The Wolf's Corner


A few days before Valentine's Day, I noticed a roof in my very own neighborhood. This roof had uncharacteristically had shingles blow off. Uncharacteristic because the shingles were laminated shingles, which don't often blow off.

The significance of this chance discovery was that rain was headed our way in just a few hours - a LOT of rain!

So, unsolicited, I offered to tarp the roof and help ensure no water damage would occur. I wasn't worried about being paid to help as much as I wanted to help my neighbor and protect their home.

These are the moments that make me proud to be a roofer!

The Wolf's Corner

Roof Maintenance

We have all heard stories about someone who ignored the check engine light in their car.  The engine ran out of oil, locked up, and had to be replaced.  All it needed was some oil, a little maintenance, and the engine can go for 150,000 miles or longer.  Instead, they got stuck with buying a new engine long before they should have. 


  Unfortunately, our homes don’t come with a check roof light.  Most of us ignore our roofs until water starts coming into the house.  At this point, the proverbial engine is smoking!  We wonder why our 30-year roof only lasts 15 years.  The reality is, like our cars, our roofs just need a little maintenance and they can last as long as 50 years! (GAF roofs post-2008 have 50-year warranties when installed by factory-certified installers).


  So what’s the catch?  How do you maintain the roof?  How much money do we have to spend every year to avoid spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary repairs or tens of thousands on a new roof?


  Shingles themselves don’t require maintenance, but every roof has exposed fasteners from ridge shingles, attic vents, pipe jacks, metal flashings, etc.  90% of leaks stem from one of these exposed nails backing out of the wood and opening a hole in an otherwise perfect roof.  More often times than not, these leaks aren’t discovered until they have also rotted the decking beneath the shingles, requiring extensive repairs for a problem that could have been easily prevented.


  An easy preventive maintenance solution you can employ is to check for these exposed or receding nails every five years.  If they have backed out of the vent or flashing, replace them with a roofing screw.  A roofing screw works just like a regular screw, except it has a little rubber gasket at the top to create a seal. You can pick up a small box of these at Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $15. It is important not to just try hitting the nail back in or replacing the nail - the plywood has already allowed the nail to back out once... the same hole won’t hold a new nail without backing out again. 


  Once you have replaced any receding nails with roofing screws, it’s then time to get out your caulk gun. With some roofing sealant and a caulk gun ($20 total at your local hardware store), you can quickly seal all of the fasteners on the entire roof. Anywhere you see a nail, put a small dollop of caulk on it; It’s that simple. This helps prevent rust and subsequently water intrusion.  So, for less than $50 and a couple of hours of your time every five years, you can make sure your roof actually lasts thirty to fifty years!  For another $12, you can even spray paint the vents and protrusions to give that roof a stylish new appearance.


  So when do you need to consult with a professional?  If a nail has backed out of a shingle, then the shingle needs to be replaced.  If you see tree damage, missing shingles, feel a soft spot in the decking, or see damage on your vents/pipe jacks, then it’s probably worth it to consult with a professional (or if ladders or heights just aren’t your thing!). However, for all you DIYers out there, don’t be intimidated by your roof. You can do it!


  As always, stay safe out there!

House, M.D.

 “It was a dark and stormy night”… wait, no, that’s not right.  “It was the best of times, it was”… no, no, no.  Man, these things are hard to write!  “I see dead pe…,” wait, nooooo, I see patterns!  That’s it!  I see patterns where others look for holes in your roof. 


  Leaks suck, and every leak lies.  Left unchecked, they can do untold damage to the wood, drywall, even flooring.  It’s nice when leaks are big giant holes that I can point to - “There it is!”  More often than not, though, leaks are sneaky and hard to pinpoint. 


  We all blame leaks on the roof, and often times, the roof is to blame. But the hardest leaks to find are often “system leaks.” These pesky intrusions are some combination of contributing factors that allow water to sneak past a carefully designed, properly installed, and sometimes even well maintained roofing system.


