Imagine you’re standing on the sidewalk, looking at an average house. You see the siding, the windows, the front door, and way up above; you see the roof. Does the roof have asphalt shingles? Wood shakes, perhaps? Maybe it’s made of metal or rubber tiles? What you see is where the focus goes, but it’s what you don’t see that really matters. There’s more to roofing than meets the eye. So let’s talk about what goes on under the shingles.
The Roof Deck
We learn to crawl before we walk, so when talking about roofing, let’s start with square one, the surface area of your roof, which is made of wood. Your wood roof deck is comparable to an automobile’s metal body. It is installed on top of the basic house frame to give a surface area to install Shingles. Without a roof deck installed on your house, there would be nowhere to install your Shingles. And of course, without the shingles, your roof deck would rot away due to exposure to the sun, rain, snow, ice, etc…not a comfortable home at all!
On Newer Houses, sheets of plywood or OSB boards are fastened on top of wooden trusses in your attic to form the roof deck. Plywood or OSB boards are installed in a staggered formation with small spaces between them to allow the wood to expand and contract as the wood heats in the summer and cools in the winter. Older homes often have lengths of 2″ x 6″ installed instead of plywood or OSB board. When the time comes for you to replace your Roof System, remember to have your Calgary Roofing Contractor replace any damaged wood.
Who walked on it! Remember, if your roof deck is rotting or damaged in any way, people walking on your roof could potentially crack or break through the wood, causing further damage to the roof system, such as to the shingles…and to the person. However, most roof decks can withstand a little bit of exposure to water or ice before it needs to be replaced.
Metal: Drip Edge and Rake Edge
Drip edge and Rake edge are the first part of the Roof System to be installed. It is a long and narrow piece of metal installed along each end of your Roof Deck, i.e., along the eaves trough and gable ends.
Some area local building codes require Drip Edge and Rake Edge installation, and other building codes do not. Check with your local city building offices to find out. In Alberta, for example, the Building Code does not require installing a Drip edge or Rake edge. Therefore many new homes and/or low-budget roof systems do not have drip edge installed to offer more affordable roof prices. We recommend, however, that Drip edge and Rake edge be installed on every Roof System, with no exceptions.
Drip and Rake edge is available in various colors and sizes and can be custom-built for the needs of your roof system. Installing an appropriate drip edge often saves hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars when your roof system needs to be replaced.
If your Roof System does not currently have drip or rake edge installed, do not panic, you’ll survive well enough. Just be aware that when your roof needs to be replaced, the Roofing Contractor, you may need to replace some of your wood Roof Deck on an as-needed basis.
Metal: Chimneys and Skylights
Arguably the most important part of every complete roof system. The metal installed in the valleys, chimneys, and skylights brunt water flow on every roof. Poorly installed, a brand new roof system can make a waterfall out of your living room.
Every chimney and skylight needs what is referred to as “a back pan,” which consists of sheet metal folded at around a 90-degree angle (depending on the slope of your roof) and tucks under the shingles and up under the siding, stucco, or counter flashing on the chimney or skylight. Every back pan needs a small 2″ section of metal sticking out 1″ or more from either side of the chimney or skylight to divert water away from the corners. Water should hit the metal back pan and be directed away on either side to continue its run into the eaves trough.
In the same way, water runs along the valleys between two mountains, and water runs along the valleys on your roof peaks. Valleys generally receive the highest water concentration flowing through them; therefore, installing them correctly is extremely important!
As mentioned in the Leak Barrier section, valleys have leak barriers installed underneath them. Even though some Building Codes do not require such a leak barrier, we recommend installing one always in every valley.
A word of caution: Many roofing contractors install valleys in style referred to as ‘closed.’ A closed valley consists of Shingles woven inside the valley, as opposed to an ‘open’ valley which has sheet metal running from top to bottom. Both the ‘open’ and the ‘closed’ styles of installation are acceptable by most Building Codes and manufacturers. However, the ‘open’ style installation has consistently outperformed the ‘closed’ style…and costs the same price to install. Ask your Roofing Contractor to use the ‘open’ style of installation for the valleys of your roof; this could save you from having to replace your roof system prematurely and avoid headaches in the long run. Typically, an ‘open’ valley is installed with a 30 gauge sheet metal, 4′ wide, coming in 10′ sheets. This metal can be ordered in any color to match the shingles on your roof system.
Think of a leak barrier as a “second layer” of protection for your Roof Deck. A backup plan, if you will, and also a protection against moisture build-up. Leak barriers are nearly always installed on top of the Drip Edge and Rake Edge metal along with eaves trough areas, gable areas, and valleys because of the risk these areas pose for leaks, ice build-up, shingle deterioration, and water backflow.
If you’ve ever looked at your roof during winter, you’ll notice how ice and snow build up along the length of your eaves troughs and inside the roof valleys. As with Rake Edge and Drip Edge, some Building codes require Leak Barriers to be installed, and some Building Codes do not. In Alberta, the Building Code requires a leak Barrier to be installed on all eaves trough and valley areas of a Roof System because of such snow and ice build-up issues. As an optional upgrade, some high-end roof systems even have leak barriers installed on top of the entire Roof Deck (as opposed to only along with the special areas we just mentioned), where normally a standard Roof Deck Protection would have been installed.
Virtually all roofs in Calgary, Alberta, have leak barriers installed. Many different types of leak barriers are available in today’s market, each offering a different level of reliability, functionality, and warranty and produced by many different manufacturers.