seagull on roof
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Our Rookie Mistake Was Devastating At The Time

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Or — Don't Make This Mistake When Replacing Your Roof

Or — The World's Worst Real Estate Showing

I hesitate to even share this story, but if it will save someone else from making the same mistake, then I feel an obligation. I’d like to say don’t judge, but go ahead, judge us, and then please learn from our major blunder.

Let’s Begin

I present to you the story of our roofing nightmare. We laugh about it now, enough time has passed, but while it was happening, we were not laughing. Not. At. All.

The Back Story

Way back in March 2019, we were gathering quotes to replace our roof on our home in Florida. The average quote was coming in at around $20,000. Ouch! We had just listed our home to sell, and we knew that we either had to replace the roof or drop our price by $20,000. Neither option was appealing. 

So one of us (John) had the bright idea that we could do the job ourselves. Yep, one old lady and one even older guy were going to risk life and limb and save a few dollars. Well, a lot of dollars. It was more than saving the money, though. We are both impatient and wanted the job done yesterday. Plus, we love a challenge.

So we went down to our local Home Depot and bought ourselves these:

Fall protection harness and rope

John in fall protection ready for roofing

Bonnie in fall protection ready to replace roof

I wish I’d taken more photos of us working on the roof, but it was back before I imagined having a blog about renovations. Plus, we were busy roofing. I took this quick video that will give you a bit of an idea of the magnitude of the job. The house is 2 storeys and almost 4,000 sq.ft. We were working at about 30ft off the ground.

Let’s Do This

The day we began working on the roof, the temperature was 86 degrees and very humid. I’m sure it registered even hotter on top of the dark grey shingles. That first day, removing the old shingles was a killer. We had water in a cooler on the roof with us, but it wasn’t enough. By the end of the day, we both were experiencing severe cramping in our muscles. Lesson learned. The next day we were well stocked with cold Gatorade. 

Using a special shingle-remover tool, John lifted the old shingles while I stacked them into piles and then we’d lift a pile, walk it to the edge of the roof and fling them down into a large dumpster sitting below.

Removing the old shingles was the worst part, especially in the extreme heat. During the first few days, it took time to get accustomed to working at such heights and walking on steep grades. (We each wore through multiple pairs of running shoes before we finished.) The heavy harnesses rubbed us raw and made us even hotter. 

We had to contend with walking around each other’s ropes. The ropes are necessary, but they are a tripping hazard. If you step on top of a rope, it will turn under your foot and you’ll slip. Trust me on this, I learned the hard way. When you slip and fall at those heights, tethered or not, your heart skips a few beats. Our finesse improved after a few days.

Our aim for the dumpster wasn’t always accurate, so later in the day I would go down and pick up the ones that missed, carry them to the dumpster’s edge and heave them up and over. It meant handling those heavy, dirty, full of nails, strips of ugly shingles more than once. 

Fun Fact

Shingles are sandy. Did you know that? When they’re old, the sand is loose and comes off easily, making them slippery to walk on. Plus, when you’re dripping with sweat and you carry these brutes, the sand will slip off and stick to your exposed skin. Oh, but the best was yet to come. Tarring! Fun times!

Tar smear on lip from replacing the roof
Don’t touch your face with tar on your gloves

 I took these photos to send to our son for sympathy. I never dreamed I’d share them. Not a pretty sight, but for your sympathy and in the name of proof, here you go:

Sweaty after working at replacing the roof
Sweaty after a hard day’s work

 Meanwhile, as I was on clean-up duty, John was usually patching and repairing any spots that needed it. That meant hauling up large pieces of plywood over his shoulder. There was a lot of up and down ladder-climbing. 

ladder access so we could replace the roof
Our access ladder from the upstairs deck
exposed plywood on roof as we replaced the old roofing
Exposed plywood
removing the old roof and making repairs
Repairing sections of plywood


We want to stop right here and express our deep appreciation for those who do this for a living every day. Especially in extreme climates. Please, if you know a roofer, buy them a beer or 12. 

After the first week and, especially after all the old shingles were removed, we got into the groove of things up there. Our fear of being so far off the ground disappeared. (We may have even cheated and removed the harnesses now and then.) 

We had a pretty good system between the two of us for laying the peel and stick. When it came time to put down the new shingles, John nail gunned while I positioned the next tile for him. We got faster. I was chucking tiles into place and John was nailing in a decent rhythm. We felt like pros. Then during a break one day we could hear a roof being installed a few streets over from us. Their crew’s nail gun was rapid firing, about 10 times faster than us. Whatever! Ours was a crew of only 2!

During the job, we had an inspector out twice to make sure we were up to code. He couldn’t get over the fact that it was just the two of us old folks doing the entire roof ourselves. Our workmanship impressed him and he happily signed our last inspection.

