Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 4 (The Roof is finally on!)

After living with roof that leaked during EVERY rain storm for the past year, we have a new roof- and it’s water tight with R-9 insulation value!

The re-roofing has been a 4 day process. On day one, Abril‘s team arrived at 8:30am on the dot and got straight to work.  About 4 men of the 6-or so person team went straight up to the roof to start removing the gravel and old fashing.  Another 2 guys (including Al, who was the day’s project manager) came into the house and started taping plastic to our ceilings to collect any dirt and debris that seeps in:

Believe me- dirt seeps in… see:

They were very thorough- even getting plastic up in the closets.  Unfortunately, the tape didn’t hold very well- by the time we woke up the next morning, about 1/4 of the plastic had fallen.  Not a big deal however, because when it finally came off the next day, Andy did a good job at cleaning up.  My guess is that Abril’s team would have come in and done the same, but I going a little nuts having plastic everywhere so Andy took the initiative to take it down.  He’s a good husband.

After the taping, the whole team focused on the top of the roof and removing the gravel.  They used a giant vacuum cleaner that was connected to a dump truck.

It was loud- like they were running a lawn mower on the roof.  That commotion is what created all of the dirt in the house- and even loosened a light fixture in the office (probably my fault for not attaching it tightly after water seeped into it during the last rain storm).

They added new 4″ flashing (8″ in the atrium)- which is primed gray (we’ll most likely paint it white with the rest of the trim):

Finally, they added a black primer to help the foam adhere to what was left of our roof (tongue and groove wood, tar, a little gravel):

Notice they left the satellite dish up there as long as they could so we could continue to watch tv through the whole process except the middle of day 2! They also dug up quite a bit of the old tar, as you can see in the foreground of this picture- in some spots they dug down to the wood ceiling.

On day 2, Abril’s team arrived again at 8:30 on the dot.  We had a new project manager, Jose. Jose was the lead foam applier, as you can see by his shoes (he says they’re his foam shoes- I’m glad all his shoes don’t look like that).  I took this on their well deserved lunch break (and my lunch break).

Before they got to spraying the foam however, they finished up flashing (Andy decided to extend some fascia he added during the roof extension after he got home from work on roofing day 1- so they just had that small area to finish up), disconnected our 7 down spouts and added new flashing on top of the roof for them.  We decided to have them enlarge the down spouts on the recommendation of Kevin Sullivan, our favorite contractor.  They also removed the skylight in our hall bathroom and built up the base a bit so the new sky light will sit well above the foam.  Then they started spraying on the foam:

They were very diligent about protecting everything around- our gate and mailbox, our lawn furniture, every car in a 3-house radius, the entire atrium etc.  Luckily there was very little wind so there were no accidental over sprays that we’re aware of.

On day 3 the team added sealant and granules to the foam roof, and replaced the 6 existing 2″ down spouts with new bigger 3″ ones and added a 7th down spout, all to help aid drainage:

Before we reveal the new roof, here’s what the old tar and gravel roof looked like before:

(sorry, we don’t have a good wide angle shot)

And here she is now.:

Isn’t she beautiful, like a pristine snowfall in the Sierras?

(On day 4 they replaced the bathroom skylight which you can see in the photo above- the one they had on day 3 was the wrong size).

The best part?  It’s currently 91 degrees outside and only 77 degrees inside!  Not bad for a house with tons of giant single pane windows and no insulation in the walls (last summer it would have been about 98 degrees inside if it were 91 outside).  We’re in looooooove and can’t wait for the next downpour!


Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 3 (Extending the roof)

Aside from making all foreseeable protrusions to the roof, we had another major project to complete before the roofers arrived- and that is extending the roof line in the front of the house.  This is arguably the most exciting of the roof projects as it’s the biggest impact.  Here’s what we were starting with:

Notice how there are 8 beams sticking out from the front of the house topped with a trellis?  The problem with this set up is that the beams themselves and the areas surrounding them are very susceptible to weather, specifically water intrusion (the white one in the photo above was in such bad shape the entire beam needed to be replaced).  There is also no eave on the front of the house to protect the siding from weather.  For these reasons and aesthetic ones, we decided that now is the perfect time to extend the roof line (by 33 inches to be exact) all the way to the end of the beam.  Several of our neighbors with the same model house have done the same thing- so we had plenty of examples to look at before we committed to this very large project.  Also, the back of the house has an eave over the extending beams, so it made sense to us for the front to be the same way.

I should mention that we considered hiring this project out, but after talking to several contractors, Andy decided that we would do it ourselves (by we I mean Andy and his little brother Tim with advice from our favorite contractor, Kevin and a tiny bit of help from Mary).

First, we removed the trellis.  Although several neighbors have added similar trellises and they are definitely better than nothing, they were not original and do not do a good job at protecting the house, so we wanted something better.  Judging by the condition of the wood, ours was probably about 5 years old.

