I just got back from visiting Orlando and working along side a tremendous roofer – it is always interesting to see how different professionals do their work in different parts of the country. Here in DC flat roofs are king. However, down in Orlando Florida, my man is working with a lot of clay, tiles, and shingles. And the prevailing wind direction can mean the difference between the client being dry and happy or wet and angry.
Our designer is creating a new site that will be completed shortly, in the mean time please pardon our mess. Once completed the new site will properly showcase our work.
While skylights in the suburbs are a new[ish] development (last 20-25 years) skylights in DC have been used for the past 100 years to bring lights to the center of townhouses where side windows aren’t possible or practical. Often times we see skylights over the staircase and it serves to effectively bring some sunlight to both the first and second floors. Frankly, perhaps 60% of the townhouses we service in DC have skylights and the owners seem to treasure them. However, they are not without problems.
Some skylights are problematic…and if your skylight is leaking you know how annoying it can be. Plus, the leak -even if it is occasional – can lead to mold and rot. If your skylight is leaking you really should deal with it ASAP. The question is do you need to replace the skylight, replace the flashing, or replace the roof. Many times we are able to resolve the leak by reworking the flashing. Many roofers don’t pay appropriate attention to flashing a skylight and often the flashing, and not the skylight, are to blame for the leaks. If the skylight itself has failed it is time for a replacement. Finally, if the roof is at the end of its life the area by the skylight may have simply been the first to fail. Sadly, if that is the case it is time for a new roof.
In this instance the skylight itself had failed and was leaking. You can tell by the discolored trim and ceiling. We can often fix something like this within a few hours.
We had a great idea to do a question and answer post. Any questions you email we will answer here publically. We will start with a common question below and will add to this each day:
1. Is a flat roof easier or harder to repair than a standard shingled roof?
— Great question. Every situation has its own challenges and requires a specialized skill. However, we think the more important skill is attention to detail. We pride ourselves in having a team that can be, at times, a bit OCD. They see everything and pay attention to every detail- no matter how small.
In any profession there are good and bad professionals. Some care most about the bottom line while others really care about their customers and clients. We try very hard to be in the ladder group (get it, roofing pun) – sorry – later group.
So to help out everyone, even those who aren’t our customers we have compiled a list of the 4 questions you should ask when getting a roofing estimate.
- What material do you suggest, and why?
— You may have an idea of the ideal material but let the contractor explain their choice. If their choice doesn’t match your ideal material ask they a follow up question. “Why not use ______?”
- If you have to replace plywood sheeting what is the per piece cost of the plywood?
— This often isn’t detailed on estimates and is one place where contractors sometimes add in some extra profit. I believe all customers should know potential costs before the project starts. This simple request may save you some cash…or save you from having a surprise later.
- What will be the warranty on the new roof?
— This is one question most people ask. However, there is an even more important follow-up which is often neglected. Many roofing materials that we use in Washington, DC have a few versions. For example TPO comes in 3 standard thicknesses. Depending on the manufacturer each thickness may have a different warranty. So it is important to know if there is another option of the same type of roof that may last longer..or an option that may be more cost effective. An informed buyer is a good buyer.
- Are you licensed and insured?
— There is only one right answer, yes to both. They should have a valid license to work in DC. And they should have active policies for general liability insurance as well as workman’s comp insurance.
Hopefully, these simple questions will make getting your new roof a little less stressful. And if you are in the market for some DC roof repair we have some advice that should help.
This is certainly a hard question to answer as each house is unique and everyone’s needs vary. However, for most houses in DC there is a most common answer. However, before we dive right in we need to take a step back to talk about why.
When was the last time you bought some new technology? Whether it was a TV or a new iPhone you probably looked at reviews, factored in the price, determined its value for you and made a decision. A new roof is an identical buying decision – with a bit of extra urgency thrown in if your existing roof is leaking. For every technology there exists a sweet spot. It usually lies where several things overlap.
For most row houses in DC those metrics will point to one correct roof technology. TPO. It has a long life, is economical to install, is well supported, and it is efficient and because of that it is the choice of many LEED Certified buildings.
If price is a bigger factor and value/reliability/efficiency are smaller factors then EPDM roofs are often the homeowners choice. The downside is they need maintenance every 6-9 years by way of a new coating. Otherwise, the rubber can dry out, crack and fail.
If the homeowner wants a warranty longer than the 20 years available with EPDM, or 25 years available with TPO, a standing seam metal roof is a great option. However, it is a more expensive option and isn’t right for all situations.
Many homeowners are unaware of what is involved in getting a new roof so I thought I would describe the process.
For most homes that need a new roof the process starts with the removal of the old roof. We take everything off down to the base, which is usually plywood. From there we check the existing wood to see if any places would benefit from replacement. If you’ve ever walked across a roof that felt squishy you know why this step is important.
Then we start adding Poly Iso insulation board. This helps to insulate the roof and add a layer of protection. As well as lets us add a bit more slope to the roof. More slope = less leaks and less chance of standing water.
On top of the Poly Iso we place some roofing felt or a suitable alternative depending on the type of roof being added. This helps to isolate the roof a bit, provide some protection as well as a bit of an air gap for air to circulate (helps on hot summer days).
Next, the new membrane goes on. Whether TPO, PVC, or EPDM the process is largely the same.
The other elements of the job aren’t as sexy. New gutters, new flashing, sealing penetrations, etc.
It is an experience most of us dread. You come home and notice something is right. There is water damage. Either standing water on your second floor or a water stain on your ceiling. Not fun. But, rest assured we can help.
Many roofers in DC do a pretty sloppy job. When dealing with a roof with a low slope it is vital that the install and maintenance is done correctly. However, some simply want to do it quickly. When that happens the roofing substrate can begin to fail.
Let me give you an example…
This roof isn’t terrible. However, the installers did a quick job that has some major failings. The seams of a flat roof should cascade down- from highest to lowest. That limits waters access to the area which is most likely to cause a leak. On this roof the seams go from front to back, which allows water to access that seam and wear it away over time. At the back of the house the seams get even more haphazard. If may have taken this crew 1 hour longer to do it right, but instead they chose the fast way.
Too bad for the homeowner who when we visited had a slow leak in the upstairs hallway. This is very typical of work we see (and repair) in DC.