ROOFSNAKE for Roof Repairs

May 15, 2024

When your asphalt shingled roof is damaged and you need repairs, the first thing you need to figure out is whether the roof CAN be repaired. Many factors come into this including whether the same shingles or something compatible is still available and the condition of the current roof. If the shingles are “brittle”, then repairs can’t be made without causing unavoidable damage to the surrounding shingles, right? Insurers and their in-house 3rd party experts have been telling policyholders, contractors, and public adjusters that brittleness doesn’t matter because they can use a special tool called the Roof Snake. Is this tool really the silver bullet for repairability issues? NO.

roofsnake, roof repair, repairability or asphalt shingle roofs

I hear that more and more contractors and public adjusters are being told that they should use this tool to avoid any pliability concerns. The tool has been alluded to in my own claims since 2015 and was specifically named by several engineers that I’ve met with leading up to my own attempt at using the thing in late 2019. I made a review video about it, which is still the most watched video that I have online.

The video has been sent to insurance companies and engineers by others to show that the tool is causing additional damage. I made a more technical follow-up video in 2021 that makes the issue easier to understand.

The Building Experts Institute just released a white paper on “The Roof Snake Tool Deficiencies” that can also be sent to insurance companies and/or their in-house 3rd party experts.

So, when would you even think about needing one of these? If your roof is old enough that the asphalt is no longer flexible, then you may need something to avoid lifting the shingle as much as possible. With this tool, depending on the length of the nails used, you won’t need to lift a shingle very high to install a nail. Normally you would have to lift the shingle tab high enough to be able to strike the nail head with a hammer without accidentally hitting the edge of the tab you are lifting. That means you may have to lift the shingle edge 6-8 inches depending on the size of the shingle. But, State Farm has written in many letters to my clients that the shingles only need to be lifted 2 inches. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s about the height needed to lift a shingle to install a typical 1.25” nail using a roof snake. Does this help avoid causing creases when installing nails? YES, but it comes with a trade-off.

In order to install a nail correctly (not crooked or at an angle) while using the Roof Snake, you have to hold the tool level with the roof as you drive the nail. At some point you can’t continue to do that without your hand hitting the shingles where you are gripping the tool. If you hit the tool with your hand there, you get bloody knuckle syndrome (a common affliction typically tied to male stubbornness). To avoid that you will end up having to rest the tool on the shingles for at least the final 1-2 strikes. There just isn’t any room under the tool for your hand to keep holding it, at least not without driving the nail at an angle.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, if the shingle is actually brittle, then you will need this tool to avoid causing a crease. If it’s brittle enough to need the tool, then its also brittle enough that any impact on the surface will dislodge granules. Since the majority of the users of this tool will have some sense of self-preservation, then they will have to rest the tool on the shingles for the last few strikes. Those last few hits will end up causing granule loss at the impact zone at the tail of the tool, which is resting on the shingle below the one being nailed. The marks look an awful lot like hail damage. It should be noted that this doesn’t happen if you are using the tool on the first 2 courses of shingles at the eave since the tool can go below the roof line with your hand still attached (as Dmitry Lipinskiy did in his video here.)

If you use the tail of the tool to break the seals and pry the nails out, then you actually have to lift the shingle at least 4 inches just because of the shape of the tool. So, State Farm must mean that you should use a traditional flat bar to remove the shingle, and then the roof snake to install a new one. This tool is poorly designed for the removal of nails as the slope of the “teeth” is far too steep to get under the nail head without tearing the shingles. I really don’t recommend using this tool for removal of nails or the breaking of the seals. You will end up causing avoidable damage. So use a flat bar.

If you find yourself in a situation where the carrier is trying to force you to use this specialty tool, then you’ve got a few options.

1.      Use it in a simulated repair and see what happens. If the impact damage is caused, document it;

2.      send the carrier a copy of the Building Experts Institute’s White Paper on “The Roof Snake Tool Deficiencies”; or

3.      complain about repairability issues on social media.

How do you get a copy?

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