Roof Safety For Homeowners

Roof Safety For Homeowners

Should You Leave it To Roofing Professionals

If you are asking yourself this question, then the answer is probably yes. It may seem like an easy thing to walk on a roof, but if you are not experienced with negotiating different pitches, and if there is any question at all about the roof’s ability to handle the weight you are adding, do not attempt to climb on your own roof.

Slipped Shingles

Shingles that have slipped out of place or those that are loose will always pose a threat to your safety while on the roof. It is very easy to step on a loose shingle that will take your feet out from under you increasing the chance that you will slide off the roof. The older your roof is, the riskier it becomes.

Rotten Decking:

If your home has a roof leak that you see inside, your roof decking is already being damaged. As shingles are installed, the nails penetrate the wood. If water is added to that mix, the decking can deteriorate from the inside out. This leads to weak spots that can literally collapse as you step on them, causing a risk of falling, even death. Trained roofers know how to walk on a roof, testing their steps before they take them to ensure that the roof can handle the weight they are about to place on it

Steep Roofing:

It takes special training to walk or negotiate steep roof planes and it is never a good idea for anyone without this training to attempt to walk on a steep roof. The fall risk is simply not worth anything you need to accomplish, and this should only be left to trained professionals.

Siding installation tips

1. Keys to a successful vinyl siding installation job.

Allowing for Expansion and Contraction

Vinyl siding contracts and expands as the outside temperature changes. To avoid structural or aesthetic problems associated with temperature fluctuation, take the following steps:

  • Apply nails or other fasteners in the center of the nailing slot and make sure the fastener penetrates a minimum of 1 1/4″ (32mm) into nailable material, such as wood sheathing and framing. Make sure installed panels and accessories move freely from side to side.
  • Do not drive the head of the nail tightly against the siding nailing hem. Allow approximately 1/32″ (0.8mm) clearance (about the thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the siding panel. Drive nails straight.
  • Leave a minimum of 1/4” (6.4mm) clearance at all openings and stops. When installing in temperatures below 40 degrees F, increase minimum clearance to 3/8″ (9.5mm).
  • Do not face nail or staple through siding except for one nail needed to finish at the top of a gable.

For more information, refer to page 16 of the VSI Vinyl Siding Installation Manual.

Keeping Siding Straight and Level

Keep in mind, siding is only as straight and stable as what lies under it. Below are some issues to address before you start installation:

  • In residing, strapping, or removal of uneven original siding may be necessary.
  • In new construction, avoid the use of green lumber as the underlayment.
  • When installing a siding panel, push up lightly along the bottom until the lock is fully engaged with the piece below it for the full length of the panel.
  • Throughout installation, check the panels’ horizontal alignment every few rows to make sure the siding is hanging straight and level on the wall. Also check for panel alignment around corner posts and above doors and windows.

2. How to prepare the wall structure.

Your main goal in preparing the walls of the structure is to ensure a flat, even surface. On any project, remember to install code-compliant flashing before starting to apply siding.

New Construction

As stated in the VSI Vinyl Siding Installation Manual, before you begin installing vinyl siding in a new construction project:

  • Apply a water-resistive barrier, such as house wrap or felt paper.
  • Check local building codes for additional requirements.
  • Place drywall inside the house, on the floor of the room where it’s going to be applied, to allow for floor-plate compression, which, if not addressed, can result in buckled siding where the floor meets the wall.

3. Tips for fastening vinyl siding to a wall.

Choose aluminum, galvanized steel, or other corrosion-resistant nails, staples, or screws. Aluminum trim pieces require aluminum or stainless steel fasteners. Remember that as temperatures change, vinyl siding can expand and contract 1/2” (12.7mm) or more over a 12’6″ (3.81m) length.

Nails: Diameter

  • Heads should be 5/16″ (7.9mm) minimum in diameter.
  • Shank should be 1/8″ (3.2mm) in diameter.

Nails: Length

  • 1 ½” (38.1mm) for general use.
  • 2″ (50.8mm) for residing.
  • 2 ½” (63.5mm) minimum for going through siding with backerboard.
  • 1″ to 1 ½” (25.4mm to 38.1mm) for trim.

