Defying Death, or Building a New Roof—in 95 Degree Weather

 

We actually signed the contract to replace our roof last October. It took six months for the manufacturer to make the tiles. They didn’t tell us it would take that long, and that the workers would be toiling in 90 degree-plus weather and afternoon thunderstorms.

Replacing a roof looks like really demanding work. I can’t say for sure, since I’ve never even been on the roof. I hold my breath as they move around up there, first with the underlayment, now with the tile. And the weather has been brutal.

I wonder who these men are. Most of them speak some English and are polite; others smile and wave. I always greet them, make eye contact when I can, and wave back, because I think there are plenty of people who see them “only as laborers”; they might see them simply as part of the landscape, a means to an end. But I wonder who they are.

I wonder, in spite of all the ice and water we give them, if they become weak and dehydrated. I wonder if they slip up there sometimes, trying to avoid dangerous, life-threatening falls.

I wonder if they have families. I wonder if they dream of doing safer work, more comfortable work, with air conditioning, instead of depending on warm breezes that barely cool them.

I wonder if they have other hopes and dreams: sending their kids to college, becoming a supervisor or manager, working a 9 to 5 job.

I wonder if they speculate on the lives of my husband and me. Do they resent our comfortable conditions? Do they speculate that although we may not have worked difficult jobs like theirs, we had to work for where we are?

Do they wonder about us at all?

Or do they have the good sense to be fully present to their work, paying attention to the placement of their feet and the next tile.

As difficult as their work and conditions are, I hope they know I respect the hard work they do. I respect their tenacity, their reliability, even their politeness.

I hope they know that.

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There are 40 comments.

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  1. MarciN Member

    I’d be worried about them too. We had our roof done during the spring a year ago, and I was talking to the contractor about the heat. By the end of May, even in New England, it can reach 120 degrees on a roof. He said they are very careful. Even the tools and materials are too hot to work with safely. They watch the weather. They do all kinds of construction work so they are not dependent on the roofing work alone. That way they can avoid extreme temperatures. 

    • #1
    • June 11, 2019, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I’d be worried about them too. We had our roof done during the spring a year ago, and I was talking to the contractor about the heat. By the end of May, even in New England, it can reach 120 degrees on a roof. He said they are very careful. Even the tools and materials are too hot to work with safely. They watch the weather. They do all kinds of construction work so they are not dependent on the roofing work alone. That way they can avoid extreme temperatures.

    I’m not sure they do other work, since this is a roofing company and with all the weather events we get here, they keep their crews pretty busy, year around.

    • #2
    • June 11, 2019, at 6:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    Those guys on the roof who look like they’re 80 years old? They’re probably 35-40. Roofing does that to a person.

    • #3
    • June 11, 2019, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. EJHill Podcaster

    Roofing is nothing. Try steelwork on skyscrapers and broadcast towers. Those guys are crazy.

    • #4
    • June 11, 2019, at 6:57 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. The Reticulator Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I’d be worried about them too. We had our roof done during the spring a year ago, and I was talking to the contractor about the heat. By the end of May, even in New England, it can reach 120 degrees on a roof. He said they are very careful. Even the tools and materials are too hot to work with safely. They watch the weather. They do all kinds of construction work so they are not dependent on the roofing work alone. That way they can avoid extreme temperatures.

    Asphalt shingles tend to melt in temperatures that are too hot, and can’t be handled without damaging them. So that limits the times of day in summer, at minimum. And when it’s too cold they are too brittle.

    A clay tile roof is nice.

    • #5
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:08 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Ralphie Member

    Roofing is hard and dangerous work. And important to get right, so it involves thinking about what you are doing. Their workman’s comp rate is high, and many builders do not do roofing and hire it out. I see in the picture that one of the workers is tied off, and that is good. Falls may still be the number one construction accident, and two of my contractor friends ended up in intensive care from falls on the jobsite in the past few years. 

    It has been my experience that most contractors and laborers take pride in their work and do what a happy customer. They hope you do well enough to pay when the job is done, treat them with respect, and give them a good recommendation.

    We visited Biltmore a few years ago, and they were doing roof work using mountain climbing equipment. Can’t imagine a worse residential roofing job.

     

    • #6
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:09 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Ralphie (View Comment):

    Roofing is hard and dangerous work. And important to get right, so it involves thinking about what you are doing. Their workman’s comp rate is high, and many builders do not do roofing and hire it out. I see in the picture that one of the workers is tied off, and that is good. Falls may still be the number one construction accident, and two of my contractor friends ended up in intensive care from falls on the jobsite in the past few years.

