Sprinkler on the roof

Sprinkler on the roof

Last Monday morning, I took some lovely photos on my morning walk. We had our first freezing temperatures over the weekend and the morning stillness was incredibly beautiful.

Sprinkler on the roof

I had a nice meditative walk before the day truly started. Monday was the first day back at work for me after a restful two-week vacation. We also were expecting Nate’s dad to arrive for a weeks stay later that day.

It’s funny to look at these now because only a couple of hours later all hell broke loose. Literally five minutes after arriving at the office, I got a phone call from our across-the-street neighbors. They had seen what looked like a sprinkler going off on our roof and were worried it might be a busted pipe.

I told them where the water main was and got back in my car to drive home. By the time I arrived, our super-amazing neighbors Lee and Carol, had turned off the water and inspected the cause. I joined them up on the roof. Not only did we have a busted water pipe, but most of our pipe insulation had deteriorated or was missing. This was probably the root of our pipe problem. It’s hard to have a frozen pipe when they are nice and cozy in foam insulation.

Sprinkler on the roof

As we inspected the roof, the water from the sprinkler was beginning to freeze. Lee and Carol offered to sweep off the water while I called reinforcements. The pipe split was too much for me to take care of so I googled plumbers, read a few reviews and called my leading candidate.

The reinforcements have arrived #bustedpipe #plumbing #copperpipeonroof #notadiyprojectforthisgal

Glenn arrive a few hours later to fix the pipe. He got to work on the busted section and then called down for me to turn on the water to check the water pressure.

Sprinkler on the roof

Good thing we did because what we thought was one split turned into three. Each break is slightly smaller than the last and it was only when we tested the water pressure Glenn found them. Once all three breaks were repaired, Glenn left and I ran to the store for pipe insulation.

Sprinkler on the roof

The first store I went to was sold out, so I sat in the parking lot and called six more stores before I found the pipe insulation in stock. I bought 72 feet of tubular pipe insulation and a big roll of plumbers tape.

Sprinkler on the roof

By this time, Nate and his dad has arrive at home. So the three of us climbed up on the roof to remove the old insulation and install the new stuff.

Sprinkler on the roof

After we removed the old insulation, we worked as a team to get everything on before the sun set. Bill laid out the new material, I installed it and Nate helped me tape it up.

Sprinkler on the roof

The insulation I bought was pre-slit, self-sealing rubber in 6 feet lengths. This particular product was the only one available for my 1 inch pipes. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I would have probably bought the less expensive option if I had a choice. With our limited daylight left, I was glad to have the self-sealing feature. It made the install much quicker. I added tape every few feet and around any fittings for extra protection. The whole process took about an hour to do.

Sprinkler on the roof

Later that night, I left a trickle of water running through our kitchen sink all night to prevent any potential freezing. To be honest even with the extra precautions, I was a little nervous all night long. I may even had done a few ceiling checks at any creak I heard in the house that night. But all was well and since then (knock on wood) we’ve been good. I am very thankful we got this fixed so quickly and that our amazing neighbors saw the “sprinkler” when they did. This post would be a lot different if that water had continued to run.

So yeah, 2014 is definitely going to be the year we get this roof and all the plumbing, electrical and god-know-what-else-is-up-there fixed. We’ve been lucky so far and I don’t want to push it.

The full story of our roof

Trimming the tree

When I bought our home in 2009, a local roofer “certified” the roof for two years. I write certified in quotations, because the roofer told us that he could do a visual inspection, but hot-tar-and-gravel roofs can disguise issues well and since we had no history of the roof (owner deceased), we should assume it would need repair within five years.

Roof update

This was fine with me, because honestly the roof was really the last thing on my mind when buying the home. Given that most our house is concrete, I wasn’t worried about leaks damaging our floors or walls. So once the house was ours, we focused on updating the house project by project.

Roof Update

Fast forward seven months to January 2010 and we began noticing some issues. First our two skylights began to leak a little and then we had a bunch of flooding outside because the water no longer drained to our gutters.

