Roof can be the root of a home’s prob­lems

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - By Mike Holmes

THE cold weather is start­ing to close in. That means there are a few things home­own­ers should be think­ing about get­ting done be­fore Old Man Win­ter stakes his claim. Your roof is No. 1. Why is it im­por­tant? Any­one who has seen the first episode of Holmes Makes It Right will know the an­swer to this.

We spend thou­sands and thou­sands of dol­lars on ev­ery­thing inside our homes. But what’s pro­tect­ing it all? The roof. If you have a bad roof, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore you have a bad house. It can lead to heat loss, mould, a rot­ted-out struc­ture and pests. These prob­lems can travel to other parts of your home, too, leav­ing a path of de­struc­tion.

Most home­own­ers will call a roof­ing com­pany to re-shin­gle their roof. But roofs are much more than just shin­gles. Home­own­ers need to know what they should be pay­ing at­ten­tion to if they want to do what’s right for their home.

When it comes to roofs, the most im­por­tant thing is a proper struc­ture. If the roofline is wrong, ev­ery­thing else will be wrong, too. You can have the best prod­ucts and the best ap­pli­ca­tion meth­ods but if you’re putting them over a roof with poor struc­ture, I guar­an­tee it’s go­ing to leak.

I’ve dealt with roofs that seem as if they’ve been de­signed to leak. It likely wasn’t the in­ten­tion of the peo­ple who built them — at least I hope not — but that’s what hap­pened. In this case, the roof’s struc­ture was poor and de­signed to slope or dip in­ward into the home, so in­stead of a pitch, we get a val­ley.

Usu­ally when a roof dips, it’s be­cause the sheath­ing is sag­ging, the roof joists are too far apart or OSB (ori­ented strand board) was used in­stead of ply­wood. But I have seen roofs where the struc­ture was ac­tu­ally de­signed to have a slope right in the mid­dle.

This doesn’t make sense for a struc­ture that’s sup­posed to be di­rect­ing wa­ter away from your home. These low ar­eas cre­ate val­leys that do not drain. They’re bad be­cause they col­lect snow and rain and al­low ice dams to form — not to men­tion the heat loss. How do you get enough in­su­la­tion if there’s a low point de­signed into the roof? There’s no space for in­su­la­tion, so you’re go­ing to get heat loss, which is an­other big prob­lem when it comes to roofs. Some tell­tale signs that your roof is los­ing heat in­clude higher en­ergy bills or a leak in your home.

If there’s a low-ly­ing area on your roof that col­lects snow and you also have ma­jor heat loss, what do you think is go­ing to hap­pen? You’re go­ing to get wa­ter pool­ing when that snow melts. And if the roof de­sign doesn’t al­low proper run-off, or if the wrong ma­te­ri­als were used on a low-slope roof, wa­ter will seep into your at­tic. It’s in­evitable.

Dur­ing the win­ter, you want to see snow on your roof; you don’t want to see patches where the snow has melted. And you re­ally don’t want to see ici­cles on your eave­stroughs be­cause that means the snow on the roof is melt­ing when it’s still freez­ing out­side. This can lead to ice dams that block your gut­ters and cause wa­ter to back up un­der­neath the shin­gles. Once it’s there, it’s re­ally easy for it to get inside your home.

Typ­i­cally there should be roof­ing pa­per un­der­neath the shin­gles to act as an ex­tra layer of pro­tec­tion in case any shin­gles blow off. It’s a pre­ven­tive mea­sure. But if a roof’s struc­ture is wrong, what are the chances that ev­ery­thing else is right? I wouldn’t count on it.

Roof­ing un­der­lay­ment — which is an ice and wa­ter mem­brane — should be in­stalled along the perime­ter of your roof and in any run-off val­leys. It’s used in any ar­eas on your roof where there’s go­ing to be ex­tra wa­ter flow or drainage. But it can’t pro­tect an area that ac­tively col­lects wa­ter. It’s a pre­ven­tive mea­sure — not a di­rect line of de­fence.

Many peo­ple spend all their money on cab­i­nets, kitchen floors, tiles and en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems. Yet they for­get to spend money on the roof... to pro­tect the cab­i­nets, floors, tiles and elec­tron­ics. Be­fore any­thing else is up­graded or ren­o­vated in your home, you have to make sure your roof is do­ing its job. Catch Mike Holmes in his new se­ries, Holmes Makes It Right, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit . For more in­for­ma­tion on home ren­o­va­tions, visit

When it comes to roofs, the most im­por­tant thing is a proper struc­ture. If the roof

line is wrong, ev­ery­thing else will be wrong, too.

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