Screw Fasteners

  • Can be used if the screws do not restrict the normal expansion and contraction movement of the panel on the wall.
  • Screws should be size #8, truss head or pan head, corrosion-resistant, self-tapping sheet metal screws.


  • Not less than 16-gauge semi-flattened to an elliptical cross-section.
  • 1″ (25.4mm) minimum in length and wide enough to allow free movement of the siding (approximately 1/32″ [0.8mm] above and below the nailing hem).

Fastening Procedure

No matter what fastener you choose, follow the basic fastening steps listed below:

  • Make sure the fastener penetrates a minimum of 3/4″ (19mm) into a framing stud or furring.
  • Ensure panels are fully locked along the length of the bottom, but don’t force them up tight or stretch the panels upward before nailing.
  • Do not drive the head of the fastener tightly against the siding nail hem; instead leave a minimum of approximately 1/32″ (0.8mm) clearance (the thickness of a dime) between the fastener head and the vinyl siding to prevent panel buckling as temperatures change.
  • Start fastening in the center of the panel and work toward the ends.
  • Center the fasteners in the slots to allow for expansion and contraction. (Start fastening vertical siding and corner posts in the top of the uppermost slots to hold them in position. Place all other fasteners in the center of the slots.)
  • Drive fasteners straight and level to prevent panel distortion and buckling.
  • Space fasteners a maximum of 16″ (406.6mm) apart for the horizontal siding panels, every 12″ (305mm) for vertical siding panels, and every 8″ to 12″ (203mm to 305mm) for accessories unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer.
  • If a nail slot does not allow centering/securing into a nailable surface, use a nail hole slot punch to extend the slot and allow centering of the fastener.

4. How to replace a damaged panel.

To remove a panel for any reason, follow the steps below:

  • Slip a zip lock or unlocking tool behind the bottom lock of the panel above the one to be replaced and unzip it from the lock on the damaged panel.
  • Gently bend out upper panel. Take the nails out of the damaged panel and remove it.
  • Lock on the new panel and nail it up.
  • Use the unlocking tool again to zip the upper panel over the lock on the new panel.




For every home, there are two incredibly large aspects of the infrastructure that the rest of the house relies on to remain stable, safe, and comfortably self-contained. The first is the foundation, the concrete slab the house sits on, and the second is your roof. Roof installations are generally rated for one to three decades before the roof will need to be completely reinstalled with fresh asphalt composite shingles but it will only make it that long if homeowners take the time and effort to keep the roof in good condition during the intervening decades.

Roofs are not as sturdy and impervious as we think they are. In fact, your roof takes a small amount of damage every day and likely a moderate amount of damage every time the wind really gets to blowing. Shingles can be cracked in an impact, peeled up by the wind, or become soft and mushy if left under a pile of damp leaves for a few weeks. While it does require a professional to do a full roof inspection and to perform most repairs, you can significantly increase the health of your roof with a few safe and easy maintenance tips throughout the year.


The first thing you can do, whether or not you do it personally, is to trim any nearby tree branches back away from your roof. A big shady tree in your yard is a good thing. It makes the yard more welcoming, holds your soil together, and reduces your power bill in the summer by keeping the sun from over-warming your house. However, if one of those enormous branches should be blown loose in a storm, hitting your roof could cause some incredible damage and possibly require an entirely new roof installation. Make sure no branches are hanging directly over the roof and not even little branches are touching the top of the roof or gutter.


Roof health and gutter maintenance are so closely linked that it’s impossible to talk about one without the other. Most people clean their gutters once a year and this is better than nothing, but you may have noticed with this tradition that your gutters get pretty impressively full. When your gutters fill up, water does not flow cleanly through them and into the downspouts, Instead, it can pool up, soak through the leaves to induce rot and fungus, and can even clog the gutters so that water flows over the edge onto both the roof and the side of your house.

To keep everything in good working order, clean your gutters regularly. We recommend once every 3-6 months and possibly twice during the fall itself when they fill up the fastest.


