Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Why Home Inspectors Should Know Building Codes

September 15th, 2014 | 4 comments

In last week’s blog post I mentioned that there is an upcoming seminar for Minnesota home inspectors, being taught by building code guru Douglas Hansen of Code Check.  Minnesota currently uses the 2006 International Building Code (IRC), but we’ll soon be adopting the 2012 IRC, and with that will come a lot of changes.  The upcoming seminar will cover the most important parts of these changes.

Side note: Why are we flying in a national code guru from California to teach this 8-hour seminar when the class has already been put together and is being taught by some extremely knowledgeable and capable building officials right here in Minnesota?

@#$!%* beaurocracy, plain and simple.  The folks that I’ve reached out to at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry have told me they’re not allowed to do any teaching outside of the state curriculum because there’s a conflict of interest.  I have no idea what the conflict could possibly be, and I’m not at all satisfied with that answer, but in the interest of getting this class put together and notifications sent out to MN home inspectors in a timely manner, I didn’t fight the issue.  I’m not done with it though.

I sent out an email notification to all of the Minnesota ASHI members letting them know about this seminar, and I’ve been making phone calls as well to make sure that everyone got the word.

I had one conversation with another Minnesota home inspector, who I’ll call Inspector X, that prompted me to write this post.  When I told Inspector X about the upcoming seminar that would be covering the code changes to the IRC, I said I considered this  seminar to be ‘must-have’ training for any home inspector in Minnesota.

Inspector X said he disagreed that this is must-have training, because he doesn’t conduct code enforcement inspections in any capacity.  I didn’t have time to engage at the moment, so I just told him he was right, home inspections are not the same as code enforcement inspections, but it’s still important for us to be familiar with current building codes.  I couldn’t get him to agree with that either, so I basically just wished him well… but if I had had the time, I would have explained it this way:

ASHI Home Inspection Standards of Practice require home inspectors to provide clients with a written report that states those systems and components inspected that, in the professional judgement of the inspector, are not functioning properly, significantly deficient, unsafe, or are near the end of their service lives.

Unsafe is defined as “A condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component that is judged by the inspector to be a significant risk of serious bodily injury during normal, day-to-day use; the risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted residential construction practices.

Current building codes are what define accepted residential building practicesIf a home inspector is not familiar with current building codes, they’re not familiar with accepted residential building practices.

Code Knowledge vs. Code Inspection

Even though home inspectors should be familiar with current building codes, this doesn’t mean that home inspectors should report code violations.  Our standards of practice clearly state that home inspectors are NOT required to determine “compliance of systems and components with past and present requirements and guidelines (codes, regulations, laws, ordinances, specifications, installation and maintenance instructions, use and care guides, etc.).

If you want to know the difference between a code compliance inspection and a home inspection, look at the reasoning behind the recommendations for change / repair.  ASHI Standards of Practice require home inspectors to report the reasoning or explanation as to the nature of deficiencies reported that are not self-evident.  If the home inspector bases their reasoning on code, they’re heading into ‘code compliance inspection’ territory.

As an example, take a look at the sump basket cover at this new-construction home; the cover isn’t airtight, which will allow for moist air to enter the home.  This air may also bring radon gas into the home.

unsealed sump basket cover

Here’s a bad way for a home inspector to report on this: “The sump basket cover was not airtight, which is required by Minnesota Administrative Rule 1322.2103, Section AF103.4.4.  Have this corrected.”

The problem with this type of reporting is that it tells the client that this is a problem because the installation does not meet code… and that’s about all.  It doesn’t give the reasoning or explanation as to the nature of this deficiency.

The proper way for a home inspector to report this type of defect would be “The sump basket cover was not airtight, which will allow for air to leak into the building.  This air will have relatively high levels of moisture, and will contribute to radon gases coming into the home.  Have the sump basket cover made airtight.”

See the difference?

