This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Biggest Do It Yourself Project

Posted By Paul

Frequent readers of this blog know that I aspire to being handy around the house with various levels of success.

Last week I took on what was without a doubt the largest project that I've ever attempted. The project was to put a new roof on my house.

Luckily I wasn't alone as my father-in-law is super handy and has done several roofs on both his house and others, so I was mostly serving as his assistant.

Here are some things that I learned from the experience:

1) If possible get the new shingles and supplies delivered to the roof. The packets of shingles don't look like much, but they are HEAVY. On the advice of my FIL, we had most of the shingles delivered directly to the roof and I am SOOOO glad we did. At one point I brought a couple packets of shingles down from the roof for cutting and later had to bring one back up again. Just wrestling that single packet of shingles up the ladder and onto the roof was a huge hassle, I couldn't image doing it over and over again.

2) Roofing spades are cool, but not essential. We had a roofing spade to clean off the old shingles. It worked fine, but so did a simple flat bladed spade that we also had. If you can borrow or already have a roofing spade that's great, but I wouldn't bother buying one. I included a picture of a roofing spade below that looks a lot like what we used.

3) Small crowbars and hammers are really useful. During the work you are almost constantly finding nails in the roof that you either need to remove or pound flat so it's nice to always have a hammer or crowbar within easy reach.

I had a mini-crowbar like the one below which was nice since we could use it easily with one hand.

4) A nail gun REALLY helps. Luckily my FIL had access to a nail gun and compressor. It is a big time saver, especially if you're not the best hammer swinger in the world (my FIL is great with a hammer, but I mess up 1 in about every 5 nails).

5) Plan for safety! One thing I would have done differently if I had it all to do over again would be to get up on the roof early and make plans for any support scaffolding or safety gear we needed. My house isn't huge but certain parts of the roof are somewhat steep and high enough that a safety line was really good to have. Luckily we were able to borrow a safety harness from Matt (who uses it for rock climbing) and lukcily I had some extra lumber around that we were able to turn into scaffolding. If you are roofing a single story house where the roof isn't too steep safety gear and scaffolding might not be a priority, but I suggest making those decisions early so that you can get any supplies or equipment before you start.

6) Roofing blades - these are just these little blades that have a hook edge. My FIL suggested we get some and I am very glad that I did. They cut shingles so much better than a normal box cutting blade. The hook end lets you cut the shingle without worrying too much about cutting through whatever is underneath, which is handy when you are trying to cut shingles on the roof. Get plenty since they do get dull after cutting through shingles for a while (we went through 6 blades in just a few days). I included a link below to get an idea of what I am talking about:

The roofing project took over a week. It was just my FIL and I, and luckily the weather cooperated but it was still a solid week of being on the roof from morning until dark (with breaks for lunch and dinner). The work was pretty hard and on the hot days it got pretty miserable.

The good news is that when the roof is done you get a real sense of satisfaction and you save a lot of money by doing it yourself.

Overall, if you enjoy doing projects yourself and you have access to the proper tools and someone who knows what they are doing then roofing can be a really rewarding way to save some money.