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Fixing the roof

After weeks of rain and more and more leaks forming in the back section of the house, I could no longer justify waiting another week for a change in the weather, and dedicated one Friday morning to replacing the roof section.

Here's the sad "before" shot. Sheets of tin shaped into tiles, full of cracks and ill-fitting overlaps.


In the lead up to the Friday I banked some time in lieu and scheduled a day off. I measured, remeasured and double checked my re-measurement to ensure I had the roof section dimensions right, and contacted Hancock Speedway to order the Colorbond. After several iterations of visiting or calling, being told they'd call back, and not hearing from them again, I started to gather that this is not your average customer-service orientated business. No bother, I'd just have to push the order a little. So I faxed through a plan, received a quote and placed the order without bothering them too much with consumer-level questions. That's when I found out that the material wouldn't be ready until 1pm on the Friday in question. Given I was to pick R up at the train station at 4pm and head straight to Tamworth, this was the first spanner in the works. Hiding my frustration at not managing a single returned call in the weeks beforehand, I convinced sheetmetal guy to take pity on my plight and he stated he could have the material ready by 9am.

I woke on the Friday morning to clear skies, and began carting tools up on to the roof as the sun was coming up. By 9am I had removed the 30 million bent, rusty, "intricately" placed nails from the existing roof and thrown the old sheets in a pile in the backyard, exposing the guts of the roof. That's when it first started raining.

Old roof sheets

Scouring the local hardware store's shelves for the biggest tarps I could find, I loaded up with the temporary protection and covered the bare roof as best I could using fragments of old tarps and plenty of bricks. The tarps did a great job of catching the rain, helping it drain into large, heavy pools before dumping through the roof and into the house below.

It was well and truly time to gather the new material to start providing some proper protection, so I headed down to Hancock's to pick my order up. After another painful lesson in businesses not particularly customer-service orientated, the sheetmetal lady found my order and asked where my vehicle was. I pointed to my car, but suggested that I'd probably be better off with the loan trailer I'd organised, given the order was over five metres long. Somewhat surprised, sheetmetal lady obliged and found me trailer boy.

Trailer boy helped me hook the trailer up in the rain and then in broken English (English was probably his first language, but not exactly his strong point), directed me to park somewhere down there. I parked somewhere down there, and waited for something to happen. Eventually trailer boy came out and mumbled something about the trailer. In the trailer were some stands that formed a ladder rack over the trailer. I began to install them into their slots, and this seemed to satisfy trailer boy, so I continued. Trailer boy then reappeared driving a fork lift and carrying what looked awfully like five and a half metres of Colorbond sheetmetal. He lowered the load onto the trailer frame, mumbled something about screws and then disappeared. He returned, passed me a bag of screws, and turned to leave.

"Ah... am I right to go?", I asked. mumble "yah" mumble he eloquently replied.

I looked at the metal on the trailer and realised all seven sheets were in the same bundle, and figured I could throw the screws in the car and finally get out of the rain and the road of the couple of other customers, who had patiently been waiting for this charade to move on. It occurred to me that I had no idea how secure the fork lift placed load was on the rack though, so I thought it best to at least tie the sheets down. I had a few bungee cords in the car, so grabbed a bunch of them and encircled the sheets, terminating as best I could on the tie-down point free zone of the rack.

At this point my phone rang, and some bloke called Steve was asking how to get into my place. I thought about how the rain was currently having no problem at all entering my place, before I suddenly realised I'd also organised a pest inspector to visit on the same day. I apologised and said I'd be home in 10 minutes. And finally, I carefully drove out of Hancock's.

As I was gradually slowing for the first set of lights, 50 metres out of Hancock's, it occurred to me that I couldn't see the load in the mirrors to check how it was travelling, due to its elevation on the racks. I needn't have worried, since seconds later as I was approaching a standstill, there was an almighty bang and seven sheets of Colorbond entered the car through the back window.

I popped the hazards on and jumped out to inspect the damage. Naturally, as I was planning on pulling the metal out of the window, the car started to roll back down the road. This is the first car I've owned where I've let someone else do the maintenance (it's a requirement of the warranty). Given the handbrake gets worse every time it is serviced, I'm not real excited about the arrangement. Anyway, I caught up with the car, jumped back in, hit the brakes, turned the engine off, put it in gear and returned to planning a way to get the metal back on to the racks. It was about then I realised I was the rubber-neckee on the road this time, as 20 drivers slowed for the lights, each peering out their windows at the strange man playing with his trailer in the rain.

