Finally, something in here is finished; skylight edition

About a month and a half after work started, the skylight is finally finished.

In a house full of half-finished projects (of which I seem to start 3 more every few weeks and have to stop for various reasons halfway through), we finally have something we can point at and say “complete!” Other than the kitchen and pre-move stuff, of course.

As you may recall, we decided to put in a skylight with our brand new roof to replace the 90-year-old raised metal roof that had been nursed along by the previous owner with a bucket of silvering compound for the last 30 years. It’s easier to do the skylight at the same time as the roof, and it saves some money by getting the roofing crew that’s already here to do it. And it ensures that it goes in fresh with new roofing materials so that the seal and flashing is good and it’s as tight as possible.

I hired a guy who works for our old contractor Rudy to do the interior work to cut the hole in the upstairs hallway, build the interior framing and work with the roofers at the same time to get it all lined up. I’d never even seen the interior work for a skylight done before, so I wasn’t comfortable with taking that on myself. We picked out the skylight and I drew out the rough area to be cut out on the ceiling, which was about a 3’x5′ opening for a 2’x4′ skylight. The angled walls of the opening allow more light to fill the room. Everything went swimmingly, and the skylight went in in one day and was flashed up on the roof and finished by the end of the day.

Everything was great, except it was installed crooked — both the hole on the roof and the hole in the hallway ceiling. The frame on the top is about 2 inches further away from the left wall than the bottom in the picture. And if you looked at the ceiling joist inside the hole or the hole on the roof next to the top of the brick party wall that divides rowhouses, it was plain as day to see.

Crooked skylight

And they cracked a stair tread when a joist fell after cutting it.

Cracked stair tread

Fortunately, I think that tread is itself a replacement — the grain didn’t match the back half of the tread where the seam is.

Though things were clearly askew, I had a bit of a panic when I had to call the two different contractors to see about getting it fixed, because I thought both were going to try and pass the buck to the other. Or, even if my carpenter said it was his fault, the roofers might say “Hey, we just cut where he told us, we can’t come back and fix his mistake for free.”

But fix it for free is exactly what happened. I can’t say enough about Kevin and the good folks at Springfield Roofing out in Virginia. He told me straight up, “I think the mistake was probably on your carpenter, but we’ll do whatever we need to make things right. Just let us know when.” That was a huge relief.

It was harder to catch my contractor. He had to leave the country for a family emergency in El Salvador. He emailed me from E.S. to say “sorry for the problems” but I had to wait for a few weeks for him to get back and come take a look and confirm that they’d reset things. Which was no problem, thankfully. Also a big relief.

Once he got back, I had to coordinate a day for his guy and the roofers to be here at the same time to ensure that it went on straight. In the meantime, we had a hurricane. And then it rained for a week straight when we were between the two hurricanes. Finally, after the weather cleared, they all got here on the same day and re-set the skylight Sep 16.

For the record, the skylight was first installed August 12th. So it was just one more half-finished thing we were living with.

Re-setting it meant tearing out all of the interior framing, taking the flashing off on the roof, taking the skylight off, shaving away at the opening and moving the curb which the skylight sits on — basically everything had to be totally redone. But they got it all done in a day. Here’s the before/after. The second shot may still look somewhat crooked, but it’s a bit of an optical illusion because the plaster is missing more in places.

Crooked skylightSkylight realigned

After the skylight was re-set, we had to wait to get some rain, so I could be sure that nothing was leaking before we did the drywall and the finishes.

He came last Saturday morning just as I was leaving to go on the 50 States Ride, an all-day 66-mile bike ride on all named state streets in the District. By the time I got back, all the drywall was up, the stair tread had been replaced and stained, and he was mudding the edges and getting things nice and smooth. He came back Tuesday to sand the drywall and get it ready for painting.

So I got up there Tuesday night, dusted off all the drywall dust with the air compressor and a towel and started painting. I finished up 99% of it last night, and just had to go back up tonight to touch up the corners and get any spots I missed in the darkness last night.

Painting the skylight drywall

straight skylight finished

But it’s all done now, and looking good. And finally, a project in the old rowhouse is totally, completely 100 percent done. Ahhhh.

Here’s some photos of the whole process from beginning to end.

Lines cut Underneath new skylight
Joists still in, hole cut

Cleared awaySkylight hole
DSC_0002Straight skylight after

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