Q: I have a new house with a cedar shake roof. In several large areas, the shakes are butted right next to each other. The gaps that are supposed to be there are filled in. It is my understanding...

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Q:

I have a new house with a cedar shake roof. In several large areas, the shakes are butted right next to each other. The gaps that are supposed to be there are filled in.

It is my understanding that the gap is needed to allow tree needles and so forth to wash down the roof without getting caught. Could they have done this to make the roof more waterproof, for insulation, ice, or wind issues?

Also, these filled-in gaps are almost “stacked” from one level to the next. Should these gaps not be offset? My builder is not much help. He does not inspire confidence. My husband isn’t much help either. Should I be concerned? And if it was an issue, why didn’t the city building inspector catch this?

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A:

The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau recommends a gap between shakes of no less than 3/8 and no more than 5/8 of an inch. This allows debris to pass and helps them dry. Without proper gaps, your roof life will be diminished, particularly if you have trees providing shade and dropping debris on the roof.

The second part of your question relates to the sidelap of these gaps at abutting “courses”: The sidelap should never be less than 1-½ inches.

Less sidelap leaves the roof vulnerable to leakage because it means water runs down one gap and right into the next. Water should always run onto an intact shake. This is one of the basic tenets of a shingle style roof.

It sounds like you need a substantial portion of the roof redone. Have the builder and the roofing contractor bring the roof to standard. And that may mean a partial or complete new roof.

The roofing contractor may not even be aware of the problem, having only sent employees out to put the roof on the house, so give him the benefit of the doubt to begin with; this type of thing happens quite frequently, unfortunately.

Municipal building inspectors only inspect specific items on any given building (e.g.; foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing). Very few municipalities consider roofing to be one of many components on a building considered “life safety.” So while codes and standards may apply to contractors performing the work, there is no inspection and no meaningful enforcement mechanism.


Q:

I am trying to chase down a leak at my house that is causing excessive water bills. I need to find the original builder to find where the water lines are routed. Any ideas?


A:

If you want to do this online, you can find information on many properties for specific time periods. www.metrokc.gov/gis/mapportal/PViewer_main.htm allows you to enter your address, giving you the assessor’s parcel number.

You can then click in the appropriate spot to find property information, permit activity and so forth. While this may be helpful to some, complete information is not available on all properties, particularly older ones.

Mechanical systems rarely are mapped on residential building plans, and the builder is not likely to know or remember where the lines go. A competent plumber usually can track down a leak inside a home without much problem, so this entire exercise may be moot.

If you have a leaky pipe buried outside, you have an entirely different scenario: Buried pipes will usually deteriorate pretty much evenly, except at joints and fittings, or at damaged areas. So typically if one section is bad, you should replace the entire line.

But if the line is otherwise intact, very long or beneath an area that would be very difficult or expensive to tear up, the cost to pay an electronic leak detection specialist would be well worth it. Before shelling out the bucks, look for wet or soft areas in the yard, swollen floors and water dripping into a crawlspace.

Isolate the leaks by turning off all water inside the home at normal controls, then check the water meter for movement. Next shut off water to the toilets and check the meter. Follow this by shutting the whole-house valve off — if you have one — and again check the meter for movement. Finally, shut off the valve at the meter. When the meter stops spinning, the leak will be between the two most recent valves you just manipulated.

Excessive water bills can be caused by children and excessive sprinkler usage, so don’t discount those possibilities.


Q:

In your Dec. 19 column you mention there is no “public law” requiring replacement of gas equipment that has gotten wet. While focused on the legal aspect, you may have overlooked gas valves. They need to be replaced if soaked, manufacturers say.


A:

Good point. Thank you for writing.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. He answers reader questions. Call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.