    It has been my experience that most contractors and laborers take pride in their work and do what a happy customer. They hope you do well enough to pay when the job is done, treat them with respect, and give them a good recommendation.

    We visited Biltmore a few years ago, and they were doing roof work using mountain climbing equipment. Can’t imagine a worse residential roofing job.

     

    Thanks so much for filling in the picture, @ralphie. The photo is stock–since I won’t climb up there, that’s a dead giveaway. I may take a photo of the crew on their lunch break, if they don’t mind.

    • #7
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. EB Thatcher
    EB

    Our roof was done last June (shingles, not ceramic tile.) They started at 6:30 every morning so that they could quit by around 3pm and still have put in a full day. Of course being June in Florida, we did lose time for thunderstorms. It took almost a month (we had a house and hangar.)

    My roofer has been in the business for 45 years. He drug-tests his workers first thing in the morning and after lunch. He believes that this is why he has never had a workmen’s comp claim. Who knows? I think he probably hires good people. They were always polite and didn’t leave a mess.

    I watched a This Old House episode with tiles one time. I think that job is probably more demanding than installing shingles. The roofers use those pneumatic nailers and it’s pop-pop-pop all day long.

    • #8
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Roofing is nothing. Try steelwork on skyscrapers and broadcast towers. Those guys are crazy.

    I wonder if Mohawk Indians (or other Iroquoian Indians) still are the go-to guys for steelwork on skyscrapers. It was that way years ago.

    I used to hire contractors for work on my little 54′ wireless towers. They’d come and tell me tales of the previous day’s work, say during high winds on a 400′ tower by Lake Michigan. Not any place I’d care to be, and I heard that they sometimes had problems dealing with it, too, although this was described to me out of earshot of the guy who had been up there.

    But roofing jobs can be dangerous. A former brother-in-law was killed several years ago when he fell off of a garage roof that he was working on. 

    I was looking at the 2nd story roof on our old Greek Revival house, wondering how the reroofing job I did 25 years ago is holding up. I told Mrs R that when it’s time to re-do it, I may hire the work this time. I had a hard time two years ago putting the metal roof (with a 6-12 pitch) on our new pole barn, saying all the while that I wished I had gone with a 5-12 pitch. I bought a safety harness and rope just so I could stay in place without slipping, and even then it was very hard. Most of the work could be done without standing on the roof, but not all of it. I put the safety harness kit in a box when I was done, and wouldn’t mind if I never got it out again.

    • #9
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. Stad Thatcher

    Roofing – one of the toughest jobs in construction because of the multiple dangers involved.

    • #10
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Aaron Miller Member

    Some roofing jobs will melt your shoes… or else make it hard to move because of sticky tar.

    I once helped an old neighbor redo his roof and saw him fall from the short side. I saw it in slow motion. He was hurting but okay. His son never moved so fast.

    On the other hand, I know a guy whose nephew died from a fall while trimming trees.

    Another guy went to the hospital for heat exhaustion after working in a Southern attic in summer. I have been in attics too small to kneel, much less stand, in… and with no flooring. I can’t imagine needing to be pulled out of there. And that’s assuming anyone even knows you are in trouble.

    As much as we need to repopulate physical professions, there are good reasons parents preferred to send kids to college for white collar jobs.

    • #11
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:42 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  12. EJHill Podcaster

    The Reticulator: I wonder if Mohawk Indians (or other Iroquoian Indians) still are the go-to guys for steelwork on skyscrapers. It was that way years ago.

    I don’t know. The last tower build I was close to was in the mid-80s and it certainly was the case back then. It infuriated our station owner. He was under a tight deadline to get the station on the air when the grandmother of one of the tower crew workers died. The entire crew abandoned their work on the tower to attend the funeral.

    The foreman explained to him that, as Native Americans, they believed if they did not go and honor death, death would visit them on the worksite. OR, they all just wanted to get out of South Jersey for a week and go home and see their own families. I don’t know enough about their culture to know which was which. 

    • #12
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  13. EJHill Podcaster

    BTW – I didn’t mean to minimize the dangers of residential roofing. I’m actually quite surprised some politician hasn’t made netting and/or airbags mandatory in the industry. There’s just so many more jobs higher up the crazy scale.

    • #13
    • June 11, 2019, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Ralphie Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    BTW – I didn’t mean to minimize the dangers of residential roofing. I’m actually quite surprised some politician hasn’t made netting and/or airbags mandatory in the industry. There’s just so many more jobs higher up the crazy scale.

