I used to think the four sweetest words in the English language were “Will you marry me?” or “It’s a healthy boy!” (Or girl). These days “The roofers are here” is running a close third.
When we bought this old house it had a new roof. That selling point alone should have alerted us that something was off. Our home was a definite “handyman special.”
A wood burner mounted too close to the wall posed a danger of igniting the southern half of the house, and the downstairs bathroom sink, while new, was not actually plumbed in.
The entire heating system was virtually non existent. These little foibles were just the tip of the iceberg. Still, the roof was new. Things were looking up.
Unfortunately, shortly after moving in we found ourselves looking up. Frequently. It seemed that our roof was slowly but surely sliding off the house.
It seems that where most shingles a.) have tar or another sticky substance to help adhere them to the roof; and b.) more than two nails per shingle, ours, we would find, had neither.
Once, needing to match the porch paint to the peculiar reddish-brown shade of the roof, I realized that I needed only to wait for a slight breeze and, obligingly, the house would send a shingle sailing down to meet me.
It got so that we could gauge the wind direction on any given day by which way the shingles were standing.
Steady stream of rain
Finally, one night we came home to find a steady stream of rain coming in our bedroom via a waterlogged and bulging plaster ceiling. Soon drips would start in two other bedrooms as well.
Ignorance of our roofing needs was officially no longer bliss.
Lest we sound like slackers, let me assure you that the very minute we realized our “new roof” had, in fact, been applied with little more than a lick and a prayer, we set to work finding someone to remedy the situation.
This old house is a full three and a half stories tall and stands on a hill. I gather from the gasps of potential repair persons that it also has what is called a 12/12 pitch. This means that the slope of the roof is nearly straight up and down.
The overall effect is one of “certain sudden death.” I had no idea that so many roofers were, apparently, afraid of heights.
The first roofer to come look at it climbed out of his vehicle craned his head back, and stared. When I suggested he might get a better idea of what he was up against if he actually went up on the roof he shook his head, laughed, and said “You’ve got to be kidding me lady.”
The second roofer came and walked around the perimeter of the house, peering up and making notations on a little clipboard. He asked smart questions concerning dormers and flashing.
I got my hopes up with that one. He left with a promise that our estimate was “in the mail.” Two years later I’m still waiting.
With a subsequent roofer I took a different tack. I spoke confidently as if the job was already in the bag. Could he, I asked, please remove the 1950s-era antennae mounted around the chimney while they were up there?
Sadly, I knew he was not the roofer for me when he replied “Lady, not only will I not remove it, I’m not convinced the guy who installed it isn’t up there still clinging to it for dear life.”
These were just the guys who actually got out of their trucks. In short, our house ran off a variety of roofing professionals while continuing to shed shingles with alarming frequency.
After a while it became a way of life. Some people rake up autumn leaves, we collected windfall shingles.
Still, I never knew which storm would be the tipping point. Many rainy nights found me prowling the house, listening for the slightest hint of a drip, eyes peeled for burgeoning brown water stains.
Then one day yet another roofer arrived. I was jaded by then, having been exposed to the “boy who cried roof” one too many times.
I sat in my third floor office peering down as the latest roofer-come-lately climbed out of his truck, tipped back his hat, took a long look at the roof, and smiled.
Then he said four words that would make him ours: “It’s not too bad.” Finally, our roofer had come.
Today the roofers are here. The chaos is utter bliss. Secure in the promise of a new roof I can now move on to bigger, better dreams.
I fantasize of the day I will be able to utter four more beautiful words: “The basement is dry.”
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