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How bad is this cedar shake roof installation?


Inspectorjoe
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I see maybe one shake roof a year, and that's usually a small decorative one, typically on a storefront. Today I had new construction (7,500 sf), roofed entirely with Certi-Split #1 grade, 24" X 1/2" cedar shakes.

There are a multitude of installation errors and poor workmanship, likely only some of which I caught. Among them: damaged shakes, exposed nails, missing nails, roofing felts imporoperly placed, cupped shakes, a valley flashing too short, not enough overhang at the drip edge and rake, staples on the surface, too much exposure and the joints in adjoining rows less that 1.5" apart.

In addition to some exposed nails in the field, the nails securing the shakes covering the sidewall flashing are not sealed. Do they need to be on a shake roof?

The flashings at the dormers look like absolute crap. I'm sure the concealed flashings are worse. I'm clueless on these should be flashed, but I'm pretty certain it's not like this. How bad is this?

At two places, a gutter is open at the end, and cut to fit the contour of the roof, right at the bottom of a valley. Some water flowing down the valley is bound to end up in the gutter, but a lot will flow between the gutter and the roof. Get a little debris at the downspout, and water is going to drain out those open ends. This arrangement can't be right.

Just how bad are these issues and what would a prudent recommendation to the buyer be? I'm thinking along the lines of recommending the manufacturer's rep look at it.

Pictures are here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/inspectorjoe/sets/72157594234550531/

Thanks,

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

I see maybe one shake roof a year, and that's usually a small decorative one, typically on a storefront. Today I had new construction (7,500 sf), roofed entirely with Certi-Split #1 grade, 24" X 1/2" cedar shakes.

You do realize that #1 medium (1/2") shakes are the bottom of the barrel as shake grades go, right? This is the grade of shake that they use on cheezy developments where they want people to *think* they've put on a shake roof but they've really just covered the house with scraps of leftover cedar.

So, right from the get-go, they're using a crap product.

There are a multitude of installation errors and poor workmanship, likely only some of which I caught. Among them: damaged shakes, exposed nails, missing nails, roofing felts imporoperly placed, cupped shakes, a valley flashing too short, not enough overhang at the drip edge and rake, staples on the surface, too much exposure and the joints in adjoining rows less that 1.5" apart.

I see all of those things in your pictures. They're all wrong. But, believe it or not, most of those problems won't make much difference to the overall life or performance of this roof. It'll need to be replaced before any of these errors come into play.

In addition to some exposed nails in the field, the nails securing the shakes covering the sidewall flashing are not sealed. Do they need to be on a shake roof?

The nails aren't supposed to penetrate the flashing. But that's beside the point, that whole joint is done wrong.

The flashings at the dormers look like absolute crap. I'm sure the concealed flashings are worse. I'm clueless on these should be flashed, but I'm pretty certain it's not like this. How bad is this?

I've never seen it done like that. I think it's very bad. In the shake roofs I see (every damn week) the sidewall flashing is done exactly the same as you would with asphalt shingles only on a larger scale to match the shakes. I'd be wondering if there even are any concealed flashings there.

At two places, a gutter is open at the end, and cut to fit the contour of the roof, right at the bottom of a valley. Some water flowing down the valley is bound to end up in the gutter, but a lot will flow between the gutter and the roof. Get a little debris at the downspout, and water is going to drain out those open ends. This arrangement can't be right.

It's a very poor set up. The gutter should stop sooner so that there's a greater gap between it and the roof. There should also be a half-moon-shaped cutout at the bottom of the gutter to make clogs less likely.

Just how bad are these issues and what would a prudent recommendation to the buyer be? I'm thinking along the lines of recommending the manufacturer's rep look at it.

You've got a crappy product installed by halfwits. Or, to be charitable, the installers simply aren't familiar with the proper installation of shakes.

Just out of curiousity, are the shakes installed over skip sheathing or solid decking?

I wouldn't refer it to a manufacturer's rep. If he comes out, he'll tell you what a great guy the roofer is (known him for years - great customer) and that the roof installation is fine. He might even throw in a jab at the dumbass home inspector who thinks otherwise.

I'd simply tell my customer that these are cheap shakes installed poorly. I'd enumerate the problems with the installation and tell them that the roof, with luck might last 10-12 years before needing to be replaced.

There's really no way to fix this mess without tearing it off first. And, frankly, even if they did and then put that grade of shakes on again perfectly, the roof probably wouldn't last a whole lot longer.

Just for your information, if you want a decent shake roof, you've got to use Premium Heavies (3/4" - 1" thick) and you'd be crazy not to buy them pre-treated. If you install those suckers properly, and if you treat them every 3-4 years, one of these roofs can last 40 years.

Mike, do you agree with all this?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi Jim,

Like you, I'm tuning in late to it too. Yes, I agree. I think Jim's right on the money with the remarks about the roof wearing out before most of those issues become problems. Those sidewall flashings are a joke. The way those have been done tells me that whoever did the roof is an incompetent.

The workmanship issues, short valley flashings, short at the drip (drips are never used here with shakes by the way) felts and the extra inch of reveal really won't make much difference in it's performance - it's the shake quality that will tell. I see gutters done like those all the time and usually tell folks to shorten them and cut an ellipse out of the bottom so that they won't clog. The two nails that you were wondering about a chalk line? Those probably held a roof jack onto the roof. The course offset isn't good, but as many times as I've see it and written it, I've never found them leaking under those areas. Unlike shingle roofs, these have the felts interlaced into the courses and that seems to handle the little bit of water that gets past the surface when they're lined up like that. It's easily corrected anyway.

