A Roof at Last

September, 2018

You thought we’d given up on this project. As for us, well, we wanted to, but we didn’t. We, like you, never thought this roof would ever be finished, but here we are: it’s fall, the snow is starting to fly, and the roof is buttoned down tight. Hallelujah, praise be. Thinking back to the spring, we also never imagined it would take the entire summer to finish the roof, but let’s not look back. If we had known, maybe we’d have tossed in the towel.

Well, OK, for the purposes of this blog let’s look back to August, when the roof looked like this:

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Here’s J. installing our attic, all two inches of it. The spaces between those two-by-fours are a passive ventilation space between the insulation and the steel roof, sucking in cool air down low and spitting out warmer air up high. After those epic 14″ screws went in, a second layer of plywood made the “roof” of the attic, followed by another layer of underlayment. And finally…what we had all been waiting for…the metal roof.

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Here’s the fascia going up first–the two layers conceal a screened gap through which cool air enters our “attic.”

Put like that, with all the weight of “what we’d all been waiting for,” it was…remarkably disappointing. We watched our beautiful, wonky house get eaten up by a giant, cold rectangle. It was like a pink plastic 3D-printed mushroom growing out of a mossy log, or like someone compelling Willem de Kooning to paint like Mondrian. To be creating for three years with natural materials and then to cap it all off with plywood, synthetic underlayment, and sheets of steel the color of a dead shark…well, it was a little soul-crushing.

If we were another family, we would have harvested local grasses to thatch the place, or used round-wood rafters, plank roofing, and hand-split shakes to ride the undulations of the roof. But we feel we’ve learned enough natural building techniques for one project–at this point, we just want to keep our heads dry, and we’re itching to get this house completed so we can move the heck in. So bring on the rubber-gasket screws, the drip-edge, and the shark-grey Pro-Snap.

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The north face: walls thoroughly baled, roof thoroughly steeled, boots drying on the step. Tar paper clads any exposed wood in preparation for plastering next spring.

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It rained often this summer, and the roof was slick, the upper part steep; nevertheless J. persisted. Spending the summer on the roof did wonders for his tan. He roofed through spring black fly season, through the summer mosquitoes, and continued through fall wasp season. I puttered along on the bale walls in the cool shade of an insulated roof while he hammered away above me in the hot sun.

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There it is: the season in an image.

Finally the ridge-cap went up and the last screw went in.

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We thought we’d go ahead and add some windows.

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And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s starting to look like a house!

It seems like the craziest thing in the world to spend the summer on the roof, to carry twelve (12!) layers of materials up a ladder and pound/screw/staple them in, one on top of the other. But, you know, the world is crazy. It only takes turning on the news to hear of all the conflict in the world, the insanity that happens in Washington D.C., the cruelty that one person can inflict on another.

Sometimes the best response to all this scariness is to do what you can to make something beautiful in the world. To braid rags into a rug. To plant a tree and spend the evenings watching it grow. To whittle a spoon and use it to stir homemade soup. It seems like the sanest thing in the world to put hammer to nail and build something, to create with one’s own hands out of wood, straw, and Pro-Snap a place of peace in the world. If that’s the one thing we’ve done this summer, I’d say that’s one well-spent summer.

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5 thoughts on “A Roof at Last

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