Don’t Fall Off The Roof

Fear Of Roofs

I don’t like working on roofs. My real fear started when I contracted a job in California. It involved the repair of a wood shingle roof on an older home. That type of shingle requires breathing from the underside and the framing procedure does not allow the use of plywood to cover the rafters.

Open slats are installed with spacing 6″ to 8″ apart. Wood shingles swell when wet to seal against leaks, and must dry out after the rain. I started to remove the old shingles when a threatening storm rolled in.

To protect the attic and ceilings of the structure, I covered the exposed areas with plastic. When the rain started, the plastic got wet and slippery. I made the mistake of stepping on the slick surface and shot off the roof like a bullet.

Fortunately, the pile of discarded shingles on the patio below broke the force of my fall. I did not break my leg, but it was sprained so bad that I had to wear a cast to help me walk. Since then, I have had a fear of working on roofs.

Metal Roof Machinations

The roofing material on my country house is metal. I knew when I first looked at the house that it required work to solve leakage problems. Ceilings inside the house had been opened up by maintenance personnel to allow leaks to bypass the drywall and fall straight to the floor. Four or five areas were targeted.

When I brought my extension ladder to the site on a follow up trip, I found problems. Two long hip sections were missing metal caps and the framing lumber was exposed to the elements. This meant having repair metal caps fabricated by a local supplier. I then performed the installation by none other than myself.

I decided that the best method to traverse the pitched metal was to crawl on it in place of standing and walking around. Stories of amateur roofer-homeowners falling off their roofs and killing themselves haunted me. I did not want to become one of those victims. So now when I climb up on top of my house, I walk with minimum steps. I either lay down to make repairs, or sit on my butt and scoot around.

Incessant Leaks

I am fortunate to have found a house covered with metal roof panels that have virtually no rust anywhere in site. But I can’t say the same thing for the screws that hold the panels in place. Some are so rusted that they break easily when I try to replace them. Others are missing, or the screw is popped up in the air performing no sealing capability whatsoever.

My first clue to this problem was a leak in the kitchen where a large section of drywall had been removed. When I observed the leak during a heavy rainstorm, I noticed water dripping underneath a screw already in place. This meant the rubber washer attached to the fastener was no longer doing its job. When I crawled up on the roof to the area in question, I replaced a whole bunch of suspect screws. I wanted to make sure I did by have to go up there more than once.

For two years I have had to deal with a tricky leak in my cathedral wood-covered ceiling in the living room. Since the stupid drips moved around to various locations during heavy rainstorms, the solution was hard to figure out. So I had a friend come over and help me solve the problem. Since he was a retired professional roofer, I had him check out the area in question. He found some holes that were so large, he had to fill them with caulking. A replacement screw would not suffice.

I was jealous watching him get up there and walk around in fearless fashion. The trouble was that it was so hot the day he did the repairs, I had to pull him off after he finished the most critical areas. That left scads of other fasteners to deal with.

Insurance Crisis

After Hurricane Michael, I had the suspicious feeling that insurance rates for our area were going to skyrocket upwards for the next year. We didn’t have any damage, but major hurricanes have a tendency to rattle providers. And I was right. The billing from our existing company increased by over $1,000.

I panicked and began to search for a replacement carrier. I tried my auto insurance company, but their rates had also increased to mirror that of my renewal invoice. So I went online and located a broker in Chicago who found me a carrier in South Florida. They offered me a better rate than my best cost to date for my three years in the house.

The problem with obtaining this favorable number is they required a professional home inspection of my property. This meant that the inspector would need to ascertain the condition of my roof. Bummer!

What To Do

Tek Metal Roofing Screws sold at Lowes Home Centers

Since I could not expect my friend to fix my whole roof, it was up to me. The solution was to make the dreaded decision of replacing all the rubber-washer-based 1/4″ screws with the larger 5/16″ variety myself in intervals. All 2500 pieces of them!

So, I placed my long extension ladder near a valley section of roofing to help support me if I started to fall. The ladder juts up about four feet above the roof to provide a handhold to help me stand up and grab on to.

I have a mid sized bucket that holds 2 battery powered drills, one with a bit to unscrew the old 1/4″ fasteners, and the other drill (an impact driver) to screw in the new 5/16″ replacements. The container also has enough room to hold the plastic case of new screws, plus an empty container for disposal of the old ones.

When I get to the work area for the day, I lay down on the roof and remove and replace all the fasteners that I can reach without shifting my body. When done, I scoot myself and equipment to the next location. I can do 6 to 8 pieces at a time with this plan of action. Working this way, I can keep going for up to 2 hours. I start late in the afternoon to avoid the sun and hot panels. That is about all the time I have before the sunlight fades and I am forced to quit.

I have so far completed about 60% of the work to be done. The end result of this effort is, since I have no rusted roof panels, I will essentially have a new roof when all the screws are replaced. So far, to date, it looks like all the leaks have disappeared. We have had some severe downpours with favorable results.

Cost to replace my metal roof would be about $28,000. Cost of 2,500 screws is about $325. plus caulking.

Finishing up before the inspector arrives may be a problem. Rain is forecast every day for the next week coming up. I may have to risk getting wet, or traversing a slick roof to finish the job. The possibility of getting hit by a lightning bolt doesn’t thrill me either. If one does, you won’t get an update to this blog.

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