Monday, October 11, 2010

Front Entry Roof Part 5

Friday was the day they started the gutter and roof install.

I took Friday off, because I wanted to be there when they installed the roof for three reasons. First, I really, really want to know how hard this is to do. Second I want to know how much time it takes. Third I have a history with the metal shop doing this roof and it isn't all sunshine and bubbles.

When we opted to get the front entry done, I went to the historical carpenter that did the carpentry for the main roof project. Of all the contractors we've dealt with - plumbers, electricians, brick layers, roofers and metal workers, he is the only one that has met my expectations every single time. Matt has never, ever let me down. He's expensive and worth every penny.

I told Matt that I was doing everything through him - roof, gutters and carpentry. We talked about options and what I wanted. It was his recommendation that if I was committed to keeping the look of the integrated gutters, a metal roof was going to be the best bet. He said he would get a bid for the roof and gutters from Roger.

Roger owns the company who did the gutters on our main roof. There were (and to a lesser extent still are) some issues with our main roof gutters. They look great. Unfortunately there was too long a list of things that they "forgot" to do. I had to call them back three times after the installation to fix various things. And they were fairly serious items; support brackets missing, seams not soldered and metal folded backwards that needed to be replaced.

When Matt told me he was going with Roger, I made it very clear that Roger had the potential to do good work, but he needed to be watched very closely. If we went with Roger, it was Matt's responsibility to deal with him. Not mine. I wasn't going to chase him up like I did last time. Besides, I figured that Matt would have more leverage with Roger. If Roger screwed up, Matt might stop using him in the future.

Roger's bid came in at about 60% of the only other bid we had, and while Adam did really, really nice work, he was even harder to get a hold of than Roger. If I have to chase a contractor down for a bid, I figure he really doesn't want the work. So we went with Roger. And I was not fully comfortable with it, which is why I took Friday off.

Greg and an apprentice showed up on Friday morning before eight. This was good. I like it when guys show up ready to work. I talked to them off and on in the morning. While they worked on the gutters and the flashing, I worked in the garage on storm windows. When it looked like there was room on the roof, I'd climb up a ladder, watch them for awhile and ask a few questions. I tried not to annoy them and wanted them to know that I was interested in what was going on. The apprentice knew nothing. He was a gopher. Greg was friendly enough, but only bothered to answer my questions. He volunteered nothing.

After a few hours I was comfortable with Greg, he seemed to know his stuff and to my untrained eye, the gutters and the solder joints looked good. I got complacent. I got lazy. And then all hell broke loose.

Once they were done with the flashing and the gutter, they started on the roof panels. To understand what they did, it's necessary to understand the way a flat metal roof is installed. In some ways it's no different than a regular shingle roof. The covering is made of panels, (18" x 24") that are over lapped and crimped together. The upper course goes over the lower course, so that water flows down the roof without obstruction. Courses are staggered, so no seams line up. Here is a great resource about copper flat seam roofs (and other interesting bits about architectural use of copper too).

Initially the two of them were crowded on a corner of the roof and there was little room for me, so once they'd moved to the middle and there was some room, I popped my head up. They were about 40% done and I saw that they had installed the panels backwards. The lower courses of panels were on top of the higher ones. And they hadn't staggered the panels.

I immediately called them out. "Guys, you installed the panels backwards. And aren't the panels supposed to be staggered?" I was told it would be fine. It would all be soldered and be water tight. No worries. And he went back to work.

I wasn't going to fight him. That's why I hired Matt. I went in the house and called Matt. Matt listened and simply said that he wanted to see the roof before he talked to Roger. Considering it was 2:00 on a Friday I could understand this.

After I confronted Greg, the pace of his labors changed considerably. He went faster. By 3:30, he and his apprentice finished up and left, leaving the bottom course remaining, and the other 20 panels installed the wrong way.

I showed it to Ms. Huis after Greg left. She immediately noticed what was wrong (with no prompting). She was furious. I was just depressed, because I knew it meant phone calls and discussions, and uncertainty and conflict. And ultimately, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I crafted a nice long e-mail to Matt on Friday night, along with some pictures, in a professional tone which more or less said, "This isn't going to work. Here's why. We may have to rip off the panels and start over."

And so we waited all weekend, wondering would Matt be able to get Roger to fix this? Would we get our roof put on correctly? Was Roger just going to walk away? Would we need to get a different roofer? How much extra money was this going to cost us?

We didn't get an answer until Monday.

Here are pictures of our roof from Friday. The first is from the top of the roof, looking down. The flat roof on the entry isn't completely flat. It does have a slight patch. Notice that the last course of panels is missing. It's narrower than the other 18" panels and still needs to be fabricated. The last full course sits on top of the next course. During a rain storm, Water would flow towards that hump. The solder job on that seam would have to be perfect. And as soon as it failed for any reason, rain (or melting snow) would sneak in. Even worse, in the winter, the freeze/thaw cycle would force open the seam even more. And notice that the up and down seams are not staggered. Water that enters at one course can easily slip under the next course.

This is a nice shot taken by wife. It's the "water's view". Look at that deliciously large hole I'd like to run into. Again, better hope for a perfect solder joint.

Finally this is the seam between the flashing and the the very first course of panels. Because they started at the top of the roof and worked down, they screwed up from the very beginning. In this case Ms. Huis' hand is the water, straight down into the roof.

I've had better Fridays.

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