Palmer House

Renovating and Restoring Our 1880 Folk Victorian

Yes, yes, I’m here! It has been a crazy four months…first an emergency surgery on Halloween with a month of at home recovery, then getting back in the swing of things at work, all while dealing with this thing called pregnancy (Yes! We did it!!).

I am currently 16 weeks pregnant, and so far it hasn’t been too bad (except for the whole loosing a third of an organ part. Yeah. Except for that). The hardest part so far has been the positively crippling amount of fatigue and lack of motivation to do ANYTHING. Those two symptoms can be deadly to a blog, a renovation, or even cooking and cleaning up the house!

I have been very blessed in that I haven’t had any nausea…if anything it’s the opposite – I’m hungry all day er’y day! But the lack of energy and motivation to cook means that I’m grabbing snacks and pre-prepared meals (So not my usual!). But what kills me is how this fatigue has impacted the house.

I am THAT person. Which one is it? Type A? Type B? Whatever. I’m that person that wants everything in it’s place and everything to have a purpose. I haven’t touched you in six months? Bye, Felicia. I want my house in order or else I cannot function. So as much as I love renovating the house, the chaos that necessarily ensues is only tolerated for so long before I have a mental breakdown. However…secretly…I’m in love with the process and I love the results.

But currently the house is a mess. It is January 13th and our Christmas tree is still up. I only just de-Christmased the rest of the house yesterday! My bathroom was finally cleaned after two months (Gross, I know. But give me a little bit of a break…one of those months was spent on the couch in excruciating post-op pain), I have at least three loads of laundry to wash with two folded in the baskets just chillin’ on my couch. There is a pile of hand-me-down maternity clothes on my guest bedroom bed and I have to keep the door closed to the room so the kitten doesn’t go in there an destroy them during one of her zoomies. I AM A PRODUCTIVE PERSON! WHYYYYYYYYY???!!! (Picture me on my knees with my hands in the air, head thrown back to the sky, with tears dramatically running down my face). So anyways…the struggle continues.

So what’s going on with Palmer House? The short answer: nothing. We are in a holding pattern. The next item to be tackled is a big one…our roof. Two out of the four of them! Here is the situation:

Back on October 5th, hubby was up on our flat family room roof and was cleaning off leaves and debris in preparation for winter. He looked up toward the main part of the house and saw this:

And this is what it looked like from ground level:

That white strip you see is a piece of sheet aluminum that hubs and my dad shoved under the shingles in an attempt to create a drip edge…we found this the day before a forecast of tree days of heavy rain!

Now, we had noticed and pointed out this dip in the roof to the home inspector when we were in the process of buying the house. He had been in the attic and found some mold, which was taken care of before we bought, but he otherwise didn’t see any structural damage to the house. So we were told it was just aesthetic and not to pay for an entire new roof for aesthetic reasons. Made sense at the time.

Turns out you SHOULD listen to your gut when it comes to old homes! Who knew? *Insert eye roll*

So this is the story:

In 2015, the previous owners had had work done on the main roof. As you walk up the stairs to the attic, you can see that the entire left side of the roof was replaced with modern, sixteen-on-center construction. Plywood was put over top and the entire roof was re-shingled. I don’t know why this was done, but no matter, it was done. And it was done bad.

Thankfully, the actual construction of the rafters of the roof were was done well. However, after reporting this issue to the insurance company and interviewing several roofing contractors (i.e. being schooled in roofing practices), we figured out what the problem is. Picture this: When you make a roof, you put rafters up. Those rafters are supposed to extend past the exterior wall of your house and create an overhang for water to drip off. The underside of those tails are covered with soffits, facia board, and aluminum to keep the wood from getting wet and rotting. Plywood goes over the rafters, tarpaper goes over that, shingles go down, boom you’re done. Well, when whatever yahoo’s got ahold of this roof (and apparently pulled a fast one of the previous owners)didn’t do that. Oh, they put up new rafters, sure. But they stopped them AT the exterior wall and left the old, 138-year-old tails just floating there. They then fastened the soffits to them, somehow floated in aluminum with no facia board, laid down plywood and then shingled in the most janky, uneven way possible. The cost, you may ask? We found the invoice – the grand total was a little over $3,000. Just putting new shingles on your roof costs somewhere around $20,000! Unbelievable. Luckily, there has been no leaking…with this roof…

Enter our back roof. This roof has been leaking for quite awhile – unbeknownst to us when we bought the house.

