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This Week- Roof Hack

October 21, 2014

In painting the exterior of my home this fall, I noticed that the underlayment or “decking” was rotting under some eaves on my back porch. While I didn’t have water leaking into the house yet, I figured that now was better than later in trying a repair.

I put together a 12 foot tall scaffold and worked up the courage to climb up on the roof. Luckily, it wasn’t all that steep. This portion was covered with a 45mm EPDM rubber layer. I peeled back the EPDM and tore off enough shingles to determine where the rotting part stopped and the dry plywood started. I used a shallow cut via my Skill saw and cut a 16″ by 20 ft strip of plywood off the edge of the roof. As several of the rafter ends had rotted as well, I had to shore them up by cutting replicas out of 2×4’s and cut easements for the additional supports. Each piece required 4 specially angled cuts. A royal pain but one nice perk- my nail gun started working again after a year of retirement and made the job that much easier. I then reinstalled new pressure treated plywood, a layer of tar paper, a metal lip along the perimeter, and rolled the EDPM back in place. I used big head roofing nails to hammer everything down and followed up with roofing tar and fiberglass reinforcment netting running the length of the edge.

Sounds simple. Right?

Now the ugly details…

I had to get over my fear of heights. Drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on the roof and enjoying the fall colors of my woods helped tremendously. Wine or beer would have probably worked as well. If the roof could hold the weight, I could build a cool deck up there…  (me and my tree house fantasies…)

Whoever built that porch, sporadically insulated it but didn’t use tar paper or plastic sheeting so the wind was free to blow up under the siding, through the cracks in the insulation, and then through some really butt-ugly pressed wood serving as the inside wall. I’ve suffered for three winters with that enclosed porch stealing heat from the adjoining kitchen. Now I know why.

Wasps- As the walls were basically hollow and easily entered through large exterior holes, literally thousands of them have lived and died in those walls and ceiling. None of the living ones stung me which was nice. I couldn’t find my can of Raid, so I struggled with the concept of letting them live. They weren’t bothering me so I’ve taken the high road and am letting them be.

I took a shower  and discovered lots of wasp wings in my hair. Must have made me look quite lovely waltzing into Lowes for that plywood yesterday.

In the midst of fixing the roof of the porch, I got a little crazy and tore out the two remaining single pane aluminum windows and replace them with double pane Pella’s that I had laying around. It’s nice to be able to crank the new ones open and let the breeze blow wasp wings around now. I had to tear out the window framing studs and move everything over a few inches which is always fun for someone who has NEVER gotten the hang of perfectly “straight with the planet” anything. That and no upper arm strength so if nails and screws look like your grandma made an attempt at framing a wall, you’ll know why. Luckily, all will be covered up and no one will be the wiser. I’ve muttered THAT to myself more times than I can remember in this home retrofit. Am seriously considering ripping off that siding, sheathing it and replacing with new siding. That’s only a day’s worth of work. Or… nail a crude greenhouse to the whole shebang and use it for passive solar heating this winter. I like that idea better.

Old crappy porch- my new breakfast and plant haven- getting there!!!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ricky Lam permalink
    January 1, 2015 8:47 pm

    Two questions concerning duckweed in general. 1. is there any way to grow duckweed vertically? (it is only on flat surface for now) How to increase the water surface area? 2. how to keep mosquito / bad insects away? if you keep fish in there, wouldn’t the fish eat a lot of the duckweed as well?


    • February 6, 2015 8:07 am

      Ricky, you could theoretically stack trays to grow duckweed as long as it gets enough sun for photosynthesis. A thick layer of a duckweed mat actually impedes several species of mosquitoes from normal production. It’s better to HAVE a covering of duckweed on a small water body than leaving it clear when it comes to mosquito production. Not sure what you mean by “bad insects” as in my book, there is no such thing. For aquatic insect identification, try this. For identification of pond micro organisms, try this:
      Duckweed thrives in nature when in mixed cultures with a wide variety of naturally-occurring micro-organisms. The balance of nature- dare we mono-crop without consequences? That is the question.


  2. October 28, 2014 1:43 pm

    Great comments, Sue. Was joking on the wine on the roof but the wasp idea is pretty cool. Unfortunately, we don’t have collectors in my state. Rain today- dry ceiling… Whoo hoo !!!


  3. Sue permalink
    October 22, 2014 2:00 pm

    If you have rain gutters, fill them with water and see if they drain correctly. If the house has shifted over time, the water may be running AWAY from the downspout and be pouring out over the house side, and forcing water under the roofing, which is bad.

    While drinking wine or beer sounds like a good idea, it probably isn’t. A roofing job is one of the two most dangerous — people get complacent and take three backward steps when there was only room to take two… and they’re sober. ooooops!

    Wasps: Check around your county for stinging-insect collectors. Some of them just vacuum the live wasps or hornets out of the roof/walls for free, and then sell them to labs that make antivenin.

    “…discovered lots of wasp wings in my hair. Must have made me look quite lovely waltzing into Lowes…”

    Naw! Everyone looked at you with admiration and thought, “Now, THERE’S a woman who can get things done!”

    It sounds like you did a better job than the original workers did.



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