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How To Install A Steel Roof For $300 & Enslave Your Family In The Process

What's Happening In Waldo Sarah here!! For those who tuned in to our last What’s Happening in Waldo post, you’ll remember that I’ve been laid up for almost two months solid. We established that it was the worst (although sweatpants being socially acceptable wasn’t half bad) and that I had insane guilt, for not being able to partake in the crazy-grueling schedule that is running your own business AND remodeling a home while living in it. That schnoodles is bananas yo. So this time I want to tell the harrowing tale of how we located, bought and installed a reclaimed steel roof for $300 and enslaved my father-in-law in the process. Note: no family members were harmed (more than band-aid level) in the making of this post. Freezing and exhaustion, that’s a different story — so here’s how it went!


When we took over the task that was a full home renovation, we sat down and made a massive list of all the projects that needed to be done house-wide. It was a little scary and was a permanent affirmation that we were about to have zero social lives, money or time. (I say that like we did before this started — psshaw!) When you have that many projects ahead of you it’s no secret what has to be done, and trust me, it’s even more vomit-inducing when words are staring you in the face and outlined before you. We ordered the list by level of immediate need. The kids needed finished bedrooms, the windows had to be replaced to keep heat in and cold out, floors had to be painted *clutches pearls* and cool house numbers had to be acquired — which came in dead last on the list, as only one lone food establishment even delivers to us and friends/family are passing on visiting until our current state of renovation horror has passed. The leaky roof however, was at the tippy-top of this list. Apparently insurance companies take issue with insuring your domicile if the top floor of your house turns into a literal snow globe come winter time. But it’s cool, last winter we just gave the girls Anna and Elsa costumes and reenacted Frozen over and over again. Where are you NOW Jake from State Farm? Huh? HUH?! #likeagoodneighbormybutt!


Lots of smaller projects around the home carried with them the confidence of locating diy and renovation materials as we went. Doors, drywall, fixtures — at any given time those are available on Craigslist within a two hour drive of wherever you are in this country. I promise. Because we are afforded the luxury of driving constantly for the day job, we just pop in here and there to keep an eye out for things. But when it comes to a roof, that’s sort of a different story. You find things for cheap on Craigslist and Facebook for two important reasons: 1) Someone’s wife said it had to get out of the garage and 2) See option one. The hard part is that roofing materials don’t usually fall under that game. Most folks have a bag or two of shingles left over from a project, but when you need a WHOLE roof, then now you’re dealing with someone who had an outbuilding come down and thus, they obviously have land to hold onto it — and will do so to extract every last penny that it’s worth and as well they should!

This seemingly small pile was enough to do the entire house!

We searched for steel roofing for just over a year and found nothing at a cost low enough that it warranted the stress of dealing with the reclamation process. We had figured this would be our first project that we had to pay *gasp* retail for. Normal people would save a bit here and there, but when your little bits “here and there” are already going towards drywall and windows…. it feels like an impossible uphill climb. And we’re not talking about the climb where you gain character and learn more about yourself in the process, we’re talking about the kind where water pours in from outside and you literally have no idea where the money is coming from — until you find that one posting. That one posting that tells you that some man 4.5 hours away from you has enough steel roofing to redo our entire home and part of our garage for a small $300. It was 11:00pm when I came across it and there was loud squawking and flailing and panicking (it wasn’t pretty) — can I call someone at 11? Can I text someone at 11? Can I call at 7am? By 7am surely the 900 other people looking for the same thing will have found it and we’ll have lost this amazing deal. SQUAWK! *sends apology text and promises to come pick it up with cash within 24 hours* * gets a text back confirming it’s ours* *FREAKS OUT THAT WE’RE FINALLY GETTING A ROOF!*

We borrowed a trailer the next morning, as this would require a trailer without sides to load and relocate the long, 16′ panels with as little stress on everyone involved as possible. Now here’s the catch, we didn’t have $300 (that’s how real full home renovation is without a loan y’all) and borrowed the money from a family member (which we promptly paid back after a delivery day in Chicago — thank you to whomever purchased furniture that week!) and they were off. Adrian and his Dad set out for the 4.5 hour drive up, the hour load time and the 4.5 hour drive back. Icky. But it’s a $300 roof y’all! Well, sort of. Let’s talk details.


