Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Homeowner VS. Professional

There is a clear distinction between homeowner and professional home improvement.  Homeowners learn from the web, salespeople, tv shows, commercials and trial and error.  Professionals should learn from mentors, and with time and interaction with other professionals, products and techniques.  While ideally most work should be completed by a professional, there are things a homeowner can do to help keep a building is good working order.  Like a doctor, care is managed by considering the best remedy based on observation and treatment.  And like your body, there are things you can do in between professional visits.  I have always preached observing your building, looking for abnormalities and things that are not quite right.  Small leaks are a sure sign of problems, and when left alone can cause significant costs.  So how does one fix them or buy time without doing more damage?



Flashing is usually the first thing to go, and even worse, the one thing professionals neglect or do wrong.  Flashing should always be installed to outlive the roof.  Standard thin gauge aluminum barely lives beyond a typical 50-year roof.  Copper is best, since it can be soldered and sealed, while others like zinc and stainless are good too, but not as common.  I have seen too often when flashing is not properly tucked under vertical penetrations, like chimneys or dormers.  Speed, a lack of training, and cost prevent roofers from doing the right thing, where they just lay the flashing and caulk it.  While caulk to a good way to lap, rivet and seal turns in metal, it is not meant to seal areas where flashing belongs.  Realize caulk buys time and does not create a long-term solution.  So unless you are shown how to install good flashing, get a real professional to do it.


Metal sheets can be used to resolve leaks.  Sometimes metal sheets can be slipped under a leaking area, like a missing slate or a hole in slate, or even where asphalt roofing is becoming brittle or exposing nails.  It can be held in by friction or where using with asphalt a little tar on the back can hold it in.



Tar is another product misused time after time.  Tar is meant to bond asphalt or a mesh to asphalt but is not meant to seal gaps.  Tar is sold in tubes and cans.  I have seen where tar tries to seal wooden gutters or flashing to a chimney.  Not only is it bad, but also eventually gets very hard and brittle, and is very difficult to remove.  Tar can fill a small hole in asphalt, or when used with a fiberglass mesh, can properly manage a crack in asphalt.  Always be sure substrates are clean and properly prepped.  It should never be used with slate, metal or wood, it just accelerated their failure and makes removal very difficult.


Felt paper

Felt paper has been commercially available since the 1860’s.  There are essentially two grades, 15lb or 30 lb felt, where 15 lb is lighter and a bit more likely to tear.  We still use tarpaper for under wall siding, instead of modern papers, since it stops water and air as good the modern equivalents.  We use 15 lb for the field of walls, and save 30 lb for splines (the vertical paper put behind trim to shed water before siding is applied).  We also have been known to use tarpaper as a water diverter in a pinch, like under exposed asphalt roof nails or seams.  Just fold it and stick it under.



Caulk is designed as seam filler or bonding between to materials, like subfloor to finish floor.  I use it sparingly and where it helps with function rather than creating a problem down the line.  When caulk is functioning it works great, but when it fails, not if, it traps more water than if you had nothing at all.  Really, splines and flashing should do the job alone, while caulk should act as a second defense, not primary.  For example, caulk should not prevent a shower or tub from leaking; just help it from trapping moisture and creating unsightly mildew.  When reapplying caulk, take out as much of the original you can, fill gaps over a 1/8” with backer rod, and finish smooth per directions.  Some non-water soluble caulks can be masked off with tape before application.  Pull the tape when the caulk is still a bit wet.


Know what you are getting

If you cannot afford the best work, understand what you are getting. Is it a quick fix? How long will it last?  Always request details of work, since if you are expecting a good job and get a bad one, it will always cost more than getting the better job from the start.

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