Proper Roof Ventilation (with Ralph Finizio of GAF) (Podcast)

Proper Roof Ventilation (with Ralph Finizio of GAF) (Podcast)

Issues with an attic or roof can be very costly, and result in damage throughout a home. In this podcast, industry experts discuss proper roof ventilation, why it is important, and how it can help to keep a home in good working order for years to come.

John Maher: Hi, I'm John Maher, and I'm here today with Brett Rogenski, general manager of Master Roofers, the most trusted roofing company in New Hampshire for over 80 years. Welcome, Brett.

Brett Rogenski: Hey, John. Thank you for having me.

John: Absolutely. And today, our special guest is Ralph Finizio, senior Care, trainer and Roofing Academy instructor at GAF, North America's largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer. Welcome, Ralph.

Ralph Finizio: Yeah, thank you. It's nice to see you guys again.

Why is Proper Ventilation So Crucial for a Healthy Roof System?

John: You too. Great to see you. So Ralph, why is proper ventilation so crucial for a healthy roof system, particularly with shingle roofs? Can you explain some of the problems that sometimes can arise from inadequate ventilation?

Ralph: Well, interesting. This is kind my passion subject here. I, as part of the Care team, I do an awful lot of ventilation seminars in contractors offices, as well as group meetings. My iPad blows up all day long with contractors sending me questions. I'm just working with one of our territory managers down in Florida on a 5,000-square project, where the board of directors is really concerned that the attics are too hot, and so there's a lot that plays into the ventilation game.

And I guess in general, the biggest issue is a normal household can create two, three, four, maybe five gallons of moisture a day, cooking, showers, fish tanks, watering plants, dryers. Everything contributes to that moisture, and if you think about a house that's too tight, too insulated, or people maybe don't open their doors or windows very often, that moisture is now stuck in that structure. And if you're going to be adding two, three, four, five gallons of moisture a day, where's it go? Right? We talk about moisture being the biggest enemy of a home.

Well, it could be bulk water, right? It's a leak. You got water pouring through a pipe someplace, or it can be a vapor. It can be all that gas that's in the house that migrates through the walls, or ultimately due to the stack effect in a house. That moisture from the basement, from the first floor gets up through the second floor, it's now encroaching through the drywall or the upper floor ceilings, it's getting through the insulation, it's now up in your attic.

And if it can't get out, and you exchange that air multiple times a day, that moisture is now stuck in your house, and especially in the winter, it can do a lot of damage, right? It can actually freeze on the underside of the roof, and as it starts to melt, we actually kind of call it attic rain. And people will think they have a roof leak, and it's not a roof leak. Their house is basically sweating from the inside out. And so, the whole idea behind investing in a new roof system is really not about the shingles.

To me, the shingles are the least important part of the overall roof assembly. What's really key is, "What's happening underneath that roof deck?" Right? So, we certainly encourage contractors to have an attic inspection policy, where you always try to get into that attic space as best as you can. And a good contractor will give that homeowner enough time to get their personal space organized and ready for, basically a stranger to be getting into that personal area, and it's not fair, if you will, for a contractor to just knock on the door at 3:00 on a Monday and say, "Hey, I need to get in your attic."

Well, that's not the right approach, right? So, you don't need to get up into the attics, but they just need to get their head and shoulders in those little cubby-holes. Now, if it's a walk-up attic stairway, they've got to get the Christmas, Halloween, and Easter stuff out of the way, right? And so you can learn an awful lot about the history of the home if you can just poke your head up inside that attic.

Brett: Yeah. You know, Ralph, we've always had that policy about doing that inspection here at Master Roofers. And since the last time you and I spoke, that's actually something, when we do our appointment confirmations, that's something that we've added to our script, if you will, is reminding the homeowner that we're going to want access to that, and so if they have any personal stuff they want to tidy up for when we're there. We're not going to be intrusive, but we are going to need to access that space. And to most people, they're like, "No big deal," but I'm sure some people really appreciate that.

