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How to Make Your Roof Last

One thing that we get a lot of on the windward side of this beautiful island is rain. More than 80% of house problems have to do with water, and in Hilo, we have a lot of it. Hilo Habitat’s free April home clinic was on flashing and roofing, taught by Jake Bierman, owner of Bierman Home Inspections.

The Importance of the Roof: Bierman recommends that you check your roof at least once a year for leaks and to keep up on maintenance. The roof is the first line of defense against water. Without a good roof and water integrity, electricity blows up, the ceiling will fall in and the walls will rot away. This is why it is so important to keep the roof in good condition. Roof leaks can have many different causes. One common problem area is the connection between the plumbing vents (pipes) and the roof, which may be poorly sealed due to flimsy or missing roof flashing. Check for leaks along pipes and visible wetness in walls. Flashing sealing problems can be aggravated by warming and cooling throughout the day, which causes metal roofs to “pop” and move, putting stress on the flashing.

Metal roofs: Metal roofs are very popular here in Hawaii because they are lightweight and flexible, as well as a safe material for water catchment systems. On a metal roof, the first three inches will be the first to rust away, due to the ocean salt and the fact that that portion of the roof is where all the water collects before rolling off the roof. To extend the life of your roof, paint those first three inches or any edges that you cut with phosphoric acid, which is available at building supply stores. Before applying the phosphoric acid, scrape off as much rust as possible. Do not apply the product everywhere on the roof because it is corrosive and it will eat away at the roof paint. Only use it for rusty areas. The phosphoric acid will turn the metal roof black wherever it is applied. After it is dry, you can paint the roof.

Flashing: Another reason for leaks could be that the flashing over the roofing screws needs to be replaced because it is worn. Work with a friend to identify which screw is leaking. Put flashing on top of any leaky screws. Flashing will last longer than Henry’s 508 or other sealant because the sun wears down sealants quickly.

When applying flashing, remember that water rolls downhill and it is important to keep the flashing “simple and pretty.” In other words, apply the flashing cleanly and smoothly, with few layers, so that water has fewer places to get trapped. Apply flashing from the lowest point to the highest point with a little bit of overlap to create good coverage for water running “downhill.” Before applying flashing, make sure that the roof is clean, so that the flashing sticks to it. Flashing is only good as long as it is tightly sealed to what’s underneath. Once applied, the sun will help to make the flashing adhere by heating up the glue. If there are flashing pieces that do not adhere well, replace them with new pieces.

If you applying flashing between the roof and a wall and add wood trim, don’t forget to caulk the wood trim to increase water integrity.

A roll of flashing costs around $24 but can save thousands of dollars of damage and extend the life of your roof for years. Bierman recommends that every homeowner keep a roll handy for regular use around the home.

Ladder Safety: When working on your roof, use a reliable and safe ladder that extends three feet past the highest point of your roof. When setting up a ladder, make sure to check its stability by testing it only a couple steps off the ground. Avoid stacking things under the legs of the ladder to level it because this does not give you a solid foundation. Know your limitations, too. If you cannot reach your roof comfortably, get a friend or professional to help you.

Overall roof maintenance: Keep trees around your roof trimmed so that as few leaves fall on your roof as possible. Clean off leaves and dirt on a regular basis because they trap moisture, which leads to corrosion and will shorten the life of your metal roof.

Join us for our next home clinic on Saturday, June 7, 2014 to learn about basic tools every home owner should have.

Photo credit and article: Shantel Geringer, Spring 2014 Hilo Habitat Intern


Introducing Habitat for Humanity Hawai'i Island!
Help Hilo Habitat build a decent and affordable home in Hawaiian Acres
2016 Hilo Habitat Accepting Applications to Repair Rural Homes
How to Make Your Roof Last
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