Up on the rooooooof

Who would have thought it would be so fun? Getting a new roof, I mean.

I’ve been embarrassed by our roof for years. It never leaked, but it was surely the ugliest roof in Seattle. The brick red clashed with our purple door, and the top layer of shingles was curled and disintegrating. The north side was speckled with green moss.

If we were going to sell the house, a new roof was in order. We got bids, then made our decision half on cost, and half on gut feel. Instead of the huge corporation with many crews, we chose a sole-proprietor. The owner of Marmot Roofing, Darrell Bednark, seemed reliable and trustworthy. He’d originally been in business with his father, so I figured he had roofing in his blood.

Our next task was picking out a color. Since shingles don’t come in colors we think are cool (like plum, goldenrod, or teal), we narrowed our choices to three shades of gray and one of blue. We took photographs of houses with those colors, then used Photoshop to put them on a photo of our house. It was like watching an old lady try on different hats!
Our house with a silly roof
A few days before the job started, stacks of materials started appearing in our driveway. Rolls of black felt, trashcans, buckets, and … shovels? Were they planning on landscaping the yard when they were finished?

On Monday morning, I was too excited to sleep in. Barry and I were cooking breakfast when the roofers arrived and started unloading a 4-foot high stack of plywood. At first, I was mortified that this army of workers — all men — could see right in our kitchen windows, and I toyed with eating breakfast in the living room. Then I decided, what the heck, we were paying almost ten thousand dollars for this work. We deserved to watch!

We climbed onto tall stools at the breakfast bar, our noses against the window, eagerly watching the activity in the yard. Since the first part of the job was tearing off the old roof, the roofers were laying tarps over the grass and landscaping. Then they leaned huge sheets of plywood against the house to protect the siding from the falling bits of old roof. Just as I lifted the first forkful to my mouth, enjoying the breakfast entertainment, someone leaned a sheet of plywood over the outside of our window. Poof! Instant darkness, and no more show.

For the next half hour, we listened to the various noises, trying to figure them out. First there was the activity in the yard, punctuated by thumping noises against the walls. Next, the characteristic twang of an aluminum ladder, right next to the breakfast bar window. Then, booted feet climbing the ladder. This was followed by herds of elephants on the roof.

There were four guys, but one of them just did cleanup on the ground. So all that noise was coming from three guys! At first, they just walked around, distributing tools and evaluating the job. Suddenly, right over my head, a cacophony of scraping and banging started. I couldn’t stand it, I had to go out and see what they were doing to my poor house.

Aha! That’s what the shovels were for! They used them to scrape off the three old layers of roof. In a short time, they’d exposed the rafters and layers of old lath that covered them. I took a few photos of our naked roof and went back inside. (that plywood on the bottom right is covering my breakfast bar window!)
Tearing off the old roof
After a while, it was possible to ignore the hideous noises coming from the roof-shovelers. Eventually, though, they stopped shoveling, and the noise got even worse. Bang! BANG! BANGITY BANGITY BANG!

Back out I went, camera in hand. The shoveling had removed all the old shingles, but it hadn’t removed the nails holding those shingles on. Rather than remove the old nails, they hammered them into the lath. Every single nail on our roof was represented by one of those maddening “bangs.”

Once the nails were all hammered flush, they began to cut plywood to cover the roof. Brian and Brad, on the roof, took measurements and called them down the Darrell. He cut rectangles and triangles with a Skilsaw, handing up the pieces to be nailed into place. They covered half the roof in just a few hours.
Sheathing the roof in plywood
Each time the rhythm changed, I went outside with the camera to capture the beginning of the next phase. There was the shoveling rhythm, the nail-pounding rhythm, the plywood sheathing rhythm, and then the fairly quiet process of stapling down the felt. Then it got almost quiet as they cleaned up the yard.
Stapling down the tarpaper
Heading outside for another photo opportunity, I chatted briefly with Darrell. “When they bring the shingles, where will they put them?” I wondered how the pile of shingles would compare to the pile of plywood. “They have a boom truck,” he replied. “They’ll put them right on the roof.”

The second day, the process continued on the other half of the roof. Barry and I ducked out for some errands, and when we returned, the amazing boom truck was parked in the street.

An enormous crane hung over our house, and the roofers were unloading a pallet of shingles up there. There was no one in the cab of the truck, and no sign of a control panel on the truck. Barry and I walked around the truck, trying to figure out how they were maneuvering the crane with its thousands of pounds of payload.
The boomtruck dropping shingles on the house
The answer was a young fellow wearing a complex remote slung over his shoulder. He looked to be in his early 20’s. I was certain his qualifications for the job included a lifetime of video games. How else would you develop that kind of manual dexterity?

The installation of the new roof was anticlimactic. The tear-off had gone so quickly that the roofers had already driven to the store and picked up a couple packages of shingles, and several rows of them were down when the boom truck arrived.

Up on the roof, the guys were having a good time, joking around with each other while they worked. Sometime on the second day, when I headed out to take a photo of the progress, they started hamming it up. After that, I couldn’t get a photo of Brian and Brad actually working, because every time they saw me come out with the camera, they would stop work and strike a pose.
Brian and Brad hamming it up
It was one of the most cheerful, efficient work crews I’ve ever witnessed. There wasn’t any complaining or swearing, not even any frowning! They just worked swiftly and competently, each one contributing to the team effort. No sidewalk supervisors, either — Darrell did as much of the work and the cleanup as anyone else.

The whole job took three short days, practically no time at all after what Barry and I had gone through to get bids, compare them, and pick a color. And when Darrell came by the following week, invoice in hand, we were glad to see him. As I wrote the check, we chatted like old friends about all kinds of things, not just roofing. The experience was such a positive one, I found myself revising my thoughts about work. If it’s as much fun as the Marmot roofing crew indicated, one of these days I’ll have to try it again!

5 thoughts on “Up on the rooooooof

  1. What a fun adventure! It looks like you found a good contractor that did things right. We live in an older neighborhood and see many of the homes with three to five layers of shingles. It is pretty dry here (middle of Utah) so it takes a pretty good rain to let a leak through.

    Love to hear about your adventures. Life is a great adventure and when you have that attitude, each day is a wonder. Thanks for sharing.

    Dave in the desert

  2. Thanks for the primer on re-roofing. Would you please let me know what other home improvement projects you are planning? I have some to do myself, so waiting for your review and photos would prove incredibly helpful.

    p.s. I retired recently, Margaret, and although I find myself itching to help people (mostly small businesses) solve the problems that plague their customers, I really have no desire to work ever again, at least for the present…

  3. Yes, work can really be fun, as long as you enjoy what you’re doing and have co-workers you get along with. However, you can’t reasonably expect every day to be a laugh-fest–bad days happen, even in the best of jobs. Of course, having said that, if I could afford to retire at my current standard of living, I’d probably jump at the opportunity!

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