The worst feeling in the world

Tuesday night, while we were getting ready for bed and the rain was coming down, I noticed a bulge in the top of the wall, right where it meets the ceiling in the very northwest corner of our bedroom. I thought it was a reflection on the wall from a light, but once I got closer, I realized that a little 4-inch section of drywall tape that covers that seam was bulged out.

And wet.

Panic.

I reached up and poked at it, and water came rolling out of it.

More panic.

From what I could tell from a quick examination, the water was coming just out of this section. I got a towel and a stepstool and squished all the water out of the bulge into the towel. I put the towel on the floor under this spot and got in bed. I laid there for awhile, thought I heard more water dripping, got up and got a flashlight, and then realized that there was water along the seam of the next 4 feet of the corner along the back (west) wall of our bedroom. I rolled up a towel and wedged it into the space on top of the door frame that goes out to the sleeping porch and the ceiling, figuring that would probably take care of it, and got back in bed at around midnight.

At about 12:45, I woke up to the steady sound of dripping water.

[Heart sinks]

The towel I had rolled up and wedged against the leak had gotten completely waterlogged in just 45 minutes and was dripping onto the towels I put on the floor. I took it out, arranged more towels along the floor and then watched helplessly as drips started rolling out of the transom and down the door. Water was now going behind the top of the door frame and leaking out in the front of it.

I woke Rachel up at this point, because I had no idea what to do. It was the worst, most helpless feeling I think I’ve ever had. Do you call 911? Of course not. But who do you call who can fix this problem? Will roofers come out in the middle of the night, and if they do, will they just go ahead and take a certificate pledging our firstborn for 2 in the morning service calls? What friends can I wake up and ask what to do, though even that won’t fix the roof.

I called one roofing company and got a voicemail. I found another that had the two owners’ cellphones listed. I hesitated to call. I walked around in circles rubbing my head trying to figure out what to do. I kept thinking of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where his dad talks about the fact that there’s no final exam to be a dad, no way to make sure you have the knowledge you need for every situation.

I decided I should at least try to figure out what was leaking on the roof and see about covering it with a tarp. I mean, this is my house dammit, and I’m a handy dude. Let’s go fix it ourselves!

I pulled on jeans, shoes without socks, a t-shirt, a waterproof-ish jacket, a hat and ski gloves and went up on the roof through the hatch into a steady 38º rain with a shovel, a hammer, and a body that was about 2 days clear of the flu.

Sure enough, I found ice dams at the very end of main roof, just before it transitions down to the lower part that covers the porch. I started shoveling and cracking away the ice that was clearly keeping water pooled up in the sections of roof right above where the leaks had formed. And there were cracks galore in the silverized metal roof surface.

So I shoveled off all the ice I could in that area, all the way up 10-15 feet away to cut down on the amount of melted runoff that would pass through these damaged areas. I went down to the basement and started cutting 2x4s to fit into the spaces between the ridges on the roof. I cut some plastic sheeting and took it up on the roof with the lumber, and stapled it to the 2x4s to cover the leaky area.

That was about as good a fix as I could manage at that point. I just had to push it out of my mind, cover the floor, and then hope that it wasn’t so leaky that the corner of the ceiling was going to get waterlogged and come down completely. I kept having visions of the worst possible outcomes.

We went the other bedroom and went back to bed around 2 or 2:30 in the morning. Rachel said the dripping was definitely slower every time she checked (I couldn’t bring myself to look) and stopped completely in the morning.

I worked from home on Wednesday and tried to figure out what to do about the roof. My roofer that gave us the estimate for a new roof at inspection has a $485 minimum for jobs. When I described the problem to him, he said I should definitely try to fix it myself and save the money (probably because he wants to get about $9,000 from us later on in 2011. This is small potatoes.)

A few friends gave me some good pointers for what I needed to get and how to apply it on the broken areas. I rented a zipcar and went to Home Depot around 5 and picked up a gallon can of elastomastic roofing stuff, which looks sort of like tar or congealed motor oil, and roof of asphalt fabric. I got home too late to give it a go on Wednesday, so Thursday, I left work early and went home to try and patch the roof.

My pal Justin came over to help and see what he could learn for his own roof if it should ever be needed. I jokingly told him I’d teach him everything I knew about patching roofs.

After about an hour or so, I had used almost the whole gallon and had patched most of the worst places on the section of roof that was leaking. If I was going to patch every place where the metal has cracked away, it would’ve taken 10 gallons. (We’re hoping for a $9,000 tax return this year.)

The black oil

I checked it this morning before work (Friday) and the goop was still soft to the touch. Hopefully it dries by later tonight when it’s due to rain. I have no idea if it’s supposed to be completely dry before it gets wet or not. Showers are forecast for most of the day tomorrow.

I think I’ll be sitting on the bed staring at the ceiling tomorrow.

And if it starts dripping, panic will once again ensue.

Roof leaks repaired?

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