Almost exactly a year ago my sister Heidi, her boyfriend Alan and his daughter Ellen came out to visit. Never ones to miss an opportunity to advance a building project we put Alan to work helping to put a roof on what was just a papercrete ring at the time. It was a big push and as they left, I promised that I would finish covering the roof so that all our hard work wouldn’t be in vain. Alan, it turns out, isn’t one to let an opportunity to go by either. In the past year he managed to finagle Heidi into agreeing to marry him and produce an exact replica of himself.
I really wanted to be able to say that I had finished the roof when we went out to their wedding earlier this summer but that just wasn’t in the cards. Oh well. I did get about half way through and on my return I was newly resolved to finish by the end of July which did happen.
Years ago I saw a picture on the back of Fine Homebuilding of a backyard building with a conical roof that had shingles cut in organic shapes covering it. It looked almost thatched or as if it was covered in scales. The material the builder used was called rolled roofing. It’s an asphalt material that comes in three foot wide rolls and is one of the cheapest roofing materials per square foot you can use to cover your roof with.
Molly: I was dead set against it. Mike kept talking about this idea he had for “organic looking shingles” but all I could think of when he said he wanted to use rolled roofing was the top of Walmart! What’s wrong with cedar shingles? They are actually organic ya know.
Mike: Nothing at all love. Can you say expensive as hell fire hazard?
We went round and round trying to figure out a roofing material that would be suitably weatherproof, attractive, durable and affordable. Molly tried going to the state highway people to see if we could get the used street signs to cut up into shingles.
Molly: Now that would have been cool! Alas, they had a contract with a metal recycler already so no signs for us.
In the end we went with the cut shingles out of rolled roofing idea.
Mike: Yes!! (fist pump in air)
How to Make Your Own Shingles
1. Cut a piece of rolled roofing eight feet long. We found this to be the largest manageable size to work with.
2. Make a pattern. Each eight foot piece will be cut into thirds lengthwise. One side will be straight and one side will be wavy. Make a template piece that will be used to mark all the others out with.
3. Cut up a ton of strips of shingles. First, cut each roll of roofing into 8′ lengths. You will get four pieces from each roll. Then cut each section into three strips for a total of 12 shingle strips per roll. Metal shears work the best for cutting the roofing. Working at a table is a good idea too. This will take many hours. Your back will thank you.
Installing the shingles is a matter of making concentric overlapping rings nailing down the shingles as you go. It is a bit of an art to get the pattern of the wavy edges to look good. There is a lot of fitting and trimming involved to get it right. Be patient and take your time. In addition to cutting the 8′ strips smaller to fit where necessary I found that I also needed to insert small sections of shingle in random spots to add to the pattern and hide wayward nails. Where the ends of the shingles came together I trimmed them so that they were rounded and overlapped them so that the prevailing wind would not peel them off in a storm.
The only other detailing I had to do was to use some strips of metal to secure the roofing along the edges of the chimney.
I ended up using 1,000 square feet of roofing to cover about 4oo sf of roof. Some of that was waste from shaping and trimming the shingles and most of it is because of the overlapping but it was still more than I expected.
It was many, many, many hours of work to put the shingles up. It probably seemed longer because of the summer heat I was only able to work on the roof early in the morning or the last couple hours of evening. At the base of the roof it took about an hour and a half to get one course of shingles up. Over time the covered part slowly grew until it was greater than the uncovered part and then suddenly it was done. The final result looks great. The patterning of the shingles looks really attractive and visually works very well.
Molly: You were right hon, I love it! I have to admit I thought we were going to have to cover the roof down the road with something better looking but your idea worked out great.
Now that the yurt is weatherproof it’s going to slip down the project priority list for a while (sorry guests no guesthouse yet). Next up is the greenhouse. Still sitting there patiently waiting for a roof, and walls, and a door…
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