Category: Roofing & Siding

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


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


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


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


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


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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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.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a New Roof

According to GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer, your roof can contribute 40 percent or more to the look of your home. Choose wisely and you'll create something that not only protects your home for the long-term, but immediately enhances its overall beauty and style.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home

Photo: GAF Sienna Shingles in Habor Mist

Every homeowner knows that a sound roof is an absolute must to protect your investment. That’s why routine roof maintenance—from cleaning out gutters to checking for missing shingles and leaks in the attic—is so important.

In general, roofs last between 15-20 years depending on the original materials used. So, if yours is approaching that age, it might not be a bad idea to have a professional roofer conduct an evaluation. If the inspection indicates a new roof is in order, you’ll have one of two options: installing the new roof directly over the old, or replacing it entirely.  In either case, you’ll have the opportunity to redefine and reinforce your home.

While roofing is available in a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, tile and slate, far and away the most popular choice for homeowners is asphalt shingles. Today’s relatively lightweight and flexible shingles are typically made from a fiberglass mat, covered in asphalt and colored with mineral granules.  With manufacturing innovations that include everything from superior-strength Micro Weave™ Core construction to granules that lock in color and provide valuable UV protection against the sun’s damaging rays, you won’t have any trouble finding a good-looking, high-performing asphalt shingle to suit your home and budget.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Timberline Shingles

Photo: GAF Timberline American Harvest Shingles in Nantucket Morning

Although driveways, lawns, siding and front doors get most of the attention when we think about curb appeal, the roof actually contributes mightily to the look of a house.  If you are considering a new roof, look for the shingle that best suits your home’s architectural style. You’ll also want to factor in the surface area, pitch and angle of the roof to determine whether a standard three-tab, dimensional or artisan-crafted shingle will deliver the look you want.

As you’ll discover, it’s no longer about choosing a standard square shape in a few different shades. Asphalt shingle products have evolved into a wide variety of patterns and colors so that your roof can truly elevate the appeal and longevity of your home.

One of the more interesting style choices today is Sienna® because the shingles are cut in a classic, old-world diamond shape. Part of GAF’s Value Collection, they carry a Class A fire-rating and feature unique Diamond Cut™ granules that reflect light, adding more depth to each shingle.

Like style, color is also an important consideration when choosing a new roof.  Selecting a coloration that compliments your home’s exterior palette and surroundings will create a harmonious and elegant look. In general, if a large portion of your home’s roof is visible from the street, you might want to keep things subdued, as larger roofs look better in neutral tones. Also, avoid using a heavily patterned roof on a home that has brick or stone facing to keep things from getting too busy.

The palette for the Timberline® American Harvest™ line was designed specifically to complement a home’s exterior color scheme. Created exclusively for GAF by color-industry expert, Patricia Verlodt, the shingles feature subtle blends of contrasting colors that add an unexpected depth and beauty to the roof.

Choosing the Best Roofing Material for Your Home - Grand Sequoia

Photo: GAF Grand Sequoia in Weathered Wood

You’ll want to make certain that the roof you choose stands up to the elements and provides lasting beauty over the course of its lifetime.  One way to be sure—shop quality and brand.  When you install a GAF Advanced Protection Shingle, you are getting the very best combination of weight and performance that modern technology and testing can deliver.  With over 185 individual tests, GAF is the first manufacturer who can say all its shingles pass the AC438 requirements for long-term durability, wind-driven rain performance, and long-term extreme temperature resistance.

In addition to the shingle’s durability, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s warranty. GAF offers a Lifetime Limited Warranty (that includes wind damage coverage of up to 130 MPH speeds*) on many of its premium products.  Since the warranty is transferable to the next owner, the roof can become a desirable selling feature to prospective buyers.

Without a doubt, asphalt shingles are the most affordable and arguably the least maintenance-intensive option of covering your home’s roof.

Among these types of shingle you’ll pay more for extended lifespans, more robust warranties, and unique patterns and finishes—but not always much more. Case in point: Woodland® Shingles from GAF. Designed to imitate the look of hand-cut European shingles, they cost only pennies-a-day more than standard architectural shingles.

Thanks to web tools, like Virtual Home Remodeler, you can now test out which shingle best suits your house. Simply choose the style of your home—or upload a picture of your actual house—and try out different roofing products to find the one that fits the look you’re trying to achieve.

*Maximum wind coverage requires special installation. See Limited Warranty for complete coverage and restrictions.

This post has been paid for by GAF. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila Radio: Maintaining Brick

Of all the commonly used materials in homebuilding, brick ranks among the most durable, but in order to look and perform its best, occasional maintenance is necessary. These tips can help you clean brick, whether it's inside or outdoors.

Stately and strong, brick has been a popular building material for centuries. Though it seems impervious, brick needs occasional attention to ensure its longevity and structural integrity.

How to Clean Brick


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

Once a year, clean your brick exterior with a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. If you notice moss, mold, or mildew—typically in low-sunlight areas—use a scrub brush to apply a solution of bleach (one cup) and water (one gallon). Give the brick a thorough soaking first to help prevent it from absorbing the bleach. Protect your plantings and use a natural- or synthetic-bristle brush. Don’t use a wire brush that could leave behind metal that would discolor the brick.

As you clean, check to make sure the weep holes are clear. These are typically vertical breaks in the mortar at intervals above the foundation (and often above and below windows and other openings). Also, be on the lookout for water damage, whether it’s soft or cracked mortar or flaked or chipped brick. Efflorescence—a white, chalky coating—can also be a sign of moisture. Water damage may be the result of weather, improper drainage, or rising damp (water wicking up the porous brick). Whatever the cause, it’s made worse by freeze-thaw cycles, so don’t wait long before having damaged brick replaced and repointed.

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.