So our back roof was part of an addition that was put on (we think) in the 90’s. It consists of our main upstairs bathroom and a beautiful bedroom. This addition was one of those things where you scratch your head and go “What?”. I get the addition of an upstairs bathroom, and even adding on one more bedroom – what I don’t get is why did they put a flat rubber roof on this addition?? Flat roofs, if done correctly (key word: correctly), are wonderful and can last for a really long time. This is not the case with our back roof.

So here is the deal with THIS roof:

This roof is flat. And I mean flat. A “flat” roof is not actually flat if done correctly. The rough rule of thumb is that there is a 1/2″ to 2″ pitch for every 12′ of roof. This allows for water to drain off of the roof and away from the house. Since our roof has no pitch whatsoever, there isn’t good water runoff, so whenever we get heavy rain we always end up with a leak.

As best we can tell, there are at least three layers on this roof. This was the answer to all of the previous leaks by previous owners, but again, it wasn’t done correctly. The leaks, since we have been in the house, have all been in the same general area: where the new addition meets the old house. The leak has moved over the three years we have been here because hubby has been using roof “goo” as a temporary band-aid, but it has essentially stayed in the same spot. Here is the reason we think the roof is leaking, but it’s going to require you picturing the set up we have right now: The roof on the main part of the house (where we are having the first roof issue) is shingled and pitched like a normal roof. This flat roof is lower than the pitched roof, and butts up against the backside of the house on the second story, against the aluminum siding (Yes, I shudder at the thought of aluminum siding on a 138-year-old house, too). Come to find out, there was major leaking in the center of the bedroom at one point as evidenced by all the bad patching done in the middle of the room. The “solution” that was thought up was to put another layer of roof on…except they didn’t pull the aluminum siding off when they did it. The rubber roofing material needs to be placed under the siding on the main house, almost like you are going to use it instead of siding. So basically, we now have a seam where the flat roof meets the main house and the water is just sliding through the layers of roof and down into the house via the seam.

So here’s the plan and here is what we are waiting on right now: We meet with yet another contractor this Tuesday who I really, really like! He knows what he is talking about, is insured, was willing to provide references, has worked on historic homes, and gave me a very fair price. The best part – providing the weather here in Upstate NY stays precipitation-free, he can do the work on the main, shingled roof this winter! Yay!

The back roof is a little more complicated. No matter what, we are taking all three layers of roof off and going down to studs. We need to see how much damage was left behind from years of leaks…mold…rot…bad insulation…who knows! We have one major clue as to what we are up against though: the bathroom and that bedroom are freezing! We are loosing all of our heat through this roof, probably because any insulation that was there likely got wet and is no good anymore. Next, and ideally, we are going to pitch this roof. The question is: do we do another rubber roof with a proper pitch or do we tie into the existing roofline of the main house and shingle it? My vote is the second option. Why? Higher R factor. What’s that? R-factor is a rating on insulation. The higher the R-factor, the more heat you’ll retain. I. Want. Heat. If we raise the roof (*smirk*), pitch it, and add in new insulation with a decent R-factor, we will virtually stop the heat loss at the back of the house. Plus, tying into the original roof line will make the addition look like it’s always been there, and not this awkward box at the back of the house. The catch? This roof needs to wait for good weather. We can’t have a snowstorm falling into our bathroom! So this part of the house will not be done until spring at the earliest. Since this back bedroom was going to be gutted and become the nursery, that plan is also going to be on hold because there is no point in renovating a bedroom to have the roof torn off it and have it get all dirty and beat up.

So that’s where we sit. Doing a whole bunch of nothing right now. Plans are in the works, but there is nothing we can do which makes for a boring renovation blog. To boot, a new 8-week semester of school starts tomorrow, so I will have even less time to post than normal. Oh well. At least it’s only 8 weeks and we should have some progress to report by then. Fingers crossed!

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” – John F. Kennedy

EDIT: Well, blame it on the pregnancy brain, but this post was never published on time! This post was written three months ago and was just sitting here…in my drafts folder waiting for me to release it. *Face palm*. So I’m now seven months along, and the roof is done, which will be the next post you read!






























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