Installations: Follow the instructions!

By Jim Austin, senior editor /

Manufacturers offer proper installation techniques for their products; it’s up to you to make sure you’re providing a watertight system

It’s easy to get hung up on details. And it’s OK to get hung up on the details when you’re installing a metal roofing system because that’s where you’re most likely to run into trouble.

The metal roofing systems you install are designed and manufactured to be among the best and most beautiful roofing systems on the market. Because of the way they are designed and manufactured, metal roofing systems are being installed in commercial, institutional, residential as well as industrial applications.  

Still, it’s not a roof until it’s installed … and installed correctly.


ATAS International provides training for customers, including the proper techniques for installing roof penetrations / ATAS photo

“The number one thing we stress tremendously during training is that when someone is buying a $10,000 roof package, you don’t want to try and save $100 on fasteners or clips,” says Jim Bush, vice president of sales at ATAS International. “Some fasteners cost a penny and some cost a nickel. There’s usually a good reason for that other than one guy is trying to give you a deal.”

Bush heads up the training program at ATAS, a manufacturer of painted metal roofing panels and metal shingles. The ATAS training course is a free monthly two-day course for customers. Bush says the training program covers proper cutting techniques, like why it’s better to use a shear than an abrasive cutting action, as well as metal movement through expansion and contraction — the things that happen after you leave the jobsite. “It’s also important to understand the installation of flashings to allow for movement,” he says.

Bush contends a metal roofing system that didn’t have to deal with Mother Nature easily could be expected to last 50 or even 100 years. Unfortunately, the stresses of wind, snow, rain, hurricanes, tornadoes can shorten that life span, even more so if the system is not installed to account for weather incidents specific to its location.

The ATAS training program also focuses on roofing penetrations, or what Bush calls the “headaches and nightmares” of the installation.

“There are guys who have been doing things a certain way for 40 years, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been doing things wrong for 40 years,” Bush says. “If they have been doing things wrong, they’ve just been lucky.

“Our flashing details offer redundant waterproofing techniques to ensure the roofing system can survive the 100-year storms,” he adds.

(The ATAS headquarters is located in Allentown, Pa., which incurred the wrath of Superstorm Sandy in late October. When Metal Roofing Magazine talked to Bush, his home was without power for several days because high winds resulted in downed power lines. He was happy to report that metal roofing installations in the area held up fine.)

It’s important to trust your manufacturer knows the product better than you do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you run into something you haven’t seen before.

“Asking for help is the biggest hurdle,” says Daniel Detamore, trainer-technical services for Metro Roof Products. “Everyone thinks they’re the expert, they think they know how to install it or they can just figure it out.”


Daniel Detamore, Metro trainer-technical services, works on a metal shingle detail behind a chimney / Metro photo

Detamore says proper training easily can shorten the learning curve on installations. He believes it would take two years of field experience to learn what you can learn in a two-day class.

“In most of the training we do, we focus on penetrations and boxes; boxes are what we call chimneys or skylights,” Detamore says. Metro offers a variety of stone-coated metal shingle products, designed to replicate the look of asphalt shingles, wood shake roofing as well as clay or concrete tile roofing.

“Each product has its own idiosyncrasies and working with stone-coated metal is an entirely different animal than standing seam,” Detamore says. “It’s not complicated, just different.”

Tony Tiapon, a sales rep and installation trainer for DECRA Roofing, emphasizes communication when training. It’s all about “hands on” and explaining why things are done the way they are. Most roofers work better with the hands on approach, according to Tiapon. You also have to explain why things should be done a certain way, because if you don’t, crew members may believe they know a better way.


Roofers learn the proper methods to install metal shingles from DECRA Roofing Systems. / DECRA photo

“I’d rather work with a crew with no roofing experience,” he says. “They have no preconceived notions about how things should be and shouldn’t be installed. They’re looking to you to make things easier for them.”

DECRA also manufactures of stone-coated steel roofing, but many of Tiapon’s thoughts on getting the details done right carry over to other metal profiles. “The hardest part to get across is that set up is the most important part to detailing out a roof,” he says. “Start off by squaring off your eaves, that’s the best roofing practice out there. Work on the start-ups, hips and valleys first. Laying field is easy.

“When you approach the job, get on the roof and assess any imperfections in the deck that need to be addressed. The whole job runs smoother.”

Smooth beats the heck out of getting hung up on the details.

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