After all my success at home with painting and a few other projects, I thought I would branch out and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I could help people and learn how to do more home projects  in the process. It’s a win-win. So, yesterday morning I drove out Maybank Highway to John’s Island and met some people from Sea Island Habitat for Humanity and East Cooper Habitat for Humanity to help replace the roof on an elderly lady’s home. Matt from Sea Island Habitat explained that in an effort to reach out beyond the traditional Habitat community, Sea Island is helping current homeowners who have need with projects like replacing their roof.

Roof replacement was, for me, a fascinating process. Does this make me some sort of home repair geek? I arrived at eight and was prepared to receive intense instruction on how this roof replacement process went down. Which, by the way just means replacing the shingles. So, why do we say a “new roof?” Anyway, I assumed there was some reason that replacing your roof  is so expensive but learned it is mostly due to the labor costs.

I was given a nail bag to tie around my waist, a hammer, some thorough but quick instructions and before I knew it I was a shingling! Now that I know what I am doing, don’t be surprised if you drive by my house one day and see David and me on our roof scraping and pounding away. Just kidding. Well, mostly anyway.

Now, the scraping of the old shingles had already been done the prior day on three quarters of the house so I can’t give you any knowledge on how that process is performed. Below though is a picture of the one-fourth of the roof that has not been scraped. Check out the upper right hand corner. If your roof looks like this, you need new shingles!

We picked up with securing the shingles to the roof. First though, you have to put down this water resistant paper stuff with “thumb nails.” Those are those blue things you see on the black paper. The thumb nails have a blue, plastic disk around the head of the nail because nail heads will rip right through paper. With a larger surface area around the nail head in contact with the paper, the paper will not rip around the nail.

Once that paper is down you put on this drip guard around the edge of the roof under the black paper. The drip guard protects the wood when the rain drips off the edge of the roof.

Then you place shingles vertically along the edge of the roof.

After that, you begin at the bottom edge of the roof laying the shingles horizontally and work up towards the roof’s peak. The shingles we were working with were about three feet long and the horizontal rows on the roof have to be staggered so that there are no seams where shingles meet in the same location along the entire length of the roof. If you have a continuous seam, then the rain will seep between the shingles and down to the paper. While the paper is water resistant and meant to be an additional barrier between the shingles and plywood “roof,” it is not good to continually have water seeping below the shingles on to the paper.

You keep up with this process. Occasionally having to cut the shingles to fit around vent pipes and the like. Eventually, after your hand is sore from hammering and from maybe missing a nail head here or there and giving a good tap to your thumb, a finished roof appears. At least one side anyway.

Like I said, this is only one finished side. There will be more work to do next week on this house and many others in the area. If you have ever been interested in working with Habitat or now feel inspired to become a home repair geek like myself, check out the Habitat near you. If you are in the Charleston area, there is one in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, John’s Island, Summerville and Moncks Corner. Check out this link for contact information. Happy hammering!


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