So like you say, whether they're moving the Christmas tree out of the way or picking up their bedroom so you can access it through their closet or whatever it is, they appreciate it.

Ralph: Exactly.

Brett: The other thing you mentioned is the condensation that can arise in the attic and it coming down. Frequently, we do repair work, which some folks don't do. We frequently get appointments, where someone's telling us that they feel they have a roof leak and exactly that, exactly what you're saying is we get there, and really, what this is is a ventilation issue, not a roof leak, and that happens.

Ralph: Right.

How to Insulate Against Concrete Walls

Brett: I guess the last thing, it's funny you talked about how that system works, how all that moisture in your house moves up. I'm preparing to finish part of my basement right now, so I was reading up on how to properly insulate against... I'm in New England, against concrete walls, and so how to do that so that you don't end up with a moisture problem there, but as you were saying, as you were explaining how that system works, really, the key to that is making sure that there's an area where any moisture that's coming from that slab or those concrete walls can then move up into the structure, and to your point, where's it all end up eventually? So, you don't end up with moisture underneath your subfloor or behind those insulated panels. You need to make it so it can move up into the rest of the structure, and it all just keeps going up, and eventually is into that attic space looking to be exchanged and properly vented, so...

Does a Dehumidifier Help Protect a Home from Moisture?

Ralph: Exactly. And I have a dry basement, and I finished family room, and I run a dehumidifier in that basement. I empty that thing usually twice a day in the summertime. Now, I hope it's helping in the grand scheme of things, or am I throwing away four gallons of water that was going to be there anyway? But I figure if I'm staying ahead of it, it's going to help my entire structure, right?

And so, something else that sort of factors into roofing, which there's an awful lot of overlapping of technologies when you do invest in a new roofing system, and sometimes that's insulation, right? Now, a lot of contractors may or may not offer insulation services, but something else that goes along with the insulation side is actually air sealing attics. Now, we don't do that as a normal part of a new roof, but when you look at buildings that have, they maybe, might be a little bit older, have all kinds of gaps in the drywall, and the framing, and the rafters, and pipes and penetrations going up through there, and that's just giving that moisture an opportunity to get into that attic space. So typically, that's not required in a roof system, but if you have a customer with a real severe moisture problem, well, they've got to fix internal relative humidity somehow, right? We would recommend you consult an insulation contractor if your roofer doesn't do that.

And a good insulation contractor would probably come in, and not just top off with an additional layer of some type of insulation, they might actually start the rake and pull back insulation to air seal. And so when you have a real high super moisture problem like that in an attic, a new roof is not going to stop that, and ventilation is a tremendously key component to investing in a new roof.

What are the Different Types of Ventilation Systems Available?

John: So, homeowners have maybe heard about things like soffit vents and ridge vents, and things like that. Can you walk us through the different types of ventilation systems that are used with shingle roofs, and how they work together to create air flow?

Ralph: Yeah. So, if I can start out with this statement that ventilation, the story of ventilation and the principles is really a math problem. It's not a product selection problem, because there is an actual way for a contractor to take the footprint of the home and actually run the calculations to determine, "What is the minimum amount of exhaust and the minimum amount of intake that's necessary?" And then the contractor can build on that as they begin to maximize and utilize every single lineal foot of soffit, or eave, or some on-roof products, but when you're talking about soffits, typically right now, the preferred product is like a vinyl soffit panel. It generally comes in 12-foot lengths, and the contractor would cut it according to the length of the overhang.

But all soffit panels have a different net free rating to them, depending on the design. Some of the hidden vent products, where the perforations are up inside the fold, sometimes are the lowest net free products, so they don't breathe enough, or allow enough air to enter the structure. And so, panels might be four, five, six, seven, eight, nine inches per one foot piece, and depending on the structure of the house, a contractor may want to recommend a panel with a higher net free area that allows them to get more air into that structure. So, it's a plug and play thing where you got to really kind of know what you're dealing with there. Homes that have wood soffits, those little round button vents really are not as effective as people might think they are, in my opinion, because we did a ranch house here in my area about a year or two ago, and the entire deck had to be replaced.

