California, it is www.cslb.ca.gov

Above all you want to hire a roofer who has a good reputation; after all, he’s got something to lose. That may not seem like much, but these days, having a bad rep online is having a bad rep, period. And just because a roofer did a good job for your friend or neighbor, does not mean he’ll do a good job for you so you should still check him out.

Also, don’t pass on a roofer just because he seems to be very busy. A busy roofer is often a good roofer.

One of the more common trends of roofing contractors is the unwillingness to get up on your roof. It’s pretty hard to do a proper roofing estimate, whether it’s a repair or a reroof without getting on a roof so that you can see the specific aspects of your roof.  All roofs are different.

While you can probably hire a good roofing contractor that doesn’t have general liability, it’s usually not a good idea. Besides the fact that he is not covered by a general liability policy and you are there for putting yourself at risk, it’s often indicative of a contractor who is not really well established, or who perhaps doesn’t have the finances to cut even cover it. The bottom line is a decent roofing contractor should have general liability.

Follow all these steps and you’ll be pretty sure to hire a good roofing contractor.

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Newest Update on El Nino 2014-2015

Will 2014-2015 be an El Nino Year?  For some time now  the El Nino 2014 weather pattern has been an increasingly popular topic.  Through the first six months of 2014, the patterns suggested we were in for an epic El Nino which would rival 2005 and even 1998.

The very latest data issued by the US Climate Prediction Center states that “5 of 8 international models signal El Nino will probably develop by the end of spring, with about half indicating the event will be established by September, the bureau said. The odds of an El Nino during the Northern Hemisphere summer are about 70 percent”, stated on approximately July 7, 2014.

Will this year be El Nino 2014?

Will this year be El Nino 2014?

We roofers are, of course, interested in weather patterns and we noticed that over the last 13 years, annual rainfall totals have never gone down three years in a row.  It has been down for the last two years. Furthermore after any down year, they usually come back up relatively sharply – at least into normal ranges of 15 or 16 inches and in some cases 18, 20 and 30 inches.

We cannot draw anything definite from these two facts, but given the fact that we’ve had two of the driest rainfall seasons on record over the last couple of years, we can speculate that this winter is going to shape up for a lot of leaking roofs, and not just because it may (or may not) rain a lot.

It does not take a lot of rain to produce leaks for the very simple reason that it hasn’t really rained hard enough in the last few years for most people to really know if they have a leak. Anyone who has had a “leak condition” over the last three years will have only made that condition worse by not repairing it, by simply letting the sun degrade the condition more and more.  Many roof leaks do not present themselves or are not visible unless we get a rainfall cycle of at least several days.

Why does this matter right now?

We believe that this year if we have even a below-normal rainfall year (10-12 inches) that the roofing industry will be very busy.  If we have a normal year, 16 inches or so, it could be much like it was back in 2005 where roofing companies were typically booked out anywhere from 3 to 9 months leaving many Southern Californians in the lurch with leaking roofs and no options.

With all this in mind we would advise property owners, in particular commercial property owners and property managers to get their roofs checked out and fixed or re-roofed this summer and fall before this winter arrives or you may find yourself left out in a cold.

The next few months may just be the cheapest and best time to get any roof work done in the coming years.

What is the solution?
ROOF CHECK-UP

Our $155.00 roof check-up service includes checking all roof seals, perimeters, existing roof condition, and penetrations such as AC ducts, skylights and chimneys.  We also handle simple roof maintenance problems.  If your roof has problems beyond the scope of our $155.00 roof check-up, such as needing replacement or extensive damage, you are charged nothing and get a free estimate instead with no obligation. Call or email us today to schedule.

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Proper Tile Roof Inspection

In the past, when buying and selling a home, not many home buyers necessarily had a professional roofing inspection along with their home inspection. But because general home inspectors suggest a proper tile roof inspection, it is happening more often. Why? Most home inspectors simply don’t have roofing experience and even if they did, a good roofing inspector needs ten or more years’ experience in order to properly judge a roof’s condition.

In the case of tile roofs, even experienced roofers can fail in judging their age but mostly it’s because they are too lazy to bother really digging in, and you have to. Because of course, the tile itself is probably either concrete or clay, and would probably last 100 – 200 years, maybe more (certainly we know clay can last centuries).

But a tile roof depends upon the waterproof membrane underneath. That membrane is covered with the tile, so unless you pull up some tile, you can hardly judge its age. Many roofers will examine the membrane at the edge of the roof but this will give you a false negative. The membrane at the very edge, where it is often exposed to harsher elements, is almost always going to be far more worn than the membrane further up, covered with tile.

Proper Tile Roof Inspection

Make Sure to Get a Proper Tile Roof Inspection

I will usually take a sample of the membrane and, besides identifying its quality, can bend it and see how much asphalt oils remain – the prime ingredient in waterproof felt. It might be a high quality rubberized membrane of a type that has only been made in the last 10 years in which case a) we know it can’t be that old and b) it is high quality and will, in any event, last for decades. Most roofers use the cheap old 30 pound ordinary felt paper. I personally use a rubberized felt that is much heavier and can last over 60 years.

