Inside, Outside

I was first introduced to Malinowski’s hierarchy of needs in college during an introduction to sociology class. I must admit, I wasn’t paying very close attention. I was an English literature major, and sociology was just a required elective. My hierarchy of interests was topped by the cute girls I might meet at the local tavern during quarter beer night.

I do remember that Malinowski put the need for shelter right up there with food and companionship as one of human society’s most important components. That concept made intuitive sense to me, but as I sat in the classroom, it never occurred to me how important the buildings themselves — and their roofs — were to educational facilities. Roofs not only protect students and teachers, but they also help preserve priceless works of art and literature — including those in digital formats — inside academic buildings.

The project profiles in this issue document the crucial roles roofs play in educational settings. They detail how roof design and installation, roof maintenance, and roof replacement are all critical functions that must be expertly handled. They also reveal how a school’s buildings can embody and define the institution architecturally.

At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, crews from Charles F. Evans Company, Inc. replaced the roof systems on the first building constructed on the campus — Morrill Hall, built in 1868. The challenges on the project included bringing the building up to code while capturing its original look with modern products.

On the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, crews from Empire Roofing faced similar challenges as they replaced the roof on historic Austin Hall, a building that has been occupied since 1851.

Educational buildings that are less than 150 years old also need to have their roofs replaced. At the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, crews from Tech Roofing re-roofed the entire complex, which houses irreplaceable works of Yiddish literature in a building designed to resemble a shtetl, or traditional Jewish town common in Eastern Europe before World War II.

This issue also profiles building envelopes that help embody the design goals of new construction projects, including the Innovation Lab at the Lamplighter School in Dallas and the energy-positive Myrtle Beach Middle School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

While we all probably remember begging our teachers to hold classes outside on a beautiful fall day, it’s reassuring to know that structures like these will live on to serve future generations, thanks in part to the work of dedicated roofing professionals.

Understanding Is the Key to Preventing Trouble Spots With Masonry Chimneys

Restoration work in progress on a historic building shows copper chimney flashing being installed on a recently repaired chimney. Photos: John Crookston

There are almost as many types of chimneys as there are cars, but for this article, I am talking about masonry chimneys, and specifically masonry chimneys protruding through a steep-slope roof. These can take the shape of a simple chimney block unit with a clay flue liner running from the foundation thorough the roof, all the way to massive stone or brick structures with two and three fireplaces built in at different levels of the house. Chimneys can serve as load bearing structures and heating systems for the house. I have worked in homes where the chimneys are constructed so that the hot gas passes up and down through the structure of the chimney to heat the masonry mass before they escape out the chimney top, allowing this heated mass to radiate the heat for hours inside the house to supplement the regular heating system.

Eventually however, the chimney has to pass through the roof and into Mother Nature’s realm, and we as roofers have to deal with keeping rain and snow from working back into the building. Most of this task is accomplished with the flashing system at the roof level, but we need to remember that water and ice can also work through the mass of the chimney itself and cause leakage inside the structure. That is the reason for specifically mentioning masonry chimneys in the title above; when one is dealing with chimneys and water, moisture can be coming from all different angles, and all of these areas need to be addressed.

As part of the repair process, a drip line was cut into the underside of the chimney cap to prevent water from migrating across the surface.

I distinctly remember being at a local supply house years ago when a roofer ordered “a five-gallon bucket of flashing.” At best, plastic roofing cement is a temporary fix or patch, and eventually it has to come off. In my long career working on roofs, I have worked on thousands of shingle roofs and many hundreds of metal, tile and slate ones, too. I didn’t know whether I laughed or cried when the guy said that, but I did want to scream, “Flashing doesn’t come in a bucket!”

Masonry walls and chimneys bear on their own foundations and they move at different rates than the rest of the building. You have to allow for that movement, and you need to channel the water in the direction you want so that it is easier for it to flow off the roof rather than into it. Permanent flashing allows for the movement with hundreds of places where the metal can move while always at the same time directing the water lower on the plane of the roof and toward the bottom edge. Whatever the type of roofing material used (shingles, tile, slate, metal, thatch, etc.) and whatever type of flashing metal you use, the flashing always has to be lapped so that the water flows in the direction of the overlap. Depending on the slope, the lap has to be sufficient to allow for the worst possible amount of water flow you will encounter. The flatter the pitch, the more overlap you need. At less than 2/12 pitch, we start to deal with “flat roofing,” and that has its own challenges, though the principles are the same.

New copper chimney flashings were installed as part of this tile roof replacement project.

I could write about a detailed method to flash a chimney, but on every bundle of shingles sold, there are very good details printed and I would dare to say that not one in a million are ever read or even looked at. In this article, I want to explain the reasons why the details specify what they do. In the preceding paragraph, I mentioned that you have to make it easier for the water to flow off the roof rather than into it. That, in essence, is the principle of all flashing — and roofing, for that matter. If you fight the water flow, you will lose 100 percent of the time. Examples of “fighting the water flow” would be for instance lapping the flashings in the wrong direction, or perhaps building a saddle on the backside of a chimney and not extending it far enough sideways so that the water was trapped in the bottom corners. It could also be something as simple as cutting the shingles or slates too tightly against the flashings. As a general rule, always leave about a 3/8-inch gap between the vertical bend of the flashing and the cut of the shingle. This will allow the water to clean out the debris while keeping the joint water tight. Also, don’t jam the counterflashing tight against the horizontal surface of the flashings. This will also restrict the water flow and could cause leakage.

As an interesting aside, one very common mistake I see with cutting valleys is for roofers to not trim back the top corner of a shingle in the valley as shown on all of the packages. The water will catch on that top corner if it is not cut back and track along the top of the shingle until it finds a way into the envelope of the roof. This applies to all valleys, but in this instance, I am specifically speaking of the valleys created when a saddle or cricket is installed behind a chimney. It is also important to not cut the valley shingles in the center of the valley or the low point. Keep the cut line about an inch out of the center of the valley so that the water can again do your work for you by cleaning out the debris. This will also keep the water away from the top corner of the valley shingle.

