When it comes to roofing, Milwaukee homeowners want to protect their investments. This FAQ will help you understand what can damage your roof and how to care for your Milwaukee roofing year round. Although we specialize in tile roofing and slate roofing for Milwaukee homes, much of the roofing information here applies to other common roofing elements, such as gutters and flashings.
Caring for Milwaukee Roofing
Q. How do I prevent Ice dams from forming on my roof?
A. Ice forms along the lower edge of roofs and in valleys and saddles due to snow melting at the roof area over the heated area of the house and freezing at the cold overhangs. This occurs mostly when there is a snowpack with temperatures above 25 degrees. Several cycles of this can cause large blocks of ice which prevents the flow of the melt from above to ever reach the gutters and downspout. Water ponds behind the ice and drips through the roofing and into the house. Ice and water shield membrane laid under the slate or tile helps by sealing the nails driven through it. To prevent the ice from forming to begin with roof and gutter heating cables can be installed along the lower edge of the roof, along the gutters, and down the downspout. This keeps open a path for the snow melt to find its way off the roof.
Q. Should I leave my ice cables on all winter and turn them off in spring?
A. You just need them on when there is snow on the roofs and the temperature is above 20 degrees. Otherwise save the electricity.
Q. What can I do about snow and ice sliding down my slate or tile roof when we get a warm winter day.
A. As the snowpack freezes and thaws it becomes heavy and bonded together. On a warm day a layer of water from the melting snow on the under side of this mass releases the bond to the roof and down it comes all it once damaging the gutter along the way and landing right ion the driveway or over the front walk. This is especially enhanced by the smooth hard surface of the slate or tile. Snow guards are small copper or bronze clips that are installed in with the slate or tile in a certain density over the area of the roof that the snow and ice form around. As the snow mass melts and wants to release it stays in place because it is frozen around the snow guards. Rail type snow guards made from bronze brackets and brass rails are another style that act like a fence at the bottom of the roof which also retains the snow mass from sliding. Either style performs the same function. Generally, the individual snow guards are less expensive.
Q. Why do I need copper flashings with my tile and slate roof? Can I save money by using painted aluminum or steel?
A. A quality quarried slate roof should last 150+ years. A quality fired clay tile should last 200+ years. You want the support materials to make it through as many of these years as possible. By using copper, and most importantly, soldering the joints, you are able to finish the details with the finest materials and methods available. By substituting pre-painted metal you are required to rivet and caulk joints which only last as long as the caulking stays fresh. The critical three way corners (3 planes coming together) can only be fitted correctly by soldering. These are the corners at the top and bottom edge of a chimney or dormer. Galvanized steel can be soldered and is less expensive for the materials but is more time consuming to work with. At some point then needs to be painted. At today’s labor costs copper is a less expensive solution than galvanized steel.
Q. The gutters on my slate or tile roof are bent. They don’t drain properly and the joints leak. Can we replace them with new aluminum gutters by cutting down the back of the old gutter and fitting the new gutters under the old gutter back?
A. This is a common repair offered by aluminum gutter contractors and has some significant drawbacks with slate and tile roofs. The single fold on the outside bead of an aluminum gutter together with the aluminum gutter hanger that fits into the fold will not hold up to the ice slides from a tile or slate roof. Inevitably this combination results in the top outside edge of the gutter being bent and separated from the hangers. Standard “off the shelf” copper seamless gutters and hangers have the same result. The best gutter replacement jobs use a custom fabricated 20 oz. copper gutter with a reinforced top edge. Copper bar hangers are bolted to the top edge and extend under the first course of tile or slate. These gutters have a continuous high back that fits under the first course of tile or slate and are pitched toward the downspouts. The first two courses must be removed to allow the proper lap of the installed gutter and hangers. The courses of slate and tile are fitted back in to place to finish the job. Soldering the joints make these gutters maintenance free. (Except for cleaning the leaves out once or twice a year.)
Q. I’ve got built in gutters that are leaking. Can I replace them with rubber or aluminum?
A. Rubber and aluminum are both poor solutions for replacing built in gutter liners. The originals would be either copper or tin with soldered seams. The replacements should be 20 oz. copper with soldered seams. The bottom two courses of slate or tile should be removed to allow the proper lap of the continuous gutter back flashing to lap underneath 4”. They are fitted back into place when the new gutter is in place. The soldered seams offer a 60-80yr. maintenance free solution. Aluminum liners need seams that are riveted and caulked. They will last only as long as the caulking. Rubber liners are usually adhered to the old gutter and have problems staying adhered. They become loose at the edges and bridge at the bends.
It is especially important to replace these gutters correctly because a leak will damage the wood trim or stucco in the eaves below.
Q. We’ve got a chimney on the tile roof that needs repair. How do we get the mason contractor up there to do his work without damaging the roof?
A. We can set planks and ladders on the roof to allow a masonry crew the access they need to do their work safely and efficiently. After they finish, if some slate or tiles are broken we can replace them as we take our rigging down. We work with many mason contractors and painters to help them access their work.
Q. Can we still find tiles or slate to match our 90 yr. old roof?
A. We have a large inventory of reclaimed tile and slate that we’ve accumulated over our 35 years in business. The slate used on older homes is still quarried and available new. The older tiles can still be produced as a special order but there is a good chance they can be matched from our inventory. We are connected nationwide with other old tile inventories if we don’t have the matching tile on hand.
Q. How often should we clean our gutters?
A. It is very important that you keep the leaves and seeds from accumulating in your gutters. The leaves fall in late November and it is a race to get them cleaned out before they freeze in the gutters. It is also important to clear the seeds that fall off the trees in mid June. These seeds cam pack tightly and clog the gutters near the outlets. We offer gutter cleaning service and have a list of over 50 customers that use us once or twice a year.
Q. We are making an offer to purchase an older home with an original tile or slate roof. How do we know the condition of the roof before making an offer?
A. We offer roof inspection and evaluation services for prospective buyers. For a fee we will do a roof top inspection, take photographs, and detail any areas that need repair. We will prepare an overview of the condition of the roof and an itemized quote for the items that need repair. We work closely with local realtors and home inspectors to help buyers establish the value of the home.