Roofing Work

We did one roofing job on two large townhouses that shared the same roof. The front of the roof was two stories up, had an 18/12 pitch, and rose 18 feet from the gutter to the caps. There were six protruding dormers with individual peaked roofs and metal valleys. In addition, the old roof was asbestos shingles so we had to wear very restrictive face masks while tearing the old roof off. One of my men quit and the remaining man had only done a couple of roofs before we tackled this monster. Frankly, I didn’t want the project and bid it high in an effort to avoid it. I didn’t know until we finished the job that the other roofing companies would not bid on it at all.

I always used adjustable roofing jacks that nail right into the shingle roof and can take up to a 2 x 10 scaffold board. You can adjust the support leg on the jack so that the board stays level on various pitches. On this monster roof, the adjustment was on its last notch.

You start the steep roof working from a ladder. It is extremely tedious, but lays the first three courses across the roof. Place the scaffold jacks no more than 8 feet apart (count eight keys). I routinely used a 16-foot scaffold board supported by three jacks. If the roof is especially steep or dangerous, put the jacks closer together and go to a 2 x 10 plank. On the monster roof, I had the jacks 5 to 6 feet apart and used unfinished (untrimmed) 2×10 planks.

Each scaffold jack is centered over the keys of the last course of shingles you laid. When you are starting a roof, you set the jacks on top of the third course. There are three nail slots in the upper part of the jack, and the bottom nail should be driven approximately 72 inch above the top of the key. Drive the remaining two nails at varying angles to keep the jack from jumping loose. Use 8d or lOd nails.

Nail: Some roofers hold their jacks in place with a couple of roofing nails. The results are sometimes disastrous. The nails should be galvanized because they stay in place when the scaffold is removed.

You will notice that since the jack is over the key, the tab of the next course of shingles up the roof will cover the nails. Lay the scaffold boards in position on the jacks. The arm that the board sits on has a vertical end piece to hold the board in place. That vertical end piece has a nail hole in it. Nail through the hole and into the scaffold board. You don’t want your scaffold board jumping loose either.

When you overlap scaffold boards, make sure there is a jack supporting the overlap. Don’t overlap a scaffold board onto another unsupported scaffold board. Charlie Chaplin made millions laugh doing that type of thing, but nobody will be filming you. Drive a nail through both boards of the overlap. You don’t want a board to slip.

Nail: Some roofers who do use jacks and scaffold planks instead of the 2 x 4 toe boards (chicken ladders) just lay the scaffold planks up there without nailing through the jacks into the planks.

Use good quality planks that are in good condition. Don’t use painted planks. The paint gives the planks a slick surface and covers up flaws. You don’t want to suddenly discover that the only thing between you and eternity is one weak knothole.

The scaffold will support you and enough bundles to lay the roof up as far as you can reach from the scaffold. Stock the bundles on the scaffold plank and walk on the bundles too. The bundles are a tripping hazard. The overlaps of the scaffold planks are a tripping hazard. In addition, if you are using an air gun, the hose can get caught and unexpectedly jerk you. Move slowly and easily along the scaffold. (If you start to feel like an expert, get back on the ground fast!)

You will scaffold up the roof in stages. Work from your first scaffold to build the second stage of scaffold. Repeat the process on up the roof. When the roof is complete, you bring your scaffold down in stages, too. Remove the scaffold planks. Lift the tab covering a jack. Use your hammer to tap (some-times pound) the base of the jack up the roof until it slides free of the three nails. Drive the three nails down flush and mastic over the heads. Press the covering tab down flat over the three nails. TIP: If the jacks are going to stay in place and are going to get wet, they can leave a rust stain. Raise each jack up slightly and slide paper from a bundle wrapper between the bottom of the jack and your new shingles. The paper can protect your new shingles from rust for weeks if necessary.

I scaffold everything right and still had one jack pull partially loose on me on a very steep roof. I sidestepped until another jack was supporting me and then I hustled down the ladder. It turned out that the sheathing underneath the jack was weak. The only reason the jack didn’t pull completely loose was that I had varied the angles of the three nails holding the jack. I was only one story up, but it was a sickening feeling when that jack started to let go.

Nail: The shortcuts roofers take by not scaffolding or by just using “toe boards,” warrant a Nail. If a roofer is doing stupid stuff and risking his own safety, you can guess what else he is doing as he lays your roof.

If you have hired an uninsured roofer, and he gets hurt, he has no choice but to sue you and your homeowner’s insurance. If an insured roofer gets hurt because of something dumb, he nails the entire industry because all insured roofing businesses end up paying higher insurance premiums. The cost of the increased premiums is passed on to the customer.

In Closing

If you are contracting the work for your new roof, you will not find a contractor who will do all these things exactly the way I have described them. Each roofing company develops its own characteristic methods. My goal is to prepare you to recognize and appreciate top quality workmanship when you check your contractor’s references. I want to make sure you are ready to negotiate in what can be a ruthless game. The next steps are yours.

If you are overlaying or tearing off the roof yourself, you know exactly how to do a top-quality job. You need to plan your strategy and your sequence of work. Don’t be overly concerned about the weather.

Just schedule your work around the weather forecast, and keep a “what if’ factor in your plans. You know how to handle sudden storms. When you reroof your home using this book, you will have a top-quality roof with an outstanding appearance. (You will also save a considerable sum of money.)

When you finish the roof, you will probably hear the kind of comment that was always music to my ears. More than once, prospective customers told me, “I want you to do my roof for me. I don’t know why, but your roofs always look so much better than any others I see being done.”

I have done everything I can to show you what to do and also to explain why you should do it that way. Now, it’s time to start talking to suppliers and their previous customers. Whether you are contracting or reroof mg your home yourself, I hope it is a pleasant experience for you and you achieve outstanding results. If my direction and insight helped you, it was my pleasure.

Now, go to it!