I think they had like 112 sheets of plywood. Well, the contractor wanted to figure out how much net free area we needed to provide, and when we did the math, they would've needed 172 round button vents drilled into their soffits. So you need a lot of them to accomplish, or we make some under eaves that are like six inches by 16, and they provide as much as 65 square inches per opening, so if you've got a wood soffit, these can be very easily cut into the wood soffit, depending on how many you need to get the maximum amount of air in, okay? So, the soffits are really critical. Understanding what is existing and what is necessary is really the balancing point, right?

This 5,000 square project we're working in in Florida, they don't have enough soffits. Plain and simple, mathematically right now, in my opinion, they need to add more soffit venting, right? And so what happens is whether it's a box vent, a ridge vent, a turbine, we'll talk about power vents in a minute, they all need to be fed air. And if you starve them from the amount of air that they receive, they don't work properly, and when you don't get that constant air exchange, that's when you get heat trapped in the attics, that will ultimately filter back down into the living space, and one of the telltale signs of a house is when you, let's say walk up the second or third story to get to that roof hatch to get in the attic, and you notice that dramatic temperature change as you go halfway up the stairs, well, that's a pretty good indication that there's a ventilation problem, because that radiant heat from the sun is warming that attic space and it's pushing down into the living space, right? So, there's another little key there.

So, the choice of exhaust products is really a personal preference, or depending on the configuration of the house, you might want to select something different that might be existing, so it's a math question. It really is a math question. And a good contractor, in my opinion, of what we teach, is for the contractor to maybe use the measurement reports that we have or other people provide, and do the basic math in advance of the conversation with the homeowner because you can show a customer a scope of work by numbers. "But we'll cut something here, we'll cut something there, we'll put over there." "No, we need 16 of these."

See the math over here? See how this math works? And so, we generally verify the scope of work all through math and numbers.

Air Intake Vents are Essential for Ventilation

Brett: You were mentioning how you can't starve those vents. We recently went to a commercial structure, where a different provider had cut in turbine vents for the folks, and yet, they were still having a condensation issue, and really, it was my... Fortunately, my technician was right on the ball as soon as he got there. He said, "Well, where did they add free ingress of air?" and there was none. They had simply gone and put in turbine vents, and they hadn't addressed the issue that there was nothing to supply them.

So literally, there had been virtually no change in the situation. So, we were able to help them by adding the ability for that fresh air, dry air to come in and help them feed those turbines. So, they had done a good job figuring out what they needed for turbines, they just didn't do a good job figuring out how they were going to feed them. So sometimes the solutions can be pretty simple.

Ralph: Right. So, the analogy that I use sometimes is you can't suck air out of an empty pop bottle.

Brett: Yeah.

Ralph: Right? There's no hole in the bottom of it.

Brett: Precisely.

Ralph: So, if you were to drill a hole, you would now be able to move moisture or air through that cylinder.

Brett: Sure.

Ralph: Yeah. So, the intake side is hugely important. But to sort of go back on the inspection processes, a lot of homeowners have never been in their attic. They don't know what's going on up there, right? And I don't think it's fair for a contractor to...I'm going to say "miss that opportunity" to give the customer options for repair, replace, or let them choose, or it ends up being a legal issue where, "Oh, you just put my roof on, now I've got moisture problems." "Well, I didn't do anything. I didn't check your attic, I didn't look for insulation." But a lot of times, the soffits are completely blocked with insulation, right? It's been for as long as the house has been built, that house hasn't been breathing.

Brett: Sure.

