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If it ain’t one damn thing, it’s another: Part II

Roofing crew arrived at 7:30 sharp this morning. Never saw any group of people move so fast and with such coordination and obvious expertise. Freakin’ impressive!

After they’d been here three hours I went outside and took pictures of their astounding progress.

Then I came back in, figured I’d play with the dogs a bit, quit being jumpy from the noise and chaos, and try to get some actual writing done. Sat down on the floor to toss a nerf ball for Ava. Looked up. And … whoops.

Scary whoops.

The heavy, old-fashioned wooden beadboard ceiling in one room had dropped three inches in one corner. The only thing keeping it from dropping farther was a clothing hook. I put that hook up there to hold a curtain rod, so I know all too well how insecurely attached it is. Very insecurely.

You know how a couple of you said that putting all that heavy material in stacks on the roof should be no problem? Well, should be. And it wasn’t a problem as long as all that weight was up on the main beam where you saw it in the photo yesterday. But the roofers decided to pull the material down and stage it on what used to be a porch.

They put most of the weight on that corner — and the former porch (now sleeping nook) pulled right away from the rest of the house. You can see daylight. And since all that heavy beadboard had never been properly attached to the rafters, down it came.


Not the roofers’ fault, of course. How would they anticipate something like that? Mike, the same friendly handyman who rescued me earlier this summer from a large hole in the roof, will be by later to temporarily brace it up. But … well, if it ain’t one damn thing, it’s always another.

I love old houses.

Really. I love old houses.

I do.



  1. hermes10
    hermes10 September 19, 2014 12:38 pm

    I hope you’re being sarcastic when you say it isn’t the roofer’s fault. Their incompetence damaged your property and they’re responsible.

  2. Claire
    Claire September 19, 2014 12:44 pm

    Wasn’t being sarcastic. I really don’t think they could have anticipated how weak the connection was between the two parts of the house at that point. They certainly couldn’t have anticipated that nobody properly attached the ceiling to the rafters.

    I’d be glad to hear other views on that, especially from people with construction experience. But although the roofers’ actions certainly triggered this, I don’t think they could have foreseen it.

  3. Matt, another
    Matt, another September 19, 2014 1:49 pm

    20 years ago, I was living in a corner room, second story of an Army barracks. Returned from duty on afternoon and discovered half my room had detached itself from the other half. Funny since it wasn’t raning at the time. I left a month later, wonder if it ever got fixed.

  4. Claire
    Claire September 19, 2014 2:36 pm

    Yikes. Good thing it wasn’t raining at the time! Or maybe bad thing; it it had been raining, somebody might have fixed it.

    We tend to have loose, soupy soils around here and with old houses built mostly with block-and-beam foundations, it’s unfortunately not that unusual to have settling and other structural weaknesses.

  5. Joel
    Joel September 19, 2014 2:40 pm

    Had a house in Michigan with an add-on porch that refused to stay attached to the main part of the house. The house had a proper foundation and the porch did not.

    Since the roofers did trigger this new thing, they would probably be amenable to a cut rate on the labor for repair but you’re right: Push it too far and you’d have a very poor argument in court.

  6. Claire
    Claire September 19, 2014 2:44 pm

    Joel — Yep. There’s no way I’d take ’em to court even if it was entirely their fault. A couple hundred off the job would be nice if they’d do it. But old houses, sloppily attached porches … yeah, something like this isn’t unheard of.

    Sure as heck did scare me when I first saw it, though! Especially since it was still creaking at the time and I didn’t know what was likely to happen next!

  7. naturegirl
    naturegirl September 19, 2014 3:41 pm

    Huh, and here I thought ol’ Murphy was hanging with me. To bad his law remains omnipresent.

    Did you get up there when the old roof was off and have a look downwards? Hopefully this is only the porch’s issue, and nothing else above you will sag (or crash down).

    You’ll have a nearly entirely new house by the time all this is over. LOL.

  8. Claire
    Claire September 19, 2014 4:46 pm

    LOL, I think Murphy is a “friend” to us all.

    I didn’t get up on the roof, but I sure got a good look from various angles, including from a small hill. Nothing else wrong — remarkably — except for one slightly sagging corner, which is due to a failing exterior brace and not to any rot or other major structural defect.

    It sometimes feels like building a whole new house. But believe it or not there are actual entire rooms and walls that have no problems! The ones that do have problems are just so demanding!

  9. Karen
    Karen September 19, 2014 5:39 pm

    Well, just damn! If there was an inspection prior to buying the house, you might have a real good reason to give the inspector a little ‘ell.

  10. Bear
    Bear September 19, 2014 8:26 pm

    Karen, that would depend on how the porch/room had been attached, and if the flaw* was readily visible. Inspectors’ liability is more limited than some laymen realize. They are trained to evaluate what is visible, but not necessarily to check stuff that involves removing sheet rock and the like. There’s a reason _building inspectors (the gov guys checking on permit compliance) do in-process inspections: so they can look at details before they get cover by later phases of construction.

    Betcha can’t guess yet another of the zillion things I’ve done for a living. [grin]

    * If there was a construction flaw. Claire’s description is vague enough that it could have been caused by erosion of what had been a perfectly good foundation. Some inspectors will dig down looking for that sort of thing, but if the hypothertcal washout was _under_ the footing proper, it still might not have been visible.

  11. Karen
    Karen September 20, 2014 6:09 am

    You’re right Bear, and I do realize that an inspector is most likely not truly liable for things they can’t see or determine. I’m just a little annoyed about the whole thing for 2 main reasons. First, that it’s happening to our Claire! Second that something similar recently happened to the non-profit where I volunteer that resulted in a $20k repair job on something the inspector couldn’t see.

