Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Six Days and Counting

One week ago I had a meeting with Matt the carpenter, Jon the roofer and Roger the gutter guy. In writing that sentence, I'm puzzled. What do you call a guy who works with metal, but isn't a blacksmith? Sheet metal worker? Metallurgist? Gutterer? There isn't a nice, succinct word for what Roger does. In any case, I met with the three of them over lunch. It gave them an opportunity to meet each other and me a chance to talk to them all at once. Mostly I'm concerned about what I don't know. In the words of the idiot savant Donald Rumsfield,

"...because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

I know that there are things I don't know (known unknowns). Such as how Roger is going to get the gutters off without destroying the metal facing that is visible. But there are also the unknown unknowns, like when Matt asked Jon, "Will you be doing step flashing into the chimney or using counter flashing? Because with this caliber of house, I'd like to see step flashing." These are the things that I worry about. Because it all takes is one cowboy to cut a nice diagonal groove into the bricks, and ruin them forever. I try to take nothing for granted, but it's those pesky unknown unknowns.

We are approaching start time quickly on the roof project. Next Monday Roger is to come out and remove the existing gutter and the original metal facing from the house. He's estimating one to two days of work. Then Wednesday the roofing crew comes out and removes the 87 year old asbestos cement roof tile. A few comments about the asbestos cement roof tiles.

First of all, if they still made them, I would have priced out replacing them with more asbestos cement tiles. They have amazing longevity (over one hundred years if they are well taken care of, which ours were not). The cost would probably be somewhere between slate and high end asphalt shingles (between $45,000 and $15,000 respectively for our roof). And I think the health hazards involved with them is extremely low. Certainly no worse than all of the VOCs, petrochemicals and heaven knows what other chemicals in a new house.

Second, the asbestos shingles are an impediment to a future sale of the house, someday. It will be good to get them off. I think one of the many reasons that the house was on the market for two years was that the previous owner was very clear about there being asbestos in the shingles.

Third, while I could have removed the shingles myself without any regulation, I chose not too. The hassle of dealing with hauling that much material off site and making sure that it was in an an appropriate container, combined with a fear of falling off the roof, twenty feet to the ground meant I was happy to pay the $5,000 to have them remove the asbestos.

Fourth, because I did hire a contractor to remove the asbestos tile, they are regulated by the state. There is a whole host of laws they need to follow. The tile cannot be dropped greater than ten feet. The guys doing the work have to wear air quality monitors to make sure they aren't inhaling too many asbestos particles. On the days they do the work, the only people allowed on site are us and state certified asbestos contractors. And those are just the things I've picked up on in casual conversation. I'm sure there are others.

Anyway, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week are set aside for roof removal, roof decking repair (if needed) and then felting of the roof. Then the next week, Roger comes back and starts on the gutters. I haven't gotten a firm answer out of him yet as to how long it will take, but his "squishy" answer has been two weeks. Then after that, Jon's crew can come back out and put on the shingles. I suspect that will be a one or two day job. And then finally, after all of that, Matt can come out and finish repairing the fascia, the trim and the cedar shingles on the dormer walls. I'm hoping that the entire roof project will be done by the end of October.

It's a big project, and it's taken more time to get going than I thought it would. I have confidence in Matt and Jon. I'm a little concerned about Roger. He was the best option I had though.

Last week we also finally got the dryer vent put in. We've been venting into the basement for the past year or so. It didn't matter much in the summer, as Ms. Huis has been hanging laundry on the clothesline, but it really made things dusty and damp in the winter. It was the heating and cooling guys who came out and drilled through the basement concrete block. They not only drilled the hole, but also put in the vent and hooked it up to the dryer.

It's expensive to have other people do work that I could do, but I will say that it goes 100 times faster. And even though I cringe every time I sign a check, I do smile every time I look at the updated electric, pass the new dryer vent, look at the kitchen ceiling or use the toilet. And I will readily admit that with only one exception, all of the work that's been done has been to a much higher standard than I could have achieved.


nonick said...

Wow, you're getting a lot done. I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying the benefits of your upgrades, even if it hurts to make the payments. It certainly has been interesting and fun seeing and reading about everything that you've been doing. It sure makes my projects seem small!

Mr. Kluges said...

No project is small. For me they fall into short term and long term. Even the short term ones seem tough sometimes. Like when I tried to fix the glass in the french doors. I was scared to start that one for nine months for fear of wrecking the doors. And this whole roof thing should be done in a month from start to finish. The planning and research took a year though, and I won't know of I planned and researched enough until it's done.

Ragnar said...

I definitely know the feeling about letting other people work on the house... even though my parents pay the bills and it's their house.

While they no longer make asbestos cement shingles, fiber cement shingles to the exact same shape and (mostly) color are made today! (including some seriously fugly siding shingles from the 70s). I just don't know if you can buy them in the US (and it's too late for your roof anyway). I think they're made with nylon fibers instead of asbestos now.