Category: Roofing & Siding


Genius! Shingles Made of Beer Cans

Don't chuck those 12-ounce cans in the recycling bin! Instead, start saving up aluminum for this wonderfully offbeat backyard DIY project.

Beer Can Shingles

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“Start drinking now if you plan to make this,” writes Instructables user robbtoberfest, the genius behind this wonderfully offbeat backyard DIY project.

For a 24″ x 24″ roof, about the size for a chicken coop or small shed, expect to use at least 40 cans (of the 12-ounce variety). To turn them into shingles, the first step is to build a die—that is, a simple hinged template that presses the aluminum into the desired shape. It’s all explained in the project guide, but suffice it to say that with 1′x6′ hardwood, two square metal rods, basic tools and some beginner woodworking skills, you ought to be on your way to nailing shingles within a half-day.

Installation is as simple as nail-gunning the newly formed shingles onto the plywood roof sheathing. Cover the bottom and side edges of the roof sturcture first, and as you go, be certain to overlap each successive shingle you apply. To cap the roof, bypass the die and simply fold a series of unpressed aluminum sheets in half, lengthwise. Nail those along the ridge to complete the job, and you’re finished. Not a bad way to recycle the refuse from the party last weekend, wouldn’t you say?

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Beer Can Shingles 2

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Bob Vila Radio: Fix Ice Dams—Fast!

Though it's no substitute for comprehensive, permanent prevention measures, you can use this clever trick to resolve an ice dam problem before it leaves lasting damage.

If you live in an area of the country with cold winters, you are likely familiar with ice dams. These are the ridges of frozen water that form along the edges of roofs.

Ice Dam Solution

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Listen to BOB VILA ON FIXING ICE DAMS or read the text below:

Ice dams occur when heated air in your home rises, finding its way into the attic and settling on the underside of the roof. There, the presence of warm air causes any snow on the roof to melt. The snowmelt drains down the roof until it reaches the cold overhang of the roof, where if it refreezes, an ice dams forms.

Ice dams can lead to all sorts of damage, mostly stemming to the fact that, once the ice dams are entrenched, they prevent the roof from shedding any additional melted snow or rain. With nowhere else to go, the captive water can leak into the house, rotting wood or inciting the growth of mold.

Properly insulating the home—that means, in part, sealing the attic from rising warm air—is the best way to avoid ice dams. If you get an ice dam anyway, you’ll probably need to consult an energy-savvy contractor. But in the meantime, here’s a fix that may get you through a crisis:

Find a pair of old nylons and fill one of the legs with store-bought or homemade ice melt. Drape the nylons on the roof in such a way that the stuffed leg crosses the ice dam and the gutter. Eventually, the chemicals will melt that section of the ice, creating a gap through which water can slide down off the roof pitch.

Bob Vila Radio is a daily radio spot carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Locating a Leak in the Roof

Before you can repair a roof leak, you first need to locate the problem. That sort of detective work is rarely a cinch, but these tips can help you crack the case more quickly.

The toughest part of fixing a roof leak is often to figure out where the water is getting in. It’s not uncommon for water to enter the roof at one spot before traveling, by dint of gravity, to the spot where you finally notice it as a stain on the drywall, for example, or as a saturated panel of fiberglass insulation.

How to Find a Leak in the Roof

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING ROOF LEAKS, or read the text below:

The best way to spot a leak is to head up to the attic on a rainy day. Bring along a flashlight with a good, strong beam and use it to look for areas of wetness. Since water reflects light, so you should be able to find the spot pretty quickly. Once you’ve found it, remember to mark it so that you can find it again a day or two later.

When you have a clear day, make your way up to the roof. Meanwhile, ask a helper indoors to tap on the spot you marked in the attic. Working together, the two of you should be able to locate the shingles directly above the wet area. Communicating via speakerphone here may be prove faster than taking turns tapping.

If you don’t see signs of entry directly above the mark made in the attic, try looking a little further up the roof. Also, check to see if any of the “usual suspects” in roof leaks are located near to where you’re looking. These include dormer valleys, chimney flashing, and the gaskets surrounding pipes and wiring.

When it comes to making the repair, a little roofing cement can go a long way!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold?

Unusual amounts of snow lead to many things—stalled cars, snowball fights, and airport closings. They also lead to many homeowner concerns over the roof's ability to hold the weight. Find out what you can do to identify or prevent problems.

