Luskin: A New Roof

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(Host) Novelist, essayist and educator Deborah Lee Luskin has lived in Vermont long enough to know that summer is short and winter is long. This summer, she’s hoping summer’s long enough to install the new roof that will keep the snowmelt off her dining room table.

(Luskin) When I’m camping in the rain and my tent leaks, I know the situation is temporary, and I can put up with it – until I return home. But when rain drips onto my dining room table I feel as if the earth’s orbit is out of whack, and using a bucket as a centerpiece only emphasizes the disorder of my universe.

Unfortunately, I’m not speaking about theoretical astrophysics here, nor even using my leaky roof as a metaphor. The roof of my house has literally worn out. It’s the original roof, installed when the house was built twenty-five years ago, and it’s made of cedar shingles – a poor choice for Vermont. Sure, they look good, especially as moss and lichen have taken root. But over time, shingles have blown off. Worse, snow sticks to those that remain, causing ice dams and leaks along the eaves, so shoveling the roof has been a regular, dangerous, winter chore.

It’s just the two of us here now, and we discussed downsizing, but the house absorbs crowds when the kids come home with their friends, and our orchard is just maturing; we’re well established here. So, this summer we’re replacing the roof.

If only it were so simple.

Because we never want to have to replace the roof again in our lifetimes, we’ve chosen standing seam metal. This means it’s our last chance to make all the improvements we can anticipate into the future – and can afford today.

For starters, we’re doubling the insulation and increasing natural lighting with skylights and two sun tunnels, which are pipes that will bring natural light to a first floor hallway and a windowless bath.

We’re also adding a dormer upstairs, for a future renovation we’ve planned – just in case our kids bring home spouses and grandkids. No pressure.

But the main event is re-engineering the rooflines over the doors of the house. Any building in Vermont has to anticipate snow loads: how much snow the roof can support, where the snow will land when it falls, and how much shoveling a homeowner is prepared to do. The new metal roof will shed snow, and we want to be sure we don’t inadvertently end up sealed inside for the winter. We’re also adding a covered walkway that will double as a woodshed. Everyone entering through the back door in the winter will now be asked to carry in a piece of cord wood.

In truth, Tim and I are doing none of the work ourselves; we’re just paying for it. We have a crew of workman at the house every day it doesn’t rain. We’re told to expect the project to take three months, but the rain may spin it out to four. With all the pounding going on overhead, and the cacophony of construction, I’m seriously considering heading out to a spot in a nearby field, where I can pitch my leaky tent.

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