This picture nicely demonstrates several concepts

  1. The siding on the front of the house is in really bad shape- notice the green tint and the horizontal seam?  I’m no siding expert, but I’m guessing those things are not good.
  2. The house is pretty ugly “naked” like this (in my opinion).  Some neighbors have naked houses and seem happy with them while others have gone a step further and completely trimmed back the beams so they are flush with the house and do not stick out at all- I’m personally not a fan of that either (although it may solve some of the water intrusion problems).
  3. We did this job (yes We, as in Andy AND Mary) after work one evening- hence the bad lighting.
  4. Andy really loves his Sawz-All.  It’s probably his most used tool after the drill.

Removing the trellis actually took a bit of engineering.  See, it was attached to the beams via nails so large they are better classified as stakes.  To pry the trellis off of the beam we used a combination of a steel post, the car jack and a sledge hammer.  Safe? No. Effective? Yes.

Next, Andy ordered the lumber which consisted of 1.5″x6″ tongue and groove, 10″ fascia (which we later trimmed down to 8″) and lots of 2×4’s (we had to make a second trip to San Rafael lumber for the plywood). He ordered all of the lumber (except the plywood) from Golden State lumber in San Rafael who delivers directly to our driveway.  Even though Andy has a truck now, this is still much more convenient considering the tongue and groove came in 16′ lengths and the fascia boards came in 20′ lengths and his truck bed is nowhere near that long.

Because my least favorite thing is painting tongue and groove ceilings, I decided to prime and paint the tongue and groove before it became the ceiling of the eave (so that once it’s installed, it will just need touch-ups).

Honey Brown was very curious about the 24 16′ boards that were taking over her back yard.  I only painted one side (the only side that will be exposed- as the under side of the eave).

Once the wood was prepped, the protrusion projects completed and Tim (Andy’s little brother) was in town, the extension officially began.  The first step was removing the flashing:

then the siding and finally the berm at the front of the house.  The berm basically extends about 4″ up above the tongue and groove that comprises the ceiling.  This step was nerve wrecking because it meant that we were seriously opening up our house to a complete soaking if nature decided to rain.  I believe a sawz-all, wedge and sledge hammer were used to remove the berm.

Once the berm was gone, the tongue and groove went directly on top of the beams (just like in the back of the house) and they started building a new berm from 2×4’s:

Plywood was added above the tongue and groove to try to bring the level of the eave up a bit so it wasn’t a low spot of the roof (we are enlarging our existing down spouts but did not add any down spouts to the eave):

And a fascia board was added.  This took a lot of debate over how to compensate for the un-levelness of the roof line- the fascia could be level or it could follow the roofline but not both- so we came up with a bit of a compromise.  Andy, Tim and I can see precisely how it’s not level, but hopefully it’s not as apparent to others.  We also confirmed that there are neighbors whose rooflines/fascias look way less level than ours.

And finally, the fascia board got topped by a new piece of flashing (this step was done by the roofers):

Sure, it needs a top coat of paint (everything is at least primed) and our house still needs new siding and paint, but we think it’s a huge improvement- both aesthetically and functionally!

Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 2 (Planning and Making Protrusions)

One day, Joseph Eichler said to himself, “I like roofers- they are nice guys and do hard, back breaking work.  Because I like them so much, I will plan my developments so as to give them as much work as they can handle.”  That is when he decided to

  1. Make all roofs flat or very low pitched
  2. Ensure any changes to plumbing, electrical wiring, HV/AC or ventilation require penetrating the roof creating the potential for leaks.  He did this by building all of his houses on solid concrete slabs (which house the radiant heating systems) with no attic or overhead crawl space.  Effectively, any new plumbing, electrical wiring etc has to either run through the minimal wall space or through and over the roof.

Thanks to Eichler’s collusion with the roofing industry, we’ve been spending the last 3 months planning for and doing anything that we foresee needing to penetrate the roof.  The advantage of doing this just prior to getting a new roof is that the new roof mitigates the potential for leaks around the protrusions- they just seal everything in with the spray foam (same theory for tar & gravel).

