How To Install Air Terminals On Your Roof As Part Of A Lightning Protection System

Construction & Contractors Articles

On average, over 4,000 house fires in the United States are started by lightning. This amazing number demonstrates the need for residential lightning protection. One key component of a lightning protection system is the lightning rod, known as an air terminal by those in the trade. The air terminal is where lightning protection begins, and its installation must be done correctly to provide protection for homeowners and to prevent damage to the roof. Below are some guidelines to follow when installing air terminals on the roof of your home:

Materials and tools needed

  • Roofing nails – 2-inch long, flat-headed roofing nails with smooth shanks will be sufficient on a single-layer roof, but use 2.5-inch nails if the roof has been laid over old shingles.
  • Roofing cement – this product is a tarry, asphalt-like substance designed to waterproof potential leaks. You can find roofing cement in most home improvement and hardware stores.
  • Air terminal bases – these come in an assortment of configurations for use on both sloped roofs and flat roofs. In addition, terminal bases are available in aluminum and copper. It is important that you choose a metal that matches the air terminals you select. Matching the metal type with the base's metal type will prevent galvanic corrosion, an electrochemical breakdown that occurs when dissimilar metals are in contact with each other.
  • Air terminals – just like air terminal bases, the terminals are also available in a variety of lengths and metal combinations. Be sure to choose matching metal-types as noted above.
  • Pliers
  • Claw or roofing hammer
  • Putty knife
  • Gloves

How to install the air terminals

1. Keep safety first – rooftops can be deadly places for careless homeowners, so be sure you are always alert and aware of your surroundings. Never work on a roof without letting someone else know where you are, and be sure to get plenty of water to drink during warm weather. Also, take frequent rest breaks if you find yourself feeling tired or have difficulty thinking. Wearing gloves will protect your hands from sharp metal edges and sticky roofing cement.

2. Select the proper locations for installation – most residential installations have two or more air terminals attached to the rooftop. In general, air terminals should be installed in close proximity to the edge of each roof peak and other "corners". If possible, keep installations to within one or two feet of the edges. Air terminals should also be spaced within twenty feet of each other along roof peaks, even if they aren't on the edge.

3. Install the air terminal bases – after your have determined the location for your bases, you will need to install the bases. Most bases are flexible enough to be bent into shape so they match the contour of your roof's peak. Use a pair of pliers to adjust them to the correct shape. After that, use a putty knife to smear a one-eighth-inch layer of roofing cement on the shingles where the bases will rest. Place the base on top of the area that you covered with cement, and fasten it in place with your roofing nails. The base should contain predrilled holes for your nails, but you can also make them using a cordless electric drill and one-eighth-inch bit. If you need to drill holes, be sure to add at least three on each side of the base.

4. Seal the air terminal bases – once the bases are installed, apply another thin layer of roofing cement around the edges of the bases and also cover the nail heads. This will help prevent water intrusion into your attic. Allow the bases to set and the roofing cement to cure overnight.

5. Install the air terminals – once the bases are set in place, you can install the air terminals. Most terminals screw into the base, so simply insert them and twist them until hand-tight. If you need additional leverage, use a pair of adjustable pliers, but be careful not to twist too hard and pull the terminal bases out of the roof. For more information, contact a specialist in roof repairs.


20 May 2015

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