Ridge capping refers to the materials used to cover and seal the horizontal ridge line of a sloped roof where two roof planes join together to form the peak. Ridge capping serves several important functions:
- Waterproofing – Ridge capping seals the vulnerable ridge area to prevent water from penetrating under the roof surface. This protects the roof structure and interior from leaks and moisture damage.
- Weather protection – Ridge caps shield the ridge seam from weather elements like rain, snow, wind, and sun. This preserves roof integrity.
- Finishing – Ridge caps provide an aesthetic finish to roof peaks, concealing seams and fasteners. Caps contribute to roof design and curb appeal.
- Structural support – Ridge caps augment the roof’s structure and stabilize the peak area on certain roof types.
Proper ridge capping installation is vital for roof performance and longevity. Deteriorated or improperly installed ridge caps can lead to leaks, rot, mold growth and structural issues over time.
Key Takeaway: Ridge capping is a critical component of roof construction that seals the ridge line where two roof planes meet, preventing water intrusion and providing an attractive finish.
Common Ridge Cap Materials
There are various materials used for ridge capping to suit different roof types:
- Asphalt shingles – Cut shingle tabs or specialized pre-formed hip and ridge shingles that match the roof shingles. Used on asphalt shingle roofs.
- Metal – Pre-formed or custom fabricated aluminum, galvanized steel, copper or zinc caps. Used on metal roofs. Popular for durability and designs.
- Plastic/Rubber – Prefabricated rigid plastic or flexible rubber caps. Used on diverse roof types. Cost-effective, lightweight.
- Masonry – Custom concrete, clay, or slate pieces. Used on tile, slate, and shake roofs. Matches roofing for seamless finish.
- Wood – Shingles, boards or beams cut from weather-resistant wood. Used on wood shake roofs. Naturally complements wood roofing.
The right ridge cap material depends on roof type, climate, budget and aesthetics. An experienced roofer can recommend suitable ridge capping options.
How Ridge Caps Are Installed
Proper installation is crucial for ridge cap performance and longevity:
- Old ridge caps are removed and the ridge area is prepped. The roof sheathing and shingles/panels are cut back several inches from the ridge line on both sides.
- For asphalt shingle roofs, the ridge line is often reinforced with wood boards called ridge boards, providing backing for shingle tabs.
- Flashing material is installed along the ridge line on both sides to cover exposed areas and direct water flow.
- Ridge cap pieces are placed along the peak and secured with roofing nails or fasteners at regular intervals as specified by building codes and manufacturers.
- Cap shingles overlap each other by several inches, with the overlapping edges facing away from the direction of prevailing winds. This prevents wind uplift.
- The outer edges of the ridge caps extend past the roof plane on each side, providing sufficient overhang for proper drainage.
- In between overlaps, cap pieces are sealed together using roofing cement, sealant or adhesive.
- For finishing, the exposed nails are covered with sealant. Some plastic/rubber caps snap or clip together without needing fasteners.
Proper ridge cap installation requires roofing skill, care and attention to detail. Hiring a qualified roofer helps ensure correct techniques are followed.
Ridge Cap Maintenance Tips
With exposure to the elements, ridge caps wear out faster than other roof components. Regular maintenance preserves their function:
- Inspect ridge caps every fall and spring for signs of deterioration like cracking, lifting edges, nail pops or exposed roof sheathing.
- Reseal opened seams or separated cap joints with roofing cement/sealant to prevent moisture entry.
- Replace individual damaged or missing ridge caps promptly to avoid bigger issues. Match original material and construction.
- Consider recoating metal ridge caps every 5-10 years to restore weather resistance and appearance. Prepare surface properly first.
- Monitor masonry ridge caps for cracked/missing mortar, which requires repointing by a mason.
- Plan for full ridge cap replacement about every 10-15 years, or sooner if multiple issues are found during inspections.
- Remove debris like leaves and branches around ridge area routinely to prevent damage, blockages and pest infestations.