Problems With Chimneys

Inspecting and repairing any damage to an existing chimney is an essential part of steep-slope re-roofing projects. Loose mortar, cracks in the bricks themselves and spalled surfaces are obvious signs of water damage.

Proper flashing application is crucial, but many of the problems associated with chimney leakage have to do with the chimney itself. Until the advent of the high-efficiency furnaces, most exhaust gasses from the heating of the building went up the flue of the chimney. When more efficient furnaces were introduced, they reduced this gas and excess wasted heat, yet many were vented into the same flue. By definition, a 50 percent efficient furnace puts half of the energy and heat up the flue, while an 80 percent unit would only vent 20 percent of the heat into the same volume, heating the house with the other 80 percent. It takes heat to create the draft necessary to carry moisture out of the chimney. Any gas will cool when it expands, and we are drastically cutting the amount of heat when installing a more efficient furnace. If we don’t reduce the size of the flue, the water vapor can condense back into water before it escapes from the top of the chimney. Mostly, this occurs in the section of chimney directly exposed to the weather, which would be the part sticking out above the roof line. It was common years ago to see the face of a lot of the bricks spalled or breaking off from the rest of the brick. This was caused by the water vapor condensing and then saturating the brick, freezing, expanding and breaking off the surface. If you still have one of the 80 percent units, it is important that you have a smaller flexible metal flue liner installed to reduce the volume and increase the speed with which the gasses escape. This in normally not a problem anymore, as most units now are 95 percent efficient and are vented out the side of the building using a plastic pipe.

This granite chimney shows signs of damage caused by water migrating underneath the chimney cap.

Very few of the homes built today even have a masonry fireplace or chimney, mostly because of the type of furnace used and modern codes. Most fireplaces installed today are zero-clearance units and are basically a gas appliance similar to a gas stove. Many of the older homes that still have wood burning fireplaces have switched them to a gas burning unit, and this will cause the same problem as switching the older furnaces if a smaller sleeve is not installed to reduce the volume of the flue. The biggest problem with this switch is that the effects are not immediately apparent, but delayed, often by several years. We worked on a large condominium project in the early 70s that had dozens of large chimneys, most with several fireplaces on different levels. At some time in the 90s, they all had gas inserts installed, without changing the size of the flue liners. Not all of the chimneys had problems; only the ones that used the gas logs. No matter how often they redid the bricks on the tops of the chimneys, they kept on breaking and spalling. The flaws in the brick and cracks in the caps caused by the water vapor freezing and expanding also caused regular leakage in the chimneys by loosening the counter flashings and letting water past the step flashings and head wall flashings. The caveat to be learned here is that there is a cause and effect that occurs for every action taken, and before making a change it is important to do some research and determine what the effects will be and what has to be done to make sure that it doesn’t do more harm than good. When roofing an existing structure, it’s also important to determine what other changes have been made to the structure in the past.

Erecting proper scaffolding is often the essential first step in the chimney repair process.

Current building codes and modern engineering make the new homes built more efficient and less prone to these types of problems; however, there are millions of older homes out there that need to be retrofitted or in some case “re-fixed” or “unfixed” to make them work.

The one big advantage we are working with today is that there are very few “roof overs” done on steep-slope roofs, as most districts require that the old roof be removed before a new one is installed. This will allow for all of the flashings to be replaced. If chimneys still exist but are no longer used, the possibility might exist for them to be taken down, having the framing replaced and the opening covered and roofed. If this is done, make sure that you take the chimney down to the height of the ceiling joists, cap it at that point and insulate above it.

When re-roofing an existing structure, it’s important to inspect the roof system for damage and determine if any changes have been made to the structure in the past.

If the chimney is left in place, it is important to have the masonry mass inspected and fixed before the roof is done to avoid damaging the new roof. Install a new flashing/counter-flashing system, and make sure to follow the directions printed on the shingle wrappers. My objective here is not to reinvent the wheel, but to make sense of what they are telling us to do. Many years ago, there was a commercial with a tag line that went “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The truth is that you can’t. If you work with gravity and nature, on the other hand, you can eliminate a lot of the problems we are fighting with on the roofs and in this business. The choice is yours.

This architectural detail from The NRCA Roofing Manual: Steep-slope Roof Systems—2017 shows the proper method for flashing a masonry chimney. Detail courtesy of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA).
The packaging for shingles often contains product-specific details for flashing chimneys and valleys, such as this diagram for CertainTeed’s Carriage House shingles from the CertainTeed Shingle Applicators Manual, 14th edition. Detail courtesy of CertainTeed.

About the Author: John R. Crookston is a roofing contractor and consultant located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has more than 60 years of experience in the roofing industry and has written technical articles for a variety of publications under the pseudonym “Old School.”

Understanding EPS Flute-Fill Insulation, a Tailor-Made Solution for Re-Cover Projects

One board of flute-fill expanded polystyrene insulation fits snugly between a metal roof’s flutes. Photos: Insulfoam

With a typical service life of 20-plus years, metal roofs continue to grow in popularity for their longevity and reduced lifecycle costs. While metal does inarguably outlive traditional roofing materials like asphalt, roofers know all too well that nothing truly stands the test of time. So, when a metal roof’s reign eventually comes to an end, savvy contractors are ready with re-cover tools if the existing system is serviceable as a substrate.

In an industry continually constrained by a lack of qualified workers, roof re-covers crucially save on time and labor. By not tearing down the entire assembly and starting from scratch, re-covers help cut down on the number of workers needed to remove the existing membrane, fix any deterioration to the underlying structural deck and install the new system. This is beneficial from more than the standpoint of the skilled trade shortage.

Metal re-covers further provide an opportunity for construction crews to add additional insulation to the roof. This step can improve a metal roof’s efficiency by bolstering thermal performance and improving moisture management. But which insulation can best save on material and labor costs in metal re-covers, while still providing a well-insulated roof assembly? One practical solution is flute-fill expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation.

Why Flute-Fill EPS Insulation?

