yet more on the roof project.
Let me apologize in advance for going on & on about this re-roofing project, but it was a big project– in fact, it was probably one of the biggest projects we’ve done so far. Does it dwarf the ripping out of the rotten floor and replacing it with a radiant concrete floor? Was it bigger than the 6′ deep trench that we dug 100′ through the yard to replace the utilities? Does it overshadow the small matter of fixing up the world’s most horrible building, and turning it into a lovely little mini-house? How does a reroof compare to building a new & obscenely tall kitchen structure while simultaneously ripping down the old structure? It makes my head hurt just a little to think about it. Especially when I think about how much we still have to do. Though in the interest of my ongoing sanity, I make a concerted effort to never think about how much we have left to do on this project. I firmly believe that the only way to stay sane in this situation is to focus on each small goal as we accomplish them. And sometimes I focus on the fact that most people (well, Americans) spend 30 years paying for their houses, and we’re NOT going to be doing that– we’re paying for it now in blood, sweat, tears– and yes, dollars.
Anyway, back to the roof. We did the main house roof (not including the hipped porch roof) in 3 sections; two sections on the south side, and then we did the entire north side in one go. For each section, we ripped off all the old shingles, re-nailed all the skip sheathing to the rafters, added 2 inches of poly-iso rigid foam, and then added 1/2 inch of OSB over the foam (staggering all the foam & OSB joints). We then put down roofing paper, and then… finally…. after much agony, got to the satisfying business of putting the actual roofing on. Compared to all the preparation, the roofing itself went on incredibly quickly.
After some discussion and shopping around, we used a rusting metal product from Recla metals. From the very beginning of this project, which some of you may remember started around the end of the last ice age (because we work at a pace which is best described on the geologic time scale), I wanted to use rusting metal for our roof. The stuff has become kind of popular in recent years, perhaps for good reason. I love this material because it is a real material which changes and gathers patina over time. Kind of like copper, but without the unbelievable price tag. Excuse me for anthropomorphizing my house, but the place was probably completely shocked to find itself covered in a real material. The poor thing was drenched in materials masquerading as other materials for nearly half a century. Plastic tiles that were supposed to look like ceramic had been glued to the walls. Masonite paneling that was intended to look like wood paneling had been thrown around onto many random wall surfaces (usually to cover grievous sins that had been committed to the plaster, or to cover the shame of poorly installed insulation). And, my personal favorite, wood trim that had been covered in a thin plastic material which had wood grain printed on it. Yep. You read that correctly: FAKE WOOD THAT IS MADE OUT OF WOOD! In other words, this place was dressed up like a cheap hooker wearing too much heavy makeup.
But now things have changed. We’ve stripped that poor hooker down, and we’re ready to make an honest woman out of her. Or something like that. (I suspect this analogy is about to get out of hand, so I’ll get back to the roofing.) For this project we used rusting corrugated metal. It is basically just plain steel that is allowed to rust and weather as it chooses. In theory, a thin layer of rust forms on the surface of the metal and that layer protects the underlying metal from further rusting, like Cor-ten steel. Cor-ten steel is a proprietary brand name which is supposed to be a special alloy of steel. The stuff we bought isn’t Cor-ten, and frankly I don’t think there is any special alloy involved with this stuff— it’s just plain sheet steel corrugated into a roofing product. Some people might be worried that the roofing will rust out, but I’m not. In this incredibly dry climate, it takes a really long time for things to rust. I’m not sure I’d use this material on an ocean-side beach house, but in this alpine desert the roofing will undoubtedly last longer than the house. My father-in-law has plain steel corrugated roofing on his house that is well over 100 years old, and it hasn’t rusted through at all. It will probably last another 100 years easily, and his roofing is about half as thick as the stuff we used on our roof.
Another reason to like this roofing is that I think it is actually pretty environmentally friendly as compared to other products we could have used. It doesn’t qualify as an energy star roof (because of its color), but it will last forever, it’s likely made at least partially out of recycled steel, and it is 100% recyclable in case future generations want to rip it off and put up something made out of plastic (to commemorate the work of the previous owners). It was also made by a small company in Colorado, which makes me happy. The other bonus is that this stuff is pretty tough– and is much more durable than a thin, painted steel roofing product. A painted steel roofing would have gotten completely scratched in the awkward process of dragging 20′ long sheets up the roof in some very tight spaces, and in the process of dragging the 8 solar thermal collectors that we installed on this roof recently (which I’ll discuss in a later post).
When we got the roofing, it didn’t have a lot of rust on it. Then, in our typical glacial fashion, we left the roofing sitting in our yard for several months while we prepped the roof, and went about the business of procrastinating. During this time, it rained quite a bit, and we got a lot of really uneven rusting that happened on the top couple of sheets. Since I am a professional worrier, my natural tendency might be to worry about the uneven & odd rust patterns; however worrying about the natural process of rusting that was happening on some roofing that was designed specifically to rust did seem a little beyond the pale. (In fact, we paid extra to get the stuff that rusts.) Anyway, by the time we got the roofing up, it had some strange looking rust patterns, as a result of how each piece had been positioned in the pile in the yard. But surprisingly, within a week or two, it all evened out, and now the rusting actually looks quite uniform.
We don’t have all the trim finished on the roofing yet: we’re still missing some of the niceties of life, like fascia boards, and the dreaded chimney flashing, but it feels amazing to no longer have to cringe every time it rains or the wind blows. People who buy finished houses probably don’t wake up in the morning and marvel at how amazing it feels to have siding or roofing that is firmly attached to its substrate. But I do.
Filed under: house building | 3 Comments
Tags: cor-ten, corrugated, fake wood, hookers, roofing, rusting metal