The Saga of the Roof

The Gingerbread Diaries

Alrighty then, let’s tell this tale!

But first I want to point out that, despite everything you’re about to read, I do not regret making the choices we did (i.e., our contractor) because, ultimately, those decisions allowed us to own the Gingerbread Dollhouse. At the time the decision had to be made we were working with limited options, the thinning patience of the sellers, and a narrow window of what the bank would agree to. We made it work because we had to. And we will still make it work.

We clear? Okay. Remember (or be aware, for those new to the Dollhouse stories), we closed April 14, 2014, we had to wait until early May on a revised contractor license (individual vs company name on the license) before the permits could be pulled, and the roof was the first thing done on the house. We moved in the last weekend of June, just prior to the hottest July on record.

So, how on earth did it get to the point where I was sending this email in November?

Nov 24, 2014

To: L***, S*****

Unfortunately this weekend’s rain proved, once again, too much for whatever part of our roof is allowing water into the house. The leak was, thankfully, not severe, but even one drop in my hallway is one drop too many, and there was more than that yesterday afternoon/evening.

To reiterate, as of the completion of the contracted renovations in July (the roof having been installed in May), I have had to call L*** to report leaks on the following occasions:

July 12
August 6
August 30
September 3
October 14 (contacted S***** first)
November 24

6 leaks in 6 months is ridiculous. I think another pair of eyes (S*****) needs to assess this issue so that an actual solution can be found, not a temporary patch. A roof is expected to last decades, not mere months, and I am rapidly losing patience with this situation.

It started 2 weeks after we moved in when a bit of a storm rolled through. I was shocked to find water inside instead of out!


Please forgive the typos…

And, to his credit, he came out on a Sunday afternoon with his son and his ladder and they climbed up there are pronounced the problem to be some caulk that had shrunk as it cured and left some gaps. No problem to fix, they said.

It was on this visit that I asked about the warranty (I have yet to receive anything in writing on either his labor warranty or the shingles).

The next time it rained I kept nervously checking the hallway and downstairs bathroom, the two places prone to let the water in, and nothing happened. Okay, I thought, last time was just a blip, it’s all good.

You didn't think it'd be that simple, right?

You didn’t think it’d be that simple, right?

This was our dance: the every-other-rain tango. There’d be water in the house, I’d text, he’d come out, target something else, it’d hold for one storm, then we’d do it all again. The third time it happened I was losing my patience. We wanted to be able to move forward with house repairs, to replace that nasty used-to-be-outside-now-it’s-inside wall that has seen so very much water damage over the years, but how can you do that if the water is just going to keep coming in.

Scraps gets feisty!

Scraps gets feisty!

I’ve tried transferring the video mentioned in the text but it appears locked on my phone for the time being. Here is a still, though, that shows what we were seeing when we crawled shoulder-up into the “attic” above the back hall. (And when I say we, I absolutely mean Todd as the combination of a ladder and a damp, dark, cramped space is a combination I have no intention of putting myself into. My phone is my periscope.)

The problem child of the Gingerbread Dollhouse.

The problem child of the Gingerbread Dollhouse.

From what we could tell, the flashing (that, for those unawares, exists to channel water that might slip under a shingle or two along a joist and out, or something like that) ends at this supporting wooden pillar. Wherever the water was coming from (because it’s also true that water will find the path of least resistance, so it doesn’t have to be coming from directly above when it has a nice alley to travel down) if was getting into our hallway and bathroom here.

I pretty much gave L one more shot before I contacted S (S being the contractor of record, with L doing the actual work). He met Todd out at the house and did something (I don’t even remember what he claimed to do at this point), and told Todd that if that didn’t work, he had one more thing he could try.

Now, I ask you, how many times would you ask the same person to fix the seemingly same problem without getting results before finding another solution? The “definition of insanity” saw comes to me, you know? But since he claimed he had one more fix (which begs the question why he didn’t do that in the first place), I let him come back when, in short order, the “fix” proved useless.

It so happens that the “final” solution was to add additional flashing (this time to the exterior of the roof, because to do otherwise would require removing a bunch of the single-story roof or some such). It also happened that this was a day I was at home, sick, and trying desperately to rest on the sofa while they banged away on the roof. I didn’t even go out and say anything to them about it because I wanted my damn roof fixed and if adding a headache onto the existing aches and pains was how I was going to get it, so be it!

