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A Hole in Our Roof and a Whole New Roof

February 1, 2018

There’s a local roofing company that has a earworm jingle “For a hole in your roof or a whole new roof…” that sums up our Fall roof projects. This post is out of sequence. Fall became winter, then the holidays came and went, and we didn’t get around to documenting this life-changing part of our project, until now. We no longer have leaks inside!

The projects started at the end of September with the last of the old roofing cleared off. We decided to also take on another very messy project now- cutting the hole in the roof slab for our future stairs to the roof. The stair project is several phases away but it made sense to create the opening now. Cutting a large opening in a concrete slab is super messy. It basically set off a dust bomb that worked its way throughout the building. Better to bomb the place now than after we’ve completed the next phase, the second floor build out.

Step one for this last phase of the roof replacement, like the last two roof phases, was to tear off the many layers of old built-up roofing.

While that was going on,the brick parapets were getting the thick layers of tar removed. Last time, we did that ourselves. This time we hired guys to help to make things go faster. This all had to be completed before the first frost, usually at the end of October. We did take on a few tasks ourselves, still.

We went over the concrete filling cracks.

We stuffed strips of paper towels into the larger cracks to keep the liquid patch from dripping through

Squirt the filler into the crack- this stuff is good for cracks but not the large voids we also found

The 1920’s concrete contractor was pretty sloppy on this phase.

The darker part is the wet cement we applied to the roof deck- at the bottom of the photo shows how rough the surface was; the extension cords at the top of the photo give you a idea of how large this area was and there were several other places where the voids were just as large. We painted a bonding agent on the void, mixed up batches of concrete patch in our trusty buckets and quickly filled the voids and troweled them level before the concrete sets.

We didn’t have much of a window to get this unanticipated task done. The voids had to be filled and dry before the roofing was applied. We set up the flood lights and got it done after work.

Another crew worked on removing the roof slab above the stair. The last phase of roofing that was over the opening had to be peeled away. That was actually difficult to do- it took two guys pulling and chipping to get it up. Happy to see the roof membrane is so tough.

They drilled up from below to mark the corners of the existing structure. Then saw cut, with a wet saw, on three sides of the opening, along side the beams. They put up scaffolding on the back stairway topped it with plywood scraps for them to stand on and to catch the largest chunks of debris.

Let there be light

We also had them tarp the stairway because a slurry of concrete was running down the stair in addition to the dust bomb. The tarps helped, some, but there is still a huge mess to clean up.

They continued to cut away strips and jack-hammered the slab the until the opening was complete. The vibrations from the cutting resonated throughout the building and, probably, the neighborhood.

The amount of daylight that comes in through the opening is amazing. Our long-term plan is to be a greenhouse-like structure over the opening, part of my vision of ‘roof farming’.

Once again, they used a huge tarp and a crane to haul away the debris.

This time the tarp was lowered through the new hole in the roof

Lily watched from her favorite perch in the apartment

Lucy slept through it all- being deaf has a benefit, either that, or she’s given up caring about our crazy projects

In preparation for the roof enclosure we plan to build, a curb was built. The guys added reinforcing rods, and poured the concrete for the new structure to sit on. The reinforcing rods that are sticking about the curb are what we will anchor the future structure to the roof.

New concrete curb

The opening is covered with a wood deck and a sheet of roofing membrane which will hopefully hold up until we get to the stair phase.

Wood ‘lid’

Applying adhesive to the roof membrane

This is what it will look like until we build the stair. I wonder how long we’ll be able to tolerate the uneven edge of the membrane? It looks like a crooked table cloth.

The roofers were next. We spent another evening cleaning up after the tuckpointer, getting the surface ready for the new roofing.

Scrubbing off the excess mortar

The dark blurs are the chimney swifts circling

It was a lovely night to be on the roof.

All cleaned up, patched, and ready to roof

After the main roofing was sprayed, we crawled over the surface looking for pinholes or other voids. This is the same type of product as the spray on roofing, but comes in tubs.

It looks like chocolate pudding.

We slathered the stuff everywhere there could possible be a void.

After that, I went a little nutty canning pickles.

This time, everything is labelled so we know what’s in there. One time, Tom opened what he thought was apple sauce only to discover it was chicken stock.

It got too cold before the white top coat could be applied. We are planning to do that when the weather stays steadily warm again.

Unfortunately, the tubs of that product that we bought were ruined by the deep freeze we had over the holidays.

After posting about how the water in the upstairs toilet froze, we discovered, after the thaw, that the ice cracked the porcelain! That was COLD. Fortunately, our quick fix with draining the pipes appears to have worked. We haven’t seen any other damage.

The last project that fit into the Fall lineup was adding another roof drain. Originally, the building had one roof drain and a scupper off the back. The roof slab is mostly flat but there are areas where the water ponds. The ponds become mosquito and mold farms, plus having standing water on a roof is never a good idea. This area is where we plan to have our enclosed rooms, with dropped ceilings, so this new drain will be largely hidden. Even so, it was held as tightly to the structure as possible, to avoid conflicts with new heating and cooling distribution.

Out with the old gas pipes, in with the new white pvc drains

All this took about a month, from the end of September until the end of October. The tarps are gone! We don’t have to worry about more plaster damage or emptying buckets. Life is good!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2018 8:29 pm

    I am just starting to dig into your blog, but everything feels so familiar so far! Probably not something you hear very often, but last year we sold our renovated firehouse in St Louis (near Grand Center). And now one of my biggest regrets is not being directed to your blog earlier. I keep scrolling through, reading bits to Aaron and saying “this sounds familiar.” I’m off to read more, but know you have two cheerleaders and kindred spirits in California!

  2. David Smith permalink
    February 2, 2018 12:43 pm


    Sent from my iPhone

    David Smith
    Sales Representative
    Direct 314 302 8002
    800 347 0550

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