They call them experts for a reason

This week our columnist Claudette Sandecki discusses the pros and cons of doing-it-yourself

Retirement is a combination of maintaining physical health so as to maintain property health.

Every structure I own has reached the 20 year mark and one by one each needs to be repaired, replaced, or somehow refurbished.

Three years ago after winter winds and heavy snow weighted pine branches so they raked back and forth over the greenhouse shredding the 13-year-old plastic I managed to cover the structure with new plastic by myself.

That job was similar enough to my career occupation of boat top building for me to handle it with ease.

The main difference was working standing on the ground, not on horses or over water. Took me several days working in two- or three-hour sessions but no true hassle.

Last summer the west side of the greenhouse roof dipped as years of soaking dry-rotted the lower end of every rafter.

Once I removed the cedar strips and pulled the staples to roll the new plastic to the ridgepole, I was able to replace the rafters and studs, one section at a time, so the remaining roof didn’t come down on my head.

Using my shop jigsaw (not a Skilsaw which I usually manage to bind) I cut plywood to size for the bottom portion of the wall.

The end job should be sturdy enough to last for the years I can garden.

Then yesterday, walking home with the dogs, I discovered overnight a wild wind had yanked the asphalt roofing off the southeast end of the mower shed roof.

And the plywood beneath – also dry-rotted by years of beating sun – had caved in leaving a racoon-sized hole funneling rain into the shed.

To say I was dismayed is putting it politely.

Until 3 a.m. I lay awake (partly due to an ATV roaring around the neighbourhood from midnight until well after 2 a.m.) reviewing the task ahead and ways to cope.

Can I do the job myself?

This morning I measured the roof and examined the rafters from inside.

To restore the integrity of this shed it needs new roofing, new plywood, and seven rafters, one of them on the north side.

I have on hand lightweight boat topping left over from my shop days that could take the place of heavy asphalt roofing yet give years of service.

Here the boat topping wouldn’t be expected to withstand the stress of driving down the highway at 70 km/h.

I also have several sheets of half inch plywood salvaged from a business renovation years ago when this plywood formed a safety barrier for public walking past the site.

The roofing is a snap for me. I could sew three spans of boat topping together to make one single piece to fit right over the roof without any nails or screws to allow a leak if it were well anchored under the edges all round.

If it weren’t for toenailing the rafters – a carpentry skill I totally lack –  sawing plywood, and heaving it up on to the roof I ‘d be tempted to tackle this renovation myself.

The shed’s eaves are roughly at my height. I could work mainly from horses rather than a ladder.

Then I recall advice that guided me through 32 years of running my upholstery shop: I should stick to the work I know how to do, and hire qualified help for everything else I need done.

Until this roof is properly repaired, it will be a neighbourhood eyesore and an irritant for me, but not a neon tarp landmark for helicopters. Waiting for my friendly neighbourhood roofer to do the job will take less time than recovering from a broken hip or a fractured arm.

Claudette Sandecki keeps an eye on the world – and on her greenhouse roof – from her Thornhill residence.

 

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