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'Cricket' Leaps to the Rescue of Persistently Leaky Roof


Question: We have a persistent leak in our roof by the chimney. This leak is causing water damage to the ceiling by the fireplace in our living room. My husband's efforts to tar the edges between the roof and chimney help for a while but don't correct the problem. We replaced the roof, but that made no difference. Will a "saddle" from the roof to the chimney help? Our chimney is 4 feet wide.

Answer: A "cricket" (also called a saddle) should solve the problem. Whenever the width of a chimney located along the slope of a roof is more than 2 feet, a cricket should join the roof and chimney. The cricket prevents debris from piling up behind the chimney. This can cause rain to back up under the shingles and leak into the house. The cricket also deflects water running down the roof around the chimney.

See Rating to Assess Fire Hazard Potential

Q: Can you tell me what "Flame Spread 200 or less" means? I saw it on a label on the back of a 4-by-8 plywood panel that had a decorative finish.

A: Flame spread is the propagation of a flame over a surface. The flame-spread rating classifies the fire hazard potential of different building materials. It is based on tests performed by independent labs using procedures developed by Underwriters Laboratories. Inorganic materials and untreated red oak provide the range against which flame-spread ratings are made. Inorganic materials, which include concrete, cement-asbestos board and metal, have a flame spread of 0. Untreated red oak has a flame spread of 100.

Building codes require that materials with a low flame-spread rating (0-25) be used in fire escape routes, such as in stairways and exits. Where passageways and corridors are not part of an enclosed exit, the flame-spread rating of the material should not exceed 75. Materials used for interior walls and ceilings generally have a flame-spread classification of 200 or less. This includes most untreated plywood or paneling.

To submit a question, write to Popular Mechanics, Reader Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. The most interesting questions will be answered in a future column.

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