Saturday, 30 March 2013

A good roof overhead ~ part 5 ~ all those tiles: getting them up and on

Replacing an existing roof with a new and different material can be a complex job, especially when the roof has numbers of slopes which intersect at diagonal angles as is the case with our neighbours' roof.  It was just as well that John had Andrew McCurdy, an experienced and energetic builder, to assist him.  

John had completed work on the upper roof himself, and then waited for Andrew to be available before embarking on replacing the lower roof.  

One of the first sections they tackled was the south slope, which is the longest single stretch.  In the photograph below you can see the two of them working hard in the morning of what turned out to be a very long days work.  Painter Mike is the third person in the picture; he was preparing the woodwork for its new coat of paint.  You can see the old roofing iron leaning against the frontage at ground level; less obvious are the stacks of roofing tiles sitting in a long row on the scaffolding above the garage door.  This photograph was taken at 10 in the morning:

From observing progress throughout that day it became clear that screwing the tiles into place was the smaller part of the job, even when the exacting work of fitting the flashing was taken out of the equation: before the tiles went on the old roofing had to be removed, the old ceiling insulation replaced with new and much thicker Pink Batts, the timber framework adapted to take the new battens, and the roofing paper applied - there is a lot of basic construction work involved in all this.

The next photograph was taken after 7 in the evening of the same day!  At around about that time I could see that the stock of tiles they had up there was running low, so I scurried over to hand more up the ladder so they could keep going.  A passer-by remarked that they had the best job, working by the seaside in such a pleasant spot, by which time even Andrew had become somewhat dour!  He worked on until about 8pm afterwhich John continued for a further half hour.  By the end of the day that slope was watertight - a triumph!

It was just as well that John and Andrew got on so well, and indeed both have a lively sense of fun.  Having had a taste of John's dogged persistence at work and his braininess with roofing issues Andrew made him a name badge: it says "Hi I'm John the roofer" - note the apostrophe!  The words are hand-stitched into felt.  I asked Andrew if he had really made it himself.  He had.  John, picking up on the humour of it, quite often wore it pinned to his tee shirt.

In the next selection of photographs I show the whole process of preparation and tiling in more detail: 
Here is the front (western) slope being replaced.  It was 8.30 in the morning and John had already been hard at work for some time, stripping off the old sheets of iron and beginning to assemble the pink batts (insulation) needed for inside the ceiling space:

The yellow stuff inside the wall is, you guessed it, old wall insulation.  My word, the new batts are way thicker than the old ones, and a different shade of pink altogether!

A closer look at that near corner shows the accumulated dust and detritus of about three decades - ergh!

Now for a more detailed look at the construction work involved:
To look at the next phase of the job I am using a photograph taken on another and sunnier part of the roof, the northern side: you can see John and Andrew fitting what's called a ponding board, the purpose of which is to prevent the ponding of any stray trickles of water.  The string running horizontally at evenly spaced widths up that slope marks where the battens will be fixed in place; at each point that the string passes over the framework a nail was put in, which later poked though the building paper when it was laid over the top of the whole area so that they served as markers - very smart.  Those battens have to be exactly the right distance apart for the tiles to sit correctly. 

The weather was perfect that day!  But looking out to sea a thin line of pale blue can be seen above the horizon; that is low lying cloud which rolled in in the late afternoon.  We had a lot of that around about then.

Back around the front of the house and later in the same day that John had removed the old roofing iron the framework was tidied up and roofing paper fitted.  Here they are putting on the final length around the chimney.  Andrew knows just where he can place his feet on the now invisible framework underneath it:

How neatly he has cut around that chimney!

You can see those nail markers in closer detail here - voilĂ :

Finally the tiles could go on.  That day had proved to be another long one.  Indeed, it was the same day that roofing membrane was fitted to the section of flat roofing on the other side of the house.  You can read about that in part 6 of this series; the link to it is at the foot of this article.

John was so determined to get those tiles on: here he is screwing them down at 6.30 that evening.