  Chimneys often leak because they are very rarely well maintained.  Out of sight, out of mind! Stucco cracks, gaps in siding & trim, mortar gaps in brick or stone - all allow water into the house. Some evil builders even skipped the sheathing & underlayment behind the siding, so the smallest gap can send catastrophic amounts of water into the house. 


  Do you have a second story roof that empties onto your first story roof?  Are you missing gutters on that second story?  Tons and tons of builders and gutter installers skip this absolutely necessary spot because they know you don’t know what they know… those gutters can be the most important gutters on your house!  But, of course, it is much cheaper to skip that section.  


  So what happens without those gutters?Waterfalls!  Water falling shakes the roof and loosens nails, and eventually waterfalls can even carve their way through stone.  What chance does your poor plywood roof decking have?Maybe you even have a vent on the first story, and water is coming off that second story roof and splashing past the vent flashing.  Roof systems aren’t designed for water streaming from on high… or even from a downspout that empties straight onto the roof. 


  So why am I revealing the secrets of my success?  Why help the poor untrained roofing salesperson that has been kicked out of the nest with only the most basic understanding of a roof system?  Because leaks suck, and I can’t fight the battle alone.  I am happy to help folks find leaks, but I dream of a world with properly and completely installed gutter systems, well maintained chimneys, and well engineered roof systems.  

To Gutter or Not To Gutter

“Does my house need gutters?”  I hear this question all the time.  Or, I am asked to “only quote the parts of the house that need gutters.”  That’s like asking if your fireplace needs a chimney.  I mean, I guess you could have one without the other... but it’s probably not the best idea!

  Gutters aren’t just there to keep you from walking through a sheet of water on your way in and out of the house.  Gutters are on virtually every house in the United States outside of Texas and the Great Plains.  You know, where it actually rains regularly.  



  In Central Texas, builders get away with making gutters an “option” because people forget it will rain again one day.  And when it rains, boy does it rain a lot!  It’s all or nothing around these parts! Did you know Austin, Texas actually gets more rainfall annually than London+, England? Go ahead...look it up!



  So why do houses need gutters anyway?  When installed properly, gutters protect both your home and your yard.  They protect the facia, trim, stucco, siding, stone, and even your foundation.  They also prevent soil erosion. 



  By design, a gutter’s most important function is to channel the water from your roof away from your foundation.  For those who think a foundation is this rock solid, super thick, strong block of concrete under your most valuable asset... think again!  Your foundation is a shell of concrete around sand.  You’d like to believe it is a jawbreaker, when in reality it is more like a Tootsie Pop. 



  So how do we protect our vulnerable foundations and subsequently avoid tens of thousands of dollars in damages?  First and foremost, we have to move the water that cascades off our roof at least six feet away from the foundation.  Both gutters and proper grading enable us to achieve this. We need gutters to collect the water and properly placed downspouts to drain it away from the house, ideally downhill and away from the home.



  Gutters also protect the home itself from water damage.  Direct rain will do what it does, but sheets of concentrated water streaming off the roof in a specific area can literally create the Grand Canyon. 

Encanto in Review

  Movies are absolutely amazing. They begin as screenplays that tell a specific story.  Then, a production company gets ahold of it and creates the story they want to tell. Then, the director comes in and tells the story his or her way.  Finally, we, the audience, consume the movie, and it may mean something totally different to each one of us.


  Case in point?  Encanto.  What a great movie!  I couldnt wait to talk about it with my family as soon as it was over.  I so identified with Mirabel, the amazing protagonist who only wants to save Casita, but no one listens to her!


  I start going on and on about this amazing storyline, that is obviously an effort to validate those of us in the home restoration business.  I am imagining that the writers parents must have been carpenters or roofers or painters.  And why is everyone looking at me like that?  Honey?  Kids?  What amazing music do you speak of?  What was so funny in the movie?