If the home buyer addresses this issue with the builder and asks them to correct this, the builder might say it already passed inspection and meets code.  At that point, a home inspector who is familiar with building codes would be happy to give their client the above code reference, backing up their recommendation.  That’s a good thing, and it doesn’t mean the home inspector is doing a code compliance inspection.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

          

Attention Minnesota Home Inspectors: ASHI Heartland Chapter is Back

September 9th, 2014 | 2 comments

The local chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), called the Heartland Chapter, has been largely defunct for the last couple of years.  I’ve been a member of ASHI for a little over ten years now, and I’m looking to get the local ASHI chapter back up and running.  I have volunteered to take the position of president, and the board members made it official this summer.

My main goal as chapter president is to provide educational opportunities for home inspectors in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas.  Another goal is to help create more camaraderie among fellow home inspectors.  Here’s how:

Training

I’m an active member of the Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors (MSHI), and I have helped to coordinate speakers for MSHI’s all-day continuing ed seminars for the past several years.  I plan to continue coordinating speakers for MSHI, I plan to make sure the seminars are approved for ASHI continuing ed credits, and I will make sure that local ASHI members are invited to these seminars.

I also plan to have ASHI chapter meetings held every one to two months with local professionals providing education.  Each chapter meeting is worth two hours of continuing ed credits for ASHI, and licensed TISH evaluators in Minneapolis and Saint Paul will be able to count these meetings towards their total required number of continuing ed hours.  All area home inspectors will be invited to these meetings, regardless of home inspector association membership / affiliation.

At the moment there are no official dues-paying members in the chapter and the chapter has very little funds for large training events, but I’m hoping to change that over the course of the next year.

Camaraderie

It’s important for us home inspectors to get together on a regular basis to discuss all things related to home inspections.  New inspection methods, new local code requirements, new construction methods, new repair methods, new problems we’re facing, new tools that we can’t live without.  Our spouses are all surely tired of hearing about all of this stuff, and they usually can’t offer much tool advice.

It’s also important for newer inspectors to be able to ask more experienced inspectors for advice, and for experienced inspectors to share their advice with newer inspectors.  When experienced inspectors give advice to newer inspectors, they’re helping to improve the quality of our industry. Every time I read an online article where home buyers are advised to have a home inspection performed by a general contractor instead of a home inspector, I know that our industry needs improvement.

I’ve trained many home inspectors, and I’ve had a number of local home inspectors (aka “competitors”) shadow me on home inspections that I’ve conducted, and I’ve found that this really helps me to question everything I do during an inspection.  Evaluating the reasoning behind what I do sometimes reinforces the things that I do, and other times makes me change the way that I do inspections.  Teaching others and giving advice is not a one-way flow of information. Experienced inspectors can learn from newer inspectors too.

Quick Story #1: Why I Believe in Helping Competitors

Back in 2004 when I was training to start inspecting houses on my own, one of the first things that I studied for was to get licensed as a Saint Paul Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator.  Among the licensing requirements are a fairly difficult written exam, as well as a practical exam that involves an evaluation of an existing home.  My dad had never been licensed to do TISH evaluations in Saint Paul, so he recommended I contact another licensed evaluator in Saint Paul, Mike Moser, for advice.

Mike was happy to meet with me and help answer questions that I had about the upcoming tests, knowing full well that I would be his future competition for business.  I asked why he was willing to help train a future competitor, and I remember his words well: “It’s all about improving our industry.  If you turn out to be half as good of an inspector as your father, you’ll be making our industry better.”

I thought those were very insightful words, and I made a promise to myself to do the same for other future competitors of mine.

Quick Story #2: My Experience with ASHI

Back when I first started with Structure Tech in 1997, part of my duties were to answer the phones and schedule inspections.  Potential clients and real estate agents would frequently ask if we were members of ASHI before hiring us.  At the time, my dad and Duane were both ICBO Certified Building Inspectors, which was a great technical certification that demonstrated knowledge of building codes.  I’d explain the difference, but nobody cared.  All they cared about was whether we were ASHI members or not.