Roof update

At this point, I was confident we could fix the issue with the skylights. I trekked on the roof looking for signs of leaks or damage and soon realized the roofer who certified was right. It was very difficult to find where the leak started so how was I supposed to patch it? Roofers could hot-mop the section of roof above the leaking, but there wouldn’t be much certainty that portion of the roof is where the problem is. There are also some DIY materials you can use to patch, but Nate and I decided to hold off on repair and just deal with the leaks until we came up with a more thought-out roof plan.

A well needed roof update and plan

Time went on and almost two years later, we noticed our great room ceiling was beginning to ripple due to moisture. Was it the roof leaking or could it be plumbing in the rafters? We hadn’t a clue, so decided to investigate by ripped out the half the ceiling. Luckily we only found wet insulation and a little mold. The problem turned out to be only a roof issue (no pipes in the rafters) so again we decided to wait and confirm our suspensions. Over the winter there was a couple of wet boards during rain storms but no other issues.

Roof Update

The following spring, we took out the remaining ceiling to check for any other damage. We didn’t find any more issues, so again we went forward with our plan to have the roof patched.

Nate dutifully began calling roofing companies (including the one that certified the roof). A few came out for an estimate and they all recommended the same thing – replace our whole roof and consider vaulting it. Well, after a bunch of deliberation, we decided to keep the original look of the home and stick with the mid-century flat roof.

A well needed roof update and plan

Once we decided on the roofline, we realized that replacing the roof also gave us the opportunity to update on our electrical and plumbing. Then we looked into roofing materials and really liked single ply membrane materials. This sort of roof is common on commercial buildings and they are designed to be installed in one layer so have no leaks (!!!). There are also a huge number of options for insulation and the exact type of materials that are used.

Nate reached out to a general contractor who could help us merge all these ideas. After our initial meeting, we didn’t hear back from the contractor and eventually learned they were booked for the season. About this time, the wet boards were becoming worse. The boards were warping and leaking during rain storms. With no prospective contractor on the horizon, we just put off the roof project until after the wedding.


Now a year later, the rafters has gotten worse. The water damage has turned into dry rot and the mold has come back with vengeance. There’s no more putting this project off. Looks like 2014 (five years after we bought the house) will be the year we take care of this lingering issue.

The plan moving forward

Research for the roof

1. Research

The first order of business is to find the right general contractor for the job and figure out what sort of financing makes sense for us.

I am going to spend the next few weeks getting referrals for a few contractors who has worked with a flat roof before.

We know we are going to have to finance this project since it could be as much as $30,000-40,000 depending on all the details. I am going to look into getting pre-approved for a home equity or improvement loan.

Also on a long shot, I want to look into green roofing as well. I’ve wanted one ever since I visited here as a kid.

2. Evaluate and hire a contractor

Once we get a couple quotes and feel out the contractors we hope to nail down exactly the scope of the project.

Our wish list would include:

  • Remove old hot-tar-and-gravel roof plus some of the fascia boards
  • Remove the extensions on the car port and back porch and potential replace
  • Replace dry rot and facia
  • Insulate the rafters (we are not sure if it’s currently insulated)
  • Update our electrical lines to code
  • Install a new membrane roof with insulation
  • Rework our water and gas pipes so they run more efficiently
  • Insulate the new plumbing
  • Run gas pipes to the master bathroom and fireplace
  • Install tank-less hot water heater in our master bedroom and potential in the laundry area
  • Prep the ceiling for our kitchen remodel by installing new range exhaust system
  • Install new gutters or drainage

3. Schedule the project for next year

There is a good chance we will need to evacuate most of the house during the project. We’ve expect a ton of dust to rain down on our home due to wood paneling ceilings with no insulation so we will take as many precautions as possible.

Then there are the cats. They hated the Bath Crashers experience so I don’t know what we will do for this. Send them somewhere else? Let them hide outside and hope for the best? We can worry about that once the rest of the project is worked out.

Well I think I have said all I need to for now. This will be the biggest project we ever take on, but I’m excited to finally get it done.

