The Roofer’s Dictionary

September 19, 2010

Shingle-surfing: a giddy sensation of movement one experiences when the shingle on which one is standing detaches from the nails holding it and begins a descent of the roof, necessitating rapid instinctive movements to restore balance and control before collision with the scaffold or the ground below. The adrenaline rush is palpable, though because this activity fits the definition of an extreme sport, participation by persons older than forty years should be discouraged.

Chalk line: container for string which can be unwound and stretched from time to time to 1) illustrate by the depth of the gaps below the string how uneven the rafters are 2) demonstrate how leaving tools out in the rain turns blue chalk into an interesting paste.

Magnet: efficient device for the salvage of used shingle nails when the calculated allotment of “1000 nails” runs out.

Ice spud: useful device for the scraping of old shingles from the roof (see also shovel, kitchen knife, bread board).

Roll-up: what occurs when an energetic newbie discovers that the soft, bonded-together shingles can be rolled up (nails and all) like a piece of old carpet and dumped over the edge of the roof into the backyard (see beginner’s luck).

Hammer: common construction tool available in a variety of weights and configurations in student households, marginally suitable for the pulling of bent nails but remarkably efficient at mutilating aluminum trim and fingernails. Straight-claw variants of this common tool can actually be used in construction, though the pulling of nails turns this common type into a catapult for the projection of bent nails in all directions.

Tin snips: reinforced scissors for the cutting of sheet metal until pressed into service to cut shingles when the knife blades run out.

Utility knife: oft-maligned disposable cutting device invaluable for the trimming of shingles, thin aluminum trim and roofing membrane. When used freehand, occasionally allows the user to produce artistic shapes in shingles, which earn negative reviews from gallery viewers. Used in conjunction with a straight-edge, has the effect of slowing the entire project down, enabling volunteers to concentrate upon consolidating the shingles into a solid mass by aimless rambling around the roof waiting for something to do.

Mazda 3: modern hatchback automobile, utterly unsuited to the transport of shingles, even though the internal capacity of the vehicle with seats folded down is about right.

2 X 4: common softwood product which can be cut, shaped and adapted to any number of applications in roof repair, limited only by the supply of such products, a saw which has not yet cut any shingles, and a supply of 4” Robertson screws.

Robertson screw: ubiquitous fastening device in Canadian workshops, banned by patent law from American building sites. In conjunction with the cordless drill and screwdriver bit, produces the characteristic loud “churrrrl” sound of the handyman at work.

Roofing membrane: delivered to the jobsite in ridiculously heavy rolls, a new wonder product for use as an ice dam on low-slope roofs. Two broad plastic strips protect the adhesive side. In some cases these can be removed by pulling after the product is in position on the roof. Other attempts produce lumps of mangled plastic under the adhesive, imparting an interesting architectural contour to the otherwise bland plane of the roof. If freed from their adhesive, the white plastic strips can then blow about the building site, imparting a festive air to the project.

Flashing: sheet metal product configured to exploit principles of differential expansion and solar heat to lever fastening devices out of brick walls, utilizing hardened tar as a fulcrum; traditional behaviour of high steel workers to commemorate the completion of a project.

Rules for volunteers on the roof:
1) bring the shingles 2) lay the shingles 3) get out of the way.

Ladder: portable grounding device for the testing of the current-carrying status of overhead wires; wind gauge indicating unsatisfactory weather conditions for roofing when it blows over; justification for the wearing of hard hats on construction sites (see above).

Stepladder: useful device for climbing if set up on a flat, horizontal surface; unstable platform for balancing and contortion acts for the entertainment of spectators when installed anywhere else (see extreme sports).

Backyard: landing area for used shingles, scrap, tools, wrappers, flashing, so that the roof can appear neat and tidy in photographs. Cleaning up the backyard is never figured into calculations of cost or labour allotments.

Volunteerism: strange psychological disorder compounded of empathy and testosterone imbalance leading friends or the curious to pitch in and help. Generally one work session is sufficient to cure sufferers of this strange malady, but some will keep coming back until the shingling is complete. Even these few rare individuals will never, however, show up when it’s time to gather up the shingles and other junk in the back yard.

Used asphalt shingles: hazardous waste to the budget of the homeowner, accepted reluctantly at landfill sites after payment approaching the cost of the replacement shingles. Profit source for removal contractors.

Pickup truck: highly desirable possession of a friend, suitable for the hauling of shingles, brush, old appliances and other debris piled high in the backyard of the recently-purchased house.

Newbies: new owners of older home, prone to embarking upon major projects without knowledge or experience, relying upon energy, the Internet, and considerable intelligence to make their way through. When asked if she would do this again, this one responded: “Sure. Now we’ve done it I would never pay someone to do a roof.”

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