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August 28, 2005
Cats on a hot tin roof

Steve tries to install screws onto a slippery (and hot) metal roof panel without sliding right off of the roof

After his marathon eight-day stay up on the mountain, Russell was looking forward to a few weekends of rest at home.  That was not to be the case.  As we looked ahead to our schedule in September and October, it occurred to us that the very next weekend, August 26-28, would be an ideal weekend to get some more work done.  Unfortunately, Cameron was still getting over his cold and he didn't want to travel.  This meant that Gail would have to stay home with the boys and Russell would have to go back up by himself.  Unfortunately, Russell's friend Steve was not only available that weekend, but eager to go back up to the mountain.

On Friday, August 26, Russell arrived in the early afternoon as usual.  Steve arrived right on the dot at 6:00 pm.  Steve said that he was still disappointed that he wasn't able to work up on the roof when we laid down the tar paper.  Russell said that Steve should be sorry what he wishes for.  The plan for this weekend was to begin installing the 18-gauge sheet metal sheets on top of the tar paper on the roof.

As usual, Gail had spent weeks getting detailed instructions for how to install the metal sheets, despite Russell constantly bombarding her with more questions.  At this point, we had all of the information -- and hopefully all of the parts and tools -- that we needed.  Each of the eight triangular sections of the roof would require 7 sheets of different lengths.  Russell optimistically thought that we could finish the entire roof in one weekend.

The roof in its various pieces:
On the left, the skinny drip edges
In the center, the 7 different sizes of metal sheets (covered with white scrap pieces to protect them)
On the right, the ridge pieces
On the far right, a flat sheet to cover the center crown of the roof

Our first task would be to separate all of the metal sheets into their different lengths of 24 feet, 20 feet, 13 feet, and 6 feet.  On Friday evening, as Steve and Russell began separating the metal sheets, it quickly became obvious that the work would be much more difficult than Russell had thought.  The metal sheets were sharp, flimsy, and very, very heavy.  As we created separate piles, we were able to lift the 6-foot metal sheets four at a time.  By the time we reached the 24-foot metal sheets, we were lifting them one at a time.  Russell revised his forecast: he predicted that we would complete two of the eight roof triangles this weekend.  But the big question arose: how were we going to lift these heavy metal sheets straight up two stories to the roof, especially without scratching or bending them?  We decided to sleep on it.

The metal sheets uncovered: these are the 24-foot long pieces

On Saturday morning, we began work bright and early at 6:45 am, just after sunrise.  The first step was to install the drip edges along the outside edges of each roof triangle.  These pieces would serve as quasi-rain gutters, letting the rain flow off of the eaves of the roof.  One by one, we measured the distances and cut the drip edges.  Gail had provided Russell with a massive Porter & Cable electronic metal shears, but this tool was unable to cut through the double-lip of the drip edges.  Russell had to cut them with a hacksaw.  It ended up taking all morning to install all eight drip edges.  Now the real fun would begin.

A drip edge installed

Russell had had enough time to brainstorm a process for lifting the metal sheets up two stories to the roof.  First, he fastened a pair of C-clamps to one of the 24-foot metal sheets.  The metal sheet itself was protected from the C-clamp by a couple of wash cloths (sorry, Gail).  Ropes were tied to the C-clamps, then strung up to the roof.

How to lift a metal sheet without scratching it: with a rope, a C-clamp, and a washcloth

For the initial half of the lifting, Steve would have to be up on the roof pulling both ropes.  Russell would be on the ground, ensuring that the metal sheet lifted evenly without bending, and that it cleared the deck (glu-lam beams and purlin) on its way up.  As Steve secured the ropes, Russell would run up the stairs and ladder to the roof.  Then, Steve and Russell together would lift the metal sheet the rest of the way onto the roof.

Steve handles both ropes as we lift a 24-foot metal sheet

Considering how makeshift the process was, it worked very well.  It took about 15 minutes, but the first 24-foot piece of sheet metal was on the roof, unscratched and unbent.

The next step was to secure it with wood screws.  Screws would have to be placed every 12 inches from side to side, as well as every 3 feet up the length from eave to crown.  This distance was supposed to coincide with where the layers of tar paper overlapped each other.  One-inch screws would be used for the flat sections, while 2-1/2-inch screws would be used for the ridges.  Again, Gail had provided Russell with a drill and a socket bit to make this easier.  However, because the screws had to be installed with an exact torque (not too loose and not too tight), and because Steve is a meticulous kind of guy, he preferred to install each screw manually with a ratchet.

Meanwhile, Russell ran downstairs to prep the next metal sheet for lifting.

What followed were many, many hours of very hard work.  Steve had the thankless job of working on the tar paper and metal covered roof under the hot afternoon August sun.  He estimated the temperature of the tar paper at about 150 F.  Meanwhile, Russell had the thankless job of constantly climbing up and down two flights on a ladder and a temporary stairwell, prepping metal sheets and starting/stopping the generator so that he could cut the metal sheets.

Five of the seven metal sheets of various sizes that had to be installed (overlapping) to fit the triangular shape of the roof section

By the end of the day, we had completed exactly one of the eight triangular roof sections.   And we were extremely pleased to have gotten that far.  We were hot and absolutely exhausted.

One triangular roof section, screwed down and cut

Fortunately, Gail had come to the rescue again.  She wanted us to have a better diet than the cold chicken and sandwiches we had eaten during our last visit.  Knowing that we didn't want to take the time to cook and clean up, Gail had pre-cooked and prepared several hot dinners for us; we would only have to re-heat them.  On Friday night we had enjoyed barbecued chicken and garlic potatoes.  On Saturday night we had spicy Indian food with pita bread.  We ended the evening watching an Alison Krauss bluegrass festival on a portable DVD player (Steve had previously asked Russell about the music featured in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and Russell was only too happy to contribute to Steve's cultural education).

Russell left the agenda for the next day open with Steve.  If he preferred, we could just relax and have a leisurely morning on Sunday.  So naturally, we were both up on Sunday morning at 6:45 am again, beginning work.  As we looked at the working and maneuvering space on the roof, we decided that instead of installing one triangular section at a time, it would be better to install all of the long (24-foot) pieces of sheet metal first.  Saturday's work had told us that it takes about one hour to lift, install, and cut each metal sheet.

By late morning, we had successfully installed four additional 24-foot metal sheets and one 20-foot length.  Even though we lifted the last metal sheet at 11:00 am, it took Steve an additional hour and a half to double check all of the screws.  The problem was that the screws, instead of binding into the wooden roof panels, would cause the sheet metal to pop up.  Steve had to go around and hammer the sheet metal around each screw hole to ensure that the metal was flat against the roof.

The meticulous work of installing screws

It was 1:00 pm by the time we packed up and left on Sunday afternoon.  The thermometer in Russell's car read 100 F on the ground.  But in what is turning into a mountain weekend tradition, Russell treated Steve to the Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet in town.  And for Steve, that was reward enough.


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