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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Architect and the Roofer

Except when dealing with replacement or retrofit roof, the most important person to the birth of a new roof system is the architect. One such designer, Darin Norman, an accomplished architect for Townsite Company, presented us with one of the most difficult residential retrofit roofing dilemmas we ever encountered. Darin had a better understanding of ventilation and energy efficiency than any customer I had ever met. He knew what he wanted and wanted me to get him there. By using the GAF Website, he looked for a Master Elite Roofer , us,who he felt would have the training to enact the nuances of an energy efficient system on a home built with little inclination to be done so. Darin lives in Fort Worth but because there are so few Master Elite roofers he selected a roofing company from Irving, Dallas County.

Hello Darin, can you tell me about the initial problem you encountered with venting your roof?
Due to the conversion of old attic space to usable second-story square footage, I could not utilize traditional attic venting methods to promote the chimney effect within my wall and roof cavities. The house simply trapped hot air between the ceiling and roof. Also, the design of the roof eaves disallowed the use of traditional eave vents for cool air infiltration.

Why did you use GAF products on your house?
GAF-Elk is the only manufacturer of a non-white, Cool Color Series shingle that meets minimum rating standards of the Cool Roof Rating Council and Energy Star for energy efficiency and performance. I wanted the heat reflective qualities of a white roof while retaining the curbside aesthetics of a traditional shingle color. For the flat portions of my roof, I selected the GAF EnergyCap modified bitumen. It comes with a factory applied layer of reflective elastomeric coating. It is very reflective and effectively combats heat gain from direct and indirect sunlight. These two products have made a tremendous difference in lowering the cooling demands of my home. Along with accessories like the e ridgvent and smart vents, I was able to introduce an effective airflow within my rafter space that cycles out accumulated heat.

Were you satisfied with the material and system choices you made and do you think it will save you money in the long run?
I am satisfied and I have already saved money.

Who long have you been an architect and where did you get your degree?
I have an M. Arch degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
In dealing with roofers what would you say is their strengths and weaknesses?
Most roofers do not care about the energy performance of a roof. They are interested in minimizing their cost of installation to maximize their profit margin. Labor is expensive, and most labor only understands traditional roofing installation. Jon Wright, however, understood what I was after and instructed his crews in the installation of these relatively new products, keeping in mind that energy performance was a priority. Also, roofers are adept at traversing steep pitches.

Your roof project was both a remodel and an insurance claim. How would you say the insurance company handled the initial claim?
The insurance company was very helpful. The claim was handled efficiently and completely. There was a minor hassle that required my dealing with the mortgage company. The insurance agents were responsive and understanding.

Was it helpful to you that we worked with the insurance company?
Yes, as Jon was familiar with the assessment software, he was able to point out some additional areas where additional compensation was owed to me.

What would you say the average homeowner needs to do beforehand in order to select a contractor and materials?
1.Properly assess your own roofing needs, be they cost, aesthetics, performance, energy efficiency, or durability.
2.Coordinate other roof fixes such as skylight installation, ventilation, or additional sloping with the basic roof work to be performed.
3.Prioritize according to your budget
4.Research available products and those certified in their installation online and verify with accredited rating agencies
5.Double check with the BBB on each potential contractor
6.Acquire a minimum of three bids for your project. Assess not only the bottom line, but scheduling, work duration, contractor responsiveness (it won’t improve beyond this point), and verify references.

As an architect did you learn anything from your own house project?
Yes, I am constantly reminded of the difference between the drawn design and the unique requirements of the physical circumstances at hand. Communication with laborers is important in conveying expectations and making sure they are met. A friendly rapport goes a long way.

What consequences does a homeowner face if he doesn't take the time to research his materials, his roof systems, and contractor?
He will probably ultimately be dissatisfied with the final result, its performance, and its durability. His electric bill will remain high. There will be leftover material and nails in his driveway and nails in his yard. Potentially, the roof could leak.

Anything else?
That does it.

Thanks Darin. It was fun roofing your house because of the unique challenges it presented to us. Nevertheless I hope we don't get too many like yours soon.

After several years this roof has been problem free.

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