Lightweight flute-fill insulation consists of closed-cell EPS. Manufacturers can engineer the product to meet or exceed the requirements of ASTM C578, Standard Specification for Rigid, Cellular Polystyrene Thermal Insulation. It can be factory-taper-cut, square-cut or profile-cut to satisfy project needs, while meeting a range of compressive strengths. This flexibility allows flute-fill EPS insulation to function as a tailor-made solution for use over structural standing seam metal roof systems.

By eliminating the spaces between the seams, flute-fill expanded polystyrene provides an even foundation for roofers to install additional layers.

The insulation’s ease of customization is a key benefit, as standing seams (or “flutes” as they are commonly known) can prove problematic during metal roof re-cover projects. Specifically, the raised, interlocking seams add a level of complexity for crews to work around and establish a uniformly smooth surface for the new membrane system.

To overcome this challenge, crews traditionally had to cut insulation and place many individual pieces to fill flutes. Flute-fill EPS insulation is an easier alternative since it can be custom-cut to fit exactly between the standing seams. By eliminating the spaces between the seams, roofing teams are left with a stable, even foundation ideal for laying multiple roof layers and blocking heat transfer. And by filling in the channels, contractors do not need to worry about their insulation’s ability to span the raised seams without failing.

More importantly, flute-fill EPS insulation also cuts down time, material and labor costs. With flute-fill EPS insulation, workers no longer have to cut panels to fit between metal flutes, freeing up time to complete other tasks. Simplifying the jobsite, roofers only need to lay one layer of this dense material between the seams with another cover board on top, depending on specifications. Flute-fill insulation further minimizes the use of insulation above the flutes, thereby reducing the possible need to raise curbs and other rooftop systems. As for labor savings, less moving parts require fewer people to get the job done. Overall, some manufacturers estimate that flute-fill insulation saves up to 25 percent on costs compared with similar products.

The R-Value Advantage

Contractors know that metal naturally has a low insulating R-value, and so the rigid foam insulation they utilize must have a high, stable R-value. What is more, the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 both have insulation prescriptive R-value requirements for metal building roofs. With its long-term thermal performance and water-resistant properties, EPS is a logical choice for bolstering these roofing systems.

Less insulation saves time, conserves resources and reduces labor on the roof.

While crews most commonly use polyiso rigid foam in roofing applications, the insulation may not deliver consistent thermal performance. Since the gas blowing agent used to create polyiso can leach out, replaced by air, high initial R-values can similarly decrease during the product’s time in service. For example, the EPS Industry Alliance estimates that polyiso’s R-values can degrade up to 30 percent over time.

In contrast, EPS is manufactured without using any blowing agents, retaining its R-value throughout its time in service. It is not uncommon to see EPS products like flute-fill with 20-year thermal performance warranties.

Listed R-values are certainly integral to project outcomes. However, building professionals know real-world moisture management also impacts thermal performance. When insulation is exposed to water, R-values drop, as the liquid displaces insulating air. In fact, high moisture volumes can cause rigid foam insulation products to lose up to half of their insulating R-value. It naturally follows then that the drier the rigid foam insulation, the higher the R-value.

Applied in the real world, third-party agency Energy Materials Testing Laboratories found that EPS did not absorb significant moisture when installed in well-built roofs. (See “Moisture Resistance” at www.epsindustry.org.) Even when exposed to cold and damp conditions for extended periods, the rigid foam insulation maintained between 95 percent and 97 percent of its thermal efficiency. Therefore, EPS’ non-hygroscopic properties make it an ideal candidate for metal roofs.

Insulation Solution Has Roofers Covered

Metal roofs continue to gain traction across residential and commercial applications, which translates to more metal roof re-cover projects on the horizon. EPS rigid foam insulation is one tool contractors can have in their tool belts during these re-covers, combating metal roof’s common challenges of sub-par insulating capabilities and improper installation, which can lead to leaks.

This illustration shows the various types of flute-fill expanded polystyrene taper cuts available.

Amidst the industry’s overwhelming concerns of finding quality residential and commercial workers, EPS flute-fill insulation simplifies the installation process, requiring fewer person-hours on the jobsite than other options. This efficiency and streamlined functionality will see roofers through turbulent times and economic booms alike.

About the author: David Stassi is field technical support manager for Insulfoam, a manufacturer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation products. For more information, visit www.insulfoam.com.

The Top 5 Issues in Metal Roof Installation

Metal roofs offer a number of benefits for both homeowners and roofing contractors. Installation problems, however, can cause functional or aesthetic issues that can result in problems, delays and unhappy clients. Following are the five most common roof installation issues and how to solve them.

1. Metal Shavings Causing Rust Streaks

Installing a metal roof requires drilling through the aluminum or steel roof panels to attach them to the substrate. The process creates metal shavings, especially at rivet holes along the ridge cap or when drilling through multiple layers of roof panels.

These metal panels show evidence of rust stains caused by metal shavings. Photos: Gulf Coast Supply & Manufacturing

Those tiny shards of metal can cause rust and stains on the roof, as well as corrosion that shortens the lifespan of the roof. The more layers of metal a crew has to drill through, the more shavings will be produced.

“Shavings are no problem when removed quickly,” says Paul Hope, field service technician for Gulf Coast Supply. “It is when they are left behind that they become an issue.”

“When metal shavings sit on the roof for a week to a month they start to corrode,” Hope says. “That corrosion leads to staining of your panels, and that staining leads to unhappy homeowners.”

Roofers should get in the habit of either sweeping or blowing metal shavings off of the roof at the end of the workday, according to Hope.

2. Improperly Installed Underlayment

Underlayment has to be carefully measured and lapped to avoid moisture infiltration into the building envelope. Local building codes specify lap coverage guidelines and slip sheet placement for underlayment installation.

Underlayment must be carefully measured and installed correctly to prevent moisture infiltration. The underlayment shown here is not lapped correctly.

Underlayment is designed to act as a secondary water barrier in case rain makes it past the metal roof. Some of the most common causes of water intrusion are fastener failure, wind-driven rain in extreme storms, or metal-to-metal connections with no sealant.

