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Friday, January 22, 2010

Hand Nail, Nail Guns, or Staples

Staples are out. Nobody uses them anymore. That was settled a long time ago although I must confess my boss put a staple gun in my hand in 1976. My roofing uncle was not proud of me anymore. Yet there is still a debate on how roofs should be applied: pneumatic vs hand nails.
The difference is whether the nail is driven by a hatchet, also known as a roofing hammer, or a nail gun. The differences are stark. The hammer will only drive the nail flush or not flush. A driver blade of a nail gun will either leave the nail raised, flush, or, most likely, over driven. The nails not driven flush are obvious and will be found on final inspection (if there is one) and if the customer doesn't start complaining first. All that is required is lifting the tab of the roofing and striking the high nail with a hammer.
To my recollection there has been wind damage in Dallas ever year since then necessitating the need for wind damage repairs. Carrollton, Lewisville, Little Elm, and Denton get it the worst.
Over driven nails are not visible. They leave no fish mouths, also known as warts and titties (really), in the face of the shingle. They are no longer attached to the roofing. Left to themselves the over driven fasteners leave the roof vulnerable to wind. Without a doubt the hand driven nail is superior when applying roofing. Nail guns are fine for fastening structurally strong materials like lumber but for thin asphalt roofing they should be outlawed.
For the contractor who uses inexperienced help a nail gun can help a novice put a roof on much faster. That's great. He'll make all his mistakes quickly. For a roofer not participating in his first rodeo a nail gun serves little purpose. While the novice is unloading, hooking up, and stringing out his heavy compressor, hoses, guns, and extension cords, the experienced roofer has grabbed his tool and is installing roof.
What if the breaker is tripped and the compressor can't be used and the homeowner's food spoils. The hand nailer can even complete the carpentry with his hand saw. The gunner is doomed.
No electricity or gas is used to run a compressor, the transportation costs are less to and from the job and from the factory to the roofer, the manufacturing costs are thousands of times less for the tools, and the maintenance costs are less. Even the environmental comparisons of the cost of manufacturing both nail types is clearly in favor of the hand nail. The box of roofing nails is smaller than that of the coiled nails used in guns and has no wire holding them in a line. Thus the roofing hatchet is green and the nail gun is destroying the ozone layer. Maybe, maybe not, but that is another debate for another forum.
Roofers have different weight hatchets with different length handles for different types of materials over different types of decks. Some even come with an attached replaceable razor type blade for cutting. Nail guns sometimes can be adjusted for pressure but the roofer has no feel for how the nail set, whether it found a void, cracked the board, or hit a hard spot. Plus the temperature on a roof changes rapidly and varies from area to area changing the firmness of the roofing. Shade, sunny slopes, wind, length of expose of the shingle to the sun after opening the bundle, and voodoo all effect roofing texture. Cold shingles are stiff and hot ones are like bread floating in the sink. You get what you grab. Maybe.
If we look at the entire job, the coming and going from the job site, tearing off, preparing the deck, stocking on the roof, opening and spreading of the shingles, trimming valleys, edges, hips, ridges.... and flashing chimneys, walls, skylights, pipes... setting up and taking down, cleaning up, and traveling to the landfill and back, we see that the only difference is in the fraction of the job that is the actual installation of the nail, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A ROOF. Besides, when the roof blows off we have more costs to the pocketbook and environment. Now painting and sheet rock must be repaired, insulation replaced, and more stuff thrown in the dump, a place where that hatchet might come in handy in defense against other roofers. He can't hook up his nail gun down there.
Once a roofer has mastered the hatchet, a homeowner can see that he has a professional on his roof, the most important part of a home. The first exterior shelters that weren't caves consisted solely of a roof. Later the roof extended to the ground like in tee pees or huts and only later developed separate materials for walls.
In fact, the headline of the Dallas Morning News a few years ago was about how Dallas, and to some extent Fort Worth, surpassed Chicago as America's most windy city. How's that for roof repairs in Dallas County? Sometimes it can mean even a whole new roof.
Insist that your roof be hand nailed. Love the environment, love your family, love the planet. Get it done right, once.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From the Roof and into the Gutter

Roofs drain downhill. Where does the water go? The spill off either falls to the ground or goes into a gutter system, many of which are Eco friendly water collection systems. While cascading off the roof onto the ground or even into gutters the framing, Cornish, and foundation of the structure could be blasted or a little paint damage might occur if caught in time.

There is a science to gutters greater than that water runs downhill. The proper number and size of downspouts, the correct leaf screen, and even the size and shape of the gutter itself are variables. A professional gutter company has charts and equations they use to figure these things but afterward the customer needs to do his job.

One such gutter professional is Robert King of A-1 Aluminum Gutters. He has been installing gutters since the start of time and has an excellent track record. Robert, tell us about your company:

“We began in 1969. I narrowed my home building and remodeling business of nine years to just gutters. Sometimes we have to repair other items connected to the gutters and downspouts but my true passion is gutters.”

What would you consider to be the most common mistake of gutter companies?:

“The fatal flaw is not engineering the gutter system from the beginning and then sending out apartment gutter installers to do homes. All this begins with the inspection process. They even put the supports or fasteners too far apart and sometimes rely on eyesight rather than a level. The placement of the right size downspouts is critical to drainage in heavy rains and the elimination of debris from the gutter. Of course there's many other things to go wrong from start to finish. Then there's the roofer who must integrate the gutter to the roof to prevent water damage to the overhang.”

How often and what time of year should gutters be inspected?:

“Twice a year, for leaves in the fall and for tree blooms and limbs in the spring.”

Should everyone have gutters?:

“It may not seem apparent but I believe so because I have seen what happens over time. A home may not need gutters today because its on a hill and the water runs away from the home on all sides but eventually the runoff will erode not just the earth but even concrete. This damage can be obscured by shrubs and before you know it a foundation man is needed. After he raises the house the homeowner will need your services, Jon, to fix the roof structure.”

What's the difference in gutter profiles?:

There is “Straight Face” which is hard to match for any repairs or the “O G” that is considered standard. Some contractors call it “K Style.”

Tell us about downspouts and the gutter size itself?:

“There are 5” and 6” gutters with 2”x3” or Texas Size 3”x4” downspouts. Sometimes we use the larger downspouts with the smaller gutter if the volume of water requires it. You must engineer for the heaviest of rains.”

How should gutters be attached to a house?

“We use to use spike and ferrule but since they backed out over time we went to support hangers with screws.”

Are there ever exceptions like the shape or angle of the roof or fascia?:

“There are five or six major installation techniques that we usually use.”

Are all roofs alike when it comes to installing gutters or do some require different flashing details?:

“The procedure for batten mounted stone coated steel roof require a lot of expertise. Otherwise, after we leave, if you change out your roof you better use a roofer who knows and cares about what he's doing.”

Would you like to add anything else?:

“If you have a lot of trees you should consider screens to prevent leaf clogging. The supposed leafless gutters systems can get clogged and they're difficult to clean. They also are shallow and have little recovery for hard rains. We'll stick with what has been proven for hundreds of years.”

Thanks Robert. You know your business.

one last comment: Dallas and Fort Worth are polluted enough. Let's do our part to help mother earth not be sucked dry by our generation. As roofing contractors, customers, and associated vendors we can do a lot to help the environment. Let's get started!