- Limit foot traffic near ridge line to prevent cap displacement and roof damage.
Regular upkeep maximizes ridge cap lifespan, prevents leaks and maintains aesthetic appeal. If needed, a professional roofer can assess and service ridge caps.
Key Takeaway: Regularly inspecting and maintaining ridge caps, and replacing them every 10-15 years, helps preserve roof waterproofing and extend roof life.
Why Ridge Caps are Crucial for Roofs
As a vulnerable part of any sloped roof, proper ridge capping is essential for:
The open ridge line seam is prone to water intrusion from rain and melting snow. Effective ridge capping waterproofs this critical area. Deteriorated or improperly installed caps can’t shield from moisture, leading to leaks, moisture damage, rot and mold growth.
Protecting Roof Structure
Exposure to moisture leads to structural damage as wet wood warps, rots and invites pests. Unprotected ridges also allow wind-driven rain and debris under the roof surface, which can lift and tear shingles. Proper ridge capping preserves roof structure and sheathing.
Augmenting Roof Strength
On certain roofs like sheet metal and slate, ridge caps provide critical structural reinforcement to the vulnerable peak area. Ridge caps on these roof types help stabilize the roof system.
Maximizing Roof Longevity
As the roof’s first line of defense, ridge caps take the brunt of weathering damage. They effectively shield the roof structure underneath, extending its lifespan. By preventing leakage and damage, good ridge capping maximizes roof longevity.
Ridge caps provide an attractive finish to the roof’s peak. They conceal seams, fasteners and cuts in roofing material for a streamlined look. Complementing the roof’s color and style, they enhance curb appeal and property value.
For these reasons, properly installing suitable ridge caps specific to your roof type is a critical investment in your roof’s performance, durability and aesthetics.
Ridge Cap Problems to Watch For
To fully protect the roof, ridge caps must be in good condition. Be alert for these potential problems requiring maintenance or replacement:
- Cracked, brittle, warped or broken cap pieces
- Lifting or loose cap edges, corners or overlaps
- Sections of exposed or missing caps
- Deteriorated or bare areas at cap overlaps
- Nail pops, tearing or obvious fastener issues
- Sections with poor adhesion or visible gaps
- Signs of rust, corrosion, blockages or pest infestations
- Moss buildup, mold or algae growth on caps
- Evidence of water ponding at overlaps or roof seams
- Granule loss and weathering on asphalt shingle caps
- Interior water stains near ridge, wet insulation, peeling paint
These deficiencies indicate ridge caps are compromised and no longer able to adequately guard the roof. Timely repairs by a roofing professional are recommended. If problems are widespread, full ridge cap replacement may be warranted.
Unique Ridge Cap Applications
While ridge caps are most often associated with sloped roofs, they serve a vital function on flat and low-sloped roofs as well:
Parapet Wall Caps
Parapet walls are short vertical extensions of a roof perimeter that create a safety barrier and facade. The top of parapet walls requires capping to prevent water infiltration through the seams. Durable metal coping caps shed water away from vulnerable masonry walls and building interiors.
Rooftop Equipment Flashing
Rooftop structures like HVAC units, vents and skylights intersect the flat roof plane. Waterproof metal flashings are installed at these junctures, capped over the equipment edges. Flexible rubber boots also seal rooftop penetrations.
Raised Seam Caps
On structural standing seam metal roofs, the raised seams are crimped together and topped with applied metal caps that interlock for stability and water protection.
While their installation and purpose differs, caps are important roof components in all flat roof settings.
Ridge Cap Alternatives
While traditional ridge caps effectively protect and accent roof peaks, some alternative options exist:
- Ridge vents – Provide roof ventilation while sealing the ridge line. However, exposed vents can allow driven rain entry, and trap debris and moisture. Needs weather-tight installation.
- Dynamic ridges – Multi-layered covering using z-shaped tiles for ventilation. Allows airflow without exposing roof sheathing. Used on clay tile roofs.
