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!