Battening the Hatches

So, our roof leaks. We knew that, and we knew that after the foundation was finished, it was going to leak more, because we leveled the house, and that caused the roof to move. In case you are not well versed in construction lore, roofs do not want to move, and they do not take it well.

When that roof happens to date to 1962, well, let's just say the situation might get a little more dire.

Our roof is from 1962

What did happen was that a gap opened up where the lower roof meets the 2-story part of the house, over the attic. This happened several years ago, but now that we've uncovered the dining room ceiling we can see how it's coming into the house, instead of it merely imperiling the cat box.

The gap is almost an inch wide:

Roof gap

We had plans for repairing this earlier this summer, but were broke and had another huge expense for the house, and so we didn't get around to it. When it rained four inches last week, it was clearly time for the roof to get repaired, money or not.

So yesterday Noel climbed up on the roof and measured around a bit to see what the damage was like. We also were trying to figure out where water in the dining room bay was coming from.

Here's the peak of the back roof:

Gap in the roof

And if you follow that roof downwards towards the side porch, you get this odd condition. That space where it kind of looks like total darkness and nothing else? Turns out that's what it is. There's a four-inch hole there where they could not figure out how to bring the roofing material together. The rest is just filled with goo.

There's nothing in that dark hole space there

The other thing Noel found was the cause of the leaks in the bay. This is looking down from the peak of the roof onto the bay. Look at how the shingles travel down the roof, then, stupidly, just follow the roof back up onto the projection. We've got shingles here that are basically directing water into the house. That's our bay leak.

Somebody doesn't know hot shingles work

Sometimes I am terrifically impressed by how badly contractors can screw up a simple project. This just so happens to not be the first time I've ever heard of some dimwit putting the shingles on a roof in the wrong orientation.

So the plan was pretty simple: Noel bought backer rod, which is a round foam backing you put in the hole to fill it up and make a better seal. He also picked up some roofing sealant, and several packages of shingles, because we're going to be re-shingleing that bay.

This afternoon, after a bit of futzing around, he climbed up and began scraping off the old sealant to make a cleaner gap for the new.

Noel on the rooftop

The painters left this cleat nailed into the roof, and while yes, it would make sense for us to remove it, it has actually come in handy this week. As you can see, Noel used it to keep his tools and supplies from sliding off the roof. Only a couple things blew off, and (for once) our handy Labradors did their job by retrieving loose items from around the yard. Sure, they thought the package of backer rod was a toy, but they did pick it up and bring it to me.

Tools and stuff on the roof

So here are the stages: first, clean the old sealant from the gap and sides of the roof.

Old sealant cleaned out

Sure, it looks like hell, but it's cleaned up.

Then stuff backer rod in the gap.

Backer rod in place

The backer rod makes it so the sealant bonds only on two sides: to the roof and to the wall, instead of on three sides (the sealant doesn't stick well to the back rod). While it may seem counter-intuitive, that keeps cracks from forming in the sealant, because when there is movement, there are only two bonded edges to move around.

The last step is to slather the gap in sealant:

Slathered in sealant

Yummy yum.

It made a decent bond, though Noel only got the one seam done and there are a couple more awaiting his attentions (and we'll need another can of sealant). This is the one with the big leaks, the one that was literally pouring water into our back parlour the first year we were in the house.

Peak sealed off

It's supposed to rain tonight, and it certainly looked like rain all day, so we'll see whether we can get any more done tomorrow, or whether there will be time to get to reshingling the bay. But so far so good. It's our hope to limp this roof along until we're ready to do an addition on the back (at which point we'll be replacing the whole roof, anyway). Given the economy (and our economics), that might be a while.

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posted by ayse on 10/18/09

3 Comments

Wow that is one ugly looking roof! Ours must also be from that era. We're lucky in that our roof actually does not leak except where we removed the chimney and did a b.s. patch.
One thing we noticed after the new foundation and the leveling of the house is that the gutters don't seem to run down hill as much as they used to! Now we have fracking birds taking baths in them and splattering water everywhere!

We avoided that by removing the wooden gutters and not replacing them. Now we just have a curtain of rain around the house.

Oh! Was that Willson-Bailey that did the upside down roof? I heard about that. The owners only found out when they went to sell the house. What a mess.

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