October 8, 2012
Nothing can test the integrity of your home like one of these small-scale Georgia monsoons we get every now and again.
Arriving home from work last Monday, I walked in the door with one question on my mind: how's that roof holding up?
Strapping on the LED headlamp a relative got me for Christmas, I pulled down the door to the attic hatch and ascended the steps, a domestic spelunker with determination.
It's been six months since we bought the place, and while a home inspector assured us the shingles were intact, the fact remains that it's been more than 12 years since the roof was replaced.
As I stepped up and around the Sytrofoam shield bordering the attic entrance, I leaned down, dodging wooden beams. Squinting into the darkness, my headlamp flickered like a strobe light.
Great ... dying batteries, I thought. I whacked myself on the forehead a couple good times and the LED lights blinked back to life.
Stepping carefully along the planks, I glanced around, looking for signs of moisture, hoping for nothing but ready for anything. After all, the house was built in 1953.
After inspecting almost every corner, I started back toward the ladder. But out the corner of my eye I saw a little glimmer in the dark. Over near the base of the skylight.
Above a supporting beam just to the left of the skylight's base, water stains darkened the wood, tiny droplets beaded and descended the sloping lumber.
That sinking feeling.
On the plus side, it wasn't coming through the roof quick enough to warrant putting a bucket under it. It was just sort of seeping. But it was trickling to the narrow edge of the attic where I couldn't get to it.
The fear of spreading mold growth horrified me. I made my way over to the attic fan and switched it on. It was the only thing I could think of at the moment to try and get the humidity out.
Much of the next morning was spent scouring the aisles of Wal-Mart for a new flashlight, a dehumidifier and other supplies to aid in moisture mitigation.
It got me thinking about how important water is, yet how detrimental it can be. That sacred giver of life can also bestow the gift of microbial home invaders. H20 does not discriminate.
Which is why I headed back up into the attic Tuesday morning with one of those big dust masks on, a brand-new flashlight and a garbage bag.
Crawling around the tiny space, my back cramping, legs aching, I removed wet clumps of pink insulation, tossing them into the bag. Beneath the insulation, the wood was still damp.
That worried me, so I went ahead and lugged the brand-new, 30-pound dehumidifier up the attic ladder and plugged it in with an extension cord running from the guest bathroom.
By Friday morning, my uncle, who is a roofer, came out to take a look. We stood on the roof at dawn sipping hot coffee beneath clear autumn skies. I watched him and his associate inspect the area around the skylight.
The metal flashing at the base of the skylight did not appear to be quite flush with the roof itself, and it was likely letting water trickle in.
Using some industrial grade caulk, he sealed it. He said that the roof was doing decent considering it's more than 12 years old.
"You don't ever realize what kind of shape your roof is in 'til you get weather like this," he told me. Agreed. You really don't know how well your house is built until it goes head to head with Mother Nature. And she often stacks the deck in her favor.