Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 23, 2021

Raising the roof

We recently had our roof re-shingled. The expression déjà vu is sometimes invoked to refer to a new experience that seems like a repeat of a previous one. Perhaps I could call this one semi-déjà vu!

My late husband Jerome and I bought a fixer-upper in the summer of 1982, and we really had no idea what we were getting into. It was a two-story with a front porch and an upstairs apartment that could help provide income for the house payments. We discovered we had to rip out old carpeting, take walls down to the studs, replace plumbing, do electrical wiring, put in new ceiling tiles, add insulation, paint and ... well, the tasks seemed unending. And we had to do most of it ourselves because we couldn't afford to hire it done.

Although every project took time and energy, the shingling was by far the most arduous. What made it worse was we decided to start in August. People from Kansas and other Midwest states know immediately this was NOT a good decision as August is usually the hottest month of the year and asphalt shingles just added to the heat factor. So we started at dawn to take advantage of what little coolness was available.

To make matters worse, we had to replace the plywood sheathing below the shingles as well. I can't even recall how we did that, as four-foot by eight-foot sheets are about 70 pounds each and their size makes them awkward to handle. Perhaps I don't recall this step as I don't want to.

In contrast, the first step this time was selecting the color and deciding to replace the guttering as well. Husband Art said, "Choose whatever color you like." So I selected "Moire Black" impact-resistant shingles since Kansas is prone to frequent spring and summer hailstorms. Art laughed. "Looks like plain-old black to me," he said looking at the picture. I opted for "Colonial Red" for the gutters and down-spouts to match the color of our siding.

About a week later, a couple of guys arrived in a truck. It came down our driveway and was positioned so the rear-mounted conveyor could transfer the shingles from the truck bed onto our roof. One guy "fed" the shingles onto the belt, while the other took them off and lined them up along the roof peak. In only 15 minutes, they were done and they hardly broke a sweat.

Then something peculiar happened - something that at first didn't seem connected with what we had started. We are in the habit of watching reruns of the old "Columbo" show on Sunday evenings, so we were bummed when we turned on the TV and saw that the reception was borderline. When Art bought the house years ago, he decided to make an antenna and put it in the attic to see if he could avoid an outside version. Since we're 60-plus miles from the Topeka TV stations and have an intervening ridge near us, the signal was generally weak, but adequate.

However, sometimes heavy rain will shield the antenna enough to cause trouble. While it wasn't rainy, the additional layers of shingle bundles were too much. But "Engineer Art" surmised we might be able to reflect enough additional signal from inside the house to the attic antenna to do the trick. I think even he was surprised when it worked. The final solution involved a chair supporting our cat's scratching post placed near the edge of the living room near the antenna's location. On top of this "tower," he placed our wire dish drainer - something conductive that would reflect. Then he added a book to hold it in place. It looked like something out of a bad science-fiction movie, but it worked. After the show was over, we took the make-shift reflector down and the channel vanished!

Shingling was scheduled for Tuesday. About 8 a.m., a local trash hauler brought a skip container for the old shingles. I watched from a window, sucking in my breath when I heard someone yell, "Stop, stop, stop!" I imagined the skip crashing through our garage doors, but it stopped a couple of feet short.

Within a short time, the four roofers were at it, scraping, pounding and shoveling old shingles into the container. The house shook, framed items on the walls shifted, the cat hid - and I reflected on Jerome's and my shingling experience. Once we had the plywood nailed in place and had put the felt tar paper down, he would sling a 60-plus-pound bundle of shingles over one shoulder and slowly make his way up the ladder to the roof.

The two of us then spent the next three or four hours nailing them down until we couldn't stand the heat any more. Then it was down the ladder, head into the house, flop down on the living room floor in front of the only window air conditioner we had, and sleep a few hours. The next few days, we'd repeat the process until we were done.

I get tired just thinking about those days of nearly 40 years ago. But I also smile because it shows what youth, determination and hard work can accomplish.

In contrast, on this shingling day, Art and I went on a picnic lunch with friends and spent the afternoon on computer work. When we returned in the evening, the job was done. The next day, the guttering was delivered and installed. Voilà, we have an almost new-looking house! It had been fun to watch the process and marvel at how quickly they completed the job.

But did that observing make me long to get up there and "give it a go" myself? Not on your life! Been there, done that and probably couldn't do it even if I had the desire. No, today I'm more than happy to let someone else "raise the roof."

Top-left: Jerome shingling the northwest corner of the roof over the apartment while his ace helper awaits instructions on the ladder; top-middle: our chair/cat scratcher/dish drainer/TV-reflector on duty; top-right: the "roof man" who stacks the shingles on the roof riding the conveyor to his post; bottom-left: the "truck man" feeding a package of shingles to the conveyor; bottom-right: the final product!.

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