Avoiding underlayment issues is easy to do if the crew follows installation instructions and code requirements. If underlayment is not installed correctly, however, replacement costs can be expensive and involve removing the metal roof, replacing the roof substrate and installing new underlayment.

3. Over-Tightened and Under-Tightened Fasteners

Proper fastener installation is critical to the efficiency of a roof system. Because fasteners penetrate the metal roof, underlayment and roof deck, they can allow for water infiltration into an otherwise waterproofed roof.

Over-tightened screws compress the washer too much and can cause water to pool. Under-tightened screws will not hold panels securely and can cause premature wear of fasteners and panels.

During the installation, screws must be straight and tight to perform as intended. Fasteners that are not installed straight do not form a proper seal. And even when they are straight, over-tightening the screw compresses the washer too much, forms “dimples” in the metal panel and causes water pooling that can then infiltrate the attic.

Under-tightened screws won’t hold the roof panel securely and can cause premature wear of both the fastener and panel.

4. Inadequate Onsite Storage Arrangements

Roofing materials should be delivered in a particular sequence, close to the time roofers will need them. The longer roofing materials, such as panels, are stored on site, the more prone they will be to damage from the elements or construction-site mishaps.

Improper storage of roofing panels at the jobsite can lead to damaged and corrosion.

Workers should pay attention to where and how materials are stored. Are they out of the way of vehicles? Are they on a flat surface? Are they elevated on one end to allow for drainage of rainwater?

Standing water, especially on unpainted panels, can cause wet storage stains or what is known as “white rust.” Sand, dirt and debris can also damage metal panels, causing permanent stains before they are ever installed on a roof.

5. Delays Due to Worker Injury

Safety is crucial on any jobsite but especially when installing a metal roof. Injury and accident prevention should be the primary duty of crew chiefs and workers alike. Accidents can not only send workers to the hospital, they can affect scheduling and job productivity as well.

“Medical bills, downtime, and loss of skilled laborers for extended periods of recovery can take place,” Hope says. “It is the responsibility of every individual to properly protect themselves from day to day.”

Proper safety equipment is essential. Gloves and Kevlar sleeves can help roofers protect themselves from cuts.

Falls are the most common potential metal roofing injury. Workers should use harnesses when on the roof and in any other fall-risk situations. Someone on the crew also needs to maintain the condition of the safety equipment. “Nicks in the harness can jeopardize your entire fall system,” Hope says.

Cuts caused by the sharp edges of the metal panels are also a hazard. Gloves and Kevlar cut sleeves can help roofers protect themselves.

Less common threats include electrocution and burns. Electricity, whether from a live current or lightning, can travel through the metal. Rubber shoes and gloves can protect roofers from potentially fatal shocks. Burns are less common, but in hot climates, the sun can heat metal enough to cause an injury. Workers can protect themselves with gloves and protective clothing.

Taking care to address these five common metal roofing installation issues can result in a smoother, more effective process, fewer problems and more satisfied clients.

About the author: Jared Pearce is the technical services manager at Gulf Coast Supply & Manufacturing. The son of a general contractor, Pearce has been around the construction industry his whole life. He is also a native Floridian and a Coast Guard veteran. Gulf Coast Supply has been a trusted choice for metal roof products throughout the Southeast for more than two decades. Through its Contractor’s Advantage program, Gulf Coast offers both classroom and hands-on seminars to help fill the industry’s need for qualified roofers. For more information, visit www.GulfCoastSupply.com.

How Can the H-2B Classification Help Contractors Find Good Workers?

Nearly all businesses require employees to operate, and all successful businesses require that those employees be competent and capable. One issue facing contractors is the inability to find well-qualified and competent workers. Another issue facing contractors is the shortage of workers available to keep up with increased building demands in the United States. The H-2B classification can help contractors address these issues by expanding the pool of potential workers.

What Is the H-2B Classification?

The H-2B classification was created in order to facilitate the hiring of foreign workers to fill temporary needs with U.S. businesses. For the H-2B classification, it must be established that (1) there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and available to perform the temporary services or labor for the employer; (2) that the employment of foreign workers will not affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers; and (3) that a temporary need exists for the employer.

The H-2B program has two components with two different government agencies. The first component deals with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the second component deals with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Each agency oversees a different aspect of the H-2B program. The DOL focuses on the labor market, and is tasked with determining that:

  1. There are not sufficient U.S. workers who are qualified and who will be available to perform the temporary services or labor for which an employer desires to hire foreign workers.
  2. The employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

At the end of the day, the DOL wants to make sure that the foreign worker is not taking a job from an American or affecting the wage market for American workers. The USCIS component of the H-2B program focuses on the temporary need of the employer and the foreign worker’s qualifications. The USCIS component is the last part of the process and is the final authority on whether the H-2B classification will be granted to the foreign worker.

What Is a Temporary Need?

A critical element of the H-2B analysis focuses on the temporary need of the employer. There are four types of needs for H-2B classification purposes. They are (1) one-time occurrence; (2) seasonal need; (3) peak-load need; and (4) intermittent need. A one-time occurrence is as the name suggests; it is an event that occurs one time which requires the need for additional workers and after this event concludes, so does the need for the workers. A seasonal need exists where the employment is traditionally tied to a season of the year by an event or pattern and is of a recurring nature. Examples include the hiring of workers during the Christmas shopping season by UPS and FedEx due to an increase in holiday shipping demands, and when the Disney theme parks require additional workers in the summertime because of an increase in visitors after schools are no longer in session. Both these needs are seasonal and recur every year. A peak-load need exists where the employer normally employs permanent workers to perform a service or labor and an increased seasonal or short-term demand requires additional workers who will not become part of the employer’s regular operations. The key with a peak-load need is that it is not recurring. An intermittent need exists where an employer does not employ permanent or full-time workers to perform services or labor and occasionally needs temporary workers for short periods of time.

What Is the Process?

