The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Barn roof repair, day 1

Roof demolitionI'll admit that I've wondered whether hiring someone to replace the barn roof was a shortcut we shouldn't take, but after watching the crew of three work from dawn to dusk Saturday, I'm ready to admit that hiring pros made sense.

Within half an hour of reaching the farm, they'd torn about half the tin off the south side of the barn and were getting ready to haul in the first round of roofing panels.  I'm pretty sure this half hour of labor would have taken me and Mark all day if we'd done it ourselves.

The boss --- Tony --- is not only a pro, he also has a gentle way of talking to both his crew and the barn owners that set us all at ease.  If you're local and need a major job done, let me know and I'll give you Tony's phone number --- we highly recommend him.

Roofing harnessWe also really appreciated the roofers' safety conscious attitude.  Mark explained to Tony right off the bat that we don't have homeowners' insurance.  (We don't have anything valuable enough to insure.)  As I brought Tony a check for the first quarter of his fee, I overheard him reminding the crew about safety and telling them to wear their harnesses at all times.

We felt so confident in their abilities that we left after a few hours to spend the day building my brother's chicken coop.  When we came home, it looked like no one had even sustained a scratch.  Then Tony called down from the roof to ask me to check inside Lucy's mouth.  "I think she might have something stuck there," he explained. 

Putting on new tinSure enough, Lucy's relentless chewing had lodged a stick across the bridge of her mouth where she couldn't paw it out, and Tony had been able to spare enough attention from the roof to notice.  He'd actually tried to pry it out too, but Lucy didn't trust him quite enough to let him do the deed.  Mark and I teamed up on her and made short work of the offending stick.  What other roofer adds "dog baby-sitter" to their job title?


Barn roof in disrepair

And after:

New tin roof

They've still got about two days of work ahead of them to hit the more problematic back side of the barn and the corner of this side.  Meanwhile, we need to decide whether we want to spend another $400 to $500 to get them to put gutters on the barn while they're at it.

Nothing else will happen until at least next weekend, though, because it set in to rain Sunday.  The first thing I did after I woke up was to go out into the barn and look up.  On the south side, under the new tin, I was amazed to hear one of my favorite noises --- rain drops on a tin roof --- and to be completely dry. 

I'm already starting to ponder how to take advantage of all this new space.  Chick brooder?  Straw storage?  Work room?  Picnic zone?  Right now, I'm having so much fun dreaming, I don't even want to put pen to paper and draw potential diagrams.

Our chicken waterer is perfect for broody hens since she doesn't even have to leave the nest to drink.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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It is like Joel Salatin says in "You Can Farm." In the beginning you should do all the work yourselves (like you have) but as your farm matures, your time becomes more valuable, and it makes sense to pay others to do some jobs.
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Feb 20 10:21:09 2012

From a business point of view, that makes perfect sense. But I don't tend to think of our homestead as a business. Instead, I try to maximize our time doing things we like the most and minimize our time doing things we don't like, even if that means less money in our hands.

I also tend to agree with Throwback at Trapper Creek that it's not good for a farm to have hired hands doing much of the grunt labor. So even if I could hire someone to do all the weeding, I don't think I would --- that would take me away from the soil so much that I wouldn't keep tweaking the system to stay in tune with the earth.

Of course, even by those standards, it still makes sense to hire someone to fix the barn roof. It's a one time thing that I really don't want to do myself! :-)

Comment by anna Mon Feb 20 11:48:38 2012

Roofing two stories up is nerve wracking, dangerous and there is nothing else to really be said about it. And in fact, in your particular situation (no health insurance just like me), I think the amount you would have to spend on buying your own safety harnesses and then gambling on using them correctly probably evens out the profit that your roofer is making. I don't know if you've priced them, but harness systems are VERY expensive and they're marketed with very strange gobblety gook language that lay people have a hard time navigating. Additionally the roofer is getting his roofing materials at probably 25% less than you could purchase them for, plus you'd have to pay for delivery, and then carry those big suckers in.

In your particular situation I think you've make a pretty damn good decision, especially because you're making capital improvements on your homestead during an economic decline. This means you're probably getting the manual labor cheaper, you're buying metal roofing after a 3 year decline in building which has depressed steel/tin prices.