  Come on, lets review the facts here!  Mirabel sees the family home, Casita, falling apart, and tries to tell Abuela.  Abuela dismisses herIs it because she doesnt believe Mirabel? Nope!  It’s because Abuela is scared that it might be true! Abuela doesnt think about what catastrophe may come if she ignores Mirabel; she just wants everyone in the community to keep believing that Casita is in perfect shape and to maintain the illusion that the magic of Casita will endure forever.


  But it wont, will it?  Not if we ignore Michaeler, Mirabel. We all love our own little Casitas, and we absolutely want to believe that they will last forever.  Lets be honest, we all have a little Abuela in us too.  Bruno represents our visual recognition of what is wrong with our Casita be it cracks in the stone, wood rotting, or cracks in the stucco.  And if someone in the house brings up the dripping gutter?  We dont talk about Bruno!


  The reality is that we cant ignore Bruno just because it is bad news.  We cant disregard Mirabel just because she points out what is wrong and how to fix it.  As a matter of fact, we should all seek out our own Mirabel a restoration expert to inspect our Casita to ensure there are no issues with the exterior envelope of the home that may lead to much larger problems down the road.  Better the devil you know than the devil you dont!


  And finally, thank you to the amazing writers, producers, directors, songwriters, cast, and crew who all collaborated to make this amazing ode to restoration that people of all ages love and learn all about how to take care of their homes! 

Stucco – It’s a Thin Layer Between Love & Hate

  Stucco has been around for literally thousands of years.  There are amazing applications of it in Ancient Greek and Roman architecture.  It Is a fantastic solution for a fiscally motivated builder.  It is also one of the most commonly misused, misapplied, misdesigned (yup, that’s a word), and mismaintained* systems in the universe.[1]


  Congratulations, you have stucco on your home in Austin, Texas![2]  Fun fact about stucco – it is permeable.  No, not permissible… permeable.  As in, it… lets… water… through.  Installed properly, stucco exteriors are built using a multi-layer technique with multiple waterproofing layers, metal lath, and a minimum of three layers of stucco.  It is then painted with an elastomeric[3] exterior paint.  There is a layer that allows water to escape, and flashing at the bottom of the system helps the water escape completely.


  Shew, now that we got the dry stuff[4] out of the way let’s talk about what really happens with stucco!  Most builders do not take all of the steps necessary to make stucco systems entirely waterproof.  As a general rule of thumb, stucco is not a good choice for homes built in humid areas.[5]  Significant damage can occur under the surface when water gets trapped behind stucco.



  So what do we [largely] depend on to protect our homes from water damage?  A layer of elastomeric paint.  Wait, what?  Yup, probably one single coat of paint is what keeps the wood from rotting, the drywall from crumbling, and often mold from growing.  Without proper maintenance, stucco can be the death of our savings accounts!



  So, how do we keep water damage from sneaking past a likely improperly installed [but no question likely beautiful] stucco system?  You have to be proactive and inspect your stucco regularly.  Can’t see some of those high walls or chimneys?  Then call an expert in stucco to inspect it regularly for you.  Not a fan of stalking?[6]  Then make absolutely, positively sure that your stucco is painted at least every 10 years by a stucco professional.  Painters are sweet, amazing, wonderful people… who are not trained in stucco and may not properly patch, repair, seal, and paint stucco to ensure the system is as durable and long-lasting as possible.


* Ok, I made this one up

[1] This phrase is legally defined as a Marketing Term by the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014

[2] Congratulations, of course, meaning congratulations on having a multimillion-dollar umbrella policy!

[3] Elastomeric is a fancy term for “stretchy”

[4] My wife expressed her very strong desire to NOT include this pun… but I used my one veto because I loved it so much!

[5] Don’t think Austin is humid?  Guess you are a native Austinite who compares us to Houston… because anyone from California will KNOW Austin is humid!

[6] Ok, last one… this author, this publication, and this community does not support stalking (except when stalking pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.  Totally valid application!