Palmer House

Renovating and Restoring Our 1880 Folk Victorian

Hey, hey, hey! Lookie, lookie! We actually made some progress! Let’s rewind and explain this whole process, because like any home repair, renovation or restoration, there is always more than meets the eye!

Here is where we left the roof last fall:


A large piece of sheet aluminum was shoved under the damage done to the roof during some bad weather this past October to prevent leaking:


We found a wonderful contractor that was super knowledgeable, fair, stayed in touch with us and made time for us when we needed his advice. We hired him immediately, and made plans on how to tackle this roof problem.


Here is what we decided:

The new construction that was done by the last (terrible) contractor was sixteen-on-center and solid, we just had no visible rafter tails and no support for the edge of the roof on that side of the house. Luckily, this past winter in Upstate NY was a milder one, with only two significant storms. In between, it would warm up enough that any ice jams would melt and didn’t cause more severe problems like leaks. However, the precipitation was spaced out in such a way that the work wasn’t able to be done over the winter like we hoped. We planned on removing the bottom two to three feet of shingles, soffits and facia board. New tails made out of wood would be attached to and extended from the newer construction that already existed, and a steel bar would be affixed to the entire structure for reinforcement. New shingles, soffits and facia board, done! Our contractor estimated he could get it done in two days.

Oh my, oh my. How foolish to think it would be that simple. Here is what we found when the roof was removed:


So what are we looking at? Well, the dark pieces of wood that extend past the exterior wall are the 138-year-old rafter tails. These aren’t attached to anything anymore, they are just floating there, and almost all of them were broken after years of heavy snow and ice jams. The lighter wood is the newer construction done by the last contractor that pulled a fast one on the previous owners. Some of these pieces didn’t even touch the exterior wall – they were just floating in mid-air, a good inch above where they should be! To boot, there is no insulation in all of those cavities between the rafters. NONE. My contractor said he could stuff his entire arm – up to his shoulder – into each of those cavities and he couldn’t feel a bit of insulation. No WONDER we were having such ice jam and icicle problems on this side of the house during the winter! We were loosing all our heat! To boot, the soffits that were in place? Yeah…those were “just for show” – my contractor’s words, not mine. Turns out the soffits – the white, perforated plastic or aluminum sheets that are under the eves of your house to allow circulation of air through your insulation/attic space (the insulation that we’re missing…THAT insulation), was attached to plywood boards, so there was no air circulation whatsoever.

What. The. Heck. Learn from us, people. Learn from us. Get a contractor that will educate you, advocate for you, and treat you fairly. So new tails were made…


Insulation was added into every cavity (That yellow insulation was blown-in insulation, which is useless and a waste of time and money, because it essentially deflates over time and leaves the big empty spaces that you see, allowing heat to virtually pour out of your house).


And a steel bar was added along each new tail for extra support.


New shingles and soffits were color matched and put back, and the roof was done! The grand total, with the delay in time and extra materials added in? Eight thousand dollars. I tell you this because, remember – according to the invoice we found from the previous contractor, half of a brand-new roof construction and an entirely new shingled roof cost only three thousand dollars. DO YOUR RESEARCH PEOPLE!

In the end, we only had one extra day added on to the entire job. My contractor stayed until 8:30 pm one night to make sure that the roof was weather-proofed, as it was going to rain the next day, and gifted us about six hundred dollars off the final price as a baby gift! Amazing. His work ethic and the quality of the final product alone would have kept us as customers, but the fact that he picked up the renovation debris in our yard, was willing to work with our insurance company, and was gracious enough to make a very generous gift to us, means that he has earned lifelong customers!

So here is the final product. I have to squint to see any mismatch in the shingle colors. I’ll be curious to see if we notice a difference in the heat in the bedroom and the icicles next winter.


Next up: Our side entrance steps. They were ripped out last fall because they were such a hazard. Now we need to have them rebuilt. Hopefully, the back roof will be replaced in the late summer or fall, after which we will finally be able to tackle the nursery. The baby is due at the end of June, so he probably won’t be in his permanent room until Christmas. That’s ok though. He won’t mind.

“Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” – David G. Allen

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