Three more drips

Rainy Day in the Neighborhood

Rainy weather came in two nights ago and with it my worry about how our roof will do this winter.


Our great room is already dripping like a sieve and just this morning I found three new drips in the front room.


Seeing them almost sent me to tears. This whole roof issue is so stressful.

The ceiling

I am sure some people think we are crazy to have our great room ceiling open to the rafters for over a year, but the decision on how to fix the roof became a bigger project then Nate and I realized. We had hoped we could just patch it, but the more we’ve researched and talked to experts it became apparent the whole roof needed to go.

Over the last year, we’ve been inching closer and closer to a final solution. I’ve paired down our journey to four main questions.

Should we keep the original roof line or pitch it?

Trimming the tree

This dilemma was the absolute hardest for me to wrap my head around. It took me months with plenty of discussion with family and friends to go with my gut and stick with the original roof line. A pitched roof would have given us more storage, but for me the mid-century modern house won out.

Should we improve other issues at the same time?


The list of “other issues” is actually quite long for us. With all our pipes  running on the roof and no easy access to our rafters because of our plank ceiling, we have a lot of potential updates including:

  • Insulate the rafters
  • Update our electrical
  • Rework our water and gas pipes so they run more efficiently
  • Insulate the new plumbing
  • Run gas pipes to the master bathroom and fireplace
  • Install tank-less hot water heater(s)
  • Prep the ceiling for our kitchen remodel by installing new range exhaust system

Every added project costs more money so we will have to do as much as we can. Most likely are the insulation, plumbing and electrical improvements.

What materials should we use?


I plan to go into some detail about the options once we make a decision.  We’ve talked to roofers, contractors and vendors with experience with commercial roofing.

What can we afford?


Currently we are waiting for our last bid to come in. Once we get that, we will be working on financing and making our final decision. With so many moving pieces, I’m a little worried about final cost. This isn’t a project we can do in phases and it’s going to completely disrupt the house (and cats). I’d love to push this off for a year or two, but the drips in the ceiling are telling me otherwise.

Ceiling Removal: Part Two

Ceiling removal prepped and ready to go

Last weekend we switched gears from the Prison Bath Remodel (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) to our neglected Great Room Ceiling. You may recall that we ripped out half of it last September when we started seeing evidence of some water damage.

Ceiling removal

Once we got all the wet insulation down we were still uncertain the cause and decided to leave the rafters exposed until we could determine the next step. Given our mild Californian winters we were able to do this, but it was still really, really cold in there at night. I don’t recommend trying this anywhere it gets below 30 degrees at night.

Five months later and we are still a little perplexed on what we are going to do with the roof. At this point, we can’t afford a new roof without financing it. We haven’t been able to find a roofer that is interested in patching our roof because it’s really difficult to find the problem area on a flat roof like ours. Luckily, we have noticed only a little moisture coming through during rain storms. In fact it may actually be due to sitting water which is something we can monitor until we replace the roof.

With Nate on Spring Break this week, we decided to at least get the whole ceiling off and check for more leaks.

Prepping for ceiling removal

It was a really rainy Saturday, so Nate got the great room ready for demo on Sunday. All the furniture was moved to the back of the room.

Ceiling removal

We sealed the area, doors and vents with plastic sheets and painters tape to keep the mess to a minimal. On Sunday, we opened our double sliders and window to have as much ventilation as possible.

Nate removing the ceiling panels with reciprocating saw

Nate started by cutting the particle board into sections with our borrowed reciprocating saw. Then he pulled each section down with as much of the insulation batting intact as possible.

Insulation cleanup

I was the cleanup crew.

Andrea cleaning up

I kept the mess to a minimum and disposed of all the old insulation, gravel and board pieces as he removed them. And yes, that’s my new Shop Vac which I absolutely love.

Old insulation panel

It went pretty smoothly. The insulation on this side of the room was not wet like the other side which made the process go quickly.

Plus, it means we only have to worry about leaks on one side of the room which is super awesome news.

