Sunday, 31 March 2013

A good roof overhead ~ part 9 ~ finishing touches

The tiles were on, the flashing was complete, but there was still more to do - a lot more!

The first job that had to be tackled was to get all the weatherboards back in place to make the house weather-tight so that work could begin on the top coat of house paint.  Some weatherboards had been removed so that flashing could be fitted underneath them, and as the level and contours of the roof are now slightly different they had to be custom-fitted to match.  It was yet one more aspect of the project that required skill and finesse, and when I saw John and builder Andrew McCurdy setting to work on it I plucked up my camera and hurried over to catch the action:

The image below shows the new flashing all ready for the replacement boards which would fit down over the vertical sections of stainless steel.  The rolled curve of the ridges presented the challenge of how to fit the boards over them without leaving a shiny portion exposed, which I could see looked wrong.  The image above shows John and Andrew experimenting with a short section of weatherboard which neither of them found satisfactory...

They decided to shape a board which fitted right across the back of that wall.  You can see it amongst the jumble of stuff in the photo below.  Where?  At the lower right hand corner of the image you can see the thick end of it.  It's up-side-down.

Below you may be able to see more clearly where that weatherboard has to go: behind the chimney and across the width of that wall, sitting across the top of two curved humps which are the ends of stainless steel ridging:

There it is: John admires the fit! 

Fitting weatherboards is a skill which requires careful consideration and good spatial judgement.  John and Andrew took their time getting those boards to sit just right:

Here is a closer look at part of the detail:

And here you can see it from the other end once the other boards were fixed in place above it.  The thinner bit in the middle of the one mentioned above is hardly visible but believe me, it is essential - it looked all wrong without it!  Why does it make such a difference?  It just does!

I was careful to keep out of the way!  However the two of them were happy in their work and Andrew took time to share a joke: he suggested I post a photo of the jigsaw - as shown below - inviting readers to see if they could spot what was wrong with it.  It seemed that my response was a little too hilarious as John told me with mock severity that "That's enough of all that!"

The blade is in upside down!  John had been puzzled that it had hardly seemed to cut at all.  Oh well, in amongst all the beautifully hand-crafted work even the experts have their moments!

When we went down for morning tea I commented on Andrew's ear plugs.  Up on the roof he had been wearing ear muffs, but he had been wearing these underneath:

These ear plugs were custom made by an audiologist: they are made of silicon and have tiny noise filters in them.  Andrew wears them all the time when on building jobs as they provide excellent hearing protection reducing sound by about 26 decibels while still allowing normal conversation.  I asked him if he could hear the birds, which he said he could.  I've written an article about them here:

The new tiles took all the foot traffic well: John, Andrew and Mike the painter, all did a great deal of (careful) walking around on them and only one of them cracked - and needed to be replaced.  Andrew remarked that if it has been corrugated iron it would have had dents all over it.

Andrew needed to get away to another project but stayed a little longer to help replace the one remaining section of roofing.  Old houses that have been added to and altered over the years can contain a multitude of different segments each of which may require individual treatment.  This has certainly been the case with this project, and this section of roof was just one more bit to be dealt with.  It had originally sheltered an entranceway.  It might be small but it was certainly awkward.

Andrew and John decided that the easiest way to tackle it would be to mount tiles directly onto a single sheet of ply - with butynol between the two surfaces.  Here you can see how it started out:

I didn't like to think too much about the weight of the finished slab as that quality of ply is heavy and it had to be hoisted into position.  Here it is snugly in place - looking as if it has always been there:

There was still plenty to do, but John could manage the remaining building work by himself.  We were all sorry to see Andrew go.  His building expertise had been first rate and he had been great to have around!  Andrew, take a bow! 

One of the remaining jobs was to re-fit the timber casings,  which cover the corners of the upper level of the house - these are called external box corners.  In the next image you can see in detail how exacting all this work has been!  Everything shown has been completed except the additional zigzag edging of the timber casing, called scribers, which makes the corner of the weatherboards weather-tight.  I have included an image which shows the finished result clearly further down the page:

Here John is getting these casings just the right length and fit:

Doing this sort of work on your own requires a high degree of manual dexterity!

My curiosity was caught by the unusual screws John was using on the weatherboards: each one functions as a screw complete with drill bit!  This greatly reduces the work required as these jobs would otherwise need to be completed separately.  Special serrations make this possible:

John showed me just how easily they worked: the impact driver (a sort of power screwdriver) fitted with a torx (star-headed) driver bit got them in in no time!  He says that these screws never ride out.  However, they can be removed  easily if need be, which gives them an advantage over nails. 

These screws are designed for securing decking timber, with the bare part of the shaft designed to draw the two surface of timber together snugly (and, I am told, also to prevent creaking - I'm not sure how!)  John's weatherboards are the same thickness as usual decking timber, so fit the purpose perfectly. 

Once all the timber-work was complete Mike could water-blast it and the roof prior to getting on with the paint job:

Fortunately the weather held!

He and John worked away busily.  John, who seemed indefatigable, remarked, "I am a painter now!"  Time for a new badge, John!

The shingles over the front door, yet another facet of this old house, were painted a perky red to match the garage door and detail in the window surrounds:

Finally the whole house begins to look as it should, with all the different components coming together harmoniously.  To the casual eye good design and careful craftsmanship simply looks pleasing, but to those who are observant and know more all the careful thought, talent, skill and plain hard work that has gone into making it a success rapidly becomes apparent.  Here all the different angles and materials fit together with a sense of ease:

How well those angles of flashing fit together!

In the image below you can see the carefully fitted corner casing: the angle for each weatherboard has been individually measured and cut to size.  And again, the neatness of the flashing underneath it is barely noticeable. 

Good workmanship is like that: things look and function just as they should and we don't question it; we just know that things are right in a way that makes us feel comfortable.  There is no hint at all of the massive expenditure of energy, and sometimes struggle, that has gone into reaching that point! 

The scaffolding was no longer needed so was cleared and swept prior to removal.  Here it is looking unnaturally tidy.  It had been invaluable.  Just look at that cable - it carries the mains electricity into the house: the number of times it had been carefully stepped over was beyond counting!

Close inspection of the upper level of the house revealed just a few small points that still needed attention:  John's wife removes a spatter of paint from the window...

... And John addressed some small patches of exposed undercoat with an artist's paintbrush:


Downstairs there is still some paintwork that needs to be completed, but the great majority of the work has been done.

That's one beautifully hand-crafted roof.

And the tiles look great!  What started out as the main reason for this big overhaul, the need to replace the basic roofing material, turned into a summer and autumn marathon, but what a success it has been: the new slate-style tiles made of synthetic resin have taken the place of the old and rusting corrugated iron without disturbing the dignity of this old house.  This is the best possible outcome for the refit of an old building: that the new components look as though they have always been there.  However, no one can mistake that the shiny stainless steel flashing is new: it brings it up to date - very handsomely!

Well done John, we are proud of you!

My grateful thanks go to John and his wife for permitting me to document their big project.  Congratulations to you both!

Readers can click through to other articles in this series via these links:

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