Was the roofer required to install vent screens?
January 23, 2012 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Was the roofer required to install vent screens?

We had our roof reshingled last year, and they put new vents on like this. It's basically a metal tube, slightly conical, with a hat over it. The problem is, there were no screens installed, and the rats have been having a party in the attic.Now that it's been shingled, there's no good way to get a screen in there. I think these same vents were used for both regular vents and maybe the bathroom fan vents as well.

Was the roofer required to put screens in somehow? Because if so I want him to come back and fix it. This is in California. And if not...any suggestions on how to put a screen on, other than having the roofer come back to tear off shingles? I can't find any made-to-fit screens for post installation.
posted by lemonade to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like the cap section is held on with screws. If so, you could take the cap off, then easily cut yourself some screen to fit over the top of the upright tube, screw that in-place with small sheet metal screws through the side of the upright, then put the cap back on.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was it in your contract?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:08 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

mr_roboto has the proper answer, but I will say that installing screens in any apertures that access enclosed spaces in a building is pretty common practice.

I'd call the roofer and complain, see if they will simply agree to fix it. If they refuse to help then enlist another local roofer to both get a cost of repairs and and an opinion on whether this installation does or does not meet the standard of care for work in the local community. With that information you can decide whether pursuing additional avenues is worthwhile.
posted by meinvt at 2:30 PM on January 23, 2012

It looks like it might be riveted to me - you'd have to pop that off to get to the open standpipe bit. It might be easier to attach screen from the underside, depending where on the roof pitch it's installed.
posted by jquinby at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2012

...and, of course, it assumes you have access to the attic space, which may not be the case at all, so 2nding that you call someone to take a look at it.
posted by jquinby at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: Per the California Building Code, section 1203.2.1, Openings into attic:
Exterior openings into the attic space of any building intended for human occupancy shall be covered with corrosion-resistant wire cloth screening, hardware cloth, perforated vinyl or similar material that will prevent the entry of birds, squirrels, rodents, snakes and other simlar creatures. The openings therein shall be a minimum of 1/8 inch and shall not exceed 1/4 inch. Where combustion air is obtained from an attic area, it shall be inaccordance with Chapter 7 of the California Mechanical Code.

So, if these vents that were installed are in fact ventilating your attic space, then yes, code requires that they be screened in the manner quoted above (note: from the 2007 code, although I doubt that the 2010 version differs by much), and if your roofer did not install the screens, he did work that did not meet code. HOWEVER, these types of vents are typically not used to ventilate the attic as they're far too small. These are typically the top end of exhaust stacks from furnaces, range hoods, bathroom exhaust vents, dryer vents and plumbing stack, and therefore have no direct connection to the attic at all, meaning that it's quite likely that the rats have a completely different point of entry, or got in there while your roof was being worked on.
posted by LionIndex at 2:37 PM on January 23, 2012

I'm a landlord in Texas, so I've worked on the roofs of a good handfull of houses and installed various roof vents in almost as many. I've never seen or installed a screen in one or had a problem with there not being a screen. I can see how it'd be a good idea, though. But, no, it's not necessarily standard practice, at least not here.
posted by cmoj at 2:38 PM on January 23, 2012

Here's the 2010 code quote from the same section:
Exterior openings into the attic space of any building intended for human occupancy shall be protected to prevent the entry of birds, squirrels, rodents, snakes and other similar creatures. Openings for ventilation having a least dimension of 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) minimum and 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) maximum shall be permitted. Openings for ventilation having a least dimension larger than 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) shall be provided with corrosion-resistant wire cloth screening, hardware cloth, perforated vinyl or similar material with openings having a least dimension of 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) minimum and 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) maximum. Where combustion air is obtained from an attic area, it shall be in accordance with Chapter 7 of the California Mechanical Code.

So, not much different other than the mesh sizes.
posted by LionIndex at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2012

Response by poster: OK, thanks for the advice! The vents we have have the hat welded on, and only some are accessible from the attic. I guess before anything else I'll go check what those vents are, exactly. There are several types up there, I know a few of the biggest ones (dormer type) are screened.
posted by lemonade at 2:46 PM on January 23, 2012

few of the biggest ones (dormer type) are screened.

Yeah, those are your typical attic vents. The total ventilation area required for an attic can end up being a couple square feet (depending on the attic size), so 4" pipes aren't going to get very far towards meeting the requirement.
posted by LionIndex at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: There are a couple issues at play here. I don't see that it says anywhere where you live, which plays the largest role in answering this question. Some states, like California, are extremely progressive with building code (and making their own) and some, like mine, are extremely behind---47 of 55 counties have NO building code. Also, almost no states who DO have building code are anywhere NEAR the 2010 requirements, if for no other reason than the new sprinkler rules are fairly oppressive.

Next, your contract does NOT necessarily make the ruling here. The contract may include the text "will nail some old twigs to the chimbley" and if there IS building code then the contract isn't binding. LOTS of roofing contracts just say things like "Strip old shingles, resheathe and seal as necessary and reshingle @ $400/square" or whatever.

Proper venting does not necessarily need to be explicit BECAUSE even if your municipality does NOT have building code, your contractor probably DID have to get his GC (general contractor)(or a specific sub-license) to charge for his services, and he will be expected to perform to the standards enforced in that test or risk losing his license and/or his bond, if he has one.

