Today’s roof leak investigation took us into Vancouver for a look on a torch on roof. As soon as I saw the perimeter edge detail I felt it was going to be the issue. They commonly are. In fact, this detail known as a gravel stop detail, has been removed from the “accepted practices list” at the RCABC. I guess the metal detail has failed so often through the ages that it had to be eliminated…. and I agree. In this case I was able to insert my entire roofer’s knife into the breach. We now use a drip edge detail for membrane termination into a gutter and the metal flashing has to be waterproofed itself, prior to the torch application of the granular cap sheet. They didn’t use that specification 10 years ago and now I’m kept busy because of it. As in all roof leak finds; the fix is always easier then the find. This one was pretty obvious though.
Today’s challenge was the disassembling of a failing waterproofing detail around a chimney and the fabrication and installation of new pan flashing system. After you’ve seen 1000 of these things it’s pretty easy to build one. Sure there will be a small curveball thrown your way in some capacity but for the most part it’s straight forward. This rancher home in Fort Langley only tricked us once when we were building the pan flashing. A small weakness 6″ off the surface of the roof was the issue and we resolved it by covering the hole with a 90 degree angle piece of flashing. NO problem. Now if only I could do my taxes as easily!
Concrete tile roofs are supposed to be installed with a minimum 3″ “headlap”. That is the lap distance from row to row. When that 3″ lap is not maintained, and especially on a lower sloped roof, a common problem is that of wicking. The water wicks up the underside of the top tile, past the top edge of the tile below, and drips onto the underlayment. Now one tile by itself doing this is not a big concern. But when an entire face of tiles is wicking it can add up to a substantial ingress. This is what was discovered today in Burnaby. The only resolution is to increase the coverage of the surface below by installing 6″ flat stock metal all along the lap…. for every row of tilers! Thereby we are extending the tile coverage to about 4″. Amazingly this works and relieves the home owner of the daunting task of re-doing the whole roof with adequate headlaps.
Today’s topic comes from a leak we had in a warehouse in Vancouver. The roof system was a 20 year old torch on membrane using the soon-to-be-bettered APP material. The perimeter edge utilized a metal drip edge detail, which is an acceptable detail, but has been prone to failure throughout the ages. It takes special care and procedures to do these details properly today. It’s always essential to make sure there are two “bites” onto any flashing detail used in a roof system. Back in the day, they only used a one bond strategy, and it had failed. There is no back up or insurance when only one bond is relied upon. If it fails, you have a leak. And it’s just a matter of time for the failure to occur. Thank God those old-time roofer’s did work like that. It keeps me busy. The fix is relatively easy too. We’ll just torch another layer of membrane onto the roof and let the membrane spill over the edge, thereby bypassing the entire defective detail. No point in trying to get the existing membrane to bond back to the old metal. It’s not a guaranteed thing. BUT… if we eliminate the detail altogether…. problem solved. NEXT!
Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. When we do our pan flashing maintenance service packages on concrete tile roofs we often find leaks that the home owner was not aware of. This happens when the leak is close to the gutter edge and is therefore dripping through the soffit and not causing drywall damage. It can also happen if the roof leak is small and the amount of water getting in is not enough to cause notice. The final possibility is if the underlayment fabric is providing a shed and ushering the water down slope out into the gutter. Such was the case around the chimney in this Vancouver residence the other day. The wet wood on the side is proof of the leak. The value of preventative maintenance was clearly displayed to this agreeing and thankful owner.
So what happens when an inexperienced worker is put on a Columbia Tile roof and told to power wash the concrete tiles. Well several things can and probably will happen and the only good one is that the tiles will look cleaner then they were before. I’ve had one too many calls from a home owner who tells me that their clay or concrete tile roof was just power washed and never leaked before… BUT now they have a leak and have lost confidence in the guys who did the washing. I can’t say I blame them. I find an assortment of issues when I arrive including freshly broken tiles, pan flashings completely plugged with cement-based wash off and dirty skylights both inside and out. The attached photo, from the Burnaby job I did today, shows what a misguided power wash blast can do to your interior paint job. The lesson learned? If you are going to power wash you roof…. make sure the guy knows what he is doing. Do your “Due Diligence” and ask all the right questions.
