We are fortunate to have a fair roof over our heads at Throop Church but there are some serious problems. Since the church's roof now has fiberglass shingles (the original were wood) designed to last for 30 years (and is only 15 years old) it should last for 15 more years. The present roof was installed in 1986-1987.
After most every windstorm, shingles are dislodged and sometimes blown off the roof. Some don't fall very far while some may pivot downward several inches while still being held in place by one nail or so. The result is leaks in the roof and damage to the interior of the church. Although we've had the blown-off shingles replaced many times (and I've personally replaced many of them in the past), it continues to occur. In fact, it first happened when the roof was only a few years old. Why? It's not the fault of the wind, since other roofs don't have this problem (even ones that are steep).
The root cause of problem is that the past (and present) Boards failed to depreciate the roof. You may wonder how the failure to depreciate can cause this problem. Here's the chain of events. Years ago the roof became worn out and leaked badly. But there was no money to replace it. In one case, a committee was organized to handle this problem. For details see Appendix A: Committee of 100.
They had a fund drive to raise money to repair the roof, but raising the money took years. When they did get enough money to put on a new roof (about $20,000 then) the water had already rotted some of the wood in the roof. This added to the rot already present from leaks in the past that were not promptly fixed. The result is that we now have a roof with various spots rotted by long exposure to water. If the roof had been depreciated, then there should have been enough money accumulated by depreciation so that there would be no delay in getting the roof replaced/repaired. Little if any damage to the wood would have occurred. But it didn't happen this way.
Shingles get blown off the roof because nails that hold them were nailed into rotten wood. I've pounded nails thru shingles that went all the way in with a single light blow (almost like pounding a nail into a cake). Also, a photo taken when the roof was being installed clearly shows much wood that is rotten. A nail in such rotten wood can often be pulled out by hand. It's sometimes easy for a wind to lift up such a shingle and pull out such "weak" nails. This is the main reason why shingles get blown off.
A secondary reason is that the shingles originally had an adhesive on them which glued each shingle to the one below it (but not to the roof). This has failed in many cases and allows the shingles to separate from each other so that wind can get under them. This combined with weak nailing results in the shingle getting blown off.
It's very important not to have even one loose shingle. That's because a high wind can lift it up and create a "chain reaction". All shingles, except for the top row, have other shingles on top of them (at least partially on top). When one shingle gets lifted up by the wind, the shingles on top of it also get lifted up a little which allows the wind to get under them too. Then the wind raises them up and the chain reaction continues. This causes a large number of adjacent shingles to blow off the roof. It's happened at least twice.
What to do about it? There are two possible solutions. One is to replace the roof (including replacing the rotten wood). Another (the one I suggest) is to repair it frequently. Firmly nailing shingles to rotten wood is possible by using extra nails. If a nail goes in too easy, just pound in some extra nails. The rot is spotty and the shingles are large so that I've always been able to find spots under a shingle where the wood wasn't rotten. Nailing in the non-rotten spots will help hold the shingle firmly on the roof.
In addition to renailing, applying glue to replace the failed adhesive mentioned above is another idea that hasn't been tried yet. It's no substitute for renailing but would prevent a strong wind from lifting up a shingle. It needs to be done mainly for the cases where there's a small air gap at the edge of the shingle
It was a serious mistake not to replace the rotten wood before the new roof was installed in 1986-7. I don't think that church members were even notified that it was rotten, since people that were on the church board at that time were not informed of this. We need to make sure that when a new roof is put on (in say 2017) that all rotten wood is replaced even though the cost of the roofing job will be significantly higher. A fund needs to be established now for that purpose. In the meantime, we can keep repairing the roof after every period of high winds or when loose shingles are observed.
It doesn't take long (a few hours to fix several shingles in various locations) if you have the right equipment. All one needs is mountain climbing ropes (and other mountain climbing gear). You also need to know what knots to use, especially the prussik which enables a small rope to slip along a larger one. A jerk (or just tension) on the smaller rope (such as caused by the start of a fall), will cause the prussik to lock and arrest (stop) the fall. In the past I've used the prussik to climb the flagpole. (Here the "larger rope" is the flagpole itself.) I've used it every time that I've been on the steep parts of the roof and the prussik held me in place so I could use both hands to replace shingles or caulk. There are high-tech gadgets to do this also but we don't really need one for the roof.