The H-2B classification process starts with the DOL and ends with USCIS. The first step is to file an Application for Prevailing Wage Determination with the DOL. This application outlines the proposed employment and results in a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) issued by DOL, which sets the minimum amount that can be paid to the foreign worker. After the employer received the PWD from the DOL, the employer can begin the recruitment process. The recruitment process includes posting a job order with a state agency and running two print advertisements as well as interviewing candidates that apply for the position. After recruitment is completed, the employer submits an Application for Temporary Employment Certification with the DOL along with a completed recruitment report. Once a final determination is made by the DOL and the application is certified, the process then shifts to USCIS. The final step is to file an I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If the foreign worker is outside the United States, he or she will also need to apply for an H-2B visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

H-2B “Cap” and the Period of Stay

For the H-2B classification, there is a statutory limit on the total number of foreign nationals who may be granted H-2B status or issued an H-2B visa. This is commonly referred to as the H-2B “cap” and is currently set at 66,000. Unlike other statutory limitations, the H-2B cap is split between two parts of the year, with 33,000 allocated for the first half of the U.S. government fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and 33,000 allocated for the second half of the U.S. government fiscal year (April 1 to September 30). If any of the first 33,000 are not used by the beginning of the second half of the fiscal year, those unused numbers will be reallocated to the second half of the fiscal year. While cases based on a one-time occurrence can be approved for up to 3 years, all other H-2B classifications will be approved for, at most, 10 months. The H-2B classification can be renewed, in increments of up to one year, and the foreign worker can stay in the United States for a maximum for 3 years. After 3 years, the foreign worker must stay outside the United States for an uninterrupted period of 3 months before seeking readmission under the H-2B classification.

Pros and Cons of H-2B Classification

For contractors, the H-2B classification can provide them temporary workers when needed for short periods of time. This can be especially important when there is difficulty finding quality workers in the United States. But as with any immigration classification, there are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to the H-2B classification.

Pros

  • While there is a cap on the number of H-2B statuses granted/visas issued, there is no lottery system in place like the H-1B. This means that there are usually H-2Bs available if you file at the right time.
  • There are no special qualifications, educational or otherwise, required for the H-2B classification, unlike some other immigration classifications. The foreign worker must simply meet the requirements for the position.
  • Premium processing from USCIS, which guarantees a response in 15 days after filing, is available.
  • The H-2B classification is renewable, in increments up to 1 year, for a total stay in the United States of 3 years. After the 3-year limit is reached, the foreign worker only needs to leave the United States for 3 months before he or she is eligible for H-2B classification again.

Cons

  • The H-2B classification essentially requires the foreign workers to be employees of the company by requiring an employee-employer relationship for the proposed employment. Independent contractors would not qualify.
  • From start to finish, it takes about 3 to 4 months while utilizing USCIS’s premium processing service, or 4 to 7 months without the premium processing service. If a worker is needed quickly, the H-2B classification may not be the right choice.
  • Only individuals from certain countries are eligible for the H-2B classification.
  • The minimum wage that must be paid to the H-2B recipient is fixed by the DOL and may be higher than what the employer is willing to pay or normally pays similar workers.
  • The foreign worker needs to have legal status in the United States or reside outside the United States to qualify. Illegal immigrants do not qualify for the H-2B classification.

The H-2B classification may help contractors address some of their labor needs. Contact an experienced immigration attorney to see whether this is a good fit for your company.

About the author: Paul Messina is an attorney at Cotney Construction Law who focuses his practice on immigration law. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Attachment Protects Standing Seam Roofs From Damage Due to Retractable Lanyards

SeamSAFE, a provider of fall protection for standing seam roofers, solar installers, painters or just about any professional working on a standing seam roof, offers its Retractable Lanyard Disks. SeamSAFE Retractable Lanyard Disks are used with SeamSAFE anchors to help protect standing seam roofs from potential damage, including roof scrapes and surface indentations caused by dragging or dropping retractable lanyards during roofing projects.

According to the manufacturer, installing the lanyard disk is simple and fast. Once a SeamSAFE anchor is properly secured on a standing seam roof, the disk is positioned on top of the anchor and fitted over the anchor’s D-ring to hold it in place. Then, a retractable lanyard can be attached by easily hooking it through both the anchor and the protective disk.

The Retractable Lanyard Disk is only one of the attachments in the product line designed to extend the utility and versatility of the company’s best-of-class safety anchors. According to SeamSAFE inventor and owner Doug Mullins, “We developed our new accessories in response to feedback from roofers who are seeking better and more efficient solutions to the challenges of working on a standing seam roof.”

Retractable Lanyard Disks add to SeamSAFE’s existing line of anchor accessories, which include SeamSAFE Roof Brackets, SeamSAFE Ladder Attachment, SeamSAFE Toe Board Attachment and SeamSAFE Mounting Adapter.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.seamsafe.com

Call: (855) 263-1521

Seeing the Light

Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. What hurts the most is when we miss an obvious solution to a problem — when we look back at a difficult time and realize an option we didn’t take advantage of was staring us in the face all along. Picture Homer Simpson smacking his forehead and exclaiming, “D’oh!”

When we look back at this time in history, I think that’s how we’ll feel about adopting solar power. No matter what your opinion is about other forms of energy, including fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, and wind turbines, I think you’d have to admit that we aren’t making enough use of solar. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think it’s obvious that in the rays of the sun, we have a tremendous renewable resource that is mostly going by the wayside.

I interviewed a plumbing contractor a few years ago who specialized in passive solar hot water systems. He said the inspiration came to him when he picked up a garden hose that had been out in the sun and the water nearly scalded his hand. “It was then I thought, ‘Why am I paying a utility to heat the water in my house?’” he said.

I was reminded of that conversation when I interviewed Martin DeBono of GAF Energy for this issue. Before entering the world of rooftop solar, DeBono had a background as a nuclear engineer and served as a submarine officer in the Navy. “I’ve always been fascinated by solar,” he said. “The sun provides the equivalent amount of energy in one hour as all of the world’s power plants produce in a whole year. You combine that with the fact that I am a huge outdoors person — I love the outdoors —and you can see some of the challenges the world faces by relying on fossil fuels.”

