The Roof Part Two (or how to re-roof a house in between showers)

You may remember how our first attempt to re-roof our house ended Western Europe’s biggest drought for 35 years – making it the wettest drought in history, not to mention having the bizarre situation where parts of the UK were simultaneously flooded and under a hosepipe restriction.

So, with half a roof re-slated, we waited – and waited – for the next window in the deluge. Days passed. Weeks passed. One of our neighbours started work on an ark.

Then the forecasts changed. Everyone agreed there was at least four days – maybe even six – of dry sunny days. Yay!

The first dry sunny day arrived cloudy and threatening. We were geared up to strip the roof but there was drizzle in the air and low black clouds. We paced, we consulted weather forecasts, we blamed the dog.

The next day arrived sunny and bright. An Atlantic High – which had been held up off the UK due to budget cuts in the immigration service – had finally been allowed in and would sit over our house for at least the next four days.

Yeah. Like we believed that.

We decided to work quickly and get as much done as we could. The first day went well. We stripped the remaining old slates (see pic 1) and nailed in the extra battens required for the smaller slates. The helpful dog (Asta, the roofer’s mate) was on hand to tidy up. Unfortunately Asta’s idea of tidying up was to eat anything that fell off the roof – slates, battens, nails, me. How Asta’s family survived to breeding age is beyond me. He has an omnivorous gene that sees anything that