Currently (Sept. 2001) there are about 40 shingles loose with an estimated time of about 20 hours to renail them.
Is all this dangerous? Not if you're careful. In actual mountain climbing there are more hazards. For example, in real mountain climbing it may start to rain or snow, or night may fall. If these happen while on the church roof, one may get down in a matter of minutes while in the mountains it may take hours. In real mountain climbing, rocks may break loose and fall down from above. At the church, a shingle might slide into you but that's a lot better than a heavy rock. Not only that, but in real mountain climbing you don't usually start at the top as one does on the church roof. This means that when climbing a mountain, there's a good chance of the leader falling and getting hurt, even though the rope will eventually stop the fall and prevent more serious injury or death. So while mountain climbing with ropes is a dangerous sport, climbing on our roof is not. If one is careful, it's likely no more dangerous than driving on the freeway.
The ridge of the church roof is very sharp and one must use linoleum pads under any rope which goes over the ridge. Otherwise the rope will be damaged as it slides since the shingles are like coarse sandpaper. Another problem is finding a safe anchor for the rope. I once used my car as an anchor and hoped that no one would steal my car when it was being used for this purpose. So I removed the distributor cap. A few times I had someone else serve as an "anchor guard". On another occasion, someone at the church was very angry at me and I was afraid of someone intentionally cutting the rope (murder). This time the anchor was in the tower so I rigged up a crude burger alarm to warn me of anyone getting near the anchor point. Another problem is that the roof is so dark (and insulated underneath) that it gets very hot in the sun. So its best to work on a cool day, or when cloudy/hazy, or wear gloves.
Could the church be held legally responsible if a volunteer were to get injured (or killed) while working on the roof? Probably not. A true volunteer can make no claim against the church if the church is merely negligent. A claim is only valid in this case if the church were grossly negligent. For example, if a church employee was drunk and accidentally knocked over a ladder you were standing on, then this is probably gross negligence. However, if a person is asked to to do a job (as a volunteer), then that person is no longer a volunteer in the legal sense and ordinary negligence rules. So for this latter example the church could be held responsible even if the employee who knocked over the ladder by accident wasn't drunk. Our insurance should cover situations like this.
So in any case the church can't be held responsible unless it's negligent. There's a case history where someone working a church tower fell from a ladder because the ladder was not correctly positioned. It was ruled that the church was not responsible since the church had no knowledge as to how the ladder had been set up.
Can we find roofers to go up on the roof and fix it? Yes, but they are both hard to find and extremely expensive since they don't know how to use ropes effectively (at least the ones I contacted didn't). They only seem to know how to use ropes as a "safety-net" to arrest a fall. Our roof is so steep (slope (or pitch) = 14/12 (almost 50 degrees) that the ropes must be used for direct aid. It's like in class 6 mountain climbing --the most difficult class, but at Throop this is easy. This means that you are being held in place by the rope. Roofers don't know how to do this and the ropes (and accessories) sold by roofing suppliers to roofers are not designed for this purpose. Thus roofers tend to use other inefficient and costly methods to get out on our roof. These include:
1. Use of a crane with a person on the end of the crane. 2. Use of wooden "steps" nailed to the roof 3. Use of hooked ladders which hook to the top of the roof ridge. (These are likely to damage the ridge shingles.)
Thus what a roofer might charge over $1000 for could be done by a church member (who knows how to use ropes) in a few hours. The response time might be faster also for this do-it-yourself option. The quality is likely to be better, since a conscientious Throop member will put in extra nails if needed while an employee of a roofer may not bother to do so. Repairs in the past have sometimes:
1. Not used enough nails 2. Failed to use roofing nails and used ordinary nails instead. 3. Failed to paint the tops of exposed nails the same color of the roof (Burnt Sienna) so that they won't be noticed. All repairs by roofers failed to do this. They can be painted in advance.
Thus in conclusion I suggest that the policy be adopted of keeping the existing roof until about 2017. We also need a depreciation fund. If it had been established in 1987 (as it should have been) only about $1000/yr would have been needed. Since this wasn't done, about $2000/yr is now needed. Of course the same needs to be done for Henry House and the apartments, so perhaps $3000/yr would do it. You might call it a roofing fund. It would accumulate interest and be used only for roofing. Depending on future inflation, the roof depreciation may need to be increased from time to time.