With a few well timed grunts, I managed to extract the sheets from the back seat and heave them back on to the racks. I grabbed a few more bungee straps from the back of the car and rigged up some restraints to the front and back of the load. Then, with ever so gentle movements, I drove home.

By great fortune and generosity, two friends were waiting at my place to render assistance for a couple of hours. First I sorted the pest man out, marking the areas I thought might need some attention inside the house with a nice thick trail of the mud and water I'd collected so far that morning. Then my assistants and I managed to unload the trailer, and I talked them through the worksite and the plan of attack I had in mind. With a burning desire to be in two places at once, I then left them both while I took care of a little smashed window problem.


It turns out auto service shops just get glass repair shops to do the work anyway, so I started down the list in the phone book (literally the phone book - I was too wet to use the computer! I knew those books would come in handy for something other than stands one day!). After several wild goose chases, I finally turned to the big shop, O'Brien, who had just the window I was after. The friendly O'Brien lady was so sincere, you'd almost believe she'd never heard of someone smashing a car window through their own negligence before!

"Oh no, how did that happen?"

"Um, some sheetmetal slid off a trailer and into the back of my car."

"Oh you poor thing! That's no good. When would you like it fixed?"

"Ah... it's kinda raining and there's a hole in my car and I'm driving to Tamworth in 6 hours. Is now okay?"

"Oh yes of course, let's see what we can do for you. I'm going to call local O'Brien lady and see when they can fit you in."

I was then put in a teleconference with the two ladies who debated about when the job could be done. Local O'Brien lady was pretty adamant that they were all booked out for the afternoon, but with some pleading on my behalf by call centre O'Brien lady, local O'Brien lady conceded that if I was to get the car to them immediately and leave it with them for the afternoon, they might get a chance. That was all the invitation I needed, so I ended the call and then badgered one of my assistants to meet me at O'Brien while I returned the trailer. As fortunate would have it, O'Brien was a few shops down from Hancock Speedway.

I belted back to Hancock's with the trailer in tow. After I unhooked the trailer, a friendly senior trailer man came to give me a hand, and I related my mishap with the window. I then tested my luck by ending the story with "don't suppose you have any insurance or anything that covers something like that?". He asked which guy loaded it and tied it down. I told him young trailer boy had loaded it, but it hadn't been tied it down, except the few bungee straps I wrapped around it. He recalled that it should be tied down with some procedure, so it comes down to who tied it down and was well worth checking with fat desk man. We finished with the trailer and he lead me in to see fat desk man and related the story. Fat desk man wasted no time in raising his voice and proclaiming that it's the fault of you (pointing at me), the person that tied it down. "That's why we don't get involved in tying it down!". I apologised for upsetting his breakfast (it was getting on towards 11am, but I figured a man like that wouldn't let that stop him), thanked friendly senior trailer man and got out of there.

At O'Brien reception lady came to do the damage report but suggested I might need to get the panels beaten out first. Politely, but with some haste I assured her it was fine, that that was a plastic cover, not a metal panel, and that it is on the outside, and the window is on the inside. She accepted that explanation and carried on with the paperwork. For some reason reception man also wanted to assess the damage, and remarked that I might need to get the panels beaten out first. I pointed out that the window frame actually had superficial damage, that he was referring to a plastic cover that is on the outside, and the window needs to be done first. Ah yes he said, so it is. We negotiated a 3pm pickup time, ensuring that I could get the car at that time regardless of the state of the job, and belted back to the house.

My assistants then showed me how they were actually knights in shining armour and had managed, while I was dancing around on the phone in the house below, to unpack the sheets and raise several of them on to the roof ready to be put into position. It was reasonable straightforward then, albeit rather cumbersome, to cut a section for the chimney, slide the first sheet into place and smack the first screw home. With a couple more screws in place, we took a moment to assess the fit. I'd started at the end of the roof with the longer sections, and the first 5.4 metre length of Deep Ocean Colorbond corrugated roofing fit like a glove.

It was nearing midday by that stage and my assistants literally had a plane to catch. They helped me raise the remaining sheets on to the roof, were compensated for their critical contribution only by my sincere thanks, and left to pack their bags.

The other two longer sheets slid into place without too much trouble, but while drilling through the sheets the bit became snagged between the two layers and snapped. No problem of course, I'll just grab another one from the 96 million bits I've bought over the years. Except that I couldn't find any. Every bit set I found had the same gap where the smaller bits were supposed to be. Back to the hardware store for a refill and another exhibit in the case for having my own garage in the future. I was to break another four bits before I got the knack of lining up multiple sheets mid-drill.