    Just looking for a “bad guy” to vent on.

  12. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 20, 2014 8:39 am

    That’s what come-alongs are for…

    I’d ask the roofers, nicely, if they can help you out with the problem. I wouldn’t say they are entirely without fault; they should have some experience with old houses and it was a bit negligent to make the assumption they did.

  13. Claire
    Claire September 20, 2014 9:39 am

    Paul — I did ask and they wouldn’t take any responsibility. It also turns out that the fallen ceiling was just a symptom of a much bigger complex of problems. Basically, that section of roof collapsed by 8 to 10 inches while they had their stuff piled on it! Then the walls went. One wall is out of square 2″ at the top. Once they were cleaning up to leave, I saw the full damage — and they had the chutzpah to tell me that it had been like that when they started and I’d just failed to notice it all the time I’ve lived here.

    Only after they left did I really realize how bad the problems were.

    Next step is to tear down part of that fallen ceiling and see what’s above it. If it turns out the structure was rotted or otherwise badly built or unstable, I can’t blame them for the problem, though I sure as hell can blame them for BSing me about it. If it turns out the structure was sound and they simply broke it by putting too much weight in too small an area they’ll definitely hear from me.

    I’m heartsick about this, in either case. I was so looking forward to having the roof done and hunkering down to a fall and winter of not spending money on house stuff! Now … whotta mess.

    The sorry thing is that everything else they did is beautiful. They worked like well-tuned machines, they produced lovely results, they did a few extra things, they kept the site cleaner than I’ve ever seen. Then this …

  14. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty September 20, 2014 2:40 pm

    I really love old houses… to look at. Wouldn’t have one. If you can fix things yourself, or have plenty of money, it might be worth it. But not for me. I can hardly keep the house clean, let alone fix anything. My house is only 14 years old, and it needs lots of maintenance stuff already.

    Rotten shame, Claire. But I keep saying that Murphy was an optimist. 🙁

  15. Jim B.
    Jim B. September 20, 2014 3:39 pm

    I have heard someone say that the house you live in is a liability. It’s only the house that bring in money, e.g.: a rental, is it an asset. Remember that someone says “a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money in”? Well, a house in a hole in the ground that you throw money in. Even if you don’t have a basement, you still need a bit of a hole in the ground for the slab.

    And that’s my two bits.

    P.S.: If I have to throw money into one hole, I know which one I would pick.

  16. Zelda
    Zelda September 20, 2014 5:26 pm

    My house is about the same age as MamaLiberty’s, and I can fix things, but just this year it has still cost about 2K in maintenance of large things I don’t have the skills or the tools to do (and I have a lifetime collection of tools). But my house payment is so much less than rent and the rentals where I live are so full of bedbugs, mould and old wiring and so uninsulated that renting doesn’t make sense and maintenance does. I really love old houses too, to look at… but don’t have the money to repair and maintain one. Lawsy, if my roof cost 8K to replace the house would have to rot around me and I’d be living under a tarp and growing vegetables in raised beds in the living room. So glad Claire was able to crowd fund her roof.

  17. LibertyNews
    LibertyNews September 20, 2014 8:00 pm

    Wow, sorry to hear about the new problems. I’d likely have my insurance company have a discussion with the roofer’s company. It sure seems like they ought to take at least partial responsibility for it.

  18. jed
    jed September 21, 2014 6:40 am

    and they had the chutzpah to tell me that it had been like that when they started and I’d just failed to notice it all the time I’ve lived here.

    In other words, they noticed it and still stacked their stuff on it? Well, that’s certainly negligence. So yeah, a load of BS.

    So sorry to hear this, Claire. I know how it is to be looking forward to being at the end of something, only to be dealt a new batch of problems.

  19. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau September 22, 2014 7:37 am

    It used to be a porch and is now a sleeping nook? So it’s not your bedroom? Maybe you ought to just tear it down, at least before the winter starts. It’s a lot easier to remove an old/rotting/poorly-done part of a house than to “repair” it. By downsizing your house you can join the sorta-tiny house movement. 🙂

    I don’t mean to make light of your problems but lately I have been on a campaign to get rid of stuff. We are also tearing apart a “sun room” in our house that is rotting apart and never worked anyway. Unfortunately for us, we cannot just get rid of it, because the foundation of the house goes out there. *Something* has to be in that spot. I don’t know if you have that same issue or not.

  20. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2014 10:22 am

    “It used to be a porch and is now a sleeping nook? So it’s not your bedroom? Maybe you ought to just tear it down, at least before the winter starts.”

    Paul, in retrospect, that might have been a good idea. It probably would have saved money and would certainly have saved trouble (though it would also have removed one of the few attractive features of the house). But I’m afraid I’m committed now. The former porch is the (already renovated) main entry, it now houses the only closets in the place, and that sleeping nook is set to be my only bedroom for years to come. (A bedroom exists, but it’ll be the last thing to be renovated and is likely to end up as a storeroom/workroom.)

  21. Claire
    Claire September 22, 2014 10:24 am

    Oh, and as to “joining” the tiny-house movement, I joined that in 2000 when I first moved into my yurt and then into the luxury of Cabin Sweet Cabin (which had a footprint of 409 square feet and about 350 useable square feet inside).

    This place is a downsize from my last house, but I have drawn my line in the sand when it comes to downsizing. I go no smaller than about 800 square feet from here on.

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