Worked on more hidden gutter repairs today out in Coquitlam. It’s easily got to be 95% of the EPDM rubber gutters out there in the Lower Mainland area that are not done according to today’s accepted standards. The unfortunate aspect of this is that rarely does a home owner recognize this until it is usually too late and some damage has already occurred. I’m talking about rotted fascia boards or damaged soffits. When a roof leak happens over occupied living space, we normally find out by seeing a water stain on the ceiling or by wetness on the floor. Because the leaks occurring in gutters do not happen over living space and is out of every day view, they can understandably be missed. If you have hidden membrane gutters on your house I recommend you go out and look at your soffits and fascia boards during the next two day rain and see if any water is dripping through the soffit or off the backside of the fascia. It may save you money!
Not only do I do roof repairs, roof maintenance and re-roofing projects but today I waterproofed a door threshold and foundation in Coquitlam. We used a Soprema torch on membrane and applied to both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Everything was primed and then we had to wait for the chemicals to flash off. Primer is ironic. It’s flammable as hell but yet we torch to it. On a sunny day it can “flash off” in about 1/2 hour. We were in the shade so it took a little longer. Once that was accomplished it was on the main challenge. How to torch a membrane to a vertical surface. This is completely different than doing what we normally do on a roof deck. None-the-less it got done and with our usual excellent quality. Customer is happy so so am I.
I have a new title. I am the Water Keeper Outer. How do I fit that on my business card?
Membrane gutter repairs. You never know how it’s going to go. Will the cleaning be easy or require serious elbow grease? How long will the patches need to cure before we can install them? Does all the flashing need to be removed? Today’s hidden gutter membrane job in Burnaby was no different than any other rubber gutter job except that the original installers dog-ear folded all corners. I’ve never seen that strategy used before! On a house that was under spec’d for gutter drains this installation method caused serious water damming. It wasn’t a totally bad idea as it reduced the amount of seams in the EPDM that would require patches…EXCEPT they nailed these folds down afterwards and left the nails exposed. It’s leaked like a sieve since Day 1. I’m amazed but never surprised by some of the moronic things I see on roofs. I wish I had $10 for every time I thought “How could someone consider that a good detail?”. I’d be able to buy my kids a new pair of shoes every month! It’s that bad out there. So the challenge today was to try and figure out how to remove the EPDM rubber membrane build up caused by the folded dog-ear corners and still be able to put our patches on after ward. I wish they had of taught me that in school. But then again who would have thought that would have ever been done in the first place 🙂 I guess the moral to today’s blog is that there is no such thing as a “typical day”. I keep on learning new things.
You never know what you are going to find when challenged with finding and stopping a leak. Today’s charge was a tricky one. It leaked through a ceiling fixture in a library room of one of the Shaughnessy mansions in Vancouver. I never considered it to be a roof leak as the roof above the library was solid. Yes it was tar and gravel, which is difficult to assess integrity on, but the T&G roof appeared qualitative enough. We focused our attention on an abutting eaves trough. A thorough dis-assembly of a suspect detail resulted in the finding of the culprit. If we weren’t thorough and just guessed at what it might have been, we wouldn’t have found it and satisfactorily serviced the home owner. What we found was all hidden behind fascia boards and exterior crown moldings so it was not right in front of our eyes. We discovered that the aluminum eaves trough was placed directly on top of an internally plumbed ABS plastic drain pipe. The butt junction between the aluminum and ABS was sealed with a roofers mastic (which had dried and cracked). This became obvious after we removed a small brown plastic strainer that was inserted into the eaves trough hole. This brown plastic strainer had a stem which projected 2” down into the ABS plumbing. Therefore this strainer could essentially bypass this weak aluminum/plastic junction. HOWEVER, this strainer was no longer sealed properly to the aluminum eaves trough so water was getting underneath the strainer and then entering through the weak aluminum/plastic junction and flowing into the house. Now who would have thought of that as a remote possibility when first arriving on site to a roof leak? It wasn’t my first or twenty-first possibility! Leak finding is not an exact science. It takes logic, common sense and a little bit of luck combined with an attitude of never quitting. A challenge solved, such as this, is worth bragging about. Mission accomplished.