Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.


Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.


This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.


It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Friday, September 7, 2018

New Shingles — Part 1

My house is not all that big, but it's a single-story house, so it has a lot of roof area — pretty much the same roof area as a two-story house with twice the square footage.  But I've put new roofs on four or five houses over the course of a lifetime, and it's not a very difficult task.  But a lot of work!

The good thing about putting on a new roof in southern California is that there is generally no rain from April to October, so no worries about leaving the stripped roof uncovered (although I have a big blue tarp from my last roofing job).  The bad thing is the very intense, hot summer southern California sun, so I have elected to limit mid-day work. 

And it's just me doing all the work.  The result is that stripping the old shingles and applying the new is taking a long, long time.  So this is Part 1, just because I'm feeling the passage of time. 

So on with the show!

First, strip the old shingles.  Many people leave the old ones on and just nail the new shingles on over the old.  To me, a very bad thing — bad to the bone!  I have a special shingle-stripping shovel that can get under the nails and lever off the old shingles, and I started using that.  But the old shingles on my house were stapled on (another cheap trick), and I found that I could just pull off big hunks of shingles with my hands (wearing gloves).  That proved to be the most expedient. 


I'm not going to explain in detail how to put new shingles on, as there are lots of youtube tutorials by shingle manufacturers and contractors that would do a better job.  This is just a tale of my roof, and some of the challenges I found. 


With the roof stripped, I needed to patch a few holes (that I had not already taken care of).  These were holes for gas appliance chimneys that I had removed, and I also relocated a wind turbine ventilator to a new position (plug the old hole and cut a new one).  The basic process is to screw a piece of wood around and across the hole to the underside of the roof plywood, and then screw a plywood patch (the size of the hole) to the new wood structure.

In this photo, the plywood patch is on the left of the hole, and the structural wood piece is on the right, ready to slip in on the underside and fasten with screws from the top of the plywood.  


Looks like this when done.


With the roof stripped and patched, I covered it with roofing felt, then applied metal drip edge along the eves (bottom edge) and rake (side edges of gable roof).  This is the top of the drip edge.  In the past I used 3" wide brown drip edge, but only white was available, so I use bare (galvanized) metal this time, 2" wide — the building customs out here on the west coast are not what they are on the east coast. 


This is what the drip edge looks like from the side (there was no drip edge at all on the roof of my house as originally built — just the shingles hanging off the edge, unsupported — scandalous!).  I will paint it to match the fascia.


In the past I've always used the cheap 3-tab shingles, but I found that when purchased with the volume discount, the thicker architectural shingles cost just a little more.  With 3-tab shingles, you cut off the bottom half and use the top part for the "starter course," needed to ensure the water does not leak through the first course.  With the thicker shingles, that have no slits, I elected to use a specialized starter course, which is a shingle-type material that comes in a roll.  The bottom is covered with plastic, which is pulled off during installation, exposing an adhesive coating that sticks the starter course to the underlayment.  In addition, there is a strip of adhesive along the front that sticks the starter course to the underside of the first course of shingles.  Here's what it looks like installed over the (also black) roofing felt.


At this point, you start nailing on shingles (and I was absolutely going to use nails, and certainly not staples).  In the past, I used a hammer, pounding in the nails one at a time, as well as my fingers.  Because I was saving thousands of dollars doing the new roof myself, it was easy to justify buying a pneumatic coil roofing nailer — an absolute joy!


With that, let the shingling begin!


Adding the porch roof introduced a complication to the shingling — to wit, valleys, where different slopes of the roof intersect.  There are perhaps three methods of dealing with these valleys.  I elected to interweave them, which is described as the most foolproof (read waterproof) of the methods.  Some people say it's good for the thinner 3-tab shingles, but not appropriate for thicker architectural shingles because it can look bulky where the shingles overlap.  The manufacturer of my shingles recommended another method, but said the interwoven method was also acceptable. 

Now that the singles are on, I did not notice any bulkiness in the valleys. 


I also used special matching ridge shingles from the same manufacturer, made of several layers of shingle material, so they sit thick and proud.  (With 3-tab, I just cut the three tabs apart, and use each of the tabs as one ridge shingle.)


I expected difficulty at the intersection of the porch roof ridge with the main roof, that is, the shingles not bending flat over the odd shape.  I was planning to make a fiberglass shingle with glass cloth and epoxy resin, molded in place, but the special ridge shingles worked okay, with screws used (with wide plastic tops), to hold it down (and black roofing adhesive to seal the holes). 


After that, having only to deal with a big flat roof, progress would come faster. 


Like this.


As it turned out, I couldn't run right up to the ridge, due to an element where the back roof over the pottery studio intersected the main roof.  There was a wide slot of sorts in the eve. 


The shingles on the back roof have to first come up to the intermediate ridge, and ridge shingles applied in the slot under the eve on the upper roof.  Then the main roof shingles cover that ridge.  When I get to that point, I'll take photos to make it clearer.  I plan to use thin 3-tab shingles for this short portion of hidden ridge; they won't be visible. 

All of this means I have to reshingle this smaller back section of roof before I can continue upward on the front main roof.  So back to stripping off shingles.


And applying roofing felt, drip edge, starter course, and shingles, as well as step flashing where the roof intersects the wall. 


There is a big bit of flashing where the roof connected to the chimney, to route rain water around the chimney, but as you may recall, I removed the chimney.  So technically, this bit of flashing kit isn't needed, but as it's solidly attached to the wall, I'm going to leave it in place.  Won't hurt. 


As I'm writing this, I've actually applied several courses of shingles up from the bottom of this section of roof, but that will be included in Part 2.  Not so much work, this small section of roof.  Can't say that about what's over the hill . . .  (the right of the photo, over the ridge)


It's another big section of roof, but has the benefit of being a simple big rectangle.  The (unusual) complication is that the south side of the house has cathedral ceilings inside, with the space between the roof and the ceiling tapering from the center of the house to the side.   I was able to add more insulation to the upper part of the roof (from the inside, the attic), but was not able to insert needed insulation into the outside half of the space. 

It desperately needs more insulation.  My solution is to remove the roof sheathing after the shingles are gone, and put more insulation in place from above.  This could be a huge challenge, or it could be reasonable.  Nothing's simple.  :-(