I wish I had advice on the gutters. I suspect that you guys could add them yourselves later on, IF you already own or can borrow two good ladders that tall, but probably not at much savings on what they're quoting you. Again, this is due to the fact the roofer buys his materials much cheaper than you can and he's already purchased his ladders. Generally gutters are meant to prevent foundation damage and flooding inside the roofed area. I don't know much about barn foundations. If it looks intact and the roof has been gutterless for a decade, I'd imagine you're fine. If you do start seeing some flooding inside the barn you could add the gutters later probably at just a bit more than he's quoting now. The one advantage of gutters is that for a roof that large you could really get a very large source non-potable water for the garden. I know you already have some non-potable water and you have flooding issues in the area so I'm not sure how worried you should be about a second water source. I sort of suspect you're in an area where phracking is either already going on or will be shortly. In that case, you might want to consider such a huge water catchment.

Comment by Danny Mon Feb 20 16:47:56 2012

I would say get the gutters if you can afford them, even if you never end up using them for rainwater catchment. Like Danny said, you'll avoid any unnecessary erosion around the barn footprint, and you'll also be helping a local business out even more. I know that more often than not, I'm glad to have paid a little extra to not have to worry about another project down the line. It looks awesome!

~ Mitsy

Comment by mountainstead [] Mon Feb 20 17:40:34 2012

$500 doesn't sound like much for gutters. Consider the stuff you'd need to to have do it safely yourself, like a big ladder and safety harness. Assuming you'd feel comfortable working that high up.

The thing with gutters is that you have to clean them once in a while, depending on how much leaves and stuff land on the roof. Not an easy job on a barn that high. If you'd string a zipline under the gutter, you could conceivably hoist yourself up to the gutter and move along it. You'd need a safety harness and some climbing gear though.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Feb 20 18:34:46 2012

Danny --- I remember how scared I felt taking the tin off the old house that used to stand on our farm, and that was less than half as high as the barn. So I think you're right --- no need to get up there myself!

(We do actually have health insurance, though. Mark talked me into getting a catastrophic health insurance policy for me, and he's a veteran so he can go to the VA hospital for free or very cheap. That said, if one of us fell off the barn roof, there'd be no way to get us to a hospital!)

There is hydrofracking going on nearby, but it shouldn't affect our drinking water source. We own the whole watershed of our well. But even though water is copious and cheap here, I'd still like to collect some, and to keep the water from the barn roof from flooding the forest garden at intervals.

Mitsy --- I'm leaning toward gutters for that reason. We'll probably decide in a day or two....

Comment by anna Mon Feb 20 18:42:21 2012
Roland --- That's an excellent point, and one I hadn't considered. If we're careful to keep trees from overhanging the barn, I wonder if that would prevent the need of cleaning the gutters?
Comment by anna Mon Feb 20 18:47:36 2012

Yes on the gutters, both for catching rainwater and moving water away from the barn.

If it were me, I'd have them replace the ridge cap while they're at it.

Comment by Anonymous Mon Feb 20 19:32:42 2012

Without overhanging trees, the gutters would stay clean much longer. Also, a roof as big as this should give a lot of water to flush the gutters. A larger slope of the gutters will also give a larger flow speed and presumably a better self-cleaning ability. But you can trust in Murphy that over time they will fill up. :-)

If you could reach the gutter from the inside of the barn (maybe make an openable skylight close to the to the end of the gutter?) you could put a brick or other heavy weight tied to a rope in the gutter. Throw the rope down and use it to pull the weight/brick through the gutter scraping it clean. There are a lot of possible refinements (like adding a liner to the weight to it doesn't damage the gutter, or adding a kind of "scraper" to the front of the weight) but this is the basic idea.

W.r.t. insurance, looking at the pictures of the size of the barn and at the risk of sounding morbid, if you fall down from that roof you might need an undertaker rather than a hospital!

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Feb 20 19:41:17 2012

Anonymous --- Our roofer told us to hold off on the ridge cap until he looks it over more carefully. He said he might want to replace it, but that it might be rejuvenated with some sandpaper and paint. He's also going to sand and paint the rust stripes on the newer tin just below the ridge cap, just as a preventative measure.

Roland --- Good gutter cleaning suggestions! We might be able to rig something like that....

I totally agree with you about falling off the barn. That's why I was so glad that these guys wore their harnesses at all times.

Comment by anna Mon Feb 20 19:46:54 2012
I wrote about 7 paragraphs. Then I deleted it all.
Comment by Danny Mon Feb 20 21:40:49 2012
Danny --- I know how frustrating that can be....
Comment by anna Tue Feb 21 09:43:20 2012

For the time it took them to start tearing that much roofing off, that must be some sort of new record. Doing a job like that, tearing roofing off of a barn of its age is no easy task, you have to be careful not to damage the already fragile wood, and ensure that you the new tin sheets match perfectly with the old ones. that is a great job, I hope you rewarded them handsomely for the great work done.

Eric |

Comment by Eric Blaise Thu Feb 19 12:11:01 2015

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