The Devil in the Details

Roofs fail because of a lack of attention to detail. An overlooked connection, sloppy workmanship, or a design doomed from the start, any of these things can cause a leak. And any leak is a failure of the whole roofing system.

For example, most commercial roofs are installed with a termination point inside the parapet wall. That causes separation and leaking over time. I couldn’t say exactly how many– the data isn’t available to know for sure– but I can tell you from experience that this a big problem that permeates the roofing industry. And I can tell you this one little moment of carelessness, invisible from the outside, will eventually cause the roofing system to fail. The only questions are when and who’s going to pay for it.

At Schulte Roofing, we extend the roofing membrane over the parapet wall and install parapet coping. That makes it nearly impossible for water to find its way in. When it comes to the details, we go the extra mile because we’ve learned from experience, sometimes painful experience, our mistakes and other’s mistakes, that it’s focus on the little things that beats water in the long run.

Inadequate grasp of the materials that together make a roofing system, failure to really understand how the whole thing ties together, is an unfortunately common problem in the roofing industry. It’s bold-faced unprofessionalism. There’s no certification required to become a roofer and no official guidebook to tell you how to do a good job of it.

There are only the hard-won lessons learned from years of trial and error that develop an understanding of the techniques and procedures that produce a superior roofing system. We’ve paid our dues to that process. We have the experience to see the devil in the details. That informs what we look for when a roofing system meets a wall. And that’s why we take the extra step even when our competitors don’t. They don’t because they haven’t learned the lessons we have.

And it’s good that we have that experience because roofing is a trade of errors. It’s the little things that only an expert eye can even see that add up to make the difference.

Don’t go cheap on your roof. A cheap roof is always more expensive in the long run.

Roofing is not a product. It’s an assembly that requires craftsmanship and knowledge. Assembly to updated building codes and manufacture specification creates a well-crafted roofing system. It’s too bad, but that isn’t common knowledge among roofers. We provide uncommon knowledge. That’s how we build great roofing systems.

On a job this year, I saw a contractor installing plywood incorrectly. Fortunately, I caught the problem. He was using 1 ½ in. staple. It’s common practice but the engineering specification stated to revert back to manufacturer instructions and those indicated to use 2 inch 8 penny nails. The plywood work was redone and proper installation procedures were followed to make sure all manufacturer claims would be honored if at any point in the life of the roof there were an issue.

Some years back remodeling work was being done on Josh’s home. The siding on the house was being replaced. When Josh walked outside to see the work he noticed something wasn’t right: there wasn’t butt-joint flashing. After speaking with the installer, who had been in the trade for 40 years, he found out that he had never before installed butt joint flashing. He never knew he had to in order to adhere to the manufacturer warranty. He hadn’t bothered to read the manual. Josh was 25 at the time.

Roofing comes in contact with many parts of your house. It’s much more than just the outside shingles or tiles you see on the exterior. A properly built roof is a whole roofing system.
Roofing Membrane, insulation cover board, insulation, subsurface roof divider with self-adhesive membrane, vapor retarder, structural deck, all of these components and their many interconnections together form that system.

The knowledge that puts order to that complexity is not common among roofers. When the ball gets dropped and the details get shoved to the side, errors happen. Errors start out invisible from the outside. But they become all too visible when failure of the system happens down the road.

Experience and uncommon knowledge matter.

About Josh Schulte

Josh Schulte is VP of Schulte Roofing and serves as the head of the commercial roofing division.