Problems with an Improperly Designed Ventilation System

Ralph: So, there's a component to that where the contractor is going to have to offer or recommend that the customer pulls back that insulation, puts in baffling, make sure the soffits are wide open and clear, make sure we use the most aesthetically pleasing panel for that house, and get that thing breathing again, right? And so, one of the phrases we use all the time is, "The amount of exhaust air should never exceed the amount of air intake." And so that proves the point that generally, we like to have about a 50:50 ratio mathematically of how much air we bring into a structure, and we control how much we let out. At the point where we have more exhaust than we have intake, the system fails to work properly, and that's when you get problems, okay? And so, I live in a snowbelt area, so to speak, so if it snows and my ridge vent's covered for a couple days, no big deal, but when it's 365, multiple years in a row, this house is breathing.

We're going to get mold, we're going to get moisture, we're going to start to get deck rot, we start to get... The insulation in the attic can become saturated, right? There's just so many problems that can be associated with an improperly designed ventilation system that a homeowner might not see for a while, but by the time you do recognize it, it's probably too late.

How do Ridge Vents Work?

John: So, you talked a lot about the soffit vents. Talk about ridge vents a little bit, and what those are, and what kind of systems GAF has for dealing with ridge vents, and how they work with the shingles.

Ralph: We have multiple types of ridge vents. The traditional ridge vent in this economy is really a four-foot plastic ridge vent. Again, it's a math thing. That ridge vent provides 18 square inches of net free area per lineal foot of product, right? So, in order to be balanced, when you have 18 inches up here at the top, you need 18 inches down at the bottom.

Balance, right? So, it's an easy... I like static airflow. It's cheap. You don't have to pay for electricity. It works all the time, right?

It's aesthetically pleasing because it's underneath the cap shingles, and so we do make a couple of different varieties for northern climates or southern climates. In the north, our product is called Cobra SnowCountry, because we have a patented snow guard that's wrapped inside to prevent snow infiltration. Now, one of the things that can happen with an inexperienced contractor is if they install too much exhaust and not enough intake, what can happen when you have a fine, powdery snow blowing in the wind, the ridge vents will actually start to suck, and it will bring snow into the attic, right? It'll bring pollen in the spring.

I've worked with contractors in Texas who...It's bringing sand and dust into the attics, right? Because as soon as you have more exhaust than you have intake, that's when the anti-suction or the siphoning starts. So, our product in the north has a little bit of filter on there, that gives us that little bit of margin of error that if an inexperienced contractor puts that on the roof and they have too much exhaust and not enough intake, hopefully the volume of snow that will enter that attic will be reduced, right? But if you ever have a conversation at a cocktail party and say, "You know what? When the wind blows and I got the, pollen comes in and snow comes in, you know the problem right away is their attic is out of balance."

Brett: Yeah.

Ralph: Okay? And so in the southern climates, because we're really not so much worried about snow infiltration, our product doesn't have that snow guard in it, if you will.

Brett: We're big fans of Cobra SnowCountry, and it holds up well, and I can actually relate to it. My parents had a home done by someone else, and they did not have something with that filtration like SnowCountry, and I went to check their house. They were gone to Florida for the winter, and they were on a lake, so it's breezy, and you're right, find snow, and I go to check their house and walk through, and all of a sudden, a bunch of discoloration on the ceiling. And I go upstairs, well, go into the attic, and ultimately, that's what I found was that, that it had all blown in through that ridge vent that had been installed again by a different contractor many, many years before, that did not have anything to stop that like SnowCountry does. So, it was a hard lesson learned for them. A lot of ceiling painting, and also some replacing of insulation and all that sort of stuff, and replacing of the cap, the ridge vent, so...

Ralph: And then, we make another type of ridge vent that's a rollout continuous coil type product. Sometimes production builders don't like to come through and hand-nail their ridge vent first, and then come back and put their cap shingles on. They want to gun, and gun, and gun, and bang, and just keep moving. So we do make a product that's a little bit thinner. So Cobra SnowCountry is one inch thick.

That's how we get to 18 inches, a net free area. Our Ridge Runner is a thinner profile. It's only five-eighths of an inch thick. Doesn't mean it's not as good, it's just thinner, so it has a lower net free area of 12.1. We have to put a little bit more of that on a ridge, but it allows the contractor to simultaneously attach the product and the cap shingles to the roof in a one-step process, so...