We started out in March (very naively) thinking that we could seal around our protrusions with Henry’s wet patch.  Because none of the bedrooms nor the living room have overhead lights, we wanted to add one to the office and one to the master bedroom (all other rooms without overhead lights have beams in or near the center of the room which makes things difficult- so we ignored these rooms for now).  In theory, this was a pretty easy job.  First, we (and of course by We I mean Andy with some ill informed advice from Mary) drilled a hole through the roof in the center of the room and another directly over the wall containing the pre-existing light switch.  Then we ran some Romex (2-12 for the office, 3-12 for the master- we wised up and thought we may some day want a ceiling fan which requires 3-12) encased in Schedule 40 (looks like gray PVC) which we set in a small trench dug in the tar on the roof between the two holes then attached to the roof via brackets.  We connected one end to the switch and the other to the light fixture then “sealed” the roof with some Henry’s.  This is the same basic concept they used when originally wiring the house, the only difference is that the original wiring wasn’t grounded and was set under long metal teepees (or upside down V channels).  The other very crucial difference is that they didn’t use Henry’s- they immediately applied the roof (hot tar).  Turns out, our sealing job wasn’t so successful.  This is what our bedroom looked like after the first rain:

(pardon the iphone picture- this was taken at 4am).

Needless to say, we couldn’t live very long with makeshift rain chains in our bedroom.  We called Abril roofing the next morning and they came out and fixed the leaks (and the similar problem in the office) the day we called.  In retrospect, we should have postponed this project until much closer to getting the new roof, after any threat of rain- but otherwise, we’re happy with how it turned out.

After the rain-chain-over-the-bed incident described above, we were hesitant to penetrate the roof- so we put all other protrusion projects off until about a week ago (about 10 days prior to the new roof).  Next up was adding an exhaust fan to the master bedroom which only has a window.  Although having a window in the bathroom meets the minimum code requirements, in order for it to be effective it has to be opened after showers and such- which doesn’t always happen, especially in the winter.  The house we rented last had the same set up and the bathroom had so much mold and water damage that it had to be completely gutted.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind gutting the master bathroom, but once we do that, we don’t want to have to worry about mold- hence the exhaust fan.  We chose the Panasonic Whisper Ceiling (80CFM).  For the install, we followed the tutorial provided by Marin Homestead which was consistent with the instructions provided by our roofer.

1. Cut a hole in the roof just a hare larger than the vent fan:

2. Mount the vent fan to the ceiling (ignoring the fact that rather than being in your attic like it should be, it’s now on top of your roof) .

3. Attach a 4″ elbow to the side exhaust then a 4″ stack (so the exhaust is now directed towards the sky).  Scrape away tar around the fan (down to the wood ceiling).  Surround with a rectangle made of 2×8″ douglas fir nailed together (we made this in our garage) and attached to the wood ceiling with screws.

4. Open the bathroom wall around the light switch and drill a hole up through the roof:

5. Run 12-2 Romex from the switch (through the hole you just drilled in the roof) to the box containing the fan (we like to encase our Romex in Schedule 40 sunk into a trench through the tar for protection).  Drill a hole through the box (to let the Romex in) and connect the romex to the fan:

6. Attach a plywood cover to the box (with a 4″ hole cut in it for the stack) with screws.  Add a flashing piece (we got the kind with the rubber ring that is supposed to replace the need for caulk) and a China cap (that’s the name on the tag) and you’re done:

Andy did a very similar install in the hall bathroom- the difference being there was already a fan there (it a was super loud and inefficient NuTone ).  Even though there was already electricity going to the fan, he re-ran the wire so it could be grounded.  We’re very happy with the fans.  They’re super efficient- I can take a shower without the mirror fogging up and they’re so quiet you can barely hear them!  Here’s a view from the inside:

We installed timer switches so the fans stay on at least 5 minutes (I think I read somewhere that you should leave the ceiling fan on for at least 30 minutes when you shower):

(The switch on the left controls the light above the vanity- the fan is on the independent timer on the right.  As you can see, I haven’t yet patched the drywall around the switch.)

The next protrusion we made was to move the kitchen exhaust fan.  Originally, these fans were installed on the opposite side of the beam from the range, which means they basically don’t work.  We moved ours so that it’s directly above the range.  Well, I lied- it’s shifted by 18 inches from the center of the range.  The reason for this is that we someday hope to move the range 18 inches to the left so that it is not against the wall/window.  We may also replace the original fan with a proper vent hood, and when we do, we’ll have the hole for the 6″ vent in the perfect spot.

(Old location on the right which we still need to patch and new location on left)

The final protrusion we made was actually 104 protrusions… we had to secure the beam we installed in the office to the roof.  We had the option of screwing up through the beam or down through the roof.  Of course the disadvantage of screwing down through the roof is that it opened an opportunity for water to leak in- which is why we waited until just before the new roof came on (sorry no pictures- but it’s not much to look at- just another trench through the tar with 104 screws in it).

That’s all!  We considered doing the kitchen vent hood now as well, but there’s no real advantage to that (plus it may look a bit weird not being centered over the range, whereas it’s harder to detect the off-centeredness with the original flush fan).  We also considered running some speaker wire throughout the living room for surround sound- but we couldn’t figure out exactly where we wanted it (and we ran out of time).  It took a lot of planning to figure out exactly what protrusions we wanted and where we wanted them- but the hope is it will save us a lot of effort down the road, and hopefully keep us as dry as possible!

