"My new water heater stinks!"
Column #822 11/20/2010
On The Level
Q. Iím a retired so Iím home a lot during the day. Several weeks ago a fellow knocked on my front door. I opened the door there was a guy in work clothes who told me my roof shingles were in bad shape and needed to be coated to prevent leakage. He also mentioned that the flashing around my chimney was cracked and needed resealing. He told me he could coat the roof and reseal the flashing for $675.00. He said he had material left over from another heíd done job close by. I looked at the roof and saw no obvious problem with the shingles or flashing and I began to smell a senior citizen rip-off scam. I told him I didnít want it and sent him away. I didnít see him working at any of the neighborsí houses either.
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 17 years old and of asphalt-fiberglass composition with a 25 year manufacturerís warranty, I would consider something short of replacement if its existing condition changed in any way. I would appreciate your unbiased opinion on this proposal.
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 get something of value 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. Single females are another of their favorite targets.
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 without 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 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 on steep slope roofs-- thatís what roofs on most houses are called-- that I have never seen it done but only 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 material alone to do the average 2,000 square foot steep roof surface would eat up the majority of the $675. quote, so something was seriously wrong there.
Residential asphalt shingle roofs and chimney flashings, if they start to leak, can normally be spot repaired until itís time for a new roof and can look pretty bad before they leak wholesale. Your roof is a fiberglass based asphalt 3 tab shingle. Core it anywhere and you will see three layers of material: underlayment, or the felt paper a itís sometimes called, roof shingle and a single over that by halves. The system is designed to shed water. It sounds to me from your inspection of your roof it still has some working life left in it. Maybe in a year or two it might do you well to start planning for replacement. And when you talk to roofing contractors make sure you see their MHIC license number on their contract and on the side of the their truck and they match. Until then donít worry about it and donít waste your time talking to door to door crooks trying to part you from your money.
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