Brett: Sure.

Potential Issues with Powered Fan Vents

Ralph: But then we make box vents and we make turbine vents and some other things, so we have a lot of different varieties. I will caution people on power fans. Power fans are a very effective means of providing exhaust, but you have to feed them almost two, three or four times more than you would with a static ridge vent. So, if you don't provide enough intake for a power fan, it typically will run excessively. It may never shut off because the attics are too hot.

It'll vibrate, and eventually, those motors will burn out, and so when you hear of people say, "Yeah, just put a power fan," power fans are no good. They only last two years. Well, you basically... Like if you took your vacuum cleaner at home, put your hand on the tube until it's smoked out, that's exactly what a power fan does. If you don't feed it, like I said, as much as four times the required intake, they just don't work.

Brett: Yeah. And to your point, when you're dealing with ridge vents and stuff, it's a passive system, requires install it correctly and let it work, as opposed to even a well-installed power vent eventually will fail. It's a mechanical electrical device. They all have the best power fan installed properly in the right situation, still has a lifespan, so...

New Technologies for Powered Vent Fans

Ralph: Yeah, it does. Now, the cool side is, as we continue to emerge technology, we do have power fans that have Wi-Fi connection to it, so the homeowner can actually, from their phone, adjust on, off, temperature humidity, that can change it that way. We have a nice line of some solar products that don't require any electricity, so they're kind of cool. They run all day long, they stop running at night, but they just turn back on again the next morning. They're very quiet, very silent, but again, they require a lot of intake, because they're very effective units.

And so, so you see how this kind of works, is you could talk about various products, but you got to know the math. You really have to know how to do the calculations, and a good contractor would do that, and I think they should do that on every call that they go out, because it gives them credibility. And you can teach the homeowner all about ventilation, not by showing the sample of the ridge vents, but by showing them the math and how it works.

Warning Signs of Problems with Ventilation

John: So, as a homeowner, before I call a contractor to come and check out my ventilation in my attic, are there things that are warning signs that I can look for that might indicate that I have a problem with my ventilation?

Ralph: Yeah. I would say if you start to get some bowing of the decking between the roof rafters, that plywood is losing some structural integrity, most likely from moisture, that plywood up there is like a giant sponge and it's going to soak that moisture up. You may start to see spots around like drywall nails, where maybe the drywall compound is now coming off the nail head, right? Sometimes that moisture gets in that nail shank, comes down the nail shank, softens the mortar, and it'll just fall off, or you may start to get, Oh, here's a good one. You could look this up.

This is kind of cool, ghost shadows. If you've ever been in a house where you can actually see the outline of the ceiling rafters on the ceiling, that is caused by condensation in the attic, that gets down along the sides of those two by's, the ceiling rafters, punks up the insulation and the drywall, and then all that static electricity, created by air movement, the dust will stick right there. And so if you're sitting at the kitchen table, talking to a customer, and you look out in the dining room, and you see those lines that correspond to every single ceiling rafter, that is definitely a condensation problem in that attic. And then, beyond visual inspection, we don't like to freak people out and say, "Hey, your attic is full of mold," but in many cases, it probably is or could be, and it depends on the level of severity. Is it moderate or is it severe?

One of my territory managers here in New York, we helped him with a homeowner that had a problem. The underside of his plywood was like somebody painted it black. I mean, it was just solid black. I've never seen it that dramatic, but some homeowners would never know that because they don't go in their attics, they don't have access to their attics. They may have a cathedral ceiling, which is a whole other discussion, and so sometimes a contractor is going to have to walk around the inside of the house and point out some things that may be indicating a ventilation problem.

What Happens During Ventilation Inspection?

John: Brett, what do you guys do at Master Roofers in terms of inspections with ventilation when a homeowner gives you guys a call?

Brett: Sure. So part of our standard process is to do an attic inspection, as long as there's access. So before we quote a re-roof or addressing an issue, we want to get access to that attic area, whatever it is above there, and give it a visual inspection, both inside and out. We're a little old-school. We still get on roofs, so we like to say inside out.