His job also allows him to tap into his love of building things. “Last week I built a mock-up roof in my driveway with a mock-up solar system to show some executives and some family and friends what we do,” DeBono said. “So, solar gives me the opportunity to build, to think, to advance technology and do something I believe in.”

DeBono believes in making the most of technology to harness the power of the sun. He also believes in another obvious point: the roof is the domain of the roofing contractor. “We firmly believe that roofers should be installing the system and ensuring the integrity of the roof,” he said. “You do not want anybody other than a roofing contractor working on your roof.”

Ladder Personal Fall Arrest Systems Comply With OSHA Regulations

As of November 19, 2018, new OSHA requirements were implemented for fixed ladders. The OSHA regulations eliminate the need for cages on any new fixed ladder installations. The regulations also require that all fixed ladders over 24 feet be equipped with a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).

In response to these changes, Design Components Inc. provides PFAS that meet or exceed the new OSHA guidelines. The company offers complete ladder safety solutions with rigid rail and trolley construction or cable and grab construction.

These systems are customizable and are packaged together to include all the needed accessories. This includes the attachment hardware, trolleys, cable grabs, deluxe body harnesses and any other necessary equipment. The company also offers expert consulting to determine the right products for the site to ensure they meet OSHA regulations and ANSI standards.

“Design Components Inc. is a great resource to go to when if you have fixed ladder and PFAS design questions, need product information, or pricing for a specific project,” says Chris Lafferty of Design Components Inc. “This takes the guesswork out of knowing if you have that right products for an OSHA-compliant fixed ladder.”

Design Components Inc. offers a wide variety of accessories and safety-related products for metal buildings, including fixed ladders, ladder fall arrest systems, METALWALK rooftop walkways, door canopies, roof curbs, whole building ventilation, and much more.

LEARN MORE

Visit: www.designcomponents.com

Call: (800) 868-9910

What Every Roofer Should Know About Ladder and Fall Protection Safety

Fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use.

Roofing can be a dangerous profession, even in optimal weather and working conditions. Working at high elevations, on steep slopes and near unprotected edges are routine in the work life of a professional roofer. Alone, these situations can pose significant risk to the health and safety of roofers. Combined with the common environmental factors of windy weather and rain-slicked surfaces, the job can go from risky to outright dangerous on any given day.

What’s more, roofers face another risk every day on the job — injuries relating to ladder use or falls. Since 2017, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has closed more than 90 Federal and State investigations into workplace fatalities relating to ladder use on jobsites across the country, and many of these fatalities result from falls. The American Ladder Institute (ALI) reports that more than 300 ladder deaths occur every year, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 697 fatal falls from a higher level to a lower level in 2016.

All roofers know that ladder safety is important, yet many lack the training and education needed to safely maintain their climbing equipment. It’s essential that professionals understand that in addition to proper ladder use, they must also learn how to inspect a ladder for optimal safety. Education is the most important factor in improving jobsite safety and saving lives.

The Importance of Ladder Safety Training

The first step in ensuring that roofing professionals utilize ladders safely and effectively on the jobsite is to provide training on the essential components of ladder use. In fact, ALI notes that 76 percent of companies believe ladder accidents that occurred in their workplace could have been avoided with ladder safety training. When roofers feel confident in climbing and working on a ladder, they can protect themselves and promote a culture of safety among other professionals.

Figure 1. A ladder inspection form such as this one should be accessible on the worksite.

Ladder safety training sessions can either be conducted online or in-person on a jobsite. While online training provides greater accessibility and convenience, an onsite training session offers the ability to demonstrate real-world examples by job application and explore trade usage scenarios. Equipment manufacturers and various national organizations provide free ladder safety training in both formats. For example, OSHA conducts hundreds of ladder and fall protection safety training sessions every May as part of its National Safety Stand-Down initiative. A typical training for jobsite participants may include topics such as:

  • Safety protocols by application.
  • How to safely climb and work for extended periods from a ladder.
  • Common dangers posed by improper ladder use.

For a quick refresher or reference tool, take a look at the right and wrong ways to use a ladder. Even commonsense reminders can prevent against workplace injury.

Using a Ladder the Right Way

  • Prior to using a ladder, be certain that it is on a completely flat surface to prevent tipping.
  • Center your body on the ladder and keep your waist between the rails while maintaining a firm grip on the ladder.
  • Climb facing the ladder, move one step at a time and firmly set one foot before moving the other one. This is important to remember on your descent as well — don’t take any shortcuts to get down quicker.
  • If possible, have one person hold the ladder at the bottom while another person performs the task.
  • Move materials with extreme caution so as not to lose your balance or tip the ladder.

Using a Ladder the Wrong Way

  • Don’t stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder. This is very important as you can easily lose your balance and fall.
  • Don’t climb a ladder if you are not physically and mentally up to the task.
  • Don’t place the base of an extension ladder too close to, or too far away from, the house/building.
  • Don’t over-reach or lean to one side.
  • Don’t try to move a ladder while on it or from above. Climb down and then reposition the ladder closer to where you are working.
  • Don’t exceed the maximum weight of a ladder.
  • DO NOT permit more than one person on an extension ladder.

Ladder Inspection Checklist

Many roofers feel confident operating a ladder to perform their job duties. However, many take for granted the state of the equipment itself. Ladder inspections are just as important as general ladder use training. Both roofers and contracting business owners should know how to properly inspect all climbing equipment prior to each use.

Figure 2. The correct positioning of fall protection equipment and the connecting device is crucial.

While there are many ladder styles and models, there are several aspects of a safety inspection that apply to every ladder. The following should always be inspected before climbing a ladder.

1. Steps: Inspect each step of the ladder to search for cracks in the material, looseness between the step and the body of the ladder, missing pieces of hardware such as screws and bolts, or any missing steps.

2. Rails: Inspect each rail of the ladder for cracks in the material, frayed rail shields, or bent angles. These are indicators of compromised stability.

3. Labels: Ensure the ladder still has labels that are legible. Labels will often list important user information, such as the load capacity for the climber and their materials, directions for climbing safely, as well as any compliances with OSHA or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

4. Material quality: Ensure the ladder’s material is in good condition. Check for corrosion, rusting, or any loose parts, which can pose a danger to the user if left unchecked.