Once all the sections were down, we cleaned the walls and floors well before moving the furniture back. Total project took about 3-4 hours.

A couple other things to note.

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasp Nests

When we removed the paneling along the outside wall, we found about a dozen small paper wasp nests.

Closeup of old paper wasp nests

Seeing them made me a little anxious. You know how I feel about wasps. Luckily the nests were old and did not look like they had been used in quite sometime. Phew.

“At least I am wearing shoes”

Dirty, tired Nate

Pulling out insulation is messy work. Nate wore a better outfit than last time. He even had shoes and long sleeves on, but still got covered in insulation and dirt. Don’t worry he was wearing safety google and a ventilation mask as he worked.

I need to buy him some real work gloves and safety goggles. The standard leather work gloves didn’t have enough mobility to use the saw so he ended up not wearing anything. Also, my chemistry goggles from college just aren’t cutting it anymore. Anyone have some recommendations?

Beam down

It fell on my head

Speaking of safety concerns, I got a big bump on my head when a heavy molding board fell on my head. Nate was taking it off and it unexpectedness dropped before he removed all the nails. Yes, I shouldn’t have been under it. Yes, Nate should have warned me. All in all though, we were both glad I wasn’t hurt that bad. And my hair covers the bump.

Great room cleaned up after the ceiling was pulled down

So that’s our weekend. How was yours? We have a bunch more projects planned this week. In fact we’ve been doing so many things around the house, I have posts already written and queued to post all week. Watch out. I can only hope being this organized becomes habit.

Half of the Ceiling Removal


We had high aspirations a few weekends ago. We planned two big projects – 1) take out our part of our great room’s ceiling and 2) build a couple raised beds for our side yard. Unfortunately, the ceiling removal was quite a time hog. Took us about five hours to remove half the ceiling panels, dispose of all the rubble and clean. Looking back now, it actually went quickly given what we had to do. Of course going into it, we were slightly unprepared for the mess.


The Situation

A couple of months ago, bubbles started to form in the particle board ceiling in our great room. It’s hard to capture the bubbles on the white ceiling, but here you can see them with the light reflecting off the ceiling.


A month later, the bubbles got bigger. Then cracks formed. Since these symptoms were growing so fast, we wanted to investigate the problem before winter. Our plan was simple, remove the damaged boards and see what was causing the water damage.



Having no idea what we would find – Nate and I cleaned the furniture out of the room and put up plastic drop cloth along all the passageways to keep the mess contained.


We even covered the back part of the great room just to keep the dust and debris off our furniture. Glad we did that extra step because we had no idea how much stuff would come down with the ceiling.


Make a hole

Next, Nate broke through one of our problem areas with a crowbar and hammer. We had to be really careful because we had no idea where anything was above the ceiling. Once he broke through and made a decent size hole, he was able to look and see the lay of the land.


What we found

Roughly two feet separated our ceiling from the roof boards. Rafters ran the length of this section of the room.


Between the rafters was old insulation. Some of it was still intact, but most was moist and rather icky. It got everywhere. With the insulation was also a lot of gravel from the roof. Guess the gravel must have found its way down through the roof boards, but the great amount of it was a little troubling.


All of our electrical wiring in our house runs in the ceiling (remember there’s concrete everywhere else!), so Nate had to be really carefully as he removed panels. Luckily we only found our telephone line. No electrical on this side of the room.


Once we got all the boards and debris out, we are happy to report there is minimal damage to the roof boards and rafters. The insulation all had to be thrown out, but we intent to replace it with a better and more eco-friendly product anyhow.



We have one white moldy patch, but little else to show for all the moisture. So the good news is we don’t have a major catastrophe on our hands, but the bad news is we still don’t know where the leak is.


Our plan is to keep the ceiling open for a couple of weeks and get some advice on short-term solutions. Maybe we get this portion of the roof patched or try to pin point exactly where the leak is and just patch that small area.

We know we are eventually going to have to replace the whole roof, but we don’t have the vision yet of what we want to do, nor the funds to make it happen.

So now we wait and watch for a sign.