more roof.


It took much of our “spare” time during the summer, but having a roof on our house feels amazing.  Yep, the whole entire house.  It was a big job, and I hope that, should we ever choose to renovate another building, we’ll be smart enough and flush enough to hire someone to do it.  But for this project, we just got up there and sweated our a**es off  during every available weekend (plus some weekdays) and got it done.

It would be a gross understatement to say that we needed a new roof.  With every large gust of wind, pieces of asphalt shingle were blowing off the south side of the roof and landing all over the yard, adding to our “landfill chic” aesthetic, which I referred to in an earlier post.  The house had one layer of wooden shingles under 2 layers of asphalt shingles, and it was these asphalt shingles that were taking flight and floating all around the neighborhood like autumn leaves, only without the romantic & picturesque connotations.  I can only imagine that these asphalt shingles were purchased on sale at Montgomery Wards, just like every other damn thing on the entire property.  (Did they sell asphalt shingles at Montgomery Ward in the 1970s?)  Anyway, these were extremely thin, cheap shingles that were then blasted heavily by the sun until they turned into shingle-pulp.  (Notably, the shingles on the north side of the roof were in pretty decent condition.)

Before we started, I was a bit anxious about working on a 45 degree roof:  while I’m not completely terrified of heights, I’ve also been known to be a bit of a chicken when it comes to such things.  But when it came right down to it, I was fine. We set up a long row of scaffolding along the building, about 4 feet below the roof edge, and used ladder hooks on a large extension ladder to climb up and down the roof.  And we each wore harnesses.  We have both OSHA safety harnesses (which are worn like a vest), and climbing harnesses (which are worn like a diaper).  We found that we much preferred the climbing harnesses, because you can “sit” or lean against them to work.  The OSHA harnesses, with rope attachment points in the middle of your back, don’t allow for such luxuries, and require you to have a firm footing and carry all your weight at all times, which can sometimes be exhausting when you’re working in odd positions or trying to stay upright on a 45 degree slope.


This is me ripping off shingles while wearing an OSHA harness. I'm standing on the skip sheathing. The portion of the roof with white roofing paper on it is the kitchen addition.

After all is said and done, I’m really glad to have gotten intimately involved with the re-roofing of our house, and I’m glad to have pushed my boundaries of comfort a little bit when it came to the job of scurrying around on a 45 degree slope.  I grew up in a family where “risk” is a  bad word and ones feet are generally supposed to remain planted firmly on the ground at all times.  But pushing those boundaries of comfort are a good thing, and, I think, a part of staying young, flexible, and adaptable.

This is not to say that I’d like to make it a regular habit to replace roofs– it is definitely a hot, dirty, highly labor-intensive task.  The dirt that is stirred up when ripping off 100+ year-old shingles is not your ordinary, run-of the mill dirt. No. It is real dirty-dirt.  The sort of dirt that blew into town on a viciously windy spring day 100 years ago, lodged itself under a shingle, and then proceeded to collect dust on itself for a century or so.  This is the kind of insidious dirt that has taken up residence in the tiniest of remote crevices, and expects to stay there for all eternity.  And when that sort of dirt is disturbed, it has vengeance on its mind, and it lashes out, gluing itself to anything and everything– including clothing, hair, and the space under your fingernails. It worms its way into the top of your shoes, wriggles into every pore, and settles into a fine layer all over the entire property.  This ancient dirt resists scrubbing; choosing instead to smear or leave behind a stain on my jeans to remind me that I conquered the re-roofing of my house. With the passing of the old roofing and the advent of the new, we’ve officially left no piece of our house (or its ancient dirt) unmolested.  I guess that officially makes this “our” house.


Luke & his Dad standing on the scaffolding at the lower edge of the roof. Do you think those shingles needed to be replaced?


4 Responses to “more roof.”

  1. 1 Sarah Dutton

    What a saga! I’m amazed by your resourcefulness & determination. Yes you can

  2. I think it was David Owen that wrote something like “War and roofing are for young men.” I can remember when I was 18 I could carry two bundles of shingles on my shoulder up a ladder. Nowadays, I only do smallish roof repairs and I try to take a half bundle every time I go up. There is something beautiful and comforting about a well-done roof, though.

  3. 3 lauracm

    Thanks for your note, Al. I can definitely say that both of your statements are true: roofing is a young person’s job and it is wonderful to have a finished, straight roof that causes me to fear no form of precipitation!

  4. So it was originally a cedar shake roof and they put shingles directly on top of it? WTF? I’m becoming more convinced by the day that most roofers are criminals.

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