5. Hardware: Check to see that all bracing, shoes and rivets on the ladder are uniform and securely placed.

Proper fall protection training is essential. Photos: Werner Ladder

Each item on this five-part checklist can be inspected with a quick and thorough scan. If any of these five aspects of a ladder are not secure and sound, a ladder is not fit for climbing and should be immediately removed from service until it is either repaired or permanently discarded.

It’s also important to understand the unique aspects of ladders that are frequently used on the worksite. The most common types of ladders chosen by roofing professionals are stepladders, extension ladders and podium ladders, which all pose various benefits and have notable differences in their construction. Below are important attributes to check for each ladder style. A sample ladder inspection form is shown in Figure 1. To find ladder inspection forms tailored to your exact ladder model, visit your manufacturer’s website.

Stepladders

When using stepladders, ensure the spreaders are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is opened.

1. Top: Check the top of the ladder for any missing hardware or looseness. Many roofers rest tools and equipment on the top of the ladder, which may become damaged over time.

2. Pail shelf: Some roofers choose to add a pail shelf to their ladder, which can hold a bucket for tools and materials. Inspect the shelf to make sure it is properly secured to the ladder, doesn’t contain any material cracks, and is not bent out of shape.

3. Spreader: Look at the spreaders to make sure they are not loose, bent or broken. They should smoothly unfold when the stepladder is placed in an open position.

Podium Ladders

On podium ladders, the podium must be carefully inspected, as it often carries most of the user’s weight.

1. Platform: Inspect the platform to be sure it does not contain cracks, does not have missing hardware, and is not bent out of shape. The podium often carries most of the weight of the user, so be aware of any damages in the material.

2. Spreader: Similar to a stepladder, be sure to inspect both the top and the spreaders of the podium ladder.

Extension Ladders

Inspect the rung locks to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

1. Rung locks: The rung locks on an extension ladder are essential to maintaining structural integrity while climbing. Inspect these pieces to make sure that they are not loose, bent, missing or broken.

2. Shoes: Take a look at the shoes of the extension ladder to see whether they are worn, broken or missing. The shoes may experience significant wear over time, as they support the weight and position of the ladder.

3. Rope/pulley: Ensure that the rope is not frayed or damaged and make sure the pulley is not loose, bent or broken before climbing.

Products That Improve Roofing Safety

While ladder inspections will protect against equipment failure, safety accessories can complement these efforts and provide additional safety measures by making ladders more stable and secure. To combat the possibility of slips and falls from ladders, especially in rainy weather, manufacturers now offer ladders with slip-resistant treads on ladder steps and non-marring rubber foot pads to maximize a ladder’s ground contact.

Roofing professionals working at the edge of a low-height roof may consider utilizing a podium-style ladder with an extra-wide platform step to support a greater range of motion and stability while working. Hardware enhancements, such as shatter-proof locks and sturdy latch designs, enhance the durability of equipment. A ladder leveler is another accessory that can help prevent accidents. It attaches to the bottom of a ladder and helps provide an evenly supported working surface when working on sloped ground or a staircase.

Use of Fall Protection Equipment and Ladders

Roofing professionals may find themselves using fall protection equipment in tandem with extension ladders as they transition from standing on a ladder to standing on a roof. This is especially the case with high-sloped roofs, which require additional safety protocols to reduce the risk of injury.

OSHA specifies that a professional working on a steep roof must be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. When on a low-slope roof that features an unprotected edge 6 or more feet above a lower level, professionals must use fall protection. Below are three common scenarios in which roofers should consider using fall protection equipment.

When standing next to:

1. An unprotected edge — any side or edge (except at entrances to points of access) of a walking work surface where there is no wall or guardrail system of at least 39 inches.

2. A leading edge — the edge of a floor, roof or deck, which changes location as additional floors, roofs, decking or sections are placed, formed or constructed.

3. Holes — including skylight roof openings.

Just as it’s important for roofing professionals to be trained in proper ladder use, fall protection training carries the same weight. All roofing professionals should have an understanding of the primary components of a secure fall protection system and how they work in tandem to ensure a user’s safety. The graphic in Figure 2 demonstrates the correct positioning of a fall protection anchorage, a connecting device, and a harness.

Fall Protection Inspection Checklist

Just like ladders, fall protection equipment should be inspected by the user before every use, as broken or degraded equipment will not ensure the user’s safety. When inspecting a harness, it’s important to watch out for the following five items:

1. Fraying in the material.

2. Significant discoloration of materials (especially around clasps and joints).

3. Rusting of metal appliances.

4. Missing rings and buckles.

5. Excessive dirt or grease (this can be removed with warm, soapy water).

If any of the above items are found, the harness should not be used. It should be immediately taken out of service and removed from the jobsite. It may sound obvious, but simply wearing fall protection gear — even gear that passes your checklist — doesn’t automatically protect the user. Proper positioning must also be inspected after the worker has put on the harness. Roofers can self-inspect or use a buddy system to ensure maximum protection.

1. Make sure the harness’s centered chest strap has been properly fitted and routed. The chest strap should always be located at the sternum. Loose straps can cause injury, and the mispositioning of your straps could result in gear failure.

2. Connecting devices must be self-locking and closing, require a minimum of two separate steps for release and a 5,000-pound minimum breaking strength.

3. Always use a 3-foot lanyard and ensure your vertical lifelines are above the D-ring or adjusted for safe reach as you move.

Create Your Own Culture of Safety

In a high-risk profession like roofing, a commitment to safety is essential. This often begins and ends with equipment use training, which educates workers on the proper way to use a ladder or fall protection equipment. While this is an essential step in creating a safe environment, both business owners and roofing contractors can take safety a step further by introducing equipment inspections as a part of your jobsite protocols. Taking the time before each use to scan equipment for flaws has the potential to save lives.

Be sure to include inspections as part of your next safety training and consider printing off these important safety checklists to keep on hand. While roofing professionals may face many hazards at work, the one thing that can be controlled is your commitment to equipment safety.

