Sippican Cottage

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Up Thirty Feet and Forgot My Tape Measure Again

Been roofing again. Not fun.

The last two pie-shaped roof panels on the turret needed to be replaced. The roof wore a bum’s jacket of every layer of roofing that was ever put on the house — four or five layers. A Rosetta Stone of bad roofing practice. It’s way more work to strip roofing off than putting on new shingles, so everyone tends to go over what’s there and get themselves outside a beer that much sooner. I have a defective nature and can’t bring myself to nail another layer over the mattress of existing layers, so I ended up stripping off roofing from when McKinley was president.

The two panels are only about two squares of roofing (a square is 100 square feet). That’s about 6 bundles of shingles. I was able to shingle the front oblique panel right off the ladder you see there. No such luck on the last panel. I assembled a roofing mousetrap game to finish the job. You climb out the window, or up the ladder if you’re feeling spry. From the metal roof, you ascend a wooden stepladder that’s screwed to the sidewall to keep it from slipping. I installed a big metal grab handle on the roof opposite the chimney to assist in getting up on the planks to be named later. Once I roofed three courses or so while standing on the metal roof, I installed roof brackets (roof jacks) and a plank. I worked off that for a while. Then I installed another set of brackets and a second plank about six feet further up the slope. I screwed another wooden stepladder to the first plank. I climb up that to get as near to heaven as I’m likely to get.

The rope trailing down is for a fall protection harness. You wear an agglomeration of straps all over your torso and legs, with a big metal ring in the small of your back. You affix a big metal ring to the heaviest framing you can find on the roof, way up high, and you attach the rope to it. There’s a strap that attaches to the big metal ring in the middle of your back to a dongle that slides up and down the rope as you ascend. There’s a brake/clutch in the dongle, similar to the retraction mechanism in your seat belts. You pinch it to free it and slide it along the rope, but when you release it, it won’t slip. In theory. I’m a curious sort of fellow, but I’ve never tested it. The rope and harness and the strap is the safety equivalent of a spider’s web. You get so tangled up in it, just trying to get your hammer out of its holster, that you don’t care if you fall off the roof and die. That’s a form of safety, I guess.

Maine has a switch somewhere that gets thrown by nature and turns from winter to spring in about fifteen minutes. One day there are miserable patches of snow everywhere, and the trees look dead, and the next day the lawn needs mowing. Nothing just grows here. It explodes out of the ground.

I can only roof from about 7AM to 10AM. The roof goes from warming tray to broiler in about ten minutes when the sun clears the trees. So I have to spend three days doing a one day job. Oh well. It’s a good excuse to sit on the porch and wave to the neighbors passing by with prams and doggies.


I know it’s not possible, but I swear I could hear the begonias growing.

Tag: roofing

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