Downspouts can also fill up with leaves, dirt, and other debris that can get in the way and clog them up. Unfortunately, the downspout is a key part of your roof water management system and you need that rainwater to flow harmlessly into the concrete ‘catch’ prepared for exactly this purpose. If your downspout is clogged and you can’t shake it loose with a little knocking, a plumber’s snake is the recommended tool for the job. If you don’t have a plumber’s snake, try a broom handle from the top or hooking and pulling debris out from the bottom.


Any time you see a pile of something on your roof, this is a bad sign. While often these piles will break themselves up and move on in a day or two, anything that allows damp to sit in a protected area on your roof can lead to rapid shingle decay commonly known as “mushy spots”. When this happens, the trapped moisture essentially begins to melt the shingles and can even lead to greater underlying problems like rot in the underlayment and support beams.

Fortunately, the fix is surprisingly easy. All you need is a roof broom, which is like a large push-broom with an extending handle From the ground or the top of a securely placed ladder, simply scrape off any piled leaves, snow, or debris from your roof before it can cause problems.


If you have been in the habit of letting your gutters fill to overflowing before cleaning them, you might not realize that additional damage is being done beyond the impediment of rainwater management. Gutters that get full of wet leaves and standing water also become unusually heavy and can start to pull away from the roof which can damage both the gutters and the roof itself. Check to make sure that your gutters are securely attached to the side of the roof about once a year.


Sometimes things will start to grow on your roof even if you’re careful about snow and leave piles. If you see bright, pale, or bluish green splotches on your roof, these are either moss or algae that have found a moist valley on your roof to live on. While the algae or moss can do damage in their own right, they are usually a sign that there was already roof trouble that will need to be repaired.


You may not be comfortable with performing your own roof repairs or able to do a complete structural inspection, but just putting your eyes on your roof every now and then is a very good idea. Once every three months, or whenever you feel there might have been recent storm damage, climb up and take a look at the state of your roof. You don’t even have to get up on the surface to get a lot of information. If you see clearly damaged or separating shingles or flashing that has rusted or pulled away from its surfaces, you will need a repair service in the near future. If your roof looks alright from your perspective, it should be safe to stick to your normal inspection schedule.


If you don’t feel like cleaning your gutters frequently (and few people do), another solution is a handy one-time installation of gutter and drainspout covers. Gutter covers are essentially a slotted shelf panels that fit over your gutters to let water through but keep leaves, sticks, and squirrels out. Downspout covers are more like dome-grates and fit over the opening to the downspout to perform the same function.


An important step in any roof inspection is actually taking a look at the inside of the attic. When doing your own roof maintenance between professional visits, don’t forget to keep an eye on your attic as well. Light coming through where it should be solid or signs of leaks and dampness will be indications that your roof will need service soon.


Finally, amateur roof inspections and homeowner maintenance are a great way to extend the life of your roof and make sure that repairs are called for when clearly needed, but there are also several aspects about roof care that require the attention, tools, and skills of professional roofers. Be sure to call for a roof inspection once every 6-12 months, after major storms, or if you see visible signs of damage.

Exterior Painting Tips and Techniques

Exterior Painting Tips and Techniques

Paint faster and better using these brushing, rolling and cutting-in techniques

A good exterior painting job will extend the life of your siding and trim and increase the value of your house. Learn the best techniques for applying paint quickly and thoroughly.

Exterior House Paint Overview

Top-quality brush

Investing in good equipment pays off in faster, better quality work.

Painting the exterior of your house is a huge job. But the rewards are great too. With a minimum investment in tools and materials, you’ll save thousands of dollars, extend the life of your siding and trim and increase the value of your home. Best of all, you’ll make it look like new again.

While you may spend a substantial amount on tools and paint, the same job done by a pro could easily cost many times more. The savings come at a cost, though. A good paint job requires countless hours of careful preparation. Plan to devote an entire summer to prepare and paint even a medium-size house.

In this article, we’ll show you how to apply the final coats of paint (we used acrylic latex) for a durable, professional-looking finish. Preparation is a separate topic covered in other articles.

Completing a top-quality exterior paint job requires more than patience and perseverance. You’ll need a sharp eye, a steady hand and a bit of practice to paint crisp, straight lines. In addition, you’ll need the strength to move and set up tall ladders, and the confidence to work from them once they’re in place.