The bottom line is that if you are buying a home and particularly if it has a complicated or expensive tile or slate roof on it, it pays to find out what shape it’s really in by a qualified roof inspector. In some cases, I have saved clients from making a $50k mistake with a proper tile roof inspection.

(Read our last blog for more information on inspecting other types of roofing.)

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How A Proper Roof Inspection is Done

In the past, not many home buyers would go through the trouble of getting a proper roof inspection on top of a home inspection but more and more people are. Mostly because general home inspectors are suggesting they do so.

Why? The main reason lies in understanding the life cycle of a roof. A flat roof might have a total life expectancy of say, 20 years. The problem is that it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between a 7 year old flat roof and a 15 year old one. Same goes for shingles. It’s only in the last few years of a roof’s life that it starts to exponentially decay and then become obvious and sometimes (to the credit of the material) not even until well after.

Most home inspectors simply don’t have roofing experience and even if they did, it usually requires more than 10 years to become adept at judging a roof’s age and condition.

How A Proper Roof Inspection is Done

How A Proper Roof Inspection is Done

What to look for? Well it would take volumes to answer that question but knowing at least some guidelines can be very helpful.

For shingle roofs and flat roofs that are smooth white mineral surfaces, both have granules as their finish and when they start falling out enough that you can see they are missing (there should be any missing at all so, even a layman can tell but you do have to look very closely – within 12 inches to the eye) then you know it’s approaching it’s final years. Very often they can last (or, at least, remain leak free) for another 5, 6, even 7 years after this, but you at least know it’s almost time.

Same goes for a flat roof. With a hot tar/gravel roof, it’s less obvious since, it’s mostly covered with gravel and you can’t see the membranes at all but usually there is something (wall, side of a chimney, etc) that is covered with the smooth white membrane (called capsheet or 72 lb) so look for that and see how it appears.

Next time we will discuss tile roofs. Call today if you need us.

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What is the Chance of El Nino 2014?

Well, it is a little early to say for sure if we’ll have an El Nino year this year, But the chances that we will have a lot of rain are going up with each month that goes by.  Understand that the subsurface warm mass in the Pacific which is on par with the mass we had in 1998, which was a major El Niño year, is the primary motivating force for this…

Here’s what the EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION issued by the CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society said on 8 May 2014.  “ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch. Synopsis: Chance of El Niño increases during the remainder of the year, exceeding 65% during summer.”

Chance of El Niño?

Why does this matter right now?  Given how little rain we’ve had over the last few years, if we get significant rainfall this winter, we can expect 3 to 4 times the normal amount of volume for a normal winter.  In the case of our company, in the 2005 winter, when we had a relatively mild El Niño, we were booked out six months (and we were running 35 roofers at that time).

Imagine having a major leak and not being able to get anyone to look at it for two months and not being able to do the work for another six. That was 2005 in a nutshell. Most roofers had their phones turned off and for many people, as you may recall, it was a nightmare.

The next few months may just be the cheapest and best time to get any roof work done in the coming years.

What is the solution?   We suggest the J&J Roofing check-up service.  it’s inexpensive, thorough and will get you in-the-know before the storms.

For $155.00 we will inspect your roofing system and do minor maintenance.  Or, if there is too much work to do within the scope of a simple roof check-up (which happens often), we’ll just do a free estimate and send it to you – you’ll owe us nothing and there’s no obligation.  For many roofs that are in decent condition, the check-up and the maintenance that goes with it is enough to carry you forward for years and it’s a win-win.  In a roof check-up, since our estimator is able to do the work on the spot, it means we don’t have to then send out another roofer which saves everyone time and money.

If you call us at (323) 913-4190 and ask for a roof check up, you should be able to be scheduled right away. Be ready for El Niño this year.

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Choosing Between a Repair or Re-roof

As an experienced roofer, I have evaluated thousands of roofs. Some only need minor repairs while some obviously need to be replaced.  Most are somewhere in between. It can be difficult to decide whether or not a repair or a replacement is the best option but there are some ways a homeowner can at least understand the process better.

First and foremost, a good, honest roofer who is in it for the long haul is not interested in making a quick buck, he is interested in making a lifelong customer who will refer all his neighbors and friends.  So he is more likely to push you in the direction that is the most honest or costs you the least. Get your opinions from roofers you believe you can trust.

First, date your roof.  All roofs have a life expectancy. Determining whether it’s cost effective to repair or just replace it will hinge on this most important fact. If you have a 20 year warranty shingle that is 17 years old, and repairs will run $1500 but a new roof is $5000, repairs make little sense.  Most tile roofs will last 30 years (the underlayment). But a good roofer can tell you what kind of underlayment you have (some last a lot longer than others). If you know how old it is, even roughly, he can tell you how long it will probably last before repairs are no longer cost effective.  With tile roofs, you can often redo the roof a section at a time.

