Home Buyer Beware – Shingles That Blow Off

All roof contractors are not the same. Most roofing jobs look great from the street. But did you know that one out of two composition shingle roofs installed today are not installed properly?

The number one installation problem will cause your roof to blow off before your neighbor’s roof does in a wind storm. Well, assuming your neighbor’s roof is installed right.

A starter course, when installed right, is designed to keep the shingles at the eave from lifting at the edge of the roof when the wind blows. Once the wind gets under a loose shingle, you can guarantee that the next strong wind will take it off, perhaps along with many others, and deposit them in the next county.

Here’s the Test

You can quickly determine if the starter shingles were installed correctly. You don’t even have to get up on the roof. Lift the first shingle at the edge of the roof. There should be what looks like two shingles stuck together. If you can’t lift more than three or four inches of shingle at the edge of the roof and the first row is stuck down to the starter shingle under it at the edge, you have a pro for a roofer.

If the first shingle is not stuck down or you can lift more than 4 or 5 inches of the whole business off the roof edge, you have a problem.

Here’s the Fix

A qualified roofer will be able to lift the shingles in the first row and nail down the starter course near the roof edge. He will then apply roof adhesive to seal down the bottom edge of the first row of shingles to the starter.

The Starter Course Quiz

If you are having a new roof put on, you can ask a couple of questions of your roofer. “What are you using for a starter course?” and “Are you installing the starter course according the instructions from the roofing manufacturer?” Every composition shingle roofing package will typically have basic installation instructions on the back. Review them with your roofer.

Here are the key words to listen for when your roofer answers the starter strip question: “We always use a standard shingle and turn it 180 degrees for the starter strip.” Wrong answer.

The right answer is: “We always use a starter course, manufactured for that purpose. We install it with the seal-down strip at the edge of the roof and nail it 3-4 inches from the edge of the roof.” Right answer.

An alternative answer is: “We cut off the exposed tabs of a standard shingle and install what’s left along the edge of the roof with the seal-down stuff at the edge of the roof and nail it 3 or 4 inches from the edge of the roof.” Right again.

The Bottom Line

Just so you know I am not making this up, the people in the know can tell you themselves. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), and all roof manufacturers have specific and tested installation methods that work when you follow them. Use a qualified roofing contractor and make sure they follow the instructions.

Next time you get a strong wind, look at the shingles on the edge of your roof. Are they waving good bye?