Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fixing It Once and For All

After the many years of neglect, of being soaked with rain in slow degrees, the little ceiling under the side roof could no longer support a simple patch and paint job. One of the boards had to be replaced completely

These were tongue and groove pine boards, not like the ceiling that runs everywhere else outside. I could have just put a new board in place, but instead I cut a new tongue and groove board just for fun. It fit on the second adjustment.

Evidently this area was repaired once before, and I'm guessing that the boards in this section were leftover from the time that our bedroom was added to the house, possibly about 70 years ago. The boards are pine floor boards, just like the ones in our bedroom.

If my assumptions are correct, this water leak has been tormenting the house since World War II. Today I finished painting the wood. The project is pretty much complete except that I still have to wait another 2 weeks (according to the Internet gurus) before I can paint the new stucco patch on the wall. And then the next marathon rain storm will decide whether I have finally broken the curse and fixed the leak once and for all times.

Willow has assigned her two flunkies to oversee things. She must think my chances of success are pretty slim.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Tree House for Tools

The problem with my leak is that it required an interdisciplinary solution. I would need a carpenter, a masonry person and a roofer. And not just any roofer--I'd need someone who works with Ludowici tiles.

Of course, I could do it myself (after studying all about the Ludowici Mission-style tiles), but the work site is about 14 feet above ground, and I can barely breathe at that altitude, at least when there is any chance I might fall.

So I built some scaffolding, something I've always wanted to do, like a little tree house except for tools.

My suspicions turned out to be true. Water had been wicking in behind the wall for years and years, rotting out a small section of roofing. The water was running down the wall. It ruined the previous window (the one I replaced), and now it stupidly thinks that it can ruin our new window.

I found evidence of at least two different attempts to repair the problem. In the first attempt, from decades ago, someone had cut out a section of stucco and then sort of pasted it back. This section just crumbled when I removed the roof tiles. Whatever the intent, the repair did not work

The second repair was done out of apparent desperation. The leak would not go away, so the person used massive amount of mortar as a sort of filler on the seam of where the roof meets the wall. The mortar, of course, had become black with mold because mortar is as thirsty as a sponge. Despite the mess, I was able to chip away at the mortar until I could pull up the tiles (I broke only one of them).

I replaced the roof, put on some new tar paper, and filled the hole in the wall with braces so that I will be able to attach some wire mess and put in new stucco.

Here's the section of crown molding I installed under the roof edge.

Next, the stucco,and then replacing the Ludowici tiles.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Watery Hubris

After nearly 5 years of apparent success, the first evidence of distress has now worked its way to the surface. I guess I've always known that my confidence was misplaced, that the rain was not really defeated from finding its way behind the wall, somewhere, somehow, and that it would eventually find the precious, soft, thirsty pine and give it a drink, which is OK for a while but only until the drinking becomes a problem and the wet wood invites mold and mildew to set up. I knew this would happen, and I could have done more to prevent it if only I had better understood the process back then. And now I can see a dark stain on the trim of our breakfast room window. The horror.

Water doesn't flow into a wooden structure, not like water flows down a ditch. No, the wooden boards pull it in, one cell feeding another, sucking it along the path of least resistance. I should have used a vapor barrier like tar paper just behind the trim. But I suppose that seemed overly cautious at the time.

Now the question is: where is the water getting in? Nothing invites superstition more than that question. After 10 years in this house, I have given up on the leaks. It rains, and when it rains long enough, the water gets in. The roofers I've called just shrug their shoulders--what can be done? Nothing. Rain will seep into the tiniest of tiny cracks, the skinniest of skinny pin holes.

I see what needs to be done but am lacking the will to do it. I can see that someone attempted a repair to the tiles by slathering them with concrete. These tiles need to be removed and replaced.

By god, I will do it.