Jeff Barr's Blog

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New Roof, Crows, GPS!

Ever noticed that washing a car is like a modern-day rain dance? Wash the car and rain is sure to follow, at least in Seattle. Well, I’ve found the equivalent for houses — paint the ceilings and the roof is sure to spring a leak!

We spent the last 6 months or so doing a cosmetic upgrade to our home. We repainted all of the walls per an updated color scheme, installed some new wood floors, and generally did our best to push back the wear and tear inflicted by our 5 kids, their friends, and our dog.

Things are looking great and we are about 90% done. 1 room remains to be painted, and 2 of the kids are planning to hire a professional grafitti artist to add the finishing touch to their rooms. I am in the process of moving my home office from the upstairs (where I shared it with my wife and the kids) to a room of my own on the first floor, where I will have a window of my own for the very first time.

We’ve had some fairly heavy winter rains in Seattle. Early last week I happened to be sitting in our upstairs office and glanced up at the ceiling. I saw a dark line about 5 or 6 feet long and immediately knew that we had a problem! Our house is about 14 years old, with a cedar shake roof. Based on what I’ve learned so far, roofs of the same vintage of ours typically last 12 to 15 years, so we are just about due.

It turns out that there was an early warning (one which I should have heeded, of course). A few weeks ago my son Stephen was in the attic taking down our Christmas goodies. As he did this, he noted that some of the items were a little bit wet. We looked straight up and actually saw daylight through the roof! There was a small hole, perhaps a half inch in diameter. We put a little bucket under it and I made a mental note to get it taken care of.

Christmas was coming up and I never did find that mental note…

However, as soon as I saw the tell-tale sign of water on the office ceiling I called Legacy Roofing and they sent a technician over within 48 hours. He covered the main leak with a tarp and when I asked him about the condition of the roof he shook his head, sighed, and told me that it was time to get it replaced.

Yesterday, the estimator came by and he’s going to work up a proposal for me. I showed him the hole in the attic and he told me something very interesting. It turns out that crows will detect, attack, and peck through the tar paper which is underneath the shake roof as soon as it is exposed. The tar paper is water-resistant and would (in a crow-free world) keep the house dry. The crows are apparently seeking after bugs, which are not to be found.

I joked with the estimator that they should raise crows, attach GPS devices and business cards to them, and use them as a sort of early-warning system for leaky roofs. Given that crows were once used to divine the future, this might actually work out pretty well!