Friday, August 21, 2009

The Battle against Water

When I was 17 years old, I bought my first car, a 1988 Ford Tempo (a.k.a. "The White Stallion"). As it was quite used already, and I didn't have much spare cash, it wasn't long before I bought the Chilton's automotive repair manual. With some help from my mechanical mentors the Trosts, I was able to change gaskets, rotate tires, replace spark plugs and even put in a new water pump. It was an exciting time in my life since I was learning so much at a fast rate. I had the same sensation when I started my world travels, and then again when I went to Korea and really dove into the language, and with salsa dancing, and now this past month with home improvements.
The first projects were relatively small- just a bit of painting and tinkering. Then it progressed to putting in our laminate wood floor (the major task which came much later in putting the transition strips all around the room straight into aged concrete), drywalling, caulking (that was quite messy the first time), cutting and laying trim, and it was finally time for our final hurdle ... the roof.
It had been looming in the back of my mind ever since the home inspection when it was determined that a new roof was imperative and my home insurance contract was written contingent on a new roof being put on by the end of August. Thankfully John had agreed to help lead me through the process and Kiwi was there to lend some muscle (and of course Joo played no small part in her constant meals, drinks, and cleaning while we worked).
Our main obstacle through the course of it all? The seemingly innocent substance of water. I think fire gets too much credit for being such a powerful force in nature when water can be much more silent but strong. It was water that transformed the trees beside the house so that they were towering over our roof and needed to be cut. It was water that slowly built up in the form of moisture and rotted out a few sections of our roof. And it was water in the form of rain that made our roofing project much more interesting. I had to keep reminding myself amidst some frustrations that this is the same water that composes the rivers and oceans I love to sit beside and gaze at.
Anyway, this is the BEFORE shot of the chimney on the roof (along with the picture above where you can see the roof covered in trees. Unfortunately I didn't get any of where groups of shingles were flapping up).
The first day was quite fun- using the shovels to tear off all the old shingles. And amazingly, the tarpaper (all two or three layers that were there) was still in excellent shape underneath.

And that's where things got a bit messy. It was forecasting heavy rain and thunderstorms for the next 9 days and I had already shelled out $300 for our dumpster that we could only rent for a week. With the tarpaper on, the roof was relatively fine if it would rain, but as soon as we ripped it off to look underneath, we were on a time clock until we could get the new tarpaper on. To complicate the situation, any new plywood would need to be bought at Lowe's and since I didn't have a truck, I needed to rent one there, a process that would easily take an hour.
The storm clouds loomed in the distance, but the weather was just supposed to get worse as the week went on, so we went ahead and ripped up the tarpaper. The good news was that there were only a couple actual holes (one of which had been freshly opened up when Kiwi found a weak spot and stepped through a few inches). But due to the nearly absent ventilation over the past 50 years, the roof had sweated for a long time and a lot of the boards were fairly soft.
And then we heard thunder. At this point, I reached a low because I had to make some quick decisions. If I tried to go to Lowes to get plywood and it poured down rain, all the existing sheets would get thoroughly soaked and that would be a bad situation. But if I just covered it all back up with new tarpaper, I would know that there were holes in my roof and it would make shingling a lot more delicate. If I just temporarily covered it up with new tarpaper, it would just postpone the same situation for a little bit, but the constant rainy forecast seemed inevitable.
None of the options seemed great, and honestly I felt like just calling a contractor and worrying about the money later, but I decided to take a risk and get some more plywood. If we had any hope of completing it before the rain, we had to fully commit ourselves and so John starting opening up gaping holes in the roof by ripping off the old sheets of plywood (which of course made it even more essential that we get them back on before the rain because now it would go straight into the attic) while I raced to Lowes. Unsure of how much to get, I just had 15 pieces of 4x8 loaded up on the truck - the paperwork I had to laboriously fill out before I could rent the truck seemed endless as I could hear the thunder getting louder overhead. Finally, it was done and I zoomed back to our house where it luckily hadn't started raining yet.
We decided to replace the two pieces John had already removed and then just go piece by piece removing and replacing as much as we could before the rain, starting from the worst pieces. Since the original construction had used several awkward shaped pieces, we set up Joo and Kiwi as the cutting crew down below while John and I tore out things on the roof and then shouted down the dimensions of the next piece to the Kims.
Things went incredibly smoothly and we got more done that we had anticipated, but there was still one piece left that I really wanted to replace. The problem was it was the piece surrounding our electrical pole and by this time we could already see lightning around us. To add to the fun, we would need to nail down a metal sheet to cover a hole in order to seal it properly. I had been running on nervous energy this whole time with my mind racing fast to make sure we had everything lined up. I started climbing the latter while my mind already had me on top of the roof and the combo must not have worked out, because I found myself on the ground a second later with John rolling around in laughter shouting, "You fell off the ladder! I can't believe you fell off the ladder!!" Not finding it quite as funny myself, I went back up and tried to nail the metal sheet in which wouldn't seem to nail in since it kept bouncing up and down. Finally the new plywood and metal sheet were in, and we rolled and stapled the tarpaper just minutes before the heavens unleashed and christened our project.
The next day we started the whole process over on the other side, again with the gray clouds in the sky.

This time, we just ripped off a little tar paper at a time, replaced what needed replaced, and then covered up. It did start to rain again and so we just used tar paper to cover the small sections and then tore it off again when the rain let up for a bit and kept going.

We were much more efficient this time around and before long, we had a roof ready to shingle. We rolled into Lowes to get the shingles around 8 pm, and knew that they closed at 9 pm. It took them until 8:35 using the skidloader to put the 2 1/2 tons of shingles onto the rental truck, and they repeatedly told me I needed to have the truck back by closing time at 9 pm. With a 10 minute drive to and a 10 minute drive back from Lowes, that left us with approximately 5 minutes to unload 2 1/2 tons of shingles by hand. Somehow, with everyone's help (ask Joo sometime what an 80 pound bag of shingles feels like), we managed to get back only a couple minutes late and were ready to start the shingling early the next day.

John gave Kiwi and me a quick lesson in how to line up shingles and nail them in properly and then set some other things up to make it all run well. The shingling itself was quite fun and went quickly (although it was suddenly hot now that the forecasted rains had run away)

In the end, it turned out beautifully (the new chimney is the metal stack in the background- and yes, it is level even though it appears crooked from the picture's perspective- getting it level was quite an extensive process in itself). So this is the AFTER shot:

Now I can back to a more friendly arrangement with the elements of nature, under the protection of our new roof :)

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