    MIOSHA has been enforcing tie offs for roofers in recent years. Fall risk training is big, and industrial engineers will tell you falls have decreased. Generally, it is the small builder that doesn’t always comply because regulations generally cost more in time and money to implement, and most are competing very heavily to get work. We seem to have a belief that dirty work in simple work on the consumer end.

    Although most homeowners say they don’t pick a builder on price, in the long run, I find that is not true. 

    • #14
    • June 11, 2019, at 8:49 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. JoelB Member

    Here in Western PA, you see a lot of Amish roofers. They are not hard to spot.

    • #15
    • June 11, 2019, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. GFHandle Member

    Great post. “Common laborers” are all too often invisible. And from what most folk tell me, reliable and sober ones are increasingly hard to find.

    I had blood drawn at the Mass General yesterday. I asked the phlebotomist what had drawn her to that line of work. “They asked me.” She had been working as a blood runner–collecting the samples, etc. Something about her work must have caught an eye. She was asked if she wanted to learn and did. Four months training at the MGH and, I hope, a suitable raise. And she found my vein in one shot. (I’ve been rendered black and blue by blood takers–especially residents).

    As difficult as their work and conditions are, I hope they know I respect the hard work they do. I respect their tenacity, their reliability, even their politeness.

    I hope they know that.

    Maybe you could tell them. Perhaps a note to the foreman (hardly likely to be a forewoman for some inscrutable reason) that could be translated for the others? (I’d do this after the job was done.)

    • #16
    • June 11, 2019, at 10:04 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    GFHandle (View Comment):

    Great post. “Common laborers” are all too often invisible. And from what most folk tell me, reliable and sober ones are increasingly hard to find.

    I had blood drawn at the Mass General yesterday. I asked the phlebotomist what had drawn her to that line of work. “They asked me.” She had been working as a blood runner–collecting the samples, etc. Something about her work must have caught an eye. She was asked if she wanted to learn and did. Four months training at the MGH and, I hope, a suitable raise. And she found my vein in one shot. (I’ve been rendered black and blue by blood takers–especially residents).

    As difficult as their work and conditions are, I hope they know I respect the hard work they do. I respect their tenacity, their reliability, even their politeness.

    I hope they know that.

    Maybe you could tell them. Perhaps a note to the foreman (hardly likely to be a forewoman for some inscrutable reason) that could be translated for the others? (I’d do this after the job was done.)

    What a great idea! I will ask the foreman to deliver a note to them. Regarding the taking of blood (which I will do tomorrow), I am so impressed with the people who know how to do it painlessly–it is an important skill. I’m hoping to come home without bruises! Thanks, @gfhandle!

    • #17
    • June 11, 2019, at 10:19 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. EB Thatcher
    EB

    Speaking of dangerous professions….my cousin’s son has always loved rock climbing – out in the mountains. He’s ended up in a job building stadiums, all over the country and once in Australia. He loves it, but my cousin tries not to think about it.

    • #18
    • June 11, 2019, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    OMG, I don’t want to think about either one, @eb! Yikes! The second one makes me dizzier than the first! I like seeing lots and lots of ropes around, at least.

    • #19
    • June 11, 2019, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. WillowSpring Member

    The problems with working up high is that you are both up high and working. Almost by definition, working needs to take some of your attention. The last time I was up high, I was checking our stone chimney. It was two stories high and a very large chimney. I was checking to see if we needed to have it lines (we did, but I had professionals do it). For the next several days after checking it out, I couldn’t figure out why my arms were so sore. I finally figured out that it was because of the death grip I had on the chimney while I was up there.

    Several years ago, my daughter-in-law’s father fell off a ladder while cleaning gutters and died from his injuries.

    I don’t go up very high any more.

    • #20
    • June 11, 2019, at 11:24 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    I finally figured out that it was because of the death grip I had on the chimney while I was up there.

    Oh my gosh, @willowspring. I hope I don’t sound sexist, but I think you guys are more apt to try those death-defying acts than we women. Glad only your arms hurt afterward, and I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter-in-law’s father.

    • #21
    • June 11, 2019, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Mim526 Member

    Good post, @susanquinn. I’m guessing the folks working on your roof know you appreciate the work they’re doing. Telling them and bringing water was a good clue :-)

    I always hope that someone receiving my thanks for a job well done feels as good hearing it as I do giving it.