So yes, the initial purchase of the roof was $300, right? Right. But then there’s the other stuff. The stuff you don’t think about costing money, like screws ($200), and paint ($200), and propane ($20), and ridgecaps and trim ($1,200), cleaners such as acetone and paper towels ($30), saw blades for metal ($40), lathe board (which was free to us because Adrian scavenged and tore apart old box springs to cut the wood down from, but would normally run $200), meals out and snacks because he only ate on the way to the hardware store for more supplies ($100). So no — it wasn’t JUST $300, but we will take the $2,000 that we could pay for over the course of a few months, as we needed supplies, versus the $20k-$35k for parts and labor or just $6k if we purchased the materials from a big box hardware store and did it ourselves. Now this obviously doesn’t include the labor hours for two people working for two and a half months (roughly 25 hours a week — 200 hours off and on) to clean, paint and install this sucker. But we were really paying ourselves back in not having to sing LET IT GOOOOOO LET IT GOOOOOO for a second winter season.


Now, you’ll have to bear with me as the explanation of this process is seemingly crude and extremely brief compared to the literal blood sweat and tears (those the boys are pleading the 5th on that one), that truly went into the project. Also, 3 pairs of jeans were also sacrificed in the endeavor. So if anyone that works for Duluth Trading Company is watching and would like to send Adrian some of those super sturdy work pants that we can’t afford (and still buy drywall), that would be super, because it was all I could do to convince him he was not allowed out in public with duct tape butt. If I wrote for my own corner of the internet, I’m sure I could stretch it out all these details into several posts and build the suspense and excitement — and it would be well deserved. But that’s not why you read about what’s happening in Waldo, right? You want to get in for the inspiration and out so you can be glad that’s not you, right? No one really wants 4 posts on a roof. If you need more info — please don’t hesitate to email and we’ll fill you in on more details. We can be found at waldomidcentury at the gmails. Ok, so here’s the condensed version of a long, amazing project that well… here… let me just show you…


So to use reclaimed roofing you have to do a few things. Because it’s not shiny and new, you have to make it look that way before it can go on your roof. The previous owner had used rubber sealant and tape to patch and hold pieces together on their structure. So those pieces had to be removed. Using a sharp blade didn’t do the trick, so out came the solvents. Finally there was a great mixture of acetone and a propane torch from below that helped loosen things so they could be scraped off. Now this is no easy task. My rockstar husband was an apple that didn’t fall far from the family tree as he obviously learned his drive from his amazing father, Jerry.


While Adrian was busy measuring, cutting and laying down lathe, Jerry would daily, make the 20 minute drive to the house (even when we were in Chicago on delivery) and very methodically and diligently prepped each panel before returning home. He cleaned all the muck, and guck, and goo, and rat pee, and leaf stains (from their previous storage) so they were clean as a whistle. It could be raining, it could be 40 degrees, it was sometimes sunny, but Jerry was always there. Always cleaning.


Before anything else could proceed the panels had to be cut to size. Now it’s super fun to use a circular saw on metal because it makes neat sparks – like in the movies, but the bummer is, it leaves the edge a little raw. As much handling is needed to be done with the panels to get them into place, they weren’t exactly safe, even with gloves on. So the dynamic-duo would then file down every exposed edge so they were smooth and snag free. This is where we note, there’s no easy way to do that while retaining the finish of the steel, so everything was done with hand files and a smile. Ok, usually it was just the file, but I tried to pop in with a joke or two to lighten the mood and feel slightly useful.

Note: Adrian is adjusting his tool belt -- not peeing on the roof. Just to clarify.
Note: Adrian is adjusting his tool belt — not peeing on the roof. Just to clarify.

The panels were then laid out in the yard around the house to dry and to be painted. We didn’t paint the entirety of each panel, but there were still some scuffs and black marks that were a subtraction of the previous paint instead of addition to. Commercial-grade enamel paint took care of the job and the panels re-dried (hopefully without the cats stepping on them).  Adrian would then go through and make maps of each piece in the yard. He’d measure where each screw hole was on each panel and record it, then he’d shimmy up a ladder (that’s the whole, you hate that they go but like to watch them leave part right?), onto some scaffolding, onto another ladder and then onto the roof to map out where the lathe board had to be screwed down below. Normally when you start from scratch you’d just drop your boards every X amount of feet and do it all the way across your roof, making the install much, much easier — but it’s not that simple when you’re using previously installed materials! Although it was a complicated process, the view from the top is pretty darn great.


