Potato Chips and Roof Replacements

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If you are like most of us, our home is our biggest investment and for this reason, we at Aurum Roofing, believe there is something you should know when it comes time to replace your roof.  There can be structural damages happening that a homeowner, or even a roofing contractor, may not be aware of.


What I’m about to share with you is something you won’t hear anywhere else.  A lot of roofing contractors won’t dare tell you, or simply just don’t know.  So stick around until the end, because I guarantee, you will start to look at your roof in a completely different way.  Let’s go ahead and get started. 


I won’t go into too much detail with what goes into a roof replacement as I’m sure, you, or one of your family members or friends, has had to have a roof replaced.  The process is simple; you start off by calling out a roofing contractor, then they come out, give you a quote and you decide whether or not you want to hire them.  They explain the process in detail.  Things such as; date/time of arrival, a dumpster being parked in your driveway, the crew tearing off your roof, etc.  In most cases, you can have your roof completely installed by the end of the day.  But you may be asking yourself by now, what on earth do “potato chips” have anything to do with roofing?  Well let me explain…


Central Texas recently experienced a devastating hail storm that ripped through here, damaging over 20,000 homes, both new and old.  After this storm hit, many roofing contractors went out to assess “damages” and many were targeting the newer, bigger neighborhoods.  These houses were no older than 5 years and had no hail damage!  Yet, contractors were recommending a full roof replacement.  After a hail storm, if one home has their roof replaced, then more will follow, simply because people believe that hail storms automatically bring damage to their roof.  Yes, a homeowner’s insurance claim typically gets filed and an adjuster approves it, even though a full roof is not needed.  Why does an adjuster approve a claim that is not needed?  Well, it’s because they are also representing the insurance company.  And an insurance adjuster wants to represent their company in the best form, even if it means approving something that is not needed.  But we’re not here to talk about insurance claims or insurance companies.  We’re here to talk about structural damage. 


Every roof has plywood decking.  For those who may not know, plywood decking is the wood floor of the roof.  This is what the roofing shingles are installed on and very rarely (maybe 9 times out of 10 if I am speaking conservatively) does anyone, even a contractor, ever replace the plywood decking when installing a new roof.  The shingles need something firm, a healthy foundation, to hold on to.


“Potato Chips?”, you may be asking by now.  Imagine potato chips as your plywood decking.  Now, imagine, thumbtacks.  Yes,  you heard correctly, thumbtacks, and imagine that being nails.  Now imagine getting a thumbtack and punching a hole through your potato chip.  Do this a few times.  How many thumbtacks do you think it will take to cause your potato chip to break/crack?  Or, if the potato chip doesn’t break, how many thumbtacks do you think it will take to cause the potato chip to become so fragile that it will lose its integrity?  Ok, now imagine that being your plywood decking? 


I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve walked on roofs and the plywood feels like it’s about to shatter!  I am an average weighing adult but even sneezing could produce enough pressure to cause the plywood to collapse!  While I agree that this happens more often on older homes, the amount of times this is now happening on newer homes is astonishing.  Lately, newer homes are beginning to have weak plywood because homeowners believe a full roof replacement is the right thing to do.  And they fail to recognize, at no fault of their own, that Contractors are using the original plywood and simply nailing more and more holes to it, causing it to become fragile.


I’ve worked on countless roofs, gone into many attics and noticed this damage from inside.  The plywood looks more and more like a nail gun test board from a hardware store.  The amount of nails in these plywoods and small wooden chips sprinkled all over the attic floor is frightening!  Next time you replace your roof, try going into your attic.  If you notice wood chips falling on your head or see them throughout the attic floor, this means your plywood has taken a beating.  


An average house lasts approximately 100 years and plywood is one of the things that most of the time stays the course.  It wasn’t a problem before, when metal, tile, slate, or even concrete roofs were being used.  These types of roofs were designed to weather most storms so replacing the plywood wasn’t something that was needed.  Then came asphalt roofs, and these are less likely to stand the test of time, needing to be replaced more frequently.  And everytime new shingles are being placed, guess what happens to the plywood?  It takes the majority of the punishment, causing it to eventually crumble, just like a potato chip.


Now let’s do a little math: Standard dimensions of a sheet of plywood are 4×8 ft.  1 package of shingles typically covers 1 sheet of plywood.  4-6 nails per shingle are used and there are 22 shingles per package.


In this example, we are going to use 5 nails per shingle.  5 (nails) x 22 (shingles) equals 110 (nails) puncturing through that plywood sheet.  That comes out to about 1 nail in every 6 x 6 sq. inch!  This is not to mention any nails already there that are holding down the plywood to the trusses and underlayment.


Now multiply this by the number of times your roof has been replaced.  Let’s say this is the first time you’re replacing it because it is a new home.  Keep in mind that your house came with the original roof, meaning, it already had nails on the plywood.  After your first replacement, that’s already 2 nails per every 6 x 6 sq inch and your house is only 1 to 5 years old.  At this rate your plywood will definitely have premature damages!  And now you may be thinking, 2,3 or even 4 nails per 6 x 6 sq. in. isn’t much?  Think about how much shattering of the plywood goes on around just 1 nail?  It’s safe to say at least 1 square inch around all sides per nail.  That’s a lot wouldn’t you agree?  If you still don’t believe me go into your attic look up and see the shattering for yourself.


Roofing Contractors sometimes get too involved in the business end, rather than actually stepping back and looking at what’s really best for the overall health of the home.  With lumber prices at an all time high, and the instability in its prices, you really have to ask yourself the following.  “Since I’m planning on living here for the long term, will I be able to budget for plywood replacement on my next roof replacement?”  And then, you may be thinking,  “well, that’s why I have insurance.  They’ll cover it.”  Wrong.  Most insurance providers do not cover plywood replacement unless the damages were caused from fire, hurricanes or tornadoes. 


Despite whether you agree or disagree on this topic, this is something that should be considered.  Bring it to your roofing contractor’s and/or insurance adjuster’s attention next time you need a roof replacement.  Ask questions like: 

1.) Is my roof really damaged?  

2.) How does my plywood feel/look?  

3.) Can it wait?  

4.) Do you have photos of the damages (not just a zoomed in area showing only one hit but at least a 5 x 5 ft. area on all sides to help me determine my roof’s severity)? 


These are all logical questions to ask and depending on the contractor, this will help you determine their integrity and honesty.  After all, it is your home and you do get final say on what happens to your investment. 

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