How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold

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Late last year, Buffalo, New York, recorded a record amount of snow—and winter hadn’t even begun yet. More than a few homeowners in the city may have been concerned that their roofs would collapse under the strain of a surprising snow load. Roof collapse is something that many people worry about, with or without several feet of snow heaped up beyond the front door. How much snow can a roof hold, anyway? And are there steps you can take to avoid a worst-case scenario?

Because there are so many variables involved, this isn’t a simple topic to address. The weight of the snow is a critical factor; half a foot of wet snow tips the scale about the same as a yard of dry, fluffy snow. And everything from a roof’s structural design to its shingling material ultimately influences its ability to support the weight. Generally speaking, steep and smooth roofs shed snow more easily than flat, or only slightly pitched, roofs. But ultimately, what amounts to a dangerous accumulation of snow on one roof would be just fine on another roof down the block. Like each snowflake is different, each roof can hold a different amount.

Warning Signs
While you can draw some conclusions by looking at your roof from the curb, it’s indoors where you’ll find the most instructive clues to a potential problem. Head up to the attic and examine the rafters for any noticeable bends or cracks. If you find anything that gives you pause, bear in mind that it’s not necessarily, and most likely isn’t, a sign of impending roof collapse. There are many possible explanations for damaged rafters—for example, termites. And even if snow is to blame, you may be looking at damage from a previous winter. In any case, ask a licensed structural engineer to evaluate the problem promptly.

How Much Snow Can a Roof Hold? - Roof Rake

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Elsewhere—particularly on the upper floors, toward the middle of the house—keep an eye out for new cracks in the drywall or plaster surrounding interior door frames. If those doors are suddenly sticking when they used to open and shut with ease, this could be an indication that the frame of your house has shifted due to a structural issue. Again, wall cracks and sticking doors are not cause for panic; rather, they are reasons to seek out the advice of a licensed professional.

Snow Removal
Some experts maintain that it’s unnecessary to remove snow from the roof, because any home built to the standards of the local building codes should be structurally equipped to handle virtually any snow load. Still, many homeowners wish to take every available precautionary step. Be aware, however, that climbing up on the roof is precarious in any weather; in snow, it’s almost definitely not a wise course of action unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. For everyone else, the safest path is to hire an insured pro, someone who has not only the proper equipment, but also the right experience for the job.

If you have a single-story house, though, one whose roof you can access while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground, then a roof rake can be an effective, user-friendly way to clear excess snow. Roof rakes are readily available online and in most brick-and-mortar home center. Before you start raking away, take heed of this important point: Don’t try to remove all the snow. In doing so, you could damage the roofing material, which would leave the roof vulnerable to leaks. To prevent this from happening, some roof rakes are fitted with rollers that keep the edge of the rake safely away from the shingles.

One last word of caution: Pay attention to where the snow you’re pulling off the roof is likely to wind up. You’ll want to pick a landing spot other than your head or the heads of bystanders!


Bob Vila Radio: Prevent Roof Collapse with a Snow Rake

In the unlikely event of a snow load testing the strength of your roof, use a snow rake to lighten the load up there.

When it comes to snow on the roof, how much is too much? That depends a lot on the way your roof was constructed.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON SNOW RAKES or read the text below:

Steep and smooth roofs tend to shed snow loads easily, while roofs that are only slightly pitched or flat tend to collect big drifts. Another important factor is the weight of the snow. Half a foot of wet snow tips the scales about the same as a yard or more of fluffy flakes.

If you have a multi-story house, you’d best hire a licensed and insured pro who has the right equipment to get the job done right.

On the other hand, if you have a single-story home, you can pull snow off the roof with a long, telescoping snow rake. Look for sturdy models with small rollers that keep the edge of the rake away from your shingles—you don’t want to damage those.

Finally, before you start pulling snow off the roof, put some thought into where the snow’s going to land. You’ll want to pick a spot other than on your head or the heads of bystanders!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Replacing Shingles the DIY Way

So long as you're comfortable working on the roof, you can replace a missing or damaged shingle on your own, saving the cost of hiring a contractor. Here are a few tips to help you get the job done right.

If you’ve got a broken shingle or two on your roof, it’s easy to repair the problem yourself. Most home centers sell shingles in small batches. Just take a broken shingle with you so you can pick a close match.