I mean as long as you don’t look down and seriously, barf. Who wouldn’t want to be tied in? Adrian. I’ve tried to tell him that he’s no good to me with broken legs, but it’s ok, he’s nimble and agile like a cat. Did I mention the cats learned to climb the scaffolding too? I mean that’s cool because if another one of them poops in my dracaena I can now send them to the Chinese Circus to do tricks and flips and stuff. Too mean? What were we talking about? Oh that’s right, my heroes *swoon*!


The process that those two went through, the mapping, the cutting the panels to length and angles, the screwing, the hauling up of each panel one by one onto the roof, there aren’t enough homecooked meals and smiles and thank yous to truly express the gratitude I had towards the project. You think you know and then you hobble to the bathroom, hardly able to stand and watch your father-in-law in the rain with a torch or your husband on a ladder at 9pm while wearing a headlamp to see where he’s putting screws and suddenly — you don’t know. Every little part of the process was labor intensive, from breaking down old box springs to use the wood inside (and then cut it to size) for lathe board, to scrubbing for 45 minutes on each panel to make them sparkle. It was torture to be benched from the game.

This was the halfway point where things started to feel like real progress.
This was the halfway point where things started to feel like real progress.

The act of assembly was no small feat either. Aside from the math whiz and you-sunk-my-battleship-maps that Adrian drew out for lathe board holes, the act of getting these monsterous panels to the roof was crazy pants! Adrian would climb up on the roof and lower down a rope (we’ll take this time to note at no point was he harnessed into the roof as he claimed it a larger hazzard — insert disapproving wife face here). Then if Jerry was there (if not Adrian did this entire process solo with lots of ladder work), he would screw a board to the back of a panel using the pre-existing holes. Next he would tie the rope around the board and Adrian would brace his feet and pull it up. Hand. Over. Hand. It’s like bootcamp, but usually you pay people big money at a gym for such torture. Then once it was on the roof he’d use the rope to help drag it higher on the roof, unscrew the board and screw the panel into place. Are you tired yet? Because it was exhausting to watch from the sidelines, I can’t even imagine the agony that it truly was. I know there is power and blessings behind service and hard work, but there’s a reason people hire this to be done. For most people, this act is a special circle of hell. Right next to the Walmart returns line the day after Christmas. *shudder*


Now, the roof still needs love. It does. But y’all it’s already snowing up here, so the time to finish up some detail work has passed and will have to wait for next spring. For instance, we discovered that we have unusual eaves. Which sounds like a bad pick up line, “Excuse me ma’am, but you have the most unusual eaves, would you like to meet up for some hot chocolate and romantic walk through the park sometime?” So the edge pieces that cover the end panels and exposed view of the old roofing stick out too far to use traditional caps. So we’ll have to retrofit the house next season with thicker wood parts to affix those finishing pieces to. When we venture to do that we’ll also be installing valley covers so you don’t see where the pieces meet and it looks flawless like a couple of professionals did it — and after all this, I think they’ve earned that title and then some.


I watched my own father growing up work tirelessly to repair everything from electronics to cars to garbage disposals, lawn mowers and his own roof. He was the jack-of-all-trades type as well and taught myself and my brother in the process. Sure, I could have spent time with friends, but to Dad it was important that I be able to change a flat tire, in the rain, on the highway, in the middle of the night. And I can and have. Twice. Adrian’s Dad was the same way and we learned the same lessons of self-reliance.


Adrian always says that he married me because I’m the only one who out hustled him and I say the same thing about him. It’s times like these that it’s obvious he wins 100 times over. I hope the children realize that this amazing home they live in (even if they had to eat a few peanut butter sandwiches on scaffolding and help haul lathe board up ladders) is only possible because of the dedication and strength of a few pairs of hands. That it’s provided, not because we want the best house on the block, but for them to have an amazing place to call home and to learn how to do it again someday for their own children. Well, that and never having to have Elsa-sing-a-longs again! ‘Till next time my friends, I hope your holiday season is off to a good start and that you forgive me for making you wait for the final “after” shot of the roof until all the details are in place!

The post How To Install A Steel Roof For $300 & Enslave Your Family In The Process appeared first on Vintage Revivals.

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About Ashraf Akkilah

Ashraf Akkilah
Architecture and design is my passion. I'm an architect who is interested in building design and decor trends. I'm also interested in sculpture design and landscaping. I'm "outdoor" architect who love to be involved in the project site and supervise finishing and final touches works. I had contributed to many construction and decor projects.

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