However, the two diagonally sloped sides of that section of roof proved very challenging in terms of fitting the tiles, especially at the right hand end where they butt against a valley-shaped piece of flashing.  That was the only evening that John left any stretch of roof without the cover of either tiles or other roofing.  Although the roofing paper would have adequately shed rainwater it was good that the weather remained dry.  Dew evaporated rapidly the following morning.

Every single tile piece, whatever its size, needs to be supported along the edges where they butt against the ridging: in the gap in the tiling shown below you can see a supporting batten which is sitting directly over a layer of roofing paper:

...But the most challenging edges of the diagonal sections of roof were those where the tiles overhang the valley-shaped flashing:
I took the photograph below when John was describing the complexity of getting the whole thing to come together well:

Below you can see an earlier photograph of the flashing being fitted.  The flashing is much wider than what you can see of it once the tiling was completed:

As mentioned above, all other tiled edges are supported by battens, so how were the tiles which overhang this broad piece of flashing fixed in place?  John and Andrew devised a way of attaching all the especially cut and fitted tile pieces, many of them small, to their own battens, rather like flags on sticks, so that these could cantilever out over the flashing.  I'm disappointed that I don't have photographs of this but in the one below you can see the degree of overlap that resulted:

In the image below where the left-hand width of the flashing can be seen just above the edge of the guttering; the same width extends underneath the adjacent slope:

In the next photograph those awkward neighbouring slopes are being swept clean after completion.  Notice how evenly the front edges of the rows of tiling correspond with those on the other slope:

Finally those awkward sections were closed in and John and Andrew could get on with other parts of the project.  

Fitting the tiles, especially to the edges of the roof angles, required a lot of cutting:
This work produced dense dark grey dust, which should NOT be breathed in AT ALL.  In the photograph below you can see both Andrew and John wearing breathing masks: 

All that cutting to size of angled pieces produced a lot of waste.  John did his best to save pieces which might be able to be used in other angled corners as you can see in this selection seen from my perch on the ladder:

Yes, I think these tiles have been utilized to the absolute maximum!  Look at that dust too; that's the dust that comes from cutting them. 

The next sequence of photographs show more detail of how the tiles fit together and are screwed into place:  
One afternoon I went over especially to watch John fitting tiles in around the small vent you can see below.  He had told me that he had drilled a hole in one of the tiles to fit over the piping of the vent exactly, which meant cutting the hole at an identical angle to the slope of the roof.  Four tiles remained to be screwed down - neighbouring flanks of tiles had already been secured.  Would they all fit together as neatly as planned?  Well, seeing is believing:

There's Mike, working away on the woodwork just nearby.  I teased him about not making any drips on the tiles, but of course there were none.

In the image below John has just pulled a specially cut piece of butynol over the pipe, to be extra-sure of weather-tightness.  The tile with the hole in it is lying to the right of it:

Here is a closer look at that tile:

Neighbouring tiles are screwed into place:

They are exactly even:

More screws - those tiles aren't going anywhere!

And now for that special tile: absolutely perfect - No Wiggle-room At All!

The tile fitted in place over the pipe and in between its fellows flawlessly!  That's engineering for you.  I'm beginning to think that engineers can do anything! 

The weather had been marvellously fine but couldn't hold out indefinitely:
Heavy rain was forecast so John closed over the remaining unflashed seams of the roof so that they would shed rainwater effectively.  Below you can see him stapling a strip of butynol into place to give extra weather-proofing underneath the stainless steel ridging which would go on on top of it.  But that wasn't ready just then. 

Flashing for some parts of the roof had yet to be made, and in the meantime they were sealed with temporary materials. 

John finished off by applying sealant along the front of the chimney.  Just look at that tile dust on his legs.  That area, as well as John, could do with a good clean! 

At this point all the tiles had been screwed in place.  Phewf - what a labour it had been!  

For those of you who are keen to see how John and Andrew resolved those tricky flashing angles, including around the base of the chimney, I will add photographs of these later in a separate article. 

In the meantime other parts of the roof remained to be done - in particular a  nearly flat section of roof on the other side of the house.  This would be covered in a specialist roofing membrane, which is the subject of my next article. 

Readers can click through to other articles about this project via these links:
 I will add more links to further articles as they are published.

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