- Open metal ridges – Leaves ridge sheathing partially exposed while covering edges. Not recommended in wet climates due to leakage risks.
- Vegetated ridges – Plants growing in soil strips along the ridge line. Requires waterproofing barrier underneath and irrigation. High maintenance.
- Clear plastic ridges – Transparent polycarbonate sheets covering ridge line. Some light transmission but not decorative. Durability issues possible.
These alternatives have limitations and may not be appropriate in certain climates. Traditional ridge caps remain the most reliable method of sealing roof peaks.
Hiring a Professional Roofer for Ridge Caps
Given their importance, it’s advisable to have ridge caps installed or replaced by qualified roofing contractors who:
- Are properly licensed, bonded and insured
- Have extensive experience with roofing projects and ridge caps
- Follow best practices, codes and manufacturer instructions
- Use proper materials and construction methods for your specific roof
- Can identify and remedy related problems like ventilation issues
- Offer reliable workmanship warranties on labor
- Maintain a reputation for quality service and customer satisfaction
Avoid inexperienced DIY roofing or underqualified contractors who cut corners on materials, preparation and application. The integrity of your roof depends on expertise.
Investing in professional ridge cap installation or replacement gives you confidence your roof is well-protected from the elements. Contact reputable local roofers to discuss suitable ridge capping services for your home or building.
Key Takeaway: For reliable performance and protection, it’s wise to hire qualified roofing pros to handle the specialized process of installing or replacing ridge caps.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ridge Capping
What are the main materials used for ridge caps?
Asphalt, metal, plastic, rubber, masonry, and wood are common ridge cap materials that suit different roof types. Asphalt and metal are especially popular options.
How often should ridge caps be replaced?
Expect to replace ridge caps about every 10-15 years. Inspect them routinely and replace individual damaged caps as needed. Harsh climates may require more frequent overall replacement.
Can damaged ridge caps be repaired instead of fully replaced?
Minor damage can sometimes be remedied through repairs, but excessive deterioration usually warrants full replacement. Repairs are temporary and caps continue degrading.
What causes ridge caps to fail prematurely?
Insufficient installation, poor maintenance, roof movement, severe weather, material defects, foot traffic, overhangs blocking runoff, and age contribute to premature ridge cap failure.
How much does it cost to replace ridge caps?
The cost for replacing ridge caps ranges from $4-$12 per linear foot on average depending on roof size, pitch, access, material, region and professional work.
Should old sheathing be replaced when installing new ridge caps?
Sheathing in good condition can be reused, but warped, rotted or moldy boards should be replaced to support new ridge caps properly.
Are ridge caps required by building code?
Ridge caps are not explicitly mandated by residential codes, but adequate roof covering and water shedding details are specified. Ridge caps meet code objectives for roofing.
Can metal roof ridge caps be walked on for chimney access?
Avoid walking on ridge caps if possible. For chimney access, use scaffolding or roof jacks on sides, or install designated walkways. Spread loads to panel seams, not caps.
How long do concrete tile ridge caps last?
Properly installed concrete tile ridge caps can last 50 years or more. Their longevity depends on climate, design, maintenance and material quality. Regular inspections are still needed.
Ridge capping is essential roofing terminology to understand. Ridge caps seal vulnerable roof peaks where planes join, preventing moisture entry, reinforcing the structure, and providing aesthetic appeal. Suitable materials like asphalt, metal and masonry pieces are installed over openings at the roof ridge line after proper preparation. Effectively capping the ridges enhances roof performance and longevity. However, damaged or missing caps compromise protection. Regular inspection and maintenance of ridge caps are important. And full replacement is recommended every 10-15 years or sooner if multiple issues are found. By investing in professional ridge cap installation and care, homeowners can safeguard their roof integrity and function for maximum longevity. Discussing options with qualified local roofing contractors is the best way forward.