I would try to convince my dad to join ASHI, but he was very turned off by an elitist attitude from what was probably a small number of local ASHI members.  He had attended a few chapter meetings and wasn’t interested in associating with those folks.  I’ve heard these same sentiments from many other local home inspectors, as well as from inspectors in other parts of the country.  I’ve never experienced any of that myself, but I’ve heard about it enough to know that it’s real.

I’ll be doing whatever I can to make sure that new inspectors are made to feel welcome, both to this industry and to ASHI.  Simply joining an organization does not make one a great home inspector, and choosing to not join an organization does not make one a bad home inspector.

Upcoming Training Events for Home Inspectors

10/7/14, 6:30 PM: ASHI Chapter Meeting (2 CEs)

I have scheduled Steve Schirber at Cocoon to teach a class on building science and solutions for insulating / retrofitting existing houses.  Steve is a guest author on my blog (Unintended Consequences of Adding Insulation), and had an excellent article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Light Construction, titled “Project Overcoat: Exterior insulation and air sealing for a story-and-a-half.”

This class will be taught at the next monthly ASHI Heartland meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 7th, at 6:30 pm.  This will take place at Frankie’s Pizza in New Hope, in the banquet room.  The fee for the seminar will be $10, and will cover the cost of some fantastic pizza.  Please RSVP to info@ashiheartland.com if you’re planning to attend, as seating will be limited.

All home inspectors are invited to attend this meeting, ASHI or not.  After Steve’s class, we’ll be having a discussion about the future of the chapter.

11/15/14, 8:00 AM: MSHI All-Day Seminar (8 CEs)

Minnesota will be adopting the 2012 IRC, which will have a lot of changes that all home inspectors in Minnesota should be familiar with.  Douglas Hansen, author of the CodeCheck books, will be teaching an all-day seminar on the code changes.  As far as I’m concerned, Douglas is one of the most knowledgeable folks in the country when it comes to building codes.  This is a seminar that all home inspectors in Minnesota should attend.

The seminar will be held at the same place that all MSHI seminars are held: the Earl Brown Continuing Ed building at the U of M, 1890 Buford Avenue, Saint Paul.  As always, lunch is included.  The seminar is free to all MSHI members, and the cost is $100 to non-members, which is still a bargain.

Want These Updates?

Going forward, I’ll be sending out these types of notifications for home inspectors strictly via email.  If you’d like to be added to that email list, please sign up here: http://eepurl.com/2Qsk1

Thank you.

Author: Reuben Saltzman, ASHI Heartland Chapter President

Radon Testing: Should You Rely on The Seller’s Test?

September 2nd, 2014 | No comments

We routinely get requests from past home inspection clients of ours asking us to re-send the radon gas test results from testing that we conducted many years ago. We get these requests because our past clients are now selling their home, and they’re performing their due diligence attempting to gather whatever information they can about their home to give to potential home buyers. In most cases, we still have the results and are happy to send them out. We recently received an email asking about this:

“Two months ago the seller had another buyer inspect the home.  The radon test came back at 1.8.  Does this need to be done again? Thanks!”

That’s a great question.  Here’s my generic advice on relying on the seller’s test results.

Over Two Years Old? Forget it.

How much value is there in old radon test results? If the test results are more than two years old, the EPA recommends conducting a new test. If the test results are less than two years old, there might be some value in those results.

Who Conducted the Previous Radon Test?

If the test results are less than two years old, find out who conducted the radon test before relying on the results. For obvious reasons, I don’t recommend relying on any type of DIY radon tests unless you Did It Yourself. If the radon test was professionally conducted, make sure the person / company conducting the test was qualified to do so. You’d hope that any home inspector charging money to conduct a radon test would be qualified to perform the test and would do it properly, but I’ve personally seen enough egregious testing errors to know that there are plenty of unqualified folks conducting radon tests in Minnesota. While there are no licensing requirements for radon testing companies in Minnesota, there are two large certifying bodies for radon measurement providers: the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB). I’d feel fairly confident in relying on the radon gas test results from an NRPP or NRSB certified company. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t rely on the results from someone who isn’t certified, but you’d be right to at least ask a few questions about the qualifications and experience of the person / company doing the testing.

Has Anything Changed?

