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Warning About Manufacturer's Instructions


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Here on TIJ we always try to emphasize that clear and unambiguous writing is the hallmark of a good report writer and will keep an inspector out of trouble; well, how about when it's someone else's writing, like a manufacturer's, that causes the problem?

We all know that in this business a manufacturer's listing and labeling is supposed to be the final word when there's an argument about whether a product is correctly installed or is being used correctly, right? I used to think so until I recently wrote up the roof on a 3-year old home and learned that sometimes even the manufacturer gets it wrong.

In that case, as I'd done with thousands of homes before that one, I'd discovered that the roof cover had been installed without any drip edge flashings at the rakes or eaves and with the shingles overhanging the fascia about two to three inches and sagging deep into the gutters. The roof had a fairly significant pitch, so I knew that water being pulled back up under that sagging edge and soaking into the edges of the deck wasn't likely; however, I was also concerned about the possibility of damage to the edge of the roof when some kid working for a local handyman tries to bend those shingles up out of the way in order to muck out the gutters.

There wasn't any gutter at the fireplace bumpout at the side of the house, so I was able to easily point out from the ground the lack of drip edge flashings and extended overhang to my clients - a nice young couple from India. I explained to the husband that, with such a long overhang, there was a good chance one or more of the shingles overhanging the gutters could easily be damaged by himself or anyone he hires to clean the gutters, and cautioned him to only attempt to clean the gutters when outside temperatures are warmer and the shingles will be more flexible and not so brittle.

The client wanted to know why the roof cover had been installed that way and whether doing so was a "code violation." I explained in a matter-of-fact manner that, though it's contrary to best practices recommended by roofing experts, roofers here typically omit drip edge flashings and instead extend the roof edge deep into the gutters. I went on to explain that I didn't know what that particular municipality's requirements had been at that time the home had been built; but that, as far as I knew, it was not a violation of the model code - though there was the possibility that it could be a violation of the code, if if the shingle manufacturer doesn't allow for a 2-1/2 inch overhang and requires that drip edging be installed. I remarked that, as far as I knew, only one manufacturer, lets call them Roofs R Us, actually "required" drip edge flashings. Finally, I explained that I had no way to determine who had manufactured those particular shingles, so I couldn't say one way or the other, and recommended that he check with the builder and then look up the manufacturer's instructions on the internet for himself.

The issue was included in my report, as it had been thousands of times before, and I really didn't think anything of it. A few days after the inspection, I got an email from the listing agent asking for clarification about the location of another issue mentioned in the report and requesting that I contact the tech rep for the roofing manufacturer, Roofs R Us, in regard to the drip edge installation; because I'd been wrong (Apparently, the clients had followed up with the builder and the builder had pushed back).

I admit I don't take instruction well from listing agents who are pushing back, so I responded via email that I didn't need to call Roofs R Us, because I'd personally read Roofs R Us installation instructions on the web many times and on bundles of their shingles, and that they unambiguously state (pay attention to the bolded portions):

3. Underlayment - On decks with a pitch of 4" per foot or greater, for new construction or when old roofing has been removed, apply a single layer of underlayment felt complying with ASTM D226 or ASTM D4869 and the building code. Lap the felt 2" horizontally with 4" end laps. Lap the felt a minimum of 6" from both sides over all hips, ridges and valleys.

Drip edges are made of corrosion resistant materials that extend 2" minimum back from the roof edges and bend downward over them. Apply drip edges directly to the deck along the eaves and over the underlayment along the rakes.

I opined that, if I was wrong, than Roofs R Us had some 'splainin to do. I included links to the Roofs R Us instructions on their website and figured that would be the end of it. Nope, apparently this particular listing agent, and the builder, weren't going to be dissed by a mere home inspector, because the next day, as I was tooling down the interstate on my way to a job, I got a phone call from a nice gentleman from Roofs R Us. He was calling because he wanted to send me written verification that, contrary to what their own labeling seems to indicate, Roofs R Us doesn't require drip edge flashings.

Why then, I asked him, do their instructions seem to be written in the imperative and clearly state that drip edging is to be applied over the underlayment at the rakes and under the underlayment at the eaves. His response was that when he'd written those instructions he'd only intended to make it clear that, if drip edging was used, the drip edging had to be installed on top of the underlayment at the rakes and under the underlayment at the eaves. He explained that, as much as he would like to see drip edge flashings used at every roof, he couldn't mandate that.

I admit that at that point I was a little irked by his response, especially since I'd always considered Roofs R Us to be the one shining jewel of all roofing products manufacturers for precisely the fact that they alone had required drip edging, and now I didn't even have that. I probably didn't do a good job of hiding my irritation when I then asked him why the hell a reputable roofing products manufacturer wouldn't clearly write instructions that mandated that the best practices recommendations of the National Roofing Contractor's Association (NRCA) and the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturer's Association (ARMA) be mandatory. His response; because his company's lawyers had advised against it. Apparently, if a manufacturer ties their warranty to a requirement to install a particular component, such as a drip edge, they somehow incur some kind of liability if the component is installed wrongly and results in damage to the home (What the......?).

That evening when I got home there was an email waiting for me that read:

Re: Drip Edge Application

Dear Mr. O’Handley:

The statements regarding the application of drip edge found in the Directions For Application for Roofs R Us Premier® laminated shingles is an affirmative statement for the application location (over the underlayment at the rake and under at the eaves). It is not intended as an affirmative statement that drip edge is required when installing Roofs R Us Premier® laminated shingles.

