White Paper on Pine Shake Roof Rot
The purpose of this "white paper" is to provide information and to present a course of action to homeowners who are facing premature replacement of their (untreated) pine shake roofs.
Background. Are you aware of the problems that homeowners are experiencing with their (untreated) pine shake roofs in Alberta? As a homeowner who may be affected by it, ignorance of this issue could cost you time, money, and considerable frustration! This matter has received some coverage in local newspapers and on TV, but for the most part it is just starting to come into focus as a major problem for about 20,000 homeowners.
Who is to blame? We've heard that an airborne fungus has started the rot, but there's some evidence that the fungus has been attracted to some pre-existing rot. Some people blame the manufacturer, and the government insists on deflecting concerned homeowners to contact their builders and the manufacturer of their shakes regarding this problem. The difficulty with seeking compensation from the builders or manufacturers is that many of them have left the business. E.g. while there were more than 20 shake manufacturers over the years, only half a dozen exist now; and most homeowners cannot trace the origin of their shakes. The primary difficulty we have with pursuing litigation with any manufacturer, is that they would not be able to compensate all homeowners and still stay in business.
Consumer Action Group. In order to deal with this issue, as of the middle of May, we have formed a (not-for-profit) group to seek compensation for what we see as mistakes that were made in the selection, testing, and approval of materials for roofing in our areas. It is our opinion that the homeowner should, in the end, pay for a portion of their new roof. Their costs should be pro-rated based on the age of their roof (with those having older roofs paying more than those having newer ones).
We, the voters. As a group, we will total over 40,000 voters - and demographically we are the ones who traditionally vote at every election and influence others. Our members are ordinary Albertans who appreciate our province and our country. We have something new in common: we find ourselves facing a considerable expense to replace the rotting pine shakes on our rooftops. We have watched for and saved pertinent articles in local newspapers, scoured the Internet for resource material, and contacted consumer advocates and lawyers for advice. As well, we have formed a research team, gathered information and attempted to obtain answers from various sources:
All Taxpayers Affected. However, this isn't just "a homeowner's problem". The government involvement in Alberta industry recently cost the taxpayers one-quarter billion dollars when they sold our investment in Millar Western. [Alberta Government Newsrelease April 1, 1997] In this instance, it will affect all taxpayers because there are a number of public buildings, which have the "roof rot" in their pine shakes. Just a few examples are listed here:
Our Findings. After considerable research, it is our contention that the Alberta government is primarily responsible for the problem. Here are the reasons for our position:
Course of Action. We have posted some of the pertinent information on our web site, but have deliberately held back those documents of a sensitive nature, which are being examined by our lawyers as "evidence" and will be used to provide us with a formal legal opinion. On June 2, 1998 we retained a law firm with offices in Edmonton and Calgary.
We encourage everyone with an untreated pine shake roof to sign our petition, and mail or fax it back to us. The more names and addresses we have, the better our negotiations will go with the Conservative government, but we will have a "legal hammer", which may see us go to Court of Queen's Bench. Time is essential, because the statute of limitations for compensation after the fact is about two years. It is important, therefore to obtain an inventory of homeowners affected as soon as possible. Ideally, a "block captain" will volunteer on each street to pursue the best interests of his neighbours.
If required, we will be requesting financial support from homeowners to pursue legal action and support work. Hopefully, the government will chose to do the right thing quickly, so this won't be necessary.
For those of you who have already replaced or will be replacing your roofs soon, we're seeking compensation for you, so join our group and keep your receipts.
Repair or Replace? We believe that it is important to seek full rooftop replacement for all those with untreated pine shake roofs. Unknown to most homeowners, the rot begins under the shakes (out of sight), and then it becomes visible (on the outside/tops of the exposed shakes). Replacing only the visibly damaged shakes and then spraying the roof with PQ57 is not a good idea.
Spray? We have the technical report on the spray being used/recommended by some roofers to "stop the rot". They will exclaim: "5 year guarantee!" (Weren't our roofs guaranteed for 25 years?) The manufacturer's instructions for application of the spray state "all surfaces should be thoroughly saturated with the treating solution". How can the spray get under the shakes where the bulk of the rot is? One building inspector indicates that it would be impossible. If this is HMIS Health Hazard Level - 3 material, with "acute toxicity" for ingestion, inhalation, and skin, how can we allow our pets or kids to play in the yard around the area of the downspouts ever again? (Harry Stepper, president of the Calgary Homebuilders' Association said that "treating shakes is not acceptable to all homeowners because there are those with chemical sensitivities who might not be in favour".)
Repair? With respect to this "band-aid" solution they propose, most reputable roofers will tell you that they cannot do a proper job of repair to a shake roof by removing and replacing only select shakes. That disturbs the nails in the good shakes, and the nail holes from the old ones will lead to leaking!
Replace. Our group will want to work with government and the proper associations to determine and obtain the correct materials for re-roofing our homes. Is TPS (treated pine spruce) the correct material? Has it proven itself to be safe and durable? If the government supports the use of this material, will they back up the warranty given by the manufacturer and, if not, do we say NO to Alberta pine?
What's Coming? This issue is not going to go away on its own. It is not as expensive as the "condo rot" issue in BC, yet it affects many more people. (We've been told that the condos will require repairs totaling more than one billion dollars; the solution to the pine shake problem should be less than
Information has been provided to the general population by many television stations in Alberta, and across Canada on CBC TV. The Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, and many local area newspapers have provided coverage of the issue. We encourage you to lobby any form of local media available to you.
Everyone Wins! There is a fair and equitable solution to this problem. The Premier should know that by compensating homeowners in short order, he will have an opportunity to restore our faith in the Alberta pine shake industry, and ward off the potential to destroy it - which is not our intent. He could also create a mini-boom in Alberta by helping to stimulate the economy (through the provision of jobs for roofers, manufacturers of shakes, building inspectors, etc). As well, his government will continue to have our support, and Revenue Canada will collect the GST!