If there have been any major structural changes, HVAC changes, or there have been any significant projects that involved air sealing, which is most commonly done in the attic, don’t go with the old test results. Too much has changed that may have affected the radon levels. Have your own test conducted.

Where Was The Test Placed?

When a homeowner conducts a radon test on their own home, they’re supposed to test the lowest level of the home that is regularly used. If the home has an unfinished basement and nobody spends any time down there, the test should be placed on the first floor. When a radon test is conducted as part of a real estate transaction, the radon test should be placed in the lowest livable part of the home, whether it’s finished or not.  If a home buyer is going to rely on the seller’s radon test results, they should make sure the test was placed in the lowest livable area, not the lowest level that is regularly used.

In Conclusion

If a home buyer is going to rely on someone else’s radon test results instead of hiring their own company to conduct a radon test, they should make sure that the previous test was done within the last two years, the testing was done by a qualified person / company, no major changes happened at the home that could affect radon levels, and that the radon test was placed in the proper location.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

          

A Home Inspector’s Review of the Flir One Infrared Camera for the iPhone

August 26th, 2014 | 7 comments

About a year ago, I heard about an Indiegogo funding campaign to develop an infrared camera that would attach to a smartphone; it was called the Mu Thermal Camera .  I was sure this was a scam, but at the very beginning of this year, Flir announced they were developing essentially the same thing, calling it the Flir One and selling it for under $350; far less than any other infrared camera available today.

My biggest question was whether this camera would be a viable alternative to a traditional infrared camera for home inspectors.  As soon as the camera became available for order, I ordered one.  It just showed up on Wednesday, 8/20.

The Basics

The Flir One camera attaches to the iPhone 5 and 5s models.  It has its own built-in battery, which charges with a standard micro-usb cable.  That’s nice.  Unfortunately, the iPhone can’t be charged at the same time, which is quite annoying.

Getting started was easy, even though I’ve never owned an iPhone.  I went to iPhone app store, downloaded and ran the required app, and the software guided me through the rest.  Piece of cake.

Size

The Flir One comes with a little black case that the iPhone pops into, which then slides into the camera assembly.  It makes the whole package about twice as thick as an iPhone, and a little taller; approximately the height of a Galaxy 4S phone.  It’s small enough to slip into a pocket, but it’s a big lump.  That’s a lot better than any other IR camera, but the size of my infrared camera has never been a problem for me.  When I inspect houses, I bring a big bag of tools into the house with me every time; I have my infrared camera with me whether I plan to use it or not.  Making the camera smaller won’t change that.

Shape

I tried using the Flir One at my last two home inspections, and it felt clumsy.  The Flir One is the opposite of ergonomic.   You really need two hands to hold the camera and take photos; trying to do it one handed seemed like a sure-fire way to drop the phone and break it.  Just like taking photos with a smartphone, you need to touch the screen to capture an image while you’re still holding the phone.  See below; I have my pointer finger hovering over the “capture” button while I’m holding the phone with my middle finger and thumb.

Holding Flir One

I’m sure that I would drop and break this phone within a month of using it if I started using it for home inspections, and my understanding is that it doesn’t take a much of fall to break the screen on an iPhone.  Aftermarket phone cases help to protect the iPhone from falls, but that’s not an option when the phone is connected to the Flir One.

Every other infrared camera I’ve owned has had a pistol-grip with a trigger for taking photos, making them perfect for one-handed operation.  The image below shows my current infrared camera, the Flir E6.

Holding a Flir E6

Even if I drop my E6 camera, it won’t break.  Before buying this camera, one of the Flir reps tossed the camera up into the air and let it fall onto the concrete floor, just to show how durable and rugged they are.  I’m sure the Flir One wouldn’t tolerate any kind of abuse like that.

Software Options

The Flir One app has very few options.  There are the standard color palates like “iron” and “rainbow”, as well as a bunch of fairly useless ones like “hottest”, “coldest”, and “arctic”.   Emmissivity settings can be changed, the save location of images can be changed, the temperature units can be set to Celsius or Fahrenheit.  There’s also an option to turn on a spot meter, which displays the temperature of whatever is shown in the middle of the screen.  That’s about it for options.

