Up On The Roof


“When this old world starts getting me down,
And people are just too much for me to face—
I climb way up to the top of the [ladder]
And all my cares just drift right into space ...”

Our seasonal work schedule here at M&T somehow makes use of the most pleasant and comfortable times of the year for decidedly indoor tasks, like seeking image permissions from European museums or copy-editing articles. We have limited open slots on the calendar to pursue the lengthy list of construction projects going on – restoring sash windows, beginning work on the House Project, taking down and saving some random barn that was in danger of falling over. For whatever reason, it seems like we’re always climbing up on a roof as the north winds late in the year are blowing, and the threat of snow is just around the corner. It’s become a tradition, an inside joke around here:

“Do you think we’ll be able to get up on the roof next week?”

“I don’t think so. It’s not cold enough.”

There was the year of finishing the shop roof before the weekend blizzard blew through. It was so cold, our gloves froze to the aluminum ladder. And those times we’ve had to wait for the sun to melt the ice on our staging. But Joshua and I love it. Finally, after all the computer work, we’re getting stuff done.

The building we’re currently roofing is the CSF blacksmith shop, which (you may recall) was raised all the way back in 2019, when times were simple. That year, we managed to get the frame sheathed and tar-papered just before winter set in (ah, the memories). That 30-lb felt sometimes passes as a permanent roofing solution here in Maine, but we had other things in mind: specifically, either cedar or slate. The slate idea was appealing – who wouldn’t want a roof that would outlast them and their children? – but with 2020 and the difficult logistics of lining up experienced friends to show us the tricks of the slate-roof trade, we moved forward with the cedar shake option. These beefy slabs of wood were milled at Dow’s Shingle Mill a couple hours north of here, but we learned that the cedars were harvested just a few miles up the road from the shop. They’ve come back to the neighborhood.

Our method of nailing them up is simple: Once we established our first courses, we measured a 6" reveal and lightly tacked a 2x4" ledger board for the next course. We screw this board right into the previous course of shakes – they’re so thick, the holes “heal” up when we pull the screws. We line up a few shingles, taking care to properly cover gaps and nail heads from previous courses, and nail them down – two nails per shingle (with an occasional extra for good measure). It’s wonderfully meditative work, and a great time for conversation. We shared a video from the roof on the M&T Daily Dispatch, which you can check out here.

Yesterday was quite warm for this time of year, and the early sunset was spectacular. Today, the winds have picked up and temperatures will be dropping. Perfect conditions for getting back up there.


“On the roof, it's peaceful as can be,
And there, the world below can't bother me.” – The Drifters




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