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ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR
AMERICAN CEMWOOD ROOFING
BEST ROOFING PRACTICES
BUILT UP ROOFS
CATHEDRAL CEILING VENTILATION
CERTIFICATIONS for ROOFING CONTRACTORS
CHIMNEY FLASHING Mistakes & Leaks
COLD WEATHER ROOF TROUBLE
DECKS, ROOFTOP CONSTRUCTION
EPDM, RUBBER, PVC ROOFING
EXTRACTIVE BLEEDING on SHINGLES
FIRE RETARDANT PLYWOOD
FLASHING on BUILDINGS
FLAT ROOF MOISTURE & CONDENSATION
Green House or Solarium Roof Leaks
HEAT TAPES & CABLES on Roofs for Ice Dams
ROOF ICE DAM LEAKS
MASONITE WOODRUF FIBERBOARD ROOFING
NOISE CONTROL for ROOFS
PLASTIC ROOFING TYPES
PVC, EPDM, RUBBER ROOFING
ROOF ARCHITECTURAL STYLES - PHOTO GUIDE
ROOF CLEANING RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF COLOR RECOMMENDATIONS
ROOF DORMER TYPES - PHOTO GUIDE
ROOF INSPECTION SAFETY & LIMITS
ROOF JOB PROBLEMS, RESOLVING
ROOF LEAK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
ROOF NOISE TRANSMISSION
ROOF REPLACEMENT SNAFUs
ROOFING FELT UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS
ROOFING MATERIALS, Age, Types
ROOFING TILE SHAPES & PROFILES
ROOFING UNDERLAYMENT BEST PRACTICES
SADDLE CONSTRUCTION at CHIMNEYS
SNOW GUARDS & SNOW BRAKES
STANDARDS for ROOFING
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
TEST LABS - ROOF SHINGLE
TREES & SHRUBS, TRIM OFF BUILDING
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
UNDERLAYMENT REQUIREMENTS on ROOFS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
WALK-ON ROOF SURFACES
WARRANTIES for ROOF SHINGLES
WORKMANSHIP & ROOF DAMAGE
This article explains how to identify & evaluate shingles installed in a "ladder pattern" and describes roof leak, wear, and cosmetic issues caused by shingle laddering as an example of something a bit less than the "best" roof installation workmanship. These defects occur on both organic-mat and fiberglass-mat asphalt roof shingles.
Our page top photo shows an asphalt roof failure, leak and patch job in a pattern strongly suggestive of shingle laddering. In fact the ladder pattern installation of these shingles may be the root cause of leaks in the locations shown by the dark vertical patch areas of the roof.
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The first photograph here shows a sloppy "ladder pattern" installation of strip-type asphalt shingles. While opinions (and expertise) vary among roofers, this ladder pattern shingle application may not be as durable a roof installation as one which staggered the shingle offsets more than a single six inches (or in this case only 3") left and right with each shingle course.
The second photograph, of fishmouthed asphalt shingles in a roof shingle ladder-nailing pattern at above-right right is courtesy of ASHI home inspector Carl Gerosa, New Rochelle, NY.
Definition of Laddering, Stair-Stepping, & Staggered Roof Shingle Courses
Definition of Laddered roof shingles
The laddered shingle nailing approach, not recommended by roofing manufacturers, permits the roofer to work right up the roof from eaves to ridge, without having to move beyond reach to left or right - an approach that is appealing if the roofer is working from roof jacks or other scaffolding that s/he does not want to keep relocating.
The sketch of shingle laddering patterns shown above is adapted from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction and discussed further below. [Click to enlarge any image].
On laddered asphalt shingle roofs, particularly older ones, you may notice that the pattern of fishmouth occurrence on an asphalt shingle roof follows a fairly regular or stair-stepped pattern, or it may follow a regular "ladder" like pattern up the roof such as is shown in these photographs.
That's because the fishmouthing is occurring at the butt joints of the shingles where more moisture is passing out of the roof structure into the back side of the shingle above each butt joint.
Definition of stair-stepped roof shingle pattern:
The phrase stair-stepped shingles is usually synonymous with ladder roof shingle patterns
Definition of staggered roof shingle course nailing patterns: 4", 5" or 6" shingle course stagger nailing
Shingles are nailed to the roof deck such that each successive shingle course is offset 4", 5" or 6" thus distributing the butt joints over a wider horizontal area. This is a recommended roofing practice.
The sketch at left illustrates a six-inch stagger or offset shingle nailing pattern. You can identify, even from the ground, the staggering pattern by noting that the shingle tab cutouts align every other course. This is a 6-inch stagger pattern.
A four-inch shingle offset pattern will produce cutouts aligning over one another vertically every third course, while a five-inch shingle offset pattern will produce tab cutouts that align over one another every seventh course.
Sketch adapted from Flickinger (2000) [Click to enlarge any image]
You can thus determine the actual pattern in which the shingles were applied to the roof. "Laddering," while permitted by some manufacturers and standards, is a less workmanlike shingle installation and may result in a localized early wear area on a roof. Ladder-pattern shingle application shows that the roofer liked to work up the roof from one position for as long as possible before moving.
Shingle Laddering is Not Recommended
As reported in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction:
For ease of installation some roofers install shingles straight up the roof, staggering shingles 6 inches or 18 inches back and forth (Figure 2-9).
Since this lines up the shingle butt joints every other course, this is considered a less watertight roof and may leak.
Note: there is an important difference between vertical alignment of the shingle tab cutouts (a cosmetic effect described above), and the vertical alignment of shingle butt joints (the abutment of two individual shingles).
Vertically-aligned shingle butt joints that appear separated by just one shingle course are more likely to leak,especially in heavy or wind-blown rain storms.
Watch out: Installing roof shingles in a ladder pattern is not recommended by any roofing manufacturers.
Manufacturers also claim that shingle color patterns may create splotches or stripes if laid this way.
A Forensic Engineer's Comments on Shingle Laddering and Asphalt Roof Shingle Wind Damage
Nail Omissions - leaving out some nails - is at fault in laddered shingle blow-offs
On the photo of the laddering problem submitted by Carl Gerosa of New Rochelle, NY: I have found that the loose corners are most often associated with the installer neglecting to place the nails at the ends of the shingles when installing the subsequent rows.
It is not necessarily the result of installing the shingles in a straight line up the roof. The same problem will occur diagonally when the nails are neglected (the common term is "three-nailing"). If the nails are all in the right place, the corners generally stay down either way.
Also see Mr. Skees' comments about nailing errors & asphalt shingle cellophane strip removal at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
The company has published online a sample Tornado Report
"Residential Wind Damage Evaluation", Wind Damage Sample, found at http://www.ontherockeng.com/Sample%20Tornado%20Report.pdf