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Sheathing A Roof

By: Steven Briesemeister

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Sheathing a roof is like icing on the cake.  Your home will not be complete if this roofing project is not done properly.  The ability for roof sheathing to stay in place during a windstorm or other inclement weather is most important.  It’s this connection that may fail during a hurricane or tornado, which causes water to enter the house while increasing damage to the structure of the home - both inside and out.  If roof sheathing is torn off, the trusses may lose their strength and increase the likelihood of a collapse.

To avoid having this happen, stay informed of your climate and the best possible method of protecting your home from damage.  Consider the various types of sheathing material, the process by which it should be installed and inform your contractor of your wishes.

Types of Sheathing Materials

Every roof has one of two sheathing options across the rafters - solid or open.  There are two types of solid sheathing materials, including panels and boards.  Panels are typically sheets of plywood or a wood product called oriented strand board (OSB).  These are preferred for most roofs because they are cost efficient and provide quick installation.  Plywood sheathing offers a sturdy nailing base with a higher cost.

Sheathing A Roof Step-by-Step

If you are installing a solid panel sheathing, start with one sheet and place it horizontally at one lower corner across the rafters.  If the area in which you live has high humidity, be sure to leave 1/8” gap between the ends of the connecting pans and a ¼” gap between the long sides.  If you live in an area with normal humidity, use half of these spacing measurements for your work.  The reason that this is important is, because during high points of humidity, boards may swell and the expansion gaps will be needed to allow them room to expand without damaging their neighboring boards.  If you want to install starter boards, they should be added before the first few panels.

If you want to add panel sheathing over existing open sheathing, consider removing the open sheathing all together and reinstall with thicker panels.  This will give the home better structure, but it is possible to apply over already present sheathing if necessary.

A Few Tips

When sheathing a roof, take extra care to ensure the nail is connecting with the roof structure.  If a nail gun is used, extra attention must be paid to make sure the nail is connecting properly.  If it misses, just place a neighboring nail correctly.  It is advisable that, because the heads are smaller and leave the sheathing panel susceptible to high winds, a nail gun should not be used when sheathing a roof.

Sheathing a roof is one of the most important steps among the roofing process.  When choosing materials and installation methods, inform your contractor of your concerns with high force windstorms, including hurricanes and tornadoes.  If you live in an area that is prone to harsh winters, let them know of your concerns.  This will help the contractor to be better informed and, additionally, will guide him/her in doing the job properly and to your satisfaction.  Any information that you can provide will be of great assistance to any contractor when sheathing a roof.

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