The "beautiful" job they did of adding in the afterthought flashing--photo by Todd this January while he was up on the roof (because you know I'm not getting out there!)

The “beautiful” job they did of adding in the afterthought flashing–photo by Todd this January while he was up on the roof (because you know I’m not getting out there!)

Too bad it didn’t work.

That’s when I called S****, asked him to take care of it, and he had a talking to with L*** as to what needed to be done. Suddenly it was all the fault of that pillar/post thing, you know, where the flashing stopped that we talked about back in August (it was mid-October, now) creating an uneven surface in the roof. If that’s so, then why in the hell didn’t they a) take care of it when they put the new roof on, or, b) fix it the last 4 times you’d been out?!

At this point I was also exploring whether we had any recourse through the bank (since they had their hands in the renovation–no go there). And getting more and more clear with L*** that I was about ready to get someone else to fix it and that, after spending more than $12K on a roof 6 months prior I was not going to be the one paying for the fix!

I have no idea what (if anything) they did in October. I remember he was trying to tell me, at some point, that it wasn’t the roof that was the problem it was the exterior of the home (he mentioned that in August, too, not that he made any move to do anything about it then, either), a matter of relative pressures, and the water was actually defying gravity and scooting up under the clapboards (up being the key word).

Now, okay, there’s actually precedent for differing pressures in and outside of the building envelope to create those kinds of situations, though the only references I’ve really been able to find were in commercial buildings, not clapboard Victorians, but whatever. My bullshit detector was pretty much pinging in the red with him by this point. I reminded him that one of the many tasks he had during the renovation was to check out and replace any bad boards on the house as part of the exterior work–he had his hands (or, well, his crew’s hands, and I’ve already theorized on that point) on every exterior inch of the house, so an error there was his responsibility to catch before now. I also questioned the premise that, if it wasn’t, in fact, the roof, then why in the hell did his previous roof “fixes” all see to work, even if only temporarily?!

Like I said, BS-meter overload.

That final email in November has them out at the house again, Thanksgiving weekend no less, patching yet another spot (oh, yes, on the roof again) and testing other areas.

The diagnosis this time? That it wasn’t the roof (then what the hell did they fix when the hose-test caused the water to come again while he was standing with his head in the attic?!), it was actually the water falling from the upstairs roof, hitting the downstairs roof, bouncing up several feet, and entering through—dun dun dun—the casing of the upstairs bathroom window! *gasp*

He caulked the window, explained that it would hold a while but not forever, and strongly suggested installing gutters.

I certainly hope he didn’t think I’d ask him to install them!

The front of the house shows no signs of renovation, the back, though, is a patchwork of rooflines and angles. This is the offending edge from whence our troubles, apparently, spring.

The front of the house shows no signs of renovation, the back, though, is a patchwork of rooflines and angles. This is the offending edge from whence our troubles, apparently, spring, and the beginning of Todd’s gutter additions on the left.

Now, it’s been several months since their last visit (November) and several months since Todd started installing the gutters (January) and I don’t want to jinx us, but since then we’ve been drip free. Being just one dude, awesome though he may be, means that pretty much one section of gutter is going up a weekend (if that). The uppermost roof-line will probably require a scissor lift or cherry picker and the aid of a brother or friend or all of the above, but so far, so dripless.

While I’ve been adamant that they would get the roof fixed one way or another, when it comes to the rest of their handiwork I’ve pretty much given up. The sections of floor they replaced were not done well. In the back hallway you can clearly see where the screws holding down the cement board are attached because they raise little tents in the vinyl flooring. There are puckers in said flooring where tubs or refrigerators sit. And there’s a section in the kitchen that is compressed or something (supposedly the stuff they used is like hardie board, but for floors) and I swear one of these days I’m going to put a high heel through the vinyl and get stuck. We’re not sure if it got crushed pre-install, or if it’s where some corners are meeting, unsupported. Either way, we’ll deal with it when we redo those areas ourselves. Because I’m bound and determined not to have that man back in or near my house!