The same principle applies no matter what type of roof you have. We can help you take the guesswork out of it by giving you a free estimate on your roof.  Call us at 877 7MY ROOF to arrange a free estimate.

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It’s Important to Understand Roofing Materials When Choosing A Roof

If you are going to be choosing a roof anytime in the near future, this article is for you. Other than choosing a reputable, licensed and insured roofer the most important factor in having a roof installed is to understand roofing materials.

The roofing materials from which your roof is made are incredibly important. Understand, that even in mild SoCal, your roof will bear the “brunt of nature’s wrath”. While we don’ t have much hail, sleet, never any snow or freezing temperatures, the blistering sunlight can be the biggest problem for your roof. That and rain are the forces of nature that your roof must withstand.

What are the pros and cons of the roofing materials you have to choose from? Do you really need to know about construction materials for your roof? We think it is important for you to know…

Types of Roofing Materials

Know What Roofing Materials Are Best For Your Roof

Tile and Concrete for the Roof

Two of the most enduring roofing materials are concrete and tile. Both clay tiles and concrete tiles are available in an assortment of colors. They both have incredible durability and provide a contemporary yet old-school look and. Most clay and concrete tiles have a 50-year warranty. However, they are more expensive than asphalt shingles.

Asphalt for the Roof

Asphalt shingles are perhaps the single most common type of roofing materials out there. Asphalt can also be found in rolls, in built-up roofing and in other forms. Generally, these types of roofs are warranted for about 25 years, though they can last longer than that.

Single-Ply Roofing

Single-ply roofing materials are usually synthetic in nature. Single-ply roofing material is usually used for flat roof roofing systems. These offer strength, flexibility, and long-lasting durability. These single ply are pre-fabricated sheets which have the consistency of the quality of the products that are manufactured, the versatility in their attachment methods and therefore their broader applicability.They are considered to have greater durability than some other choices for flat roofs.

Metal Roofing Materials

Metal roofing has been a solution in areas where serious winter weather can create ice dams on the roof. Where in the past they were made of tin this material was replaced by steel and aluminum and copper can also be used. Metal roofs offer a very long life (50+ years).

Wooden Roofing

Wood shingles have been used since time immemorial. Called “wood shakes or wood shingles”, these add a stunning look to a home. Each wood shake roof is unique, as well, due to small variations in the shape, texture, color and size of the shakes. However, if these roofs are not properly cared for, mold, rot and fire can be serious threats. Wood shakes and shingles can last up to 30 to 40 years depending on the quality of shingles and installation methods.

 

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Why Hire a Licensed and Insured Roofer?

When faced with the need to re-roof, many homeowners are finding the costs to re-roof their home to be quite a bit more than they thought it would be. When looking for a way to cut costs, you may find it’s cheaper to not hire a licensed and insured roofer.

Roofing material is made from petroleum which seems to increase in price with every passing year. Labor cost is driven by an ever-shrinking work force (there are few technical colleges, if any, that teach roofing) that at the same time is rife with worker’s compensation insurance fraud.

And so, many homeowners, staggered by the costs (particularly in large urban areas where labor costs can be particularly high), are tempted to hire an inexpensive roofer who may not exactly be legal. And while it’s true an unlicensed and/or uninsured roofer is certainly going to be a lot cheaper, there are more reasons than meet the eye to think twice before you do.

licensed and insured roofer

Always hire a licensed and insured roofer.

What is a contractor’s license anyway? We assume a contractor knows a great deal more than just a roofer and that’s likely to be true, but with a contractor you are not only getting something of a guarantee that he has learned everything the state believes he should have, but he has to be bonded and he has to do a good enough job that people are not filing complaints against him with the CSLB.

Unlicensed roofers are inherently less established. Generally they are going to keep a lower profile, for pretty obvious reasons and you may not want a roofer who is difficult to find and moves around.

Roofing is a fairly destructive activity and is a major change to your home (in human terms, it’s like getting a major haircut) and things do go wrong. With an unlicensed roofer, you have little recourse if things go badly. If it’s a big enough mistake, and he’s not licensed and doesn’t have a reputation, he may decide to just walk away from the job, leaving you with, for instance, the wrong color roof, and a half done job.

Even if he is licensed, if you’re roofer doesn’t exist on the internet, then he doesn’t really exist. Find a licensed roofer so you have recourse against him with the power of the state. And find a roofer that is known and has a good (valuable) reputation that he doesn’t want to lose.

J and J Roofing in Los Angeles is both a licensed and insured roofer. Call us if you need work done on your roof.

Insurance. Last but not least is insurance. Roofers have two kinds. Workers compensation (workcomp), for labor injuries, and general liability, for everything else. Workcomp is the most important. If one of his guys takes a swan dive off your roof, God forbid, you don’t want the bill for it. General liability isn’t a must (it’s not legally required), but if you’re worth a lot of money, or it’s a commercial property it probably something you will want and it comes with a price. A roofer with general liability will cost more.

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