We've always done it that way


When I was a kid, I remember my step-father saying, "They don't build cars like they used to. In the old days, they built them like tanks" as we drove past an accident, and seeing the front of the car crumpled. I said, "Dad, they built cars so they will crumple up and save the people inside from taking the full impact." He didn't get my point, and now that I am nearing 50 years old, my Dad still insists that it was better in the "old days," When a car didn't crumple.

What does that little story have to do with roofing?

I can't tell you the number of times an installer said "that's how I do it" or "We do it this way" after I pointed out something contrary to the specifications. I have to go through the whole spill of what a specification is, that the contract documents say to do it a certain way, and how the manufacturers have spent a lot of time and money figuring out how to do this stuff. Depending on how bad the problem is, I might have to talk about building code and Arizona workmanship standards. I feel the same way I did that day when I was a kid trying to explain to my step-dad how they started manufacturing cars to crumple because they learned that doing that saves lives. We USED to do things a certain way, but we LEARNED that way was not as good as another way, and so we changed our ways. Or we should anyway; it can be pretty frustrating for me trying to convince an installer to do the work correctly. When they have the opinion that their old ways are better, they prefer the TANK that kills people over the crumpled car that saves lives.

Roofing systems and installation methods have changed over the years because we learned better ways. For example, the Chicago fire made us rethink how roofing materials burn, and we made changes. Some materials become harder to get, so we found other materials or ways to make the most of what we had. Hindsight showed us that some methods we thought where right, did not perform as predicted and so we made changes. Live and learn, right?

Hey, I am guilty too. When I was an installer myself, I loved those California valleys. Wham Bam! DONE! I use to do overlays also, putting a layer of 30 years laminated over some old three-tabs seemed perfectly reasonable to me and what a money maker it was, no tear off. But now, having some hindsight, and having inspected hundreds of roofs, I see those things are TERRIBLE ideas. They leak, nails pop up, shingles blow off, the weight is too much, and on and on. Now I never specify a California valley or an overlay. Absolutely not! There is NO situation that I would consider either as a good option.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

Of course not, I practice what I preach. I lived, I did, I learned I changed. Simple as that, anyone can do it.

Don't let your ego or your pride rule your brain; there are reasons manufactures write installation instructions. There are reasons we have minimum standards, building codes, and good practices. And more importantly, there are reasons these things change over time. If you want to be a good roofer, stay in the know. Attend any training you can, read the manufacturer's instructions, and do what they say. If you can do that, you will be a better roofer and wiser person.

Henry Staggs 

Roof Consultant and Industry Advocate


(480) 265-1613