Not long after I finished screwing the second sheet in place I realised the amateur mistake unfolding. From my observation post on the roof I could see four or five other corrugated roofs, and based on the unanimous evidence from my committee of four or five, I realised I shouldn't have screwed the first seven or eight screws into the valleys of the corrugation. It makes a lot of sense really, given the better leak protection and more tolerance to flex that screwing into the mountains gives. I was glad this realisation hadn't occurred to me 180 screws down the track instead.

Next up were the shorter sheets. They slid neatly into position but hung about a handspan over my intended edge. Disappointed, I nevertheless continued, since the alternative was a tarp, and the overhang only obscured a fairly superfluous gutter, draining instead on to the existing corrugated iron of the lower roof section. A few days later I redid the measurements and discovered the sheets were in fact 170 millimeters longer than requested and quoted on the packaging note. When I rang up Hancock's to ask if there is any simple method of fixing up the overhang now that the sheets have been laid, I was told that I was lucky it was only four sheets that came too long, and that the roofies would just trim a roof's worth with tin snips. Mildly curious why someone in the trade would snip 20 millimeters at a time, instead of using one of the far more practical and neat tools available, or even get the material cut to size in the first place, I nonetheless just resolved to bank another lesson, and be happy that the overhang was not critical.

Longer sheets

By 2:30pm I had all the sheets into position, a few screws in each sheet and filled a few of the gaps around the edges with silicone, and it was time to pick the car up. I quickly packed the tools up as best I could, did some hurried preliminary packing for the Tamworth trip, and scrubbed my bloodied and silicone covered hands. As I was about to jump on the pushbike to race down to O'Brien, they called and happily announced the car would be ready to pick up... at 4pm. R's train arrived at 4:06pm, and it didn't take too much calculation to figure this was a non-ideal situation. When I explained that I really would like the car earlier, and asked if he could cancel the work so I could pick it up, he replied that no, they've already progressed too far and have had to take the cover right off. I could just imagine the conversation between glass guy and receptionist lady,

"Shouldn't the customer get those panels fixed before we replace the glass?"

"Nah, he reckons the cover is on the outside so the glass will go on the inside"

"Oh look, we have to take the cover off the outside to replace the glass on the inside! Hmm, that's going to take a while."

I asked the bloke on the phone whether I could pick it up any earlier, and he replied, "okay, it'll be ready by 3:30pm". Beauty. I spent another 20 minutes packing some belongings and preparing for the drive-by loading that was about to take place, and then jumped on the bike headed for O'Brien.

At O'Brien I did my best to shake the rain off, loaded the bike in the back of the car and entered the shop to pay. I noted on the way past that the job looked excellent, a nice clean window in place and all the glass fragments cleaned up. It was clearly nearing Friday afternoon chaos in reception and when someone finally became available to take my money I had my speech to thank the team for accommodating my hurried plight well and truly rehearsed. Payment, like a jab with a needle, didn't take too long, and receptionist lady finished by printing a receipt. If I had realised that it would require searching for spectacles to read the date from her watch (despite the extra large print day clock above the computer) and even some assistance with some computer function, "Baaaarry! How do I get past this screen?", I could probably have done without the receipt. But my desperation for each minute was hardly to be expected and with the transaction complete I thanked them for going out of their way for me, jumped in the car and high-tailed it home.

At home I put some left-over Thai in the microwave for two minutes, giving me a deadline for showering and dressing. I then grabbed the food, the bags lying in my room, filled my pockets with essentials and blasted out the door. Travelling under the speed limit, of sound in air, I met R at the train station, threw her in the car and then boom, we were off to Tamworth! I was about 4 minutes late picking R up, but apologised and explained we'd make the time up because I'd printed off this map of an awesome shortcut through the Hunter Valley. It was a good plan, but it would have been better if I had remembered to pick the map up from my bed at home. It could still have been a good plan if I had not have lost count of the roundabouts on the Newcastle Link Road, and accidentally ended up on the Freeway North. Not to worry, with a quick detour up the Freeway I caught back up with my intended route and thanks to some unexpected sign postings, managed to follow it faithfully all the way to the highway.

Apart from a kilometre of coal train at Scone, the trip was otherwise fast, and by calling in some organisational favours on the way to make up for my lack of preparation, we arrived for a sensational show in Tamworth only ten minutes late. On stage to make it very, very worthwhile, was the talented Kyle Raftery. You should check him out - he's much better on a ladder than I am.

All sheets in place

All sheets in place 2


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