The pride we felt when that beast of a roof was finished was immense. It looked fantastic.

aerial view of our new roof
A partial aerial view of the finished roof

But what about the big mistake you’re wondering? Well, let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll explain. 

Our biggest mistake—ever

Meanwhile, during our re-roofing, our home was on the market and we had frequent showings. You can appreciate how that would have added to our exhaustion. We’d work up on the roof for 10, sometimes 12 hours a day. When we had a showing, we’d have to get up at the crack of dawn to make sure the house was sparkling clean. 

John would handle the outside; he’d skim the pool and mow the grass and quickly put away all of our roofing equipment. Inside, I vacuumed, washed floors and had the kitchen and bathrooms looking brand new. When the realtors and interested party arrived, we’d usually take a walk so they could look around without us being there. 

Rookie Mistake

When we were at the stage where the old roofing material was removed but repairs were still being done on the plywood beneath, we would tarp the exposed parts of the roof at the end of the workday. It was a big job. It was a big roof. 

At the end of one of these 12 hour, scorching days, we both checked the weather apps on our phones. They showed 10 days of straight sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. We debated whether to tarp. 

We pulled one tarp over the main section, but we did it half hearted. Instead of nailing it in place, we just threw a few 2×4’s along the edges and felt satisfied that was enough. BIG MISTAKE!

That evening we watched the local 6 o’clock news to check the forecast. Hot and sunny! No rain expected for at least a week. 

The next morning we had another showing at 10 am. We’d be up early to get the house ready. 

We went to bed and fell into a deep sleep.

Our backyard

Never trust weather apps or weather reporters

At around 4am we both woke and sat bolt upright. It sounded like someone had a firehose aimed at the top of our house. We heard a loud clap of thunder and a second later lightning lit up our bedroom. No, no,no, no, no. This can’t be happening. What are we going to do? Should we try to climb on top of the roof in the pitch black and secure the tarp? And risk falling off? No. 

It’s too late, John told me. Go back to sleep. As if! We both laid wide awake, full of dread, and listened to the rain pound steadily for the next two hours. 

At first light the rain had stopped, and we got up to check for damage. Sure enough, large water stains appeared on the ceiling in the main foyer. 

Want to buy our house?

We had a showing in 4 hours. We waited until a decent hour to call and then suggested to our realtor he cancel the showing. He called the clients who begged that it go ahead. They understood the issue and would look past the water stains. As long as we promised to fix it all. Alrighty then.

By the time they arrived, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were too exhausted to go for a walk, so we sat in the backyard with our realtor and waited while they looked around. 

About 20 minutes in, the client’s realtor walked out onto our upstairs balcony and leaned over the rail above where we sat. 

“Um, your ceiling has just fallen in.” she said.

After staring at her in disbelief for a few seconds, the three of us jumped up and ran into the house. Sure enough, a huge chunk of the ceiling over the stairway in the entryway had fallen to the ground. White fluffy insulation was still floating down and covering everything like fresh snow. 

The people looking at the house had just gone upstairs and missed having it land on top of them by a minute. They seemed weirdly unaffected by the scene and carried on looking at the rooms upstairs.

John, our realtor and myself, snapped out of our shock at the same moment and began throwing the mess into garbage bags. Before the showing was over, we had it all swept up and out of sight. Except for the hole. That gaping hole in the ceiling mocked our attempts to normalize the situation. 

Hole in the ceiling after roof leaked

Needless to say, they didn’t buy our house. I mean, the ceiling almost fell on top of them during the showing! It has to be a record for the worst showing in the history of showings. 

A Step Back

We took the house off the market immediately. Then went straight out to rent a commercial sized dehumidifier. We ran that thing straight for days and pulled buckets of water out of it. We replaced heaps of old, wet insulation. 

We only had 3 weeks before we were leaving to go back to Canada and we still needed to finish the roof and fix all the water damage inside before we left. 

So we did. 

By the time we headed back to Canada, the only thing left to do was a final coat of ceiling paint and that would have to wait until we returned in the fall. 

The Lesson

Don’t, I repeat, do not trust weather predictions and always, always, always secure tarps over your exposed unfinished roof. It was a rookie mistake. We cringe when we think of it still, but we can finally laugh at it too. I wish we had indoor security cameras that could have captured it all. Pretty sure that video would go viral. On second thought, I’m glad we didn’t. 

Happy Ending

When we returned to Florida in the fall, we waited until the new year before listing the house again. It sold quickly and yes; we disclosed the water damage issue to the new buyers.


What does our new house need? 

Let’s see.

To name a few. And that’s perfect for us. We’ll have projects to keep us busy for a while. As soon as the pandemic is over and our borders reopen, we’ll get right to it. Stay tuned.

If you’re brave enough, we’d love to hear about any renovation goofs you may have made. C’mon! We showed you ours.

Don't Make this rookie mistake when replacing your roof

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