Keeping your roof healthy is an important part of being a homeowner, but DIY roofing comes with some dangers – here’s what to know.
Roof repairs can be expensive; easily a couple thousand dollars for what you might consider a small repair. In the unfortunate event that you need a full replacement, you can expect the cost to reach tens of thousands of dollars, and usually takes several years to pay off. Because of this, many people opt for DIY roofing.
Because of cost, and because of the popularity of do-it-yourself shows, websites, and tutorials; more homeowners than ever are choosing to redo their own roofs.
If you’re one of those ambitious souls there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, and a couple things to avoid.
1. Ignoring Local Regulations During DIY Roofing
Every municipality has different rules governing the types of repairs that require a permit and inspection.
It’s important to find out your county’s requirements to ensure that your repairs meet the most current building safety codes, and prevent incurring fines or penalties.
Securing the proper permits and inspections is also important to the insurance process as well as the selling process.
Neither insurance nor appraisal companies will acknowledge repairs that were done without the correct permitting and inspections.
In the case of roofing repairs; that means not being able to take advantage of premium discounts for improvements, or a higher selling price for newer upgrades.
Not having such repairs acknowledged during the selling process can mean having to make duplicate repairs.
2. Reusing Old Roofing Materials
In most circumstances it’s beneficial to salvage as much of the existing material as possible then reuse it for the new project, but roofing is an exception.
Over time, roofing materials lose their ability to dissipate heat and the elements; they deteriorate and become faulty. Those materials shouldn’t be reused at all during DIY roofing.
Overlaying shingles is the most common way homeowners reuse materials.
Removing and disposing of the first layer of shingles is laborious, time consuming, and poses an additional expense.
Many homeowners also mistakenly assume that the wood base below the shingles is in good shape.
Homeowners also try to reuse metal structures such as the gutters and flashing. Most people are familiar with gutters, but unaware of the importance of flashing.
Flashing, sometimes called the drip-edge, is the metal sheet along the eaves that guides water into the gutters.
Flashing and gutters often appear to be in good working condition when they’re not. This is especially true if they’re extremely old, or haven’t been well taken of.
If several previous repairs were done there’s a good chance both items need to be replaced.
3. Improperly Nailing Shingles
Even something as simple as fastening the shingles can greatly impact the function of your roof.
Nails have to be driven in properly and correctly spaced. Improperly installed nails keep your shingles from sufficiently repelling weather, and also voids their manufacturer’s warranty.
Novice roofers without access to pneumatic tools often overdrive their nails.
Overdriven nails are nails that have been hammered too deeply into the surface, usually such that the head of the nail penetrates the mat underneath.
These nails allow the shingles to easily come loose and blow off, often in large sheets.
The other mistake do-it-yourselfers often make during DIY roofing is nailing in the wrong location.
Shingles have a narrow strip of material intended to be used for affixing the shingle to the roof; you’re not supposed to place nails anywhere else on the shingle.
It’s fairly easy to see when nails are placed below that strip because you can see them from the ground. But nails that are placed too high are more difficult to notice and causes a problem.
The nails are supposed to catch the edge of the shingle below it, and that doesn’t happen when nails are fastened too high.
Improperly nailed shingles are not something that can be easily corrected. You’ll have to understand the limitations caused from doing it yourself.
4. Not Taking Safety Precautions
DIY roofing is one of the most dangerous home improvement projects owners can attempt; the surface is high, often steep, and chances are you’re not accustomed to being up there.
That combined with the fact that many people wait until summer to do these repairs creates a perfect storm of safety issues.
The most common safety problems include: falls, ladder safety mistakes, and electrical issues.
Falls account for most DIY roofing injuries. According to Professional Roofing magazine six people die each month in accidents relating to falls.
It goes without saying that you should make sure the area is free of debris and equipment that could be a trip hazard, but you should also be careful to avoid working on wet surfaces.
Shoes are an important to preventing falls; soft-soled boots offer the best traction.
Also consider purchasing and using guardrails or a safety net.
Ladders are the other important aspect of DIY roofing safety.
Most people injure themselves on the ladder by either falling while trying to carry something, or by having the ladder fall out from under them.
Ladders should always be secured at their base by anchoring to a large object or staking it into the ground.
The top should never extend more than 36” above the roofline.
Your ladder should be positioned against something solid, and shouldn’t extend more than one foot for every four feet of height.
Check the surrounding area for power lines that may interfere with your workspace. Also inspect the roof for loose wires such as cable, satellite, or solar heating.
Care also needs to be taken when using electrical equipment while on the roof.
Cords pose a trip hazard but it’s possible to suffer a shock by inadvertently touching frayed cords, or by arcing off of nearby flashing.
General Roofing Safety Tips
There are some safety tips you should always follow:
- Safety glasses and gloves should be worn while doing roof repairs.
- Serious injuries can occur from loose shingle granules getting stuck in your eyes.
- Blisters and abrasions are easily caused by handling abrasive roofing material; both are easily infected.
Homeowners are opting for DIY roofing and roof repairs because of increasing costs, and the popularity of home improvement media.
But completing your own roof repair isn’t a project for the novice do-it-yourselfer; only undertake this sort of project if you have prior experience.
Make sure to keep our guidelines in mind to help you stay safe, and reduce your frustration. You can always call your local roofing contractor to repair or replace your roof.