Key Exterior House Painting Techniques

If you can master these three exterior house painting techniques, you can do a pro-quality painting job.

Buy high-quality painting tools

Applying topcoats (the final coats of paint) doesn’t require much equipment beyond what you’ve already accumulated for scraping and priming. We recommend buying at least two top-quality synthetic-bristle brushes for applying the latex paint: one 4-in. straight-bristled brush for large areas and a 1-1/2-in. angled sash brush for detail work.

For applying paint to large areas of shingles, stucco or brick, buy a roller setup consisting of a heavy-duty roller cage (this is the handle part); top-quality 1/2-in. nap roller covers, one for each color (you’ll wash and reuse them); and a roller screen (Photo 4). Standard 9-in. rollers are good for large, flat areas. Buy the 7-in. size for rolling siding and other narrow areas if your house has them. You’ll also need a few clean 1-gallon paint cans and a clean 5-gallon bucket. Having a boom box on hand could just save your mind while painting a house.

3-step brush technique

Photo 1: Load the brush

Load the brush by dipping about 2 in. of the bristles into the paint. Slap the brush back and forth once against the sides of the can to remove excess paint. Paint from a bucket with 2 or 3 in. of paint in the bottom rather than a full can of paint.

Paint stores can help with colors and quantities

Choosing exterior paint colors that complement the architectural details of your house and fit the character of your neighborhood is the first step to a great paint job. Check out bookstores and libraries for books on the subject. You’ll find brochures at the paint store with collections of historic colors. Many paint stores have designers on staff who can help you choose colors, or you could hire a designer or architect.

Buy a quart of each color you’ve chosen and paint the entire color scheme on a small area of your house before committing to gallons. If you don’t like the results, change the colors and try again.

Next take rough measurements of your house, noting the type of surface, for example, stucco, cedar shingles or smooth siding. Count the doors and windows. With this information, paint store employees can help you calculate the amount of paint you’ll need. Plan on applying two coats of acrylic latex paint over the primer.

Buy the best paint you can afford. Good-quality paint is easier to apply, covers better and lasts longer. We recommend buying paint with a slight sheen, either satin or eggshell. It’s more fade resistant and easier to clean than flat paint.

Roller technique

Photo 4: Load the roller

Pour about a gallon of paint into a clean 5-gallon bucket and hang a roller screen into the bucket. Load the roller, rolling it against the screen until the roller nap is saturated and the excess paint is squeezed out.

Check the weather

  • Avoid painting in direct sunlight. The heat dries the paint too fast, making it nearly impossible to avoid lap marks. It can even cause blistering and peeling.
  • Avoid painting on very windy days. The wind causes the paint to dry too fast and can blow dirt into wet paint.
  • Don’t apply latex paint when the temperature is below 50 degrees F unless it’s formulated for cold weather application. Read the label to be sure.
  • Don’t paint when there’s a chance of rain.

Avoid These Common Problems

Lap marks show up as darker areas and are caused by painting over dried paint—in essence, adding another coat. To avoid lap marks, work quickly and paint in sections small enough so the previously painted area stays wet until you can brush the newly applied paint into it. If you do end up with lap marks in the first coat, the second coat will probably cover them.

Brush marks left at the beginning and end of a brush stroke are a common problem that’s easy to avoid. Start every brush stroke in an unfinished area, at an edge, or against door or window trim. Then brush toward the finished area and sweep the brush up and off the work in the same movement. If you stop the brush and then lift it off or set the brush down on a finished area to start the stroke, it will leave extra paint, which shows up as a brush mark or darker spot.

Drips, runs and sags are best avoided by constant vigilance. Check back on your work as you go, paying special attention to inside corners and edges where paint is likely to build up and run. If the paint hasn’t begun to dry, brush out the run. Otherwise, allow the run to dry completely. Then sand it off with 100-grit paper and touch up the spot with fresh paint.

Cutting-in Exterior House Painting TechniquesPhoto 7: Cut in at the corner

Load the brush and wiggle the tip of the brush carefully into the inside corner. Then pull it out and along one edge for about 4 in.

Plan a strategy for the most efficiency

In general, work from the top down. Paint large areas first and details last. Where two colors meet, allow time for the first color to dry before returning to apply the second color. For example, paint the window sash (the movable part) early in the day and return to paint the frame around the sash.

