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This Old Roof

One of the (frightening) joys of owning an antique house is that whenever you do work on it you’re never sure what you’ll find. Our exploration back in 2008 of the floor and walls when we were running ductwork for air conditioning was mostly innocuous with finds including very large beams, hidden shelves, and several hidden ceilings. Central Air Part 1 and Central Air Part 2.

This years task was to put on a new roof. The old one probably had another year or two of life left on the shingles, but all of the flashing on the skylights, chimneys, and roof vents was starting to go. Rather than pay someone to get up on the roof this year and pay them again next year we opted to have the work done all at once. It was unclear what shape the boards would be in once we got the shingles off and this is what it looked like once we did.

Front of house

Front of house


Back of house

Back of house

The front of the house appears to have original boards from 1712. Even if they aren’t original they are very old as they are hand planked. They are all 18 inch (or more) wide and run the entire length from peak to eaves. I shudder to think what wood like that would cost if you could even find it nowadays. While it was in pretty good shape the ends had started to rot and the roofers were worried about how the nails would hold. We ended up putting down a new layer of wood over the original roof.

The back of the house has wood that runs horizontally and is much newer than the front of the house. The neat thing is that while it is newer, it is still made up of individual planks from a pre-plywood era. Also, since they didn’t have plywood the entire roof is tongue and grooved in order to make a solid sheet. I was thankful that despite there being some valleys in back the underlying wood was good and did not need to be replaced. That large of area with that number of holes would have cost some major additional dollars.

Looking back at my attic photos from the AC installation, I noticed the roof boards from underneath look like the ones on the front of the house. The roofers solved this mystery when they pulled back one of the boards and noted an entire other roof (original wood plus really, really old shingles) under the planks in back. Whenever the newer planks were put on, the roofer decided to leave the previous layer of shingles on and just board over the top of it. This also explains why we had no major leaks in back despite the fact there were some obvious shingles missing. Apparently two roofs are better than one.

In the end the work went as expected with no major problems other than needing to put new wood up front. We have a new roof with 30 year architectural shingles and new flashing around all of the openings on the back of the house. It may not be the most glamorous repair to have to do, but it was still interesting to see what a 300 year old roof looked like.

Comments

Comment from Jeri Ismert
Time: June 13, 2010, 6:44 pm

What! No after pictures!

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