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How Big of a Deal is Your Fire Damaged Roof Framing?

• July 1, 2020

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How big of a deal is your fire damaged roof framing?
Charred wood might be good for a great-tasting bourbon whiskey, but when it comes to the structural elements of your home, age and fire damage don’t quite add the same kind of value. In Louisville, KY there’s many a homeowner with ties to our rich bourbon heritage, and unfortunately many a historical homeowner with fire damage to their home. The worst of the damage has usually been covered and repaired, but we frequently encounter roofs that were not properly addressed.  
It can be scary buying a home, especially one with a lot of age, and previous owners. 

The older a home is, the harder it can be to get accurate information about its’ overall condition and history. In the past year at Roof It Right, LLC, we have had two clients that purchased historical homes with “new” roofs, only to discover major issues a short time after moving in. In many of these historical homes the roof lines are very high, and the slopes are steep. Home inspectors will not usually access them for a proper inspection, and that creates a potential for major issues to go undiscovered. One of these issues is poor roof decking.  

In my post titled Roof Decking is Critical to Performance! I explained why decking is crucial to the overall function and lifespan of a roofing system. Many times in Louisville’s historical homes the roof decking is still original to the structure of the home, and many times it has also been subjected to fire. Homeowners with leaks are often surprised when we explain to them that although the roof shingle they have is new, the roof may not be able to be repaired properly without replacing decking, and sometimes rafters, that have been damaged by fire. Sometimes it requires replacement of the entire roofing system and reinforcement or replacement of the framing.  

When we inspect these homes we see why it is difficult for a homeowner, or home inspector to identify the damage. Frequently there is no access to the attic space to be able to inspect the roof framing and decking, and with the height and pitch of the roof it is dangerous for an inspector to access from the exterior. When homeowners hire a contractor to replace these roofs, more experienced, quality and professional companies know the potential liabilities involved, the difficulty in accessing them, and the possibility for unforeseen costs having to be addressed with the homeowner mid-construction. Armed with that knowledge and experience a business owner that wants to protect their reputation, business, customers and employees will not price the job as competitively. Homeowners are always caught between finding a fair, honest, and quality contractor, and the affordability of that contractor.

Most of the time affordability wins, and quality is often sacrificed. What I mean by that is that many roofing contractors aren’t going to have the difficult conversation with you after they’ve torn off your roof that the job is going to be much more expensive due to all of the decking, sometimes rafters even, needing replaced. Instead, they will place the “new” roof and leave you to deal with a host of issues that arise and are difficult to assess much later. In the case of fire damaged roof decking, the boards become weak and brittle with decreased load capacity, they don’t hold a roof nail securely against thermal expansion and contraction, and they definitely aren’t a solid nail-able surface like the manufacturer’s warranties require. Companies that are certified with the roofing manufacturer are required to follow industry standards no matter how difficult it may be.  

Fire damage is not the only problem that can plague an old roof, but it is certainly one of the most serious. Contact a roofing professional that understands the issues your home may be facing, and that will help you protect your investment from further damage caused by problems from a long time ago.

I’m James Hannon, the assistant general manager at Roof It Right, and I would like to say thank you for checking out our Blog. We are a Louisville, KY based contracting company that specializes in exterior home services and products, insurance claim services, and most importantly… educating our community about what we do!
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