Bellamah
Roof Replacement
Spring 2001
Las Cruces, New Mexico
first day

This is where it all started...

A forty year old house in Las Cruces with a pond on the roof when it rained, no insulation to keep in the inefficient gas heat in the winter and an ancient swamp cooler that required twice-a-year maintenance and tons of water to attempt to keep the house cool in southern New Mexico's raging summers. Solution: remove the flat roof and build a pitched framed roof over the house. Install R-30 insulation in the rafters and a central heat/air conditioning system. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Not really!

flat roof

The first job was to remove about two tons of gravel
and dirt from the surface of the roof. Next, to remove
the parapets around the perimeter of the roof.
This requires the use of an angle grinder fitted with a diamond wheel, a sledge hammer and a wrecking bar.
You need a twenty yard dumpster to catch the debris,
but I was able to "recycle" the gravel for a little "zero-scaping".

electrical wires in parapet

When you break into a remodel, you never know
exactly what you'll find. In this case, I discovered a nest of electrical wiring inside the parapet walls.
This technique would never fly nowadays, but it
worked in 1961 when the house was built. It just
goes to show, you never know! This picture accurately depicts the old "Can of Worms Syndrome"!

roof framing begins

Once the ugly demolition is done, then comes the fun (relatively fun) part, the framing of the roof. I exposed
the original "top-plate" of the exterior walls and then installed three more layers of 2x4 on top to achieve a
level surface on which to bear the new roof and to
securely tie together the perimeter of the building.
With the majority of the existing flat roof still in place,
I framed a 2x10 hip roof over the house and carport
and a new enclosed porch area at the front.

porch overbuild

The process of cutting individual rafters and jacks and nailing them all to the ridge and hips is called "cutting in" a roof, as opposed to installing trusses. After all the frame members of the roof are installed, you cover the outside surface with exterior sheathing, in this case, 7/16" O.S.B. Then you apply 30# felt paper and the finish roof surface, I chose metal. "Bulletproof", as they say in the big world of the builder...

interior, down the hallway

Moving right along, to the inside of
the house, this picture shows the
majority of the original roofing
materials removed except for the 4x6
cedar beams that spanned from wall to
wall and carried the "sheathing" as well
as many layers of roof felt, gravel and
dirt. The beams were subsequently sold
to a man who is building a strawbale
house and is using them for the post
(and beam) assembly.

interior, looking into the kitchen

Directly to the right of the hallway in the previous picture is the kitchen. Now you can see that the beams have been cut off and removed. Remember that most of the old roof was still in place under the new roof up until now. The project was proceeding into April and the idea was to get a waterproof covering (the new roof) over the building as soon as possible and deal with the old roof from inside after. The plan proceeded sweetly!

insulation in rafters

This is the beginning of the beauty part...
This picture shows R-30 batt insulation installed in the rafters. It goes without saying that this particular material will certainly improve the house's ability to retain heat in the winter and coolness in the summer. There was absolutely no insulation in the old roof, and therefore one could sit and watch one's hard earned money literally burn up and fly out the flue of the old wall mounted gas heaters. In the summer, the air blowing down from the "swamp cooler'" didn't do much to cool the house unless all the curtains were drawn, doors stayed closed and no one moved off the couch. I decided to enhance the insulation upgrade by having a central heating/cooling system installed incorporating a 80% efficient gas furnace and refrigerated air conditioning. Once the finished ceiling materials were installed, the heater would run for about two minutes at a time and not very frequently. The A/C is a frigid situation on a hot day. Good insulation = comfy house.

tongue and groove spruce ceiling

A touch of class never hurts anybody's feelings,
so I installed tongue and groove spruce "paneling"
as a ceiling in the kitchen and living room. Not only
does it accentuate the entry into the house but
it also saved me a lot of time applying joint
compound on gypsum board and the tedious
sanding involved (up to fourteen feet off the ground).
All the other ceilings in the house are finished with
gypsum board ("sheetrock"), no texture, painted.
Whereas the house once weighed in at a ceiling height
of about 7'-6", now it rocks cathedral style
anywhere from 8 to 14 feet off the carpet, and that
makes for some seriously voluminous spaces.

tongue and groove spruce ceiling

Another picture of the ceiling also shows how the interior walls have been chased up under the new roof and gypsum board installed on them. Since the lower wall surfaces had been through forty years of use and abuse, I applied a thin coat of hard, tight-bonding, quick-setting "joint compound" to their surfaces primarilly to level them and blend them smoothly into the upper (new) raked wall planes. After all the gypsum board surfaces have been sanded smooth, a layer of primer and then paint can be applied, and all on the inside of the house is back to good (give or take some cosmetics).

soffit and fascia on overhangs

Meanwhile, on the outside, the overhang portion of the roof needs some treatment. The flat underside is the soffit and the vertical face is the fascia. For soffit, I used 7/16" primered MDF siding ripped to 16" widths. The fascia is a piece of metal made by the roof supplier colored the same as the surface of the roof. The soffit is painted after fastener holes are filled and periodic repainting is the only maintenance required. The rectangular holes in the soffit are covered by vents for roof ventilation. To complete the project, glass and one door will be installed in the porch addition and stucco will finish the framed areas.




Next Project, Becky's Deck


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