Q: We had a new roof installed on our house in the Sierras. The roof is a 12-in-12 pitch (45 degree) and is approximately 17 squares (1,700 square feet).
We contracted for a 30-year Elk brand composition roof with 30-pound felt underlayment. The instructions require a ridge vent system, without which the manufacturer’s warranty would be void. We told the roofer this.
There is full wood sheeting on the roof. The instructions require a 3/4-inch opening on either side of the ridge beam to allow air flow.
My biggest concern, though, is that the roofer applied 15-pound felt — not 30-pound — in a vertical direction as opposed to the horizontal overlap. The contractor maintained that the felt is frequently installed this way. But code and the manufacturer’s instructions say that felt must be applied horizontally across the roof.
The second installation issue we have concerns the ridge vent system. The roofers did not cut the opening. When we discussed this with them, they told us they had shimmed the sheeting to allow air flow. But there is no evidence of any shimming. What are your thoughts regarding moisture, condensation and/or water penetrating the joints of improperly installed felt underlayment? Up to 6 inches of snow remains on the roof for as long as three months during winter.
The product has a 30-year warranty against defect, but the manufacturer says the warranty will be voided if the roof is not installed according to instructions. The roofing contractor has a five-year warranty against leaking or failure. I would appreciate your thoughts regarding the chances of failure.
A: Oh boy. We’re afraid your roofer did you no favors. The first thing that comes to mind is whether there is a building permit? If so, how in the world did this job pass inspection?
We’ve done a little investigation into the specifications the Elk Corp. requires to maintain the limited warranty they provide with their roofing products. From what you describe about the roof installation, Elk has grounds to disavow any responsibility should the roof fail during the warranty period. You can check out the specs at www.elkcorp.com.
That does not mean that roof failure is inevitable. The relatively steep pitch of the roof may well save the day. In fact, we think that it’s as likely as not you’ll be OK. But the manner in which the contractor installed the felt underlayment and the ridge vent sure doesn’t meet Elk’s specs or any common construction practice that we’re aware of.
Fifteen-pound felt is fine, but the vertical application is not. We can only guess that the roofer installed the felt vertically because it was easier to do so on the 45-degree angle of your roof.
Building felt is the last defense against water infiltration. Felt underlayment is always applied horizontally and overlapped at the seams. The uphill layer laps over the bottom layer by a couple of inches to give any water that might get under the shingles a channel to flow away from the inside of the house. Vertical application defeats the goal of shedding water to the outside.
Of greater concern is the ridge vent installation. Ridge ventilation systems are installed to help vent warm summer air from the attic. Without proper ventilation, the roofing material, as well as the sheeting and underlayment, will be subject to increased expansion and contraction. This will shorten the life of the roof.
According to Elk, the proper way to install the vent system is to remove a 1/2- to 3/4-inch slot of sheeting from each side of the ridge. The slot should not be cut within 12 inches of the gable ends or any intersection of two roofs.
It sounds as if the roofer simply didn’t follow the instructions, and when you called them on it they tried to feed you a line of baloney.
Shimming the sheeting, if that’s what they did, doesn’t cut the mustard. If they did shim, it was out of laziness. The roofer just didn’t want to bring the Skilsaw on the roof. But we wouldn’t be surprised if nothing at all was done.
Our suggestion is that you try to get the contractor back to install the ridge properly. Also put them on notice that you’ll hold them responsible if Elk will not honor the warranty because of faulty installation.
If they refuse, contacting the California Contractors State Licensing Board is in order, at www.cslb.ca.gov or (800) 321-2752.