Roof-a-palooza 2012: Part 1

We’re getting a new roof in 4 days!!! We started researching and shopping around back in March which is when we chose to go with Abril roofing.  Because we have a completely flat roof, we only have 2 general choices for a new roof- tar and gravel which we currently have or foam.  We decided to go with foam even though it is more expensive because it adds a lot of insulation (the foam itself is insulative).

Disclaimer: All of the following info is probably only interesting if you are interested in flat roofs (which probably only happens if you have a house with a flat roof and need to replace it).  Consider yourself warned!

Aside for leaking every time it rains, the roof we have today has very little insulation:

As you can see, the original roof consists of 1.5″ thick tongue and groove douglas fir (the underside of which is our ceiling) then 0.5″ of fiberglass insulation, then an 1-4 inches of tar (which compresses the fiberglass to about 0.125″) then white semi reflective gravel which has become very thin over the years (the current roof is probably about 20 years old).   Roof salesmen and our neighbors with foam roofs say that having a foam roof significantly lowers the temperature in the summer (they’re very reflective) and reduces heating bills in the winter (very insulative)- both of which we support.

Once we decided to go with foam we still had many options in types of foam roofs.  We talked to Orlando from Aussie roofing about rigid foam coated with bitumen (he initially proposed pitching the roof which would have cost $35,000 all together!).  We also talked to a guy from Custom Craft, George from Armstrong roofing and Rick Abril from Abril roofing, both of whom quoted us for spray polyurethane foam (SPF).  We found George (a salesman) from Armstrong to be a little too pushy for our liking- he convinced us to sign a contract before he left the house (which we later cancelled) because if we didn’t get the roof replaced ASAP (this was back in March- recall- the beginning of this year’s rainy season) they would have to do what amounted to several thousand dollars more work, because, he argued, any waiting would rot our existing roof so much that they would need to add more wood decking.  George also bad mouthed his competitors, specifically Abril. The man from custom craft was a little more knowledgable than George but also long winded (we went through a streak of talking to very long winded salesmen/contractors)- Andy talked to him so I don’t have much more to report. The reasons we ultimately chose Abril are:

  1. Almost all of our neighbors with spray polyurethane roofs used Abril- so we can walk around our immediate neighborhood and literally see dozens of examples of their work.  Everything looks pretty good, and no other vendor gave nearly as many references in our area.
  2. We talked to several people who went with Abril (including neighbors we know well) and all were happy.
  3. We have personally used Abril for several repairs on our current roof and found their work to be good.  When they couldn’t fix a leak on the first try (which, granted, is difficult on a flat tar & gravel roof) they came back and fixed it on the 2nd shot.
  4. For all of our repairs we did with Abril, they offered a 50% credit towards a new roof- which basically meant our repairs were half off.
  5. Rick Abril is very easy to deal with.  His quote took less than an hour- mostly spent on the roof making measurements.  Other salesmen took up to 4 hours of our time- which, frankly, we didn’t need.  Rick got to the point and didn’t waste our time (we especially hate when roof salesmen waste our time by bad mouthing competitors).  I will say that getting ahold of him can be a challenge.
  6. They charge several thousand less than their competitors (for similar scopes of work- there were some minor differences in the quotes- Abril included more flashing while Armstrong adds more foam over the eaves than does Abril- but at the end of the day, we don’t really care how well insulated our eaves are).  This alone wasn’t enough to make the decision- believe me, we did our research- but it certainly helped.

The “granule” debate:  All spray foam roofs are coated with a latex-like paint for protection.  On top of that, some companies add granules (like chunky white sand) and some don’t.  The advantage of them is that they can add a bit more protection, especially from birds pecking at the roof (which has been a known problem with foam roofs).  The disadvantages are (a) they collect in the down spouts after heavy rains and (b) they make it harder to re-coat the roof, which is recommended every 5-20 years depending on who you talk to and whether or not you’ve already paid for your original foam roof (before paying they say it doesn’t need to be coated for 20+ years, after paying, I’m guessing they want more business and quote more like 5 years).

Price:  We were quoted prices ranging from about $20,000 (SPF from Abril) to $35,000 (pitching the roof with rigid foam).  This seems to depend on square footage (our house is 1700 s.f. plus the garage and some eaves) and difficulty (number of vents etc. protruding the roof).  I’m guessing location (Marin County) also factors into the price- that’s how free markets work after all.  All of our SPF quotes were within the $20,000 – $25,000 range, which was very hard to digest (we’ve never spent that much on anything besides the house… and that amount of money could buy a pretty cool car)… but I guess that goes with the territory.

Hopefully, this is helpful to other people in the market for a foam roof- I certainly wish someone had made this type of info available when we were shopping around!