When it comes to roofing knowledge, homeowners are typically more familiar with some roofing components than others. Sure everyone knows what shingles are, and most folks probably have a pretty solid grasp of roof ventilation, but what about those other, more mystifying components like flashing, ice and water shield, and starter strip shingles? It's pretty safe to say that the definitions of those items aren't quite as accessible to the general public. That's why we've put together this post containing everything you need to know about starter strip shingles (we already did posts on flashing and ice and water shield). So sit back, relax, and enjoy the new roofing knowledge you're about to receive!
Starter strip shingles are long, narrow shingles typically made of asphaltic material. Roofers install them along the edges of the roof after installing the underlayment and before installing the regular shingles. Typically, manufacturers design starter strip shingles with a perforated line splitting them horizontally so that they can be easily separated and used with smaller shingles if necessary. Otherwise, roofers can leave them unseparated if dealing with larger shingles, which need greater support from the starter strip. All starter strip shingles come with a line of adhesive on them. The purpose of the adhesive is to bond with the shingles installed above it and seal them down.
The starter strip is crucial because it adheres to the shingles on the edges of your roof and protects them from the elements. Without starter strip shingles, a gust of wind would have no trouble sneaking under the shingles on the edges of your roof and blowing them up, and perhaps even off, your roof. And chances are those shingles would take some of the shingles situated above them with them on their way off in sort of a domino effect of roofing misfortune.
Windblown rain also has an easier time getting beneath shingles that aren't sealed down by starter strip. While layers of secondary protection, like drip edge flashing and ice and water shield, can quell the effects of this invasive water, there's no guarantee it still won't find a way to get to your decking and wreak all sorts of havoc on your fascia and soffits. The more protection you can have along the edges of your roof the better, and starter strip shingles provide that crucial extra layer of protection.
There is much debate in the roofing community about where to install starter strip. Most roofers agree that it should be installed along the eaves (i.e., the gutter line), while consensus isn't quite as clear when it comes to the rakes (i.e., the inclined edges of a roof). The argument against installing it along the rakes boils down to it being unnecessary because the rakes aren't as vulnerable to wind damage as the eaves. However, the problem with this type of argument is it neglects to mention some of the other benefits starter strip shingles can have for your roof when installed in this area. For example, starter strip shingles can make your roof look nicer because they make it easier for your contractor to give the shingles along the rakes an aesthetically pleasing straight edge. They can also prevent rain from flowing over the sides of the rakes by slightly raising the edges of the shingles directing water to flow down to the gutters where it belongs. Besides all this, many contractors will point to evidence that the rakes are just as vulnerable to the elements as the eaves are anyway. All in all, we at My-Pros recommend putting it along both the rakes and the eaves because both areas will benefit greatly from its presence.
A lot of roofers claim you don't need to use officially designated starter strip shingles and instead opt for using repurposed 3-tab shingles as the starter strip. The obvious problem with this line of thinking is that 3-tab shingles weren't designed to be starter strip shingles. They aren't as sufficient at preventing blow offs and rain infiltration because they don't have the expertly located adhesive strip that regular starter strip shingles have. Repurposing 3-tab shingles is also a messy, time-consuming process. Roofers have to take the time to cut the tabs off the shingles, resulting in a lot of wasted shingle material and makeshift starter shingles whose edges aren't very straight. In reality, the only reason contractors use three-tabs instead of actual starter strip shingles is not for their customers' benefit but to save themselves some money. Don't let a cheapskate contractor put your home at risk by not using legitimate starter strip shingles!
Beyond using regulation starter strip shingles, a good contractor will also take special care to install those starters correctly. Starter shingles should always overhang the eave and rake edges of the roof by about 1/4"-3/4" to ensure adequate rain water drainage. It is also important that the seal strip is placed facing up and close to the edge of your roof; otherwise, your roofing system won't seal properly. Finally, a good contractor will make sure that the seams between the starter strip shingles don't line up with the seams between the shingles placed over them because it decreases the likelihood of rain water penetration. If your contractor follows all of these steps and uses the correct materials, then your new roofing system will be off to a terrific start!