Roofing 101

Hire it done.

When that is not an option, call in your friends and hope the weather holds. And when it doesn’t, buy tarps.

Before I begin writing about this project, I do need to mention how grateful I am for everyone who has pitched in to help this past weekend. It is humbling to have friends eager to pick up a shovel and help me out for a day or two knowing its a messy and tiresome job, yet several did just that. Dave, Jim, Dennis, Kyle, Nick, Chet; my brother and sister have pitched in, and my mom has fed everyone lunch or dinner each day or evening – there is no way I could have taken on this crazy idea of tackling a roof without all of this help.

About two weeks ago, I looked at the extended weather forecast and decided it would be a nice chance to tackle the roof on the humble bungalow. I knew when I purchased it that the roof was in bad shape. In fact, the bank that had foreclosed on the previous owner required me to sign a document making sure I understood the meaning of “as-is,” with almost 3 pages describing that they were not responsible or aware of any issues with the roof. Yeah right. Even my insurance agent felt the same; he actually warned me that the insurance company would probably drop my coverage if the roof wasn’t replaced before winter. So these months as I’ve been working inside, I’ve kept in the back of my head that the roof needed replaced – and tried to budget time and money accordingly.

Well, not just replaced, but torn off, with sagging rafters repaired, and then all new decking before I can even lay shingles. Sounds like light work, no?

P1030148 B

Turns out there were 2 layers of asphalt shingles (well, actually about a layer and a half – so many shingles fly off each time the wind blows, I’m still in shock that I’ve never found a leak during a rainstorm), and then a layer of the original wood shake shingles. Shingle-eater shovels made quick work of the asphalt, while the claw end of a hammer was quick pulling off the shake one row at a time.

Beneath all of those layers, the skip sheathing (also called cedar breather or skip lath) was finally uncovered. Whereas a traditional shingle roof has solid boards or plywood sheathing underneath, wood shake was installed over 1 x 3 boards, each spaced a few inches apart running the length of the roof. The advice I got from contractors was to keep the skip boards in place, as they keep the rafters tied to one another, and to install new sheathing over them.

Unfortunately, in the hustle of making sure everyone had a shovel and no one was falling off (the 6/12 pitch is a little steep and took some getting used to), I forgot to take photos before or during the tear off. The photo above is not my roof, but looks a lot like what we found. (Except above shows a paper layer beneath the shake shingles – mine did not have that.)

From the ground, I could see that both sides of the roof had areas of sagging rafters. The east facing side was barely noticeable, and after shingles torn off was even less noticeable. So we went right to laying new sheathing and then paper over this portion. I should also mention here that I chose not to use traditional felt paper, but a synthetic version over the new roof deck – it’s thinner, lighter, and more like fabric. It’s designed to be more durable during the installation, in case the roof doesn’t get shingles right away. In fact, the product warranty is good even if exposed to rain and sunlight for 6 weeks before the shingles go down. It was about a 1/4 more expensive, but worth the peace of mind in case it rained during the roofing process (IF, ha!)

The west side was where the sagging was the most obvious – as in, my friend the contractor simply said, “whoa.” He was convinced I must have several broken rafters and was baffled to learn they were simply sagging that much. The sagging was in 2 separate areas, and I identified and marked 9 rafters on the north end of the house and 7 on the south that would need fixed to bring the roof deck flat again. I’ll detail that process in a follow-up post, including photos of the old rafters beside the new rafters. During that process, I found the neatest surprise in my attic – it amazes me that people cover up craftsmanship and beauty in the name of aluminum siding.

The roof isn’t finished yet – in fact, I haven’t even started shingling yet. But what was supposed to be an evening spent finishing the sheathing and paper on the west side was quickly rained out. Yes, we draped the exposed part of the roof in tarps and, yes, we got soaking wet.

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  1. Wrapping up the Roof | Up and Adam [Ries]

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