Resolution

The infrared camera has a resolution of 80×60.  Infrared images are combined with optical images, which gives a much clearer image on the screen than you’d get with just an infrared image.  Flir calls this Multi-Spectral Dynamic imaging, or “MSX” technology.  I have the same technology on my E6 camera, and I absolutely love it.  It seems to highlight the edges of objects, which gives you a much better understanding of what you’re looking at with the camera.  My Flir E6 has an infrared resolution of 160×120, which is about four times the resolution of the Flir One (19,200 pixels vs  4,700).  To show the power of MSX technology, take at look at the two images below.

No-MSX vs Flir One

The image on the right looks a heck of a lot better, doesn’t it?  The funny thing is that the image on the left is from the much higher resolution E6 camera with the MSX technology turned off, while the image on the right is the far lower resolution image of the Flir One.  The MSX technology makes the much lower resolution image of the Flir One look far better.

Side note: this makes me contemplate the difference between real value and perceived value.

When using the Flir One in well-lit environments like the images above, everything looks great.  In the dark… not so much.   The two images below show the same room with the lights turned off.  All of the benefit provided by the MSX technology disappears, leaving you with a few indiscernible orange blobs.  Using the Flir One in a poorly lit attic would probably be quite frustrating.

No-MSX vs Flir One Lights Out

I think this test is the most telling, because it shows you what information the Flir One is really giving you.  The perceived value is far higher than the actual value when the lights are on.

Usefulness

To me, the biggest question is whether this camera could be used to do the same stuff that other infrared cameras can do.  Sometimes I use my infrared camera as a time-saving device; I’ll quickly scan all of the radiators or supply registers in a house to make sure they’re all working properly.  It does a fine job of that.  The images below again show a side-by-side comparison between an E6 and the Flir One.

Radiator

Register

Sometimes infrared cameras can be used to find wet spots.  I poured a little bit of water into a cardboard box and recorded the images, showing how the cold spots compared.  The Flir One wasn’t great at this, but if you were to really take your time and scan things slowly and up close, you could probably identify the same stuff.  It’s just not nearly as obvious.

Wet box 3

The Flir One also seems to do a fine job of identifying hot spots at electric panels, although this test revealed that the infrared image isn’t perfectly blended with the optical image on the Flir One.  If you look carefully at the image below, you’ll see that the cold tips of the circuit breakers don’t match up quite right with the image.  That’s annoying.

Breaker panel 2

While I don’t find that the exact temperature reading is all that important, it was reassuring to see that the spot temperature readings of the E6 and Flir One were basically identical.  In the images above, you’ll notice that both cameras identified the temperature of the circuit breaker at 114 degrees F.

Range

The temperature range of the Flir One is 32° F to 212° F.

32° F to 212° F.  Huh.

That makes this camera pretty much useless in Minnesota attics during the winter, which is one of the most useful places to take an infrared camera during a home inspection.

Another important thing to note is the operating temperature range of this camera: 32° F to 95° F.  Ouch.  That almost relegates this camera to the class of “cool toy”.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a neat device.  If you’ve always wanted an infrared camera but just haven’t wanted to fork out over a thousand dollars for it, this is the camera for you, assuming you already own an iPhone 5.

If you’re a home inspector and you’ve been looking to add an infrared camera to your tool bag, don’t buy this camera.  The resolution is low, it’s clumsy to use, you’ll surely break it, and the temperature range is unacceptable.  Go with a dedicated infrared camera.  I’ve tested many different infrared cameras, and I’ve been happy with a resolution of at least 120×120.  My advice is to go with the E6, which currently retails for about $2,500.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

          

Roof Replacement Part 1: Should Contractors Use GAF, Owens Corning, or IKO?

August 19th, 2014 | 6 comments

This is a guest blog post by Ryan Carey, of My 3 Quotes.