So we do look at the inside. We're up in the attic, making sure, giving a visual inspection, because to Ralph's point, it tells a lot of the story that might not otherwise be visible. And then, we actually go up on the roof for inspections and looking for soft spots, etc. as well. Every one of my guys has a 38-foot ladder on their truck, and they're going up on the roof and performing that inspections from the outside, as well as, as long as the homeowner will give us access, access to the attic from the inside. And Ralph was just sharing the story about, looked like the inside of someone's attic had been painted black.

Unfortunately, we find that more often than we like. We don't find it every day, but we find it regularly. And to your point, most people, especially maybe in a lot of... I'll actually say newer homes. A lot of older homes actually have walk-up attics, so maybe you use it for storage and it's easy to access.

A lot of newer homes, it's a scuttle hole in a closet somewhere to access that area, and homeowners, it's not usable space for them. They have no reason to go up there, nor desire, and a lot of times, it's physically challenging as well, so they don't go up there. We'll get up there as part of our inspection, and all of a sudden, find some degree of a mold or mildew problem in there or something else associated, so we feel if we don't do that, we're not doing the customer justice. If they tell us that, "We can't have access," hey, it's their home. We respect that, but I mean, that's tremendously rare.

And a lot of times, we actually have partnered with a few mold remediation companies that we can trust, that make our name look good. So if we find that situation, we'll connect the homeowner and that company. We'll work together with them to help remediate the problem, and then fix the ventilation, and if the roof needs replacing or whatever too, do that, but we kind of try and make it a turnkey service for them, where you remediate the mold, you address the ventilation issue, and, oh, hey, if your roof needs actual work as well. Sometimes there is nothing that needs to be done to the roof. It's all in that attic as well.

So, we try and be, kind of play general contractor in that regard, and hook them up with good people that they can count on and to take care of those issues, and then we help them with the ventilation.

How Home Improvements Can Impact Ventilation

Ralph: Right. And I also recommend that for other services, like if you side an entire house, make sure that ventilation package is an option, right? You want to make sure you're putting the right soffit panel in. You're going to want to evaluate what is existing in terms of exhaust, because you may be able to balance that out, so make that right. If you're a window contractor, and you're going to sell a whole house of brand new vinyl replacement windows, usually, the first complaint is moisture on the glass.

Well, that means it's doing its job. The window's now doing its job better than the old window did. So as funny as it may sound is a ventilation option and a package for new windows is probably a good idea, because if you read the information provided by the window companies, they're going to tell you ventilation is the key. So every industry, to a degree, has some influence on proper ventilation. You talk about new construction is you've got framers, you've got siders, you've got roofers, you've got insulators, who's doing what, where, and sometimes they don't all tie together, you know?

And then, a year, two or three, a homeowner has an issue internally, and they want to know, "Well, whose fault was it?" "I don't know. I sided the house. I just put the roof on it. I threw up a ridge vent, I didn't do the calculations."

So, it's a science. It really is a science, and it's not a product selection, you know? We think we make pretty good products that are contractor-friendly, and they meet all code requirements, but realistically, a ridge vent's a ridge vent. A four-foot piece of plastic works no matter what you do, but if you don't feed it, like we keep saying, that soffit is so important, so critically important.

Brett: Well, just like when you do a roof, proper assembly processes is the key to the lifespan of that roof. And really, what you're talking about here is proper design and planning. And to your point, a lot of times, there's not someone maybe in a new construction situation who's in charge of, "Whose scope of work was that in?" "The framer did the framing. Oh, Andy shingled the roof."

Well, the sider did the siding, and all of a sudden, it really comes down to no one was in charge of the ventilation calculation. I guess technically, the GC was, but he offered a one-year warranty on the home, and unless it somehow managed to rain on the second floor in the first year, probably no one's the wiser that no one actually took the time to ensure that the design was correct, because to your point, the sider did the siding, the framer did the framing, maybe he did the roofing, the window guy dropped in the windows where they told him, and no one was in charge of the design. No one coordinated the trades.