We need to find volunteers to periodically fix shingles that blow off (or have shifted and will soon fall off if not fixed). This requires mountain climbing ropes and accessories. The cost of the accessories is a couple of times the cost of the rope itself (and Throop owns a rope which I purchased for them in the early 1990s).
In 2000 I returned the mountain climbing gear I had borrowed for roof and tower work. It's worth about $400 or so. I wanted to pay the woman that loaned it to us $25 for wear (and for us keeping it for years). I wrote a letter to the board regarding Alex Mott refusing to discuss this matter with me and otherwise behaving in a threatening manner. Unfortunately (or fortunately ?), Alex Mott died before the board meeting which was to discuss my letter. Anyway, at this time I propose that I should make immediate repairs to the roof by attempting to borrow the same gear again (after paying her $25+). One can buy better equipment than she has but it would cost say $400. We wouldn't have to spend quite this much since we already own a rope and still have a couple of prussik slings which I once purchased for Throop. Thus what we need (if we don't want to borrow it) would cost under $300 for the "best" gear.
A climbing harness consists of wide straps that go around ones thighs and waist. They all connect together. Its something like a pair of short pants but it is made up of a bunch a straps instead. Some of the straps are adjustable. When hanging by a rope, the rope is attached to your harness and all your weight is held by the climbing harness straps.
In some cases, if the straps are too narrow and you spend a lot of time hanging from it, the straps will make red marks on your skin and even partially cut off circulation. But on the roof this isn't a problem since most of ones weight is borne by the roof itself. But when descending the W facade or tower (to repair cracks) ones full weight is on the climbing harness.
Thus if Throop were to buy a climbing harness, it would be nice to get an expensive one with wide straps. The one I borrowed is mainly intended for holding a person for only several minutes. It's safe but the leg-straps tend to cut off circulation in my legs (partly since I'm overweight). It's possible to order wider ones but mountain climbing stores (there aren't many of these) don't stock them since few people do class 6 mountain climbing.
Recruiting volunteers to do this is another problem. It shouldn't be much of a problem since it's kind of fun to be up high and hanging from a rope. At amusement parks people have to pay for such experiences (such as parachute jumps). Such parks insure that one is securely fastened to the cable, etc. while at Throop it's up to the volunteer to double-check that all ropes, harnesses, etc. are rigged up correctly. Another selling point is that the few people that do this type of work for a living (steeplejacks) make a lot of money at it (more that ministers). Work at Throop might count as "experience" but it's far from complete experience since most steeplejacks now use power operated cables (which are not practical to use on our roof).
This was a fund raising drive from 1979 to 1987 (8 years) to raise money to repair the roof. The goal was to get 100 people to contribute $100/yr. They raised $36 thousand (excess was spend on carpeting, etc.). Wayne Snively and John Hunnewell were active in it. The shingled roof cost about $20 thousand and the flat roofs about $2 thousand each. About $5000 was spent on gutter repair (but they failed to paint inside the old gutters to protect them). They had various roofers submit bids and Lytle Roofing said the would check for dry rot but were rejected (their bid was the highest). Shipley was silent regarding dry rot but we accepted their bid. As a result, the dry rot was not fixed and apparently not even mentioned to us even though the photos clearly showed it.
During windstorms in 1992 (and prior years), many loose shingles were blown off the roof and as a result the roof leaked rain. The Board took up the problem the next year. At the board meeting of 21 Feb. 1993 the Minister (Norman Naylor) rejected David Lawyer's request to find someone to repair the roof. Abe Ohanian asked why and the minister replied that it was already being looked into. Beth Leehy said that since we can't find anyone to repair the roof we need to install a new roof. I objected but the minutes read "It seems likely, however, that we will have to replace the roof because no one will bid on a repair." This is insanity since a new roof will cost about $30,000 and is not needed.
The roof was repaired a few months later by a contractor hired by our insurance company. He charged them a few thousand dollars for it and used a crane for access. But he failed to repair the ridge singles claiming the damage to them was not due to the wind. This contractor did repair many field shingles. (Most all of the shingles on the roof are flat field shingles.) In Oct. 1993 David Lawyer replaced 80 ridge shingles and nailed back two field shingles that were coming loose and had slipped a few inches out of place.