If those shakes aren't treated on both sides and all edges, they'll probably be all hooked and twisted in 5 or 6 years.

I'd really be interested in seeing what's under those valleys. How wide were those flashings? Were you able to tell from the attic? If the guy doesn't know how to properly interlace step flashings at a sidewall, he probably used valley flashings that were too narrow. Did you happen to see how heavy those felts were? In your climate I should think that roofers are probably using solid decking with a layer of ice and water shield, battens on top of that and then applying the shakes. No?

Since you're in PA, you might even consider attending the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau's Annual General Meeting, which is being held Sept 27 - 30 in Philadelphia. You can find out more about that at the link below.

It looks like a pricey house. If you think you might end up in a serious run-in with the builder and roofer, you might consider contacting CSSB and see who their local representative is, contact him and ask him whether he'd be willing to stop by and look at the roof. I know that they've got a guy in New York - Tony Something - but I can't remember whether he covers just New York or the northeast. Their southeast guy is Peter Parmenter 912-898-8173.

Go here for lots of free downloadable information about shake roofs - even an installation manual. It will help you explain the issues to the client and to the roofer if he cares to listen.

http://www.cedarbureau.org

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Jim & Mike, thanks for the speedy replies.

You do realize that #1 medium (1/2") shakes are the bottom of the barrel as shake grades go, right? This is the grade of shake that they use on cheezy developments where they want people to *think* they've put on a shake roof but they've really just covered the house with scraps of leftover cedar.

So, right from the get-go, they're using a crap product.

No, I didn't know that. I thought #1 was the top grade. Is it because they're only 1/2", or is there a better grade than #1?

The nails aren't supposed to penetrate the flashing. But that's beside the point, that whole joint is done wrong.

The nails are securing the top row of shakes that are covering the bottom of the sidewall flashing. Do you mean the nails should be driven just below the flashing? If so, I still have the question of whether the heads should be sealed as on an asphalt shingle roof (which is done maybe half the time around here).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/inspectorjoe/213584257/

Just out of curiousity, are the shakes installed over skip sheathing or solid decking?

Solid plywood decking.

I'd really be interested in seeing what's under those valleys. How wide were those flashings? Were you able to tell from the attic?

No, I couldn't tell. The roof sheathing is plywood.

http://static.flickr.com/66/213969110_b3c1095fd3_o.jpg

If the guy doesn't know how to properly interlace step flashings at a sidewall, he probably used valley flashings that were too narrow.

Funny you should mention that. There are two area where I guess they couldn't how to figure out how to form and attach the counter flashing, so they just left it off. BTW, the house is finished; the buyer moved in two weeks ago.

http://static.flickr.com/93/213972967_d0f0ca9a3b_o.jpg

Did you happen to see how heavy those felts were? In your climate I should think that roofers are probably using solid decking with a layer of ice and water shield, battens on top of that and then applying the shakes. No?

The felt looked like 30 lb. I have no idea if here are battens on the plywod, but I'd surely bet against it.

Since you're in PA, you might even consider attending the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau's Annual General Meeting, which is being held Sept 27 - 30 in Philadelphia. You can find out more about that at the link below.

I saw that on the home page. Even though I'm only 60 miles from Philly, I think I'll pass. I almost never see shake roofs. Slate - now that's a different story.

It looks like a pricey house. If you think you might end up in a serious run-in with the builder and roofer, you might consider contacting CSSB and see who their local representative is, contact him and ask him whether he'd be willing to stop by and look at the roof.

Yes, it's a very pricey house. The kitchen has three friggin' garbage disosals! The double sink in the island has one in each side, and a sink along a wall has one. I have to admit, it was nice having an elevator to use when going up and down between the basement HVAC units and the thermostats.

So many times I see square footage at the expense of quality, but this place had top quality materials used throughout (except the roof of course), and the overall workmanship was good. I can't understand how it ended up with such a crappy roof job.

Thanks again,

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Originally posted by Inspectorjoe

No, I didn't know that. I thought #1 was the top grade. Is it because they're only 1/2", or is there a better grade than #1?

Believe it or not, #1 is the lower grade, the top grade is "Premium." Those grades refer to the amount of "slash" or flat-grain shingles are in each bundle. Premium has 0% flat grain. #1 has 20% flat grain. Within each grade you have the choice of medium weight (1/2"-3/4" thickness) or heavy weight (3/4"-1" thickness). There's another grade that's even crappier than #1, though no-one uses it - I think they're called sidewall shakes or something like that and they're intended for sidewalls (of course) not roofs.

The nails are securing the top row of shakes that are covering the bottom of the sidewall flashing. Do you mean the nails should be driven just below the flashing? If so, I still have the question of whether the heads should be sealed as on an asphalt shingle roof (which is done maybe half the time around here).

Ideally, there should be no shakes on top of the flashing at all. The shakes run up to the wall and the apron flashing rests on top of them. It's fastened to the wall, not the roof. It's lower leg just rests on top of the shakes. There should be no exposed nail heads with or without goop on them. Under the shakes, the felt wraps up the wall.

Yes, it's a very pricey house. The kitchen has three friggin' garbage disosals! The double sink in the island has one in each side, and a sink along a wall has one. I have to admit, it was nice having an elevator to use when going up and down between the basement HVAC units and the thermostats.

So many times I see square footage at the expense of quality, but this place had top quality materials used throughout (except the roof of course), and the overall workmanship was good. I can't understand how it ended up with such a crappy roof job.

Thanks again,

Sounds like they just got a sub who didn't understand how to install shakes. The buyer's been had.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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