Safety Resources:

For free online ladder safety and fall protection safety training, please visit Werner Ladder’s website, www.wernerco.com/us/support/training.

For more information on ladder safety and to review comprehensive literature and other safety resources, visit OSHA’s Portable Ladder Safety guide, www.osha.gov/Publications/portable_ladder_qc.html.

About the author: Chad D. Lingerfelt is the National Safety Training Manager at WernerCo. In this role, he oversees all of the Fall Protection and Ladder Safety Training. For the past 32 years, he has worked in the safety field making sure everyone goes home at the end of the day. For more information, visit www.wernerco.com/us.

Three Key Questions About OSHA Inspections

OSHA will investigate a jobsite for a number of reasons. A representative from OSHA will show up if an employee has issued a complaint against you, if there is a recent fatality, or if there is an imminent threat they have identified. The dangers of fall-related injuries in the industry have been well documented, and this has prompted inspectors in your area to be on the lookout for roofers. Additionally, roofers are the easiest to cite due to the fact that roofing is a highly visible construction trade and an inspector does not have to use much effort to determine the likelihood of a dangerous situation that needs inspecting.

OSHA inspections can be stressful, but they can be less stressful if you know your rights and the proper procedures to follow during an inspection. Here are the answers to the most common questions I encounter when it comes to OSHA inspections.

Question #1: Do I have to comply, and what happens if I refuse OSHA access?

First and foremost, you need to know that OSHA has a legal right to inspect your jobsite. OSHA has what is called “administrative probable cause” to inspect and investigate your project. OSHA’s probable cause is more easily obtained than that of other agencies. An officer of a city, state, or federal law enforcement agency needs a much more specific probable cause to enter a private citizen’s property. This is not the case with OSHA. When an active construction project is taking place, there is an inherent risk of danger and injury, and this gives OSHA all the administrative probable cause they need.

This is not to say that you and your site superintendent do not have the right to deny OSHA access to the project and demand that they get a warrant. The site superintendent has the option to consent to OSHA’s inspection or deny them access to the project. The superintendent is well within his or her rights to tell the inspector to get a warrant. However, if you tell OSHA to get a warrant, they most certainly will. Because of OSHA’s broad power to oversee safety within the United States, they can obtain a warrant from a judge or magistrate. Once OSHA obtains a warrant for a site inspection, their inspection can become much more invasive. This means that OSHA inspectors can get permission from a judge to examine documents, conduct extensive interviews, and also perform scientific tests on items such as air quality, presence of combustible material, or any other danger.

The bottom line is that it is rarely a good idea to tell an OSHA compliance officer to get a warrant. The reasoning behind this has to do with the scope of OSHA’s inspection rights under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR demands that OSHA’s inspection be “reasonable.” This essentially means that they are limited to inspect only the workers, equipment, and materials which are within “plain sight.” “Plain sight” is a doctrine borrowed from criminal law and the Fourth amendment, which says that a government agent may not sample or manipulate anything that is not within his or her reasonable line of sight. If an agent violates this doctrine, it is possible that all the information they obtained during the inspection may be suspect.

Question #2: What should I do during the inspection, and are there areas I can prevent OSHA from viewing?

When OSHA is on site, the superintendent should remain alert, aware, and advocate for his or her company. The superintendent has specific rights granted to them under the CFR, and they must use those rights in order to protect themselves, the business, and the men and women who rely on that business for their livelihood.

The superintendent has the right to accompany the inspectors wherever they go on site, and he or she should do so. The inspector should be followed on the roof, through the rafters, and wherever else they intend to go. The superintendent also needs to ask a few key questions of the inspector and needs to ask them often. Mainly, he or she needs to know why OSHA is there. What is the scope of their investigation? What specifically are they there to see? Once the superintendent knows what OSHA wants, he or she can then limit them to what they can see. If an inspector attempts to go outside that scope, then the superintendent needs to notify them immediately.

Question #3: What happens during the inspection?

During the inspection, the OSHA compliance officer will make a walkthrough of the project. The inspector’s main focus is usually on fall protection equipment and fall protection practices of the crew. Always make sure every harness, rope, and lanyard on site is properly maintained. If a harness has been previously impacted, it does not need to be on a jobsite. Such equipment should be discarded and replaced. Roofers are cited far too often because an old harness or frayed rope stays on a truck when it should have been discarded. This is an easy citation to avoid. Throughout the inspection, the OSHA officer may perform brief interviews with the crew and question crew members on various issues relating to the inspection. OSHA has the right under the CFR to perform these interviews in private, away from the superintendent. Although the questioning can be private, it must also be brief. The superintendent needs to object to any questioning that goes on for an excessive amount of time.

Next, an OSHA inspector may ask to interview the managers and superintendents on site. This is a common practice, and OSHA inspectors are within their rights granted by the CFR to request such an interview; however, company managers have the right to refuse an interview without counsel present. This is important to remember because poor statements about safety from a crewman can hurt your case, but poor statements about safety from a supervisor can destroy your case. The only discussion going on between a supervisor and an OSHA compliance office during the walkthrough inspection should involve the scope of the inspection. The superintendent should not answer any questions regarding safety protocols, equipment, or practices without the assistance of counsel. If OSHA wants to speak with a manager, supervisor, or superintendent, they must do so with an attorney present. Paying for a lawyer may be expensive, but paying for a “willful” OSHA citation can bankrupt a roofing company.

Remember Your Rights

An OSHA inspection can be a trying and frustrating time. A roofing contractor’s best defenses against costly citations are to teach satisfactory safety techniques within the crew; update and maintain the required safety equipment; ensure everyone is aware of the jobsite-specific safety plan; and remember their rights when OSHA visits the jobsite.

About the author: Anthony Tilton, Partner at Cotney Construction Law, focuses on all aspects of construction law and works primarily on matters relating to OSHA defense. Cotney Construction Law is an advocate for the roofing industry and serves as General Counsel for FRSA, RT3, NWIR, TARC, WSRCA and several other roofing associations. For more information, visit www.cotneycl.com.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.