SO--Step 1 is to figure out if you have building code. If you do, this is not a condemnable offense unless the rats are out of control, and you CAN demand a "call-back" when code dings you for the infraction---which they may or may not do. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT attempt to fix this on your own, do not TOUCH IT, until you determine that the contractor has ABSOLUTELY ZERO LIABILITY to CURE. Touching it will pretty much absolve him of all responsibility, unless it's like throwing tar on a hole in a rainstorm.

This is all assuming you are US-ian.

Source: I hire and fire contractors daily as a primary function of my job.
posted by TomMelee at 3:28 PM on January 23, 2012

I don't see that it says anywhere where you live, which plays the largest role in answering this question. Some states, like California

The question mentions that the OP is in California. California has adopted the 2010 IBC model code, with amendments, which I've quoted above. Chapter 12, dealing with interior environment, is almost entirely an amendment to the model code language outside of the ventilation requirements in the first couple sections.
posted by LionIndex at 3:49 PM on January 23, 2012

OK, I overlooked that somehow. OP should do a call-back on the contractor.
posted by TomMelee at 5:57 PM on January 23, 2012

Actually, TomMelee, that's kind of an interesting subject - even though there's code governing the installation of things like this, a re-roofing project doesn't necessarily need a permit, and if that's true in this case, there's not necessarily a code-enforecement arm or building inspector that's going to catch the error. In a situation like that, what would be the factor that brings the contractor back to finish the job, other than just looking out for good word-of-mouth recommendations in the future? Possible loss of the contractor's license?
posted by LionIndex at 7:40 PM on January 23, 2012

I can only comment on my locality---California has its own jar of pickles.

First off, where I am, a roofing job would certainly require a permit, UNLESS done in a place without any code enforcement (which as I said is 47 of 55 counties.) In those cases, my failsafe is that the contract I make them sign states that they will follow code even if there is none to enforce. HOWEVER...

Yes, in this state, if a licensed contractor refuses to fix work done incorrectly, you CAN call in your choice of agencies for your protection. Options include the Public Service Administration, the Contractors Licensing Board, and the Attorney Generals Office (who will probably send them a letter and then tell you to sue them.) However YES, you can be a burr that could cost them their license. Also, in this state, licensed contractors are required to be bonded and insured, and in any case you could go after the bond/insurance as a remedy for work done incorrectly or work that cost you more money.

I will give you an example:
My parents know what I do for a living, but for some reason they solicited bids for their roof without any input. The winning bid was ASTRONOMICAL (there was only one bid) and then the contractor did it WRONG and has since caused probably $30k in additional damages. Just as an example, they DID NOT install drip-edge, so now water is adhering to the soffit and running into the exterior wall of the house. They packed shingles too tight and didn't allow for expansion, so now new shingles are buckling. They installed NO venting, improperly sealed flashing, and did not actually bother to shingle around dormer windows AT ALL, leaving bare sheathing. They then tried to bill an additional $75/sheet for 5 pieces of OSB and $2.50 a linear foot for 2x4's they said they used repairing sheathing. They refused any callback, my parents got a lawyer, and now we have discovered that he actually had no license, no bond, or any insurance and was improperly advertising that he did. The Attorney General has looked at it and recommended it go to litigation. Unfortunately, a financial check by the lawyer has determined that he literally has no assets to take, and so the case is dead in the water. If he'd had a license, a bond, or insurance, none of this would have happened. My mom is too nice to pursue criminal charges and I can't do it without her.

Another example:
I hired a plumber to fix a nightmare plumbing situation, and he "fixed" it. It's about 3 hours away from me, it was an emergency. When I finally got down a couple weeks later, I learned he hadn't actually glued any PVC joints, hadn't installed a vent line in the toilet line, and had drain going toilet to tub to stand pipe UP HILL. I called him, he blew it off, I sent him a registered mail with pictures of what was done incorrectly and a bill (obviously I had to fix the problem immediately, sewage water was collecting under the home from the joints that had fallen apart) with a threat to notify the AG and the licensing board. I had a check in my mailbox 3 days later.

TL;DR---around here yes, you can get your license dinged and/or lose your bond---and you REALLY don't want your insurance to pay out because then you won't be able to afford more.
posted by TomMelee at 1:18 PM on January 24, 2012

Response by poster: The conclusion...

I went up to the attic and roof again to check the vents more closely. There are 3 vents of this type:
--one comes from the kitchen range fan and is pretty tightly filled by the duct;
--one opens directly to the attic, and has convenient rafters to drop onto;
--one is for the bathroom fan, but the flexible ridged duct is a lot smaller than the vent opening, and the rats can just walk right down the ridges. I suspect this is actually the main access point, although at one point we theorized that the rats were just falling in the open vent onto the rat traps, given the rate we were catching them.

I did call the roofer, he suggested a way to slot screens in from underneath, and when I mentioned that one opened directly to the attic he offered to come and put them in from the top, since he has the tools to cut the welded hat off and screw it back together.

So thanks for the advice, I am so relieved to have an imminent solution.
posted by lemonade at 2:08 PM on February 7, 2012

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