    I’m starting looking into getting a shingle roof replaced. So far it’s a little daunting for someone unfamiliar with construction, knowing it’s important to get a quality job and it being a major household expense.

    • #22
    • June 11, 2019, at 11:39 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. EB Thatcher
    EB

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    Several years ago, my daughter-in-law’s father fell off a ladder while cleaning gutters and died from his injuries.

    I agree about heights being risky. I won’t let my husband climb up our 16 foot ladder anymore. However, my friend’s husband, seated in a grocery store motorized cart, fainted and fell from the cart (so he was not far from the floor at all.) He hit his head on the linoleum. They took him to the hospital, he ended up in the ICU, and a week later he was gone.

    • #23
    • June 11, 2019, at 11:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Mim526 (View Comment):

    Good post, @susanquinn. I’m guessing the folks working on your roof know you appreciate the work they’re doing. Telling them and bringing water was a good clue :-)

    I always hope that someone receiving my thanks for a job well done feels as good hearing it as I do giving it.

    I’m starting looking into getting a shingle roof replaced. So far it’s a little daunting for someone unfamiliar with construction, knowing it’s important to get a quality job and it being a major household expense.

    Getting shingles is a much better choice. The homeowners’ association requires that the homes one this street all have tile. Unfortunately.

    • #24
    • June 11, 2019, at 12:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    EB (View Comment):
    I agree about heights being risky. I won’t let my husband climb up our 16 foot ladder anymore. However, my friend’s husband, seated in a grocery store motorized cart, fainted and fell from the cart (so he was not far from the floor at all.) He hit his head on the linoleum. They took him to the hospital, he ended up in the ICU, and a week later he was gone.

    How sad! Then again, there is using good judgment (like you did) and freak accidents–the latter which we can’t anticipate. So sorry.

    • #25
    • June 11, 2019, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Mim526 Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mim526 (View Comment):

    Good post, @susanquinn. I’m guessing the folks working on your roof know you appreciate the work they’re doing. Telling them and bringing water was a good clue :-)

    I always hope that someone receiving my thanks for a job well done feels as good hearing it as I do giving it.

    I’m starting looking into getting a shingle roof replaced. So far it’s a little daunting for someone unfamiliar with construction, knowing it’s important to get a quality job and it being a major household expense.

    Getting shingles is a much better choice. The homeowners’ association requires that the homes one this street all have tile. Unfortunately.

    My old home had tile roof and floor and I really enjoyed it (was cooler for one thing). House I live in now has shingle, and tile would be too heavy for it. Either way, it’s a big job, isn’t it? I’m okay putting furniture together, using a drill, changing a lightbulb. Much else and I call my brother to steer me in the right direction, and get on the internet for info.

    Plus, I probably watch too much HGTV/DIY channel stuff. Surely there aren’t that many bad contractors? Hopefully, I shall never know. 

    • #26
    • June 11, 2019, at 12:31 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Mim526 (View Comment):
    Plus, I probably watch too much HGTV/DIY channel stuff. Surely there aren’t that many bad contractors? Hopefully, I shall never know. 

    Those TV stations have convinced me that I should NEVER try to fix things on my own. Then again, my husband is pretty handy, although the heavier stuff is for the big boys. Although I can change light bulbs . . .

    • #27
    • June 11, 2019, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Vectorman Thatcher

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I was looking at the 2nd story roof on our old Greek Revival house, wondering how the reroofing job I did 25 years ago is holding up. I told Mrs R that when it’s time to re-do it, I may hire the work this time.

    We (my Wife helped) re-roofed our house ~20 years ago. The original builder made some major mistakes – not using felt paper underneath the asphalt shingles, missing metal drip edges into the gutters, and using staples instead of roofing nails. It over 2 years with 4 sections: Front and back 2nd story, front and back main story. The 2nd story was about 4:12, with the first closer to 6:12.

    Of course, you and I have taken long bicycle trips, where one hit from a car would be disastrous. But I’m too old for roofing. 

    • #28
    • June 11, 2019, at 1:00 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Vectorman (View Comment):
    It over 2 years with 4 sections:

    @vectorman— that’s not a roof replacement–that’s a marathon!!

    • #29
    • June 11, 2019, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Vectorman Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Vectorman (View Comment):
    It over 2 years with 4 sections:

    @vectorman— that’s not a roof replacement–that’s a marathon!!

    True! But the south side shingles had to be done due to leaks. And it was impossible to match the shingles. The new “architecture” multi layer type look so much better and are easier to install than the 3 tab version. 

    • #30
    • June 11, 2019, at 1:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
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