Offcuts: Roofing is an Adventure By: Don Heisz

It’s the end on an era, for me at least. For years I have been claiming that I was going to reshingle my house. So many years, in fact, that the roof had started to leak in a few places (a few that I knew about) while I was saying it.

But no more. This year, I determined I would do the things I have avoided doing in the past. Well, at least some of them.

First, I had to get rid of some very big trees that were looming over the house. I’ve had the greatest fear of these trees ever since a few years ago when we had a nasty ice-storm and an equally big tree fell across my lawn.

That was alarmingly expensive. I’m not equipped to cut down big trees, although I do fine with small ones. I had to get a guy. And that guy had employees and equipment that at least somewhat justified the enormous expense of it all.

Anyway, let’s just say I’d rather put the tree-cutting business out of my mind.

I ordered materials for the roof quite some time ago. I think they were sitting in my driveway for about a month. I was busy, the tree-cutting guy was busy, the weather was not cooperating. But then came a period of clear skies for a forecasted week. So, I decided to get started.

I enlisted trustworthy help.

John Stripping the Ridge Cap

Against his better judgement, John came for three days to give me much needed help and insight. As you can see from the photo, he dug right in stripping the shingles.

I had a dumpster located at the end of the opposite side of the house and, since I thought it would be better to not throw shingles all over the ground, I used a trusty wagon to carry the stripped shingles to the dumpster.

Former Wagon of my Daughter

It’s somewhat important to try to do shingles toward the location of the dumpster, so you’re not walking on fresh shingles to dump the garbage. Everything worked out for me in that regard.

My roof is a little special. This house was brought in on the backs of trucks 50 years ago. Some places would call this a “double wide”. I just consider it a house. A pretty badly built house. Apparently, you can build this house using 2×4 to frame the exterior walls. Apparently, you can space the rafters 24 inches and sheathe the roof with 3/8 plywood. Well, after 50 years, that plywood gets just a bit harrowing to walk on.

So, I bought enough OSB to go over the entire roof.

In case you’re wondering, that was 65 sheets of OSB.

This all seems hunky-dory until you start doing it. So, here is my advice: don’t do this unless you have to. John and I stripped half the roof the first day. It was incredibly hot by around 11 am. John had to leave by noon and so I finished stripping the roof by myself.

That defined a new type of pain for me.

I was stripping the roof for ten minutes then coming inside and sitting in front of my window-air-conditioner drinking water for about 20 minutes.

Once I finally reached the end of the roof, it felt like a massive moment of triumph.

First Half of the Roof Stripped

That jubilation gave way to a night of horrifying restlessness. First, I was in enormous pain from doing something I am just not used to doing. I can do my own proper work all day long, day after day. But stripping this roof was like I had never done any physical labour in my entire life.

Now, when I was younger, I was a roofer for a short period of time. I was without work and living on my own. I had no idea how to do anything or how to get work that would suit me (I was nineteen). I ended up getting a job as a labourer for a roofing company.

I discovered very quickly at that time that that work is inhumane torture.

Shingles. Two layers. The original shingles from 50 years ago held by staples.

Yet, I seemingly forgot all about that when it came time to do my own roof. “Oh, I’m a real workhorse, I can do anything, just watch me!”

So, that first night, sleep was next to impossible. I could not get comfortable. And then, to make it so much better, when I did sleep I dreamed non-stop about rain. Horrible terrifying nightmares of rain falling on my newly stripped swiss cheese plywood roof.

The next day was more productive. John came again and we put OSB on the entire half of the roof. Then we started shingles. After he left, I enlisted more premium help.

My Youngest Son being Forced to Place Shingles

My youngest son came home from school and I roped him into service laying out shingles for me to nail down. We accomplished a lot.

John came for one more day, and we finished shingles on that side then stripped a 16-foot-wide section of the other side. Since he would not be available to help for the rest of the job and also since the weather was starting to threaten rain in the near future, it was necessary to strip parts of the other side of the roof and “rack” the shingles up.

Now. They will tell you that racking shingles is a no-no. And I would maybe agree with them if I wasn’t doing the rest of the roof by myself. The main potential problem with racking is forgetting to nail the last tab of the already-laid shingle. Let’s just say I didn’t notice any tabs I failed to nail down.

Don’t Look if you’re a Roof Inspector

What racking enables was for the roof to be done in these managable sections all the way to the ridge and then the ridge cap could be nailed on.

So, it was pretty straighforward from then on. I did add some roof vents (the roof originally had none). I also had to make some flashing to go around where the power mast goes through the roof. That was pretty much just a cone made out of aluminum to cover the massive amount of roofing goo I piled around it (well, maybe I did a bit more than that).

Incidentally, I have probably mentioned before my neighbour’s house had no eaves when I first moved here. I convinced the guy who then owned the house to build eaves as a way to stop his roof from leaking (it worked). My house has eaves and I always wondered about them, since these houses should be the same.

No, my eaves came attached to the house. Attached with hinges.

See the Wondrous Hinge?

This was perhaps the stupidest thing you could imagine. They attached the eaves to the house and let it sit up on the roof for transport. Then they swung it down and finished the roofing. Well, that’s nice, but it made a great little space for water to run down. And, since that gap is actually on the outside edge of the house, the water would run down behind the siding. So, the roof was likely leaking for much longer than I originally thought.

But that’s nicely covered up, now.

It took a few more days to finish the roof. Only twice did I cover the gap between new and old with a tarp.

Tarped Over

And then it was done.

To reiterate, I don’t think anyone should attempt something like this unless
(a) you’re used to hard work and (b) you want to be in pain.

The end result of seven days of work was 5000 pounds of old shingles in a dumpster. I felt like I had laid all of them personally. Like a chicken lays eggs.

But, you know, it’s done. And that is a great and worthy thing. And I didn’t have to pay anyone to do it, although I expect John will exact his revenge in some way or other.