Ralph: But here's what's happening from my vision, is that the houses now are being designed so that some cases, you just don't have enough soffit area to work with, right? There are bump outs, there's dormers, there's over-framing. There's a lot of structural issues that impact the ventilation that you wouldn't really know about it until you can get up in there, right? And so if you just firewalls, and drywall, and dormers, and plywood all over the place, you just never know what you got from the inside, so it's kind of critical. As a homeowner, I would recommend that if your contractor doesn't ask to perform an attic inspection, I would maybe question that contractor's ability to really diagnose this properly, so...

Brett: Great point.

Modern Shingle Designs with Ventilation in Mind

John: Ralph, you've talked about the ventilation systems, and the vents and things like that. Talking about shingles themselves, are modern shingles designed with ventilation as part of the process, taking ventilation into account, and are there any types of shingles that have specific ventilation requirements, or are all shingles the same once you have the ventilation system in place?

Ralph: Yeah. The shingles are all basically the same, the manufacturing techniques, the ingredients that go into it. We just cut them at the different shapes. So from a performance issue, the only time you run into real hardcore potential issues is like normally, we would like the radiant heat from the sun to go through the shingles, through the decking, into an attic space, be mixed with cooler air, and sucked out of that building. If you have spray foam, you have overpacked cathedral ceilings, you have insulation maybe installed on top of the decking, that heat can no longer transmit to that internal cavity and be sucked out, and so the heat will be reflected back up into the shingles, and what that could do is that it can accelerate the drying of the oils in the shingles.

And that's not a manufacturing issue. That's really kind of a structural issue. So, spray foam is becoming more and more popular. I'm not 100% convinced that underneath the roof line is the best place for it. I'm not an insulation expert or a scientist, but it changes the dew points in my mind, and it could impact the total lifespan of the shingles. Absolutely.

Planning for Ventilation During a Re-Roofing Project

John: Okay. And then finally, if homeowners are planning a re-roofing project, is that the ideal time to address ventilation issues? What are some additional considerations that homeowners should factor in when it comes to ventilation during a re-roofing project?

Ralph: There's two things to think about here. A. I want to protect the legal liability of a contractor, right? If the contractor doesn't discover existing conditions and just put shingles on a roof, they could be blamed for not correcting something, or not offering. "Well, why didn't you tell me? I would've fixed it." My process is you're here.

Your basic price for the removal of the existing roof, some ice and water shingles and a ridge vent, that's going to be pretty much a fixed cost. The variable items are, "What's going on underneath that roof deck?" Right? "We have several things that we can offer you. I've got four different options for you," and you let the customer pick and choose like an à la carte menu, what they want to invest in, "Because you're the only contractor that brought this to my attention. I don't want any existing problems."

Right? And so, what we try to talk about is as the customer selects those options, good for the contractor. As the customer rejects those or declines those options, that now becomes homeowner maintenance. So from a legal liability standpoint, Brett could say, "Listen, they're trying to sue me. I gave my contract to my lawyer."

"Page four definitely outlined the four options I gave them to fix their ventilation system, and they opted out of all of these." So that's, in my opinion, a documented proof that you had that conversation. If your contract is very vague and you don't really give these options, the judge might say, "Well, I don't have any proof that you had that conversation." Right? So I think it's very important that you give the customer the option to go a little bit deeper, right?

Now, I look at it this way too, and part of the example I use is you take your car to the mechanic for brakes. First thing they do is they put it up on the lift, and they walk them back and forth, underneath the truck or the car, right? Do they want to sell you something? Yes, but they're also looking for a way to protect their liability, because if there's a broken muffler, there's a broken shock, there's something else that they discovered that they bring to your attention, which, by the way, is on the invoice. Mechanic noticed this, that, the other thing.

