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Spray roofing scam
5 November 2005


Q. I am a senior citizen who has occupied my home since being built forty years ago. One morning several weeks ago a knock came upon my front door. I opened the door and encountered an individual dressed in bib overalls who appeared to be somewhere betw een fifty-five and sixty years old. He stated my roof shingles were in bad shape and needed to be coated to prevent leakage. He further stated that the flashing around my chimney was cracked and needed resealing. He stated that he would coat the roof an d reseal the flashing for six hundred dollars. During my working years I was employed in the heavy duty automotive field and have a good perception of most things mechanical. My inspection revealed no obvious problem with the shingles or flashing and I feel this was an attempt at a senior citizen rip-off scam.

My question to you then is there any type of material currently in use by legitimate roofers that could be sprayed on a roof to seal it and eliminate the possibility of leakage? Even though my roof is eighteen years old and of asbestos composition with a 25-year guaranty, I would consider repair or replacement if its existing condition changed in any way. I would truly appreciate your unbiased comments on this situation.

A. Iím glad you kept your head in this matter and didnít succumb to the temptation to buy something too good to be true. Itís not just seniors who fall foul of these sorts of flim-flam artists but almost anyone who responds to the basic human urge to ge t something of value on the way cheap. Iíve seen this sort of thing many times before so my opinion is hardly unbiased. These guys make me mad because they make a lot of good guys look bad by doing what they do and, yes, they will target seniors because seniors tend to be more trusting of people than the rest of us.

Most commonly these guys sell driveway coating spouting the line that they had a job down the street and have some leftover material that they need to get rid of and will sell it to you at a very deep discount-- cash, of course. What happens is that the material is no good, doesnít dry and costs many times what you paid for it to have the whole mess cleaned up and repaired. The police call these scammers ďgypsiesĒ because they roam about the landscape hitting a neighborhood quickly then clearing out w ithout of trace of where theyíve gone. When they do get caught and prosecuted it always astounds me just how much wealth these crooks have accumulated along the way.

Yes, there are elastic roof coatings that can be spray applied. They are normally used in commercial settings such as large metal low slope roofs and for trailers and RV roofs. A company called Ames Research makes a whole line of them. In my experience they are almost always used in response to a leaking roof. Some can even be applied to a wet roof. It is so rarely done in steep slope-- thatís what roofs on most houses are called-- apshalt shingle roofs that in 36 years I have never seen it done but o nly read about it. Such coatings are generally intended only to buy some time before a complete re-roof job-- in fact, the data sheet on one of the products will estimate the working life of a single coat at just one year! Additionally, the cost of the m aterial alone to do the average 2,000 square foot steep roof surface would eat up the majority of the $600. dollar quote, so something was seriously wrong there.

Residential roofs and chimney flashing if they start to leak can usually be spot repaired until itís time for a new roof and can look pretty bad before they leak wholesale. Your roof, if itís 18 years old, isnít asbestos. Itís a fiberglass based asphal t 3 tab shingle. Asbestos went away in the late 1970s. It sounds to me from your inspection of the roof that it still has some working life left in it. Maybe in a year or two it might do you well to start planning for its replacement. Until then donít worry about it and donít waste your time talking to larcenous bozos trying to part you from your money.

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