Replacing Shingles

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPLACING SHINGLES or read the text below:

Once safely on the roof, gently nudge a pry bar, its full length, under the three tabs in the row of shingles just above the damaged shingle. Then use the claw on the pry bar to remove the nails you see under the tabs.

Do the same for the next row of shingles, the one that’s just above. Once you remove those two rows of nails, you’ll be able pull out the damaged shingle. Next, slide the new shingle into place and fasten it with six roofing nails, one under each of the tabs you loosened.

To finish off, squeeze a dab or two of roofing cement under the tabs of the new shingle, plus under all the tabs you loosened at the start. Apply a little pressure to ensure the tabs make solid contact with the cement.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Find a Roof Leak

Leaky roof? Try these strategies for pinpointing the problem, in fair weather or foul.

How to Find a Roof Leak

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The hardest part of fixing a roof leak? A lot of times, it’s simply locating the problem. Sure, it’s easy enough to spot water stains or mold growth—sure signs of a leak. But once water has penetrated the roof, it’s easily diverted by such things as insulation. So even though you may notice the evidence of a leak in the corner bedroom, the vulnerable point in your roof may be quite far removed from that part of your house. That’s why roof repair jobs typically begin with a certain amount of detective work. Here are some tips to help you crack the case quickly, so you can plug the leak before the damage gets any worse.

Get a Good Look
Arm yourself with a flashlight and head up to the attic. Be careful up there: If there’s no proper flooring, step carefully from joist to joist. (If you step between the joists, you might put a foot through the ceiling of the room below!) Once you’ve got your bearings, use the flashlight to examine the underside of the roof. Look out for any areas that are darker than the surrounding roof sheathing. If there hasn’t been rain recently, moist spots may be too difficult to discern. Mold, on the other hand, has the tendency to linger. So if you encounter a patch of mold, which thrives on moisture, chances are you’ve found the vulnerable point in your roof.

Interfering Insulation
The underside of your roof may be obscured by insulation, and that’s helpful for the task at hand, because insulation deteriorates more noticeably and more quickly than wood does. If you’re seeing damage on one section of the insulation, however, you must remember that the leak itself may be several feet to either side. It’s best to carefully remove all insulation adjacent to the spot where you notice signs of a leak. That way, you can follow the path of the water from the damaged area all the way to the water’s entry point in the roof. Remember that whenever you are working with insulation, it’s important to wear the appropriate protective gear.

Foreign Objects
Most noticeable to the eye are leaks caused by an object (for example, an errant nail) that’s managed to pierce the roof. Failing any such obvious signs, check out the roof vents. If present, these vents are typically near ridges or gable ends, or both. Over time, the seals around vents can gradually weaken, allowing rainwater to seep in.

Dry Weather
What happens if you’re desperate to find a roof leak, but recent dry weather has made your search more challenging? Well, you can always simulate a storm. This method requires two people. While one person goes up on the roof, garden hose in tow, the other person remains in the attic, flashlight in hand. Section by section, the person on the roof wets down the roof, while the other carefully examines the roof’s underside for leakage. By simulating a downpour, you can witness firsthand how your roof withstands—or fails to withstand, as the case may be—conditions that mimic those of a natural storm.

The Next Step
Leaks only get worse. Act quickly once you’ve pinpointed the location of yours. Fortunately, in many instances it takes only a modest repair to fix the leak—for example, replacing a shingle. If you don’t feel comfortable on the roof, however, or if the leak seems extensive, do not hesitate to contact a professional.


Bob Vila Radio: What Exactly Are Architectural Shingles, Anyway?

If you've done a re-roofing project, chances are you've come across a term that, while commonly used, isn't commonly understood by those outside the trade. Here's the lowdown.

Ever wonder exactly what the difference is between conventional asphalt shingles and architectural shingles? Here’s the lowdown: Architectural shingles are essentially just a premium grade of conventional asphalt shingles. They’re thicker than conventional shingles and have a textured look that’s distinctive.

Architectural Shingles

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Listen to BOB VILA ON ARCHITECTURAL SHINGLES or read the text below:

Conventional asphalt shingles are referred to in the trade as “3-tab”—that is, each sheet of shingles has three tabs or flaps, separated by quarter-inch grooves. They’re usually installed in flat, even rows and have a uniform appearance. That’s compared with architectural shingles, which have a layered and three-dimensional look.