You drive out of there and you discover that something was already pre-existing, but now, all of a sudden, you know about it. They're going to say, "Hey, you broke my car when I brought it in here." So that's kind of an example of how a car dealer or a mechanic will help protect his liability, that anything additionally existing, he's claiming, right? So contractors are the same way. Really, what happens underneath that roof, to me, is really more important for the health of the building and the liability for both.

Brett: Yup.

Ralph: Right? The shingles, that's the aesthetic value of the relationship, but really, the mechanics of what happens is really, as I like to say, waterproofing and moisture control.

Brett: Yeah. We like to take the approach exactly that, that we want to give the customer all the right advice, so multiple options. By the same token, we also realize we're selling to adults here, and it's their home, and they make the decisions, but a couple reasons. First of all, I always like to say, and I say it all the time, you could ask all my guys, that treat these potential customers the way you would want someone to treat your mom, or your dad, or your grandma, or your grandpa. Explain it.

Give them all the right choices. Then, you have to let them decide, and that's okay. And some people, occasionally, make bad decisions, but you did the right thing. You gave them... And not every...

Hey, let's face it, sometimes everyone would like to drive the Cadillac, but what I can afford is to use Cavalier. Okay, I get it. That's fine, but we want to give them those options, let them make their choices, and be informed consumers. And then, from that point on, and to your point, if they later come back and they can't ever come back and say, "Hey, you didn't tell me." "No, no. We explained this to you. You chose option C, not option B. I'm sorry, Mr. Smith." But we try not to have those.

Ralph: Right.

Brett: And Master Roofers has been a roofing contractor in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for 82 years now, so we're here to be behind that. We're not here to sell you a roof, get down the road, and change our LLC name in three years to avoid our liability. So we want to give you good advice. We want to be your friend in the future. We want you to call us back 20 years from now, or refer us to your friends because we did right by you.

Why are Some Roofing Contractors Cheaper than Others?

Ralph: And sometimes you may actually have to, if you don't have access to an attic, you say, "Hey, well, based on my experience in the house, and the neighborhood, and things we worked on before, if I discover this, my price is X." Right? You put it up there early enough so that if the customer goes, "Oh, man, I hope that they don't find the problem over there. It's going to cost me a couple thousand dollars more," but then, maybe open the roof up and you go, "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, what I thought might happen here didn't exist, and I don't have to charge you for that." So I think the big killer in the industry to a degree is, "Oh, I'm making up numbers."

"He's $20,000. This other guy's 15,000. That means it's the same thing. He said the same thing. I just wanted to rush shingles. I'm going to hire him."

Right? But then he goes, "Oh, sorry, Mrs. Smith, I didn't realize we had these problems. I need another six grand."

Brett: Yeah.

Ralph: Right? It happens all the time.

Brett: I like to say this about competition, when you feel you do it, and we feel that we do a premium job, a lot of times, when all you have to sell is price, that's all you sell on, is price. And some other guy's sales pitch is, "Oh, my solution's just like his, except for I'm cheaper," and because that's really all they have to sell. And the truth is there's a reason that the investment is smaller. Typically, there's a reason there, so...

Ralph: There's reasons. There's always reasons, so ... Ventilation is really key. I think you had an earlier discussion, it doesn't affect the roof warranty per se. If we have a manufacturing issue that's causing a problem, we settle those claims.

What we're trying to protect everybody is, is we can't control what happens underneath the roof, right? So ventilation is a major component of our investment. It's part of our warranty requirements, if you will, that the contractors have a discussion with the homeowners about proper ventilation, right? Tell them about the science, run the math, have all that done, and then give the customer options to make decisions on, right? But the ventilation is a key component for moisture control 100%.

John: All right. Well, that's really great information. Ralph Finizio, thanks again for joining us today.

Ralph: Oh, it's my pleasure. Anytime, guys. Anytime.

John: And as always, Brett Rogenski from Master Roofers, thanks for joining me.

Brett: Thanks so much, John.

John: And for more information about Master Roofers, you can visit the website at, or call 603-623-4973.