Herald and Journal, March 29, 1999

Rooftops to make a reindeer pause

By Andrea Vargo

Steep roofs on old churches and barns that would make most of us hang on, shut our eyes, and pray for a heilicoptor rescue are "really cool" to roofer Jim Hirsch of Howard Lake.

Referring to the steeple on the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Hirsch said, "This one really got my tickle going."

Hirsch, who has worked independently in the area and for other contractors, said he has done over 150 older barns and 25 or so churches.

He has been in the roofing business for 27 years, and Hirsch enjoys his job.

One of the things that might make him quit is the quality of the materials available for his customers, he said.

Hirsch explained the new fiberglass shingles are basically junk and he won't have anything to do with them.

"You can tear them with your hands. Does that tell you anything?" he asked.

When it is hot, they are like a dishrag, and the air-nailer blows right through them; when it is cold, they break, he said.

He said he used to sell and use a product called Master Slab, which is not being manufactured anymore.

People were going to the lower- cost fiberglass, and there wasn't enough demand for the heavier shingles in this area, he explained.

When the storms came through two years ago, Hirsch went to some of his former job sites to do minor repairs, and there was usually only one shingle per building that needed replacement, providing the building was still standing.

Hirsch uses the t-lock shingles or steel now.

"It's my phone that will ring if the materials don't hold up," he said.

"There are only two shingles I'd use on my own house, and they are both 30-year asphalt," stated Hirsch.

He also does framing for new homes or additions. Hirsch said they have run into some homes that are just rotting away, because of miosture problems.

He always tries to be up front with his customers, but even though homes are built to code, many have moisture problems.

The industry is trying to build a home that is air-tight, and then moves air with an air exchanger.

It is hoped that this will eliminate all the air quality and moisture problems that have occurred in the past.

"That remains to be seen," said Hirsch.

Even if it does work, the first time a homeowner drives a nail through the sheetrock on an outer wall and punctures the vapor barrier, he has just created an air and moisture problem.

Hirsch feels a homeowner needs to be involved with the building process and know what is going into the project.

Builders have been known to shift a window six inches to save a 2x4 stud, he said.

Quality in workmanship is something he takes pride in, whether it is a framing job, or where he really soars, on top of the steepest roof he can find.

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