Roofs R Us recommends the use of drip edge, but it is not required for Roofs R Us acceptance.

Sincerely,

So, now I know; regardless of the tenet of this profession that "a manufacturer's instructions almost always trump code" don't always rely on a manufacturer's written instructions to be correct, unless you intend to personally take the time to call the manufacturer's technical experts and verify with them that what they've written in their instructions is what they'd intended when it was written.

It's time to eat some crow for a client.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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. . . Apparently, if a manufacturer ties their warranty to a requirement to install a particular component, such as a drip edge, they somehow incur some kind of liability if the component is installed wrongly and results in damage to the home (What the......?).. . .

So does that mean that Pabco --oops, I mean Roofs R Us, doesn't require step flashing at sidewalls & chimneys? After all, if they're wrongly installed they might result in damage to the home.

BTW, I never read that paragraph as an imperative to use drip edge flashing. That particular paragraph always struck me as a goofy attempt to say "we want to trick you into thinking that drip-edge flashing is required, but we're too chicken to actually say so."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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BTW, I never read that paragraph as an imperative to use drip edge flashing. That particular paragraph always struck me as a goofy attempt to say "we want to trick you into thinking that drip-edge flashing is required, but we're too chicken to actually say so."

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Apparently they succeeded. One more example of how Jim K. is one sharp cookie and why I'm not kidding when I say I'm dumb as a box of rocks.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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You might want to hold off on cooking that crow although I've got great 'Martha' approved recipes I've dined on myself.

"Apply drip edges directly to the deck along the eaves and over the underlayment along the rakes."

If this is indeed taken from their website/installation instructions then it would clearly indicate, to me anyway, that they require the application of drip edges and installed accordingly. I fail to see any other interpretation it clearly states to "APPLY DRIP............" there is no mention that drip edge is optional.

So you've called them out and the builder/developer is pressing them to recant their requirement cause the builder IS the customer and ain't gonna spend more money than he has to and there is always other suppliers with less stringent requirements.

Looks to me, you're the victim of supplier/customer politics.

Speaking of Box of Rocks, Do you know how much rocks cost these days?

And

Besides it's a 'Bag a' Hammers' or rather a 'Sack a' Hammers' if you're down South. And that you're not.

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You might want to hold off on cooking that crow although I've got great 'Martha' approved recipes I've dined on myself.

"Apply drip edges directly to the deck along the eaves and over the underlayment along the rakes."

If this is indeed taken from their website/installation instructions then it would clearly indicate, to me anyway, that they require the application of drip edges and installed accordingly. I fail to see any other interpretation it clearly states to "APPLY DRIP............" there is no mention that drip edge is optional.

So you've called them out and the builder/developer is pressing them to recant their requirement cause the builder IS the customer and ain't gonna spend more money than he has to and there is always other suppliers with less stringent requirements.

Looks to me, you're the victim of supplier/customer politics. . . .

Good point. It brings to mind Charlie Beck's rule:

"It doesn't say what you think it says, nor what you remember it to have said, nor what you were told that it say, and certainly not what you want it to say, and if by chance you are its author, it doesn't say what you intended it to say. Then what does it say? It says what it says. So if you want to know what it says, stop trying to remember what it says, and don't ask anyone else. Go back and read it, and pay attention as though you were reading it for the first time."

- Jim in Oregon

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You might want to hold off on cooking that crow although I've got great 'Martha' approved recipes I've dined on myself.

"Apply drip edges directly to the deck along the eaves and over the underlayment along the rakes."

If this is indeed taken from their website/installation instructions then it would clearly indicate, to me anyway, that they require the application of drip edges and installed accordingly. I fail to see any other interpretation it clearly states to "APPLY DRIP............" there is no mention that drip edge is optional.

So you've called them out and the builder/developer is pressing them to recant their requirement cause the builder IS the customer and ain't gonna spend more money than he has to and there is always other suppliers with less stringent requirements.

Looks to me, you're the victim of supplier/customer politics. . . .

Good point. It brings to mind Charlie Beck's rule:

"It doesn't say what you think it says, nor what you remember it to have said, nor what you were told that it say, and certainly not what you want it to say, and if by chance you are its author, it doesn't say what you intended it to say. Then what does it say? It says what it says. So if you want to know what it says, stop trying to remember what it says, and don't ask anyone else. Go back and read it, and pay attention as though you were reading it for the first time."

- Jim in Oregon

Precisely,

The manufacturers' installation instructions are clear.

"3. Underlayment - On decks with a pitch of 4"........", you will apply roofing felt in accordance to building codes and our instructions.

Further

"APPLY drip edge flashing.......", you will apply the flashing this way. It doesn't say that flashing is RECOMMENDED.

Then "What does it say?" It says what it says and infers that if you don't, we might use this to weasel our way out of a warranty claim, cause you didn't read and follow our instructions.

nuf said

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Then "What does it say?" It says what it says and infers that if you don't, we might use this to weasel our way out of a warranty claim, cause you didn't read and follow our instructions.

nuf said

Can't piss off the customer but don't want to leave the company on a precipice either. A real conumdrum.

You just have to keep up the good fight - it is what it is.

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