Paint like a pro with these techniques

You can improve your painting skills by understanding the strategy pros use. They break down the painting process into two steps.

The goal of the first step, called “laying on” the paint, is to get the paint onto the surface in the quickest, most efficient way possible. Don’t worry about smoothing it out yet (Photo 2). Use a brush, roller or sprayer for this step and apply enough paint to cover the surface without creating runs. Cover an area just large enough to allow you to go back and smooth it before the paint starts to dry. Since heat, humidity and the type of paint you’re using all influence drying time, you’ll have to experiment as you start to paint to get a feel for how large an area you can safely cover before returning to smooth it out. The most common mistake beginning painters make is spending too much time and effort laying on the paint. A few quick strokes is all that’s needed. Then reload the brush and cover the next area.

Once you’ve got a small area covered, you’re ready for step two, laying off the paint (Photo 3). First use your brush to spread the paint evenly over the surface and then finish up with long, continuous brush strokes. The goal is to completely cover (but not necessarily hide) the previous layer of paint or primer with a smooth, even layer of paint. This step must be done immediately after the paint is laid on and before the paint starts to dry.

You may be wondering how to tell if you’re applying enough paint. Unfortunately, there’s no exact formula. In general, you’ll have better success applying two thin coats than struggling to cover the primer with one thick coat of paint. Thin coats dry more thoroughly and don’t cause problems like runs, sags and paint buildup that are associated with heavy layers of paint. Your goal is to get enough paint on the surface to allow the brush to glide smoothly, but not leave so much that it forms runs or sags.

Door-painting technique

Photo 10: Paint door panels first

Spread paint on the panels first, working it into the corners. Smooth the paint with long strokes in the direction of the wood grain.

Paint into a wet edge

Maintaining a wet edge is one of the most important techniques in painting (Photo 3). Simply put, always try to brush or roll back into paint that’s still wet. The result will be a uniform, seamless-looking coat of paint. The larger the area you’re painting, the more difficult this task becomes. Use natural breaks like door and window casings or courses of siding to divide large areas into manageable chunks. Then complete each section without stopping. Paint three or four courses of siding from one end to the other, for example. Then move down to the next four courses and repeat the process.

Timesaving tips

Photo 12: Use the siding color on casing edges

Paint the edges of window and door casings the same color as the siding. It looks great from the street and will save you tons of time.

  • Hold the paint can close to the surface you’re painting to reduce arm movement and minimize dripping (Photo 2).
  • Learn to paint with either hand, especially when you’re working from a ladder. It doubles your reach.
  • Paint doors and windows early in the day so you can close them at night.
  • When you’re done painting, write the date, location and formula or name of each paint color on the lid. Then store the paint where it won’t freeze.

Cutting in takes practice

Finished painting project

Attention to details pays off in an attractive painting job that will last for years.

Painting a straight line, also called cutting in a line, is another painting technique worth mastering (Photos 7 – 9). Begin by removing excess paint from the brush either by laying it off onto the piece you’re painting or by wiping it on the edge of the can. Then, holding the brush like a pencil with the bristles edgewise (Photo 8), draw down along the line. If too much paint begins to build up under the bristles, threatening to spill across the line, sweep the brush away from the line. Then go back up to the top of the stroke and draw down again, moving the paint closer to the line. Continue this process until you’ve cut in the entire line.

If you’ve taken the time to properly clean and prepare the surfaces and have carefully primed, caulked and painted using top-quality materials, your paint job should last at least 10 years. According to painting pros we talked to, annual maintenance is the best way to extend the life of your paint job and protect the structure. Inspect your house every year. Use binoculars if you have to. Then scrape, sand, prime, caulk and touch up any areas where paint is peeling or cracking. The new paint may not match exactly, but at least you’ll prevent further damage and push off that major paint job several extra years.

Required Tools for this Exterior House Painting Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Extension ladder
  • Paint roller
  • Paint tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Roller sleeve

Painter’s tape

You should also have a roller screen and a ladder stabilizer.

Required Materials for this Exterior Painting Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Extra 1 and 5 gallon buckets
  • Paint