Roof (Attic) Vents - Fastening/Nailing/Stapling in the Field/Flange - Proper/Improper and Ramifications - One Roof - 7 Years Old

By
Home Inspector with NICKELSEN HOME INSPECTIONS - Vancouver WA Home Inspector

I am regularly finding roof vents installed improperly.  In this area, I would say that at least 80-90% of them are installed improperly by nailing or stapling them in the flange/field, even though there are clearly pilot holes/key holes that are made for this and even though most of the vents clearly say not to do this right on them.  

This is how it should be properly installed: 

This is how they should not be installed: 

This is what can happen if they are not installed properly: 

This is a good example of a roof vent properly installed lasting 20 years:

This is a good example of the evolution in roof vent installation practices from a 23 year old roof:

This is a good example of roof vents on a brand new roof that are not properly installed:

Why would some be installed properly and some installed improperly on the same roof?  Likely, in this case, you had different people installing them and there was little to no oversight.  On this particular roof only 1 out of the 12 roof vents were installed properly.  3 of the vents were cracked and one was cracked significantly.  The roof was 7 years old at the time of the inspection.

Common Questions and/or Objections:

- "I contacted the local Code Enforcement Office/Official and they said that the home inspector [you] were wrong and that there is no Code saying that the vent flanges/fields can't be stapled or fastened".

Answer:  First, home inspections are not code inspections and the home inspector does not need to know or cite Code.  Second, Code is a minimum standard: to "be code" it means "if you did less than X it would be illegal".  As such, an installer can certainly do more than "Code" and I would hope that most people want homes that are more than "Code"--i.e., more than meeting "minimum standards".  Third, Code looks at new applications: new homes, new additions, new wiring, etc.  The home inspector sees things "as they last".  We inspect old installations and new, old houses and new, etc.  The public wouldn't want home inspectors to be limited to Code because there would be a lot of problems that home inspectors bring out that they wouldn't if they were simply citing "Code".  For example: it may have been Code at one time that a crawl space doesn't need insulation, though you as a consumer may want to know whether the crawl space is insulated or not, etc. If the home inspector was limited to citing code then they wouldn't tell you if insulation was missing on a 1975, 1200sf ranch home.  Sure... missing insulation in a house of that nature isn't that big of a deal, but you would like to know that.  Fourth, the home inspector (and especially experienced ones who have see thousands and thousands of homes) sees how things LAST--how they hold up over time.  It is *quite common* for roof vents to crack when they are fastened in the field/flange, and we probably see it at least once a week.  Fifth, it usually says right on the vent (most vents) that they are not to be fastened in the field/flange.  Where Code is silent, manufacturer installation trumps.  Further, where Code (minimum standard) isn't silent, manufactuer installation usually trumps if it is more than Code (in other words, Code defers to manufacturer specifications quite often).  So, the objection is null and void.

- "You inspectors... always making a mountain out of a mole hill."

Answer: Really?  First, when I bring up things like this I am simply communicating information.  "Your vents are stapled in the field, which is an improper installation, but I don't see any cracked so you should monitor it at a minimum".  That is a very common note that I would put into a report, or information that I would supply to a consumer.  I don't really think that is an unreasonable statement.  Another: "Your vents are cracked at many areas, because they were improperly installed by fastening in the field/flange".  Again, that is a perfectly valid and reasonable statement: they are cracked and this is why.  Another: "Your vents are cracked and leaking, because they were improperly installed by fastening in the field/flange".  Again, a fine assessment.  As a retort, I would say, "You _______ (people): always brushing with broad strokes and pigeonholing inspectors into one single group of unreasonable swine". :-)

- "I contacted the roofer who just installed that roof and he says that you don't know what you are talking about."

Answer: very good... contact the person who installed it and has an invested interest in telling you that he installed it correctly.  Always a good source of information, right?  No.  The roofer installs new roofs.  That is their specialization.  The inspector's job is to see roofs... lots and lots of roofs... and to see how the roofer's installation holds up over time.  We see cracking roof vents because the roofer stapled/nailed the roof vent in the field.  So, that is what occurs over time and it is quite common.  Further, the roof vent will usually say not to nail or staple in the field/flange.  So, who knows what they are talking about?

- "The seller and seller's agent aren't going to do anything about it because the vents are not actually damaged or cracking."

Answer: well, that is their perogative.  Remember, it is their house and you can only ask them to fix, repair or maintan things.  They are perfectly entitled to tell you no.  

- "Well this is fine and dandy, but how much does it cost to replace a roof vent or add a new roof vent and install it properly?"

Answer: Well, I don't want to speak for roofers who may have justifcations for pricing their work in various ways that I can not account for.  However, I can say that I know one roofing company that will install NEW roof vents where ones are not present (meaning, they have to cut through the roof to install one) and they charge around $40 per vent (installed properly!).  Now, that is likely a reduced fee that assumes they are at the home for other reasons as well.  You would have to ask a roofer to get a good answer.  

 

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Justin Nickelsen, CMI

Nickelsen Home Inspections, LLC

"A Conduit for Educated Real Estate Transactions"

Serving Oregon and Washington From the Mountains to the Coast

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  • Specializations: Electronic Radon Measurement, Early 20th Century Properties, Early 1990's Properties, New Construction, Log Homes, Structural Pest Inspections (Termites/Carpenter Ants).
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Comments (3)

John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Justin - Thank you for sharing detailed quality information on roof (Attic) vents fastening/nailing/stapling in the fioeld/flange proper/improper and ramifications one roof 7 years old.

Apr 07, 2012 01:02 PM
Justin Nickelsen
NICKELSEN HOME INSPECTIONS - Vancouver WA Home Inspector - Vancouver, WA
CMI - (p 360.907.9648), Vancouver/Portland/WA/OR Home Inspector

Thank you for leaving a quality comment that isn't solely intended to garnish 25 points, John...

Apr 07, 2012 01:05 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Well, my points are already exhausted so my comment is genuine too! ;-)  It's too bad that most owners aren't crawling up to make sure the roof is done right.  I know this is the type of thing that should be addressed before the ramifications happen.  Good use of video!!

Apr 11, 2012 10:11 AM