A shingling adventure

Consider the Following, by Todd Moen

As some of you know, I am not Mr. Handyman. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t participate in some big home improvement projects.

For example, my father-in-law, Dale, brother-in-law Von, father, Dave, and I reshingled the roof of my garage this past weekend.

It was a project that needed to be done for quite a while. I don’t know a lot about shingles but even to me, it was obvious that the roof was shot because the shingles were starting to flake off and in general, they looked pretty bad. In fact, the roof should have been done when we moved in several years ago but we never got around to doing it until now.

For months, I watched the ads and when shingles finally went on sale, I bought 18 packages, which was 600 square feet. By our estimation, the roof was only 550 square feet which was one of the main reasons why we decided to reshingle the roof ourselves. After all, it was "only a single stall garage," so how difficult could it be? We’d start early, rip the old ones off, slap the new ones on, and we’d be done in time to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. It would be a busy, one-day project. And it was, except it took two days, not one.

We started early on Saturday. After some initial prep work, we began to rip off the old shingles. I have always been somewhat leery of ladders but that’s getting better. I recently painted a higher portion of the garage so I was able to get used to being on the ladder, which helped with the roofing project.

As I contemplated stepping off of the ladder onto the roof, however, it came to my immediate attention that my weathered tennis shoes spelled doom for working on the roof. The worn soles were as smooth as ice and there was no way I was going to be able to walk on that roof in those shoes. Unlike my wife, I do not have an expansive shoe selection but I found some sandals that had a nice tread on them. I wasn’t planning on wearing sandals to reshingle the roof … it was another indication of why I’m not a contractor.

As we continued working, it also became readily apparent that we had grossly misjudged the slope of the garage roof. It was much steeper than we had anticipated and it definitely added to the challenge of the job. On the roof, I found myself moving very slowly, very deliberately, unlike Dale and Von, who were practically gazelle-like in the way they pranced about the roof.

Ripping off the old shingles went much faster than I had anticipated. It was a little challenging getting off of the roof once there was just bare wood because there was nothing to brace yourself with. We used a couple of the leftover roof nails that were sticking out to provide some stability so we could crawl down to the ladders.

After lunch, we started laying down the felt and new shingles.

Earlier in the day, the mid-70 degree temperatures felt nice but in the afternoon, it was much different.

The sun was out in full force and the black felt and shingles we were working with got quite hot. It was yet another aspect of the job that I hadn’t really thought about. I was already concentrating on not falling off the roof and now I had to add trying not to get burned on the hot shingles that were baking in the sun. Fortunately, the job was made easier by the presence of Dale’s skid steer, which provided some work space and power for lifting heavy shingles up to the roof.

At the end of that first day, we finished shingling one side of the roof. We returned the next day to finish off the other side, a process made much easier thanks to some footholds Dale fashioned out of metal braces and wood 2x4s. Now we could actually brace ourselves on that awkward part between the reach of the ladders at the bottom and the relative stability offered at the top of the roof.

Despite the sandals, the steep slope, the baking sun and the rest of the challenges, we finished and honestly, it almost looked like professionals had done the job. It was a great learning experience and I appreciate everyone’s help on the project. That said, my aching body is telling me to hold off on any other roofing jobs for now.

Kudos to the pros that do this stuff all the time!