On average, conventional shingles last about 15 or 20 years. Architectural shingles can remain watertight for up to 30 years, but such quality comes at a cost. Typical architectural shingles cost about 25% more. If you’re willing to shell out the extra money, there’s little doubt your choice would dress up the appearance of your home exterior.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 60 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


5 Steps to Hiring the Right Roofer

Roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake, so take the time to be certain you find a roofing contractor you trust to put a roof over your head.

How to Find a Roofing Contractor

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Whereas other home upgrades are purely elective, roof repairs aren’t a choice; they’re essential. Besides being critically important to personal comfort, structural integrity, and the resale value of your home, roofing ranks among the largest and most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. The significant costs involved motivate some ambitious do-it-yourselfers to do the work on their own. But for the majority of us, a roofing job means hiring a professional. So if you’re at an early stage of the process, take control by finding a qualified contractor with a solid reputation. Hire well, and you can expect the roofer not only to get the job done on time and on budget, but also to offer valuable insight on the best materials for your house style and the climate where you live. So rather than flip open the yellow pages and settle on the first company listed, follow these steps designed to help you find someone you can trust to put a roof over your head:

How to Find a Roofing Contractor - Shingles

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1. Get a referral
One tried-and-true method of finding a reliable contractor is to query your friends and neighbors. Within the past few years, has anyone in your life had work done on his roof? Make a list of names, reach out to each person, and ask two questions: Was he happy with the job done and would he work with that contractor again? Testimonials provide the most accurate picture of what your experience might be with a given company, and you can count on personal contacts to give you honest feedback. Outside of your circle, you can also get leads from lumber yards and hardware stores.

2. Do your research
If you’ve identified at least three qualified roofers, you can get started investigating each one. Start by verifying the businesses’ contact information. Next, confirm that each one is licensed and insured. Consult your chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau to be certain there are no red flags to be aware of. Then finally look for reports on contractor review sites, such as Angie’s List.

3. Meet face-to-face them
Having narrowed the field, invite the prospective contractors to visit your home and scope out the job. You’ll want to discuss roofing materials and the extent of work to be done, but don’t forget to ask about the time and manpower needed for completion. Observe the contractor: He should be enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and professional in demeanor. Certainly, you’re dealing with an authority on materials and methods, but don’t be deterred from participating in the decision-making process! Ask a lot of questions and before he leaves, remember to get a list of references (then remember to check them).

4. Get it in writing
Work shouldn’t begin until you have a signed contract detailing every aspect of the job. Make certain it covers safety procedures and liability, including workers’ compensation. The contract should also specify such things as clean-up methods, payment amounts, and the schedule. Consider requesting a lien waiver to protect against claims that could arise if the roofer fails to pay a vendor for materials.

5. You get what you pay for
The cheapest bid probably isn’t your best bet. Of course, the estimates issued are a factor to consider. But more important is your level of confidence in a given roofer’s ability to do an outstanding job. If you’re impressed by a company that isn’t the cheapest, ask yourself, “How much is peace of mind worth to me?” For many homeowners, it’s worth quite a lot.

Good luck!


Bob Vila Radio: Repointing Brick

Brick installations last quite a long time, but over the years mortar deteriorates. When that happens, at repointing brick becomes a necessity. Here's how it's done.

Brick is very low maintenance, but age and weather still take their toll. As a result, brick requires occasional repointing—removing and replacing deteriorated mortar. Fortunately, this is a task that a handy homeowner can tackle.

Repointing Brick

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Listen to BOB VILA ON REPOINTING BRICK or read the text below:

Working in small sections, use a cold chisel, a handheld grout saw, or a joint raker to tap out the damaged mortar without harming the brick. Remove the mortar to a depth of at least half an inch, then clean up the dust with a broom, brush, or hose. (Be sure to wear a respirator.)

Soak the brick and let it dry overnight. If your house is less than 50 years old, you can probably repoint using standard Portland cement mortar; older brick may require a lime-and-sand mix. Consult a mason if you’re uncertain about the age of your bricks.

Mix the mortar in small batches. Lightly spritz the bricks, pick up some mortar on a large trowel, and work small amounts into the joints using a pointing trowel. Even out the mortar with the flat edge of the trowel and scrape off any mortar you get on the face of the bricks. After an hour or so, use a sturdy wire brush to carefully clean mortar off the brick face. Mist the wall daily for the next few days to help the mortar dry without cracking.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.