3-Tab Shingles

3-Tab Shingles

Let’s face it, it’s no fun when you realize you need to fork out thousands of dollars for a new roof. If you’re like many homeowners, you avoid it as long as you can despite all the tell-tale signs: You have more granules in your gutters than on your roof, you have old organic shingles that are curling up like diplomas on the south side of your house, or worse yet- there are several areas of your ceiling that are turning brown from leaks.

Despite your many attempts at doing hail dances around your house in the hopes that your insurance company may have to foot the bill, you are stuck with having to pay out of pocket since Mother Nature has not cooperated. Once that bitter pill is swallowed, its time to get serious and do some research on the best shingles and contractors out there.

This product comparison is going to be quite different from previous ones. In Window Replacement Part 3: Marvin, Andersen, Pella, I gave many pros and cons of the different window lines since they are all made differently. In Siding Replacement Wars, LP vs. James Hardie, I had a clear favorite between the two different products. However, when it comes to these three roofing product lines I can say the following statement that some of the manufacturers won’t like to hear: It matters very little which one of these three you choose; picking the contractor is WAY more important.  If installed correctly, all of these products (including some brands I don’t mention below) will have nearly identical performance.

3-tab to Architectural

Architectural Shingles

Architectural Shingles

Asphalt roofing didn’t have much variation in the past. Shingles were made in the 3-tab style, which is a flat shingle with 3 rectangles per piece.  Today, the vast majority of shingles are of the architectural variety. They have a cedar-shake look, with overlay pieces to give the shingle dimension and shadow lines. They are thicker and cover up roof line imperfections better. They also have longer warranties.

With the variation built into the product, architectural shingles are also easier to install.  With the symmetrical rectangles of 3-tab shingles, much more attention needs to be paid in placement on the roof before nailing.  3-tab has basically gone extinct for new roofing installs, since there is little to no difference in pricing anymore.  With over 90% of new roof installs going architectural, 3-tab has become a special order product and many contractors will do architectural for the same price.  Under those conditions, there is no reason to do 3-tab unless you are doing a partial roof or trying to match product on nearby structures.

Unfortunately, the warranties of architectural shingles have recently changed to make things more confusing to the customer. Each one of these brands used to have 30, 40, and 50 year shingles. 30 was the majority of what was used, but the customer could pay more for even thicker 40 or 50 year varieties with more material weight and more distinctive shadow lines.  Now, asphalt shingles will never last 50 years but at least you could see the “good, better, best” progression with the old system.

One of the companies got the bright idea to call their 30 yr a “lifetime shingle” to differentiate from the other manufacturers. That differentiation didn’t last because the others quickly followed suit. So what changes were made to the old 30 yr to now be called “lifetime?” Absolutely nothing. The shingles may be shot in 20 years, but by that time the pro-rated value is pretty small. Shingle manufacturers also rely on the facts that homeowners stay in a house for 7 years on average, and “lifetime” is how long the homeowner lives there.  Severe weather events could cause the roof to get replaced over such a time period. Finally, if the homeowners actually get to 20-30 years, there’s a good chance that they won’t still have the original paperwork.  All these factors keep the lifetime warranty risk pretty low for the manufacturers.

Today, customers need to sift through all the product offerings to find the difference in thickness and weight.  30, 40, and 50 year was previously the guide to tell the difference.  With every architectural shingle now having a lifetime warranty, homeowners need to do a little more reading (or get some help from a rep) to find which ones are the premium thickness products.

GAF Shingles

GAF Shingles

GAF

Speaking of warranties, GAF has most effectively worked their special warranties into the sales pitch. “Certified,” “Master Elite,” and “Golden Pledge” are a few of their extended warranty terms depending on what level the contractor is at in their system.  GAF is the most popular brand in town due to their well-known Timberline shingles. Timberline became the generic term for architectural shingles years back, and people ask for them by name quite often. “Do you have Timberlines?” sometimes means the same as “Do you have architectural shingles?”

They have other lines as well, all the way up to the super-thick “Grand Sequoia.” GAF shingles have a great name, a great look, many color selections, and many extended warranty options.  GAF has very effectively embedded themselves with local contractors through their certification for different warranty options.

Owens Corning

Owens Corning Shingles

Owens Corning Shingles

One of the most well-known brand names around, Owens Corning continues to assert its presence in the fields of shingles, pink insulation, and large pink cats. Talk about an awesome branding strategy; I have the “Pink Panther” theme going through my head every time I talk about them.

While I’m not a fan of their entry level “Oakridge” architectural shingle (the overlays seem too thin, they don’t look much thicker than a 3-tab shingle to me), I AM a big fan of their “Duration” series. Not only does this shingle look like an architectural is supposed to look, but it has a fabric stretched over the nailing strip which they call “Sure-Nail Technology.” The strip helps prevent nail blow-through from installers and shows them the exact place to nail the shingle down, which helps to prevent improper nail placement.  O.C. has a variety of colors and thicknesses as well.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer (or if you’re using an installer that you don’t have 100% confidence in), Duration is the perfect shingle to use, as it is the only shingle that has that Sure-Nail strip for a guide.  4 nails per shingle will give you a 110mph wind warranty; 6 nails will get you up to 130mph.  Other brands have similar warranties, but the strip helps to assure the best placement for effectiveness of those levels.

Here is a video on this unique feature:

IKO

IKO has a slightly different look than the others, as the overlays have a straight cut instead of a tapered cut. While they don’t nearly have the brand recognition of the first two, they are a huge company worldwide. They boast more weight in their base-level lifetime product than the others and they have premium thickness products like “Armourshake.”

IKO Shingles

IKO Shingles

Customers of mine have been going to their “Cambridge IR” (impact resistance) shingle quite often, since it is the least expensive shingle I can find that carries a Class 4 hail rating. Most insurance companies will give you a break on your monthly premiums if you can show them Class 4 impact resistance paperwork.

Contractors

OK, all pretty darn good products here. However, if they are installed incorrectly, they have an increased potential for failure, which won’t be covered under manufacturer warranty. Contractors can use nails that are too short or use nail guns that aren’t set at the right pressure, resulting in nails not in far enough that eventually work their head through the overlaying shingle, or nails blowing through the shingle, leading to shingles coming loose. Valleys and flashing can be installed improperly, resulting in leaks. Kick-out flashing can be missed resulting in problems for other areas of your house. See Reuben’s post on roofing installation issues.

Ventilation needs to be adequate as well to keep too much heat from building below the roof line and curling the shingles. Can you imagine a ridge vent getting installed and the installers forgetting to cut a channel in the roof decking so the vent could work? It’s happened.

This is why it’s so important to have a contractor with a good labor (workmanship) warranty, good reputation, and local longevity so you know you’re covered if the failure is a result of faulty installation. Many contractors only have 1 year labor warranty and that’s it. Now if the roof fails after one year and its because of improper installation, you’re up asphalt creek without a paddle on getting any warranty help. Don’t even get me started on out-of-state storm chasing contractors.

Nail head coming through shingle

Nail head coming through shingle

Labor Warranties

Many contractors have Lifetime Workmanship Warranties. Now, just like a lifetime shingle warranty, they know that lifetime will be the amount of time the homeowner lives there (average of 7 years), but at least you know you’re covered while you’re there. Also, if a contractor is sticking their neck out for any water damage that could occur from a leaky roof, you know darn well they will do everything they can to prevent the problems from starting. Water damage can get up to tens of thousands really quick from a bad roof leak.

These three brands are my favorite asphalt shingles to work with, and I haven’t had problems with any of the three when they are installed correctly. Pick a solid contractor to do the job, and you’ll be happy with any of them. Pick the wrong contractor, and they can all fail. We’ll cover metal roofing options in a future post.

Ryan CareyRyan Carey has 15 years of experience in exterior remodeling for Twin Cities Homeowners and Property Management Companies. He is the owner of “My 3 Quotes,” a company that provides the free service of collecting 3 competitive home improvement bids for customers. For more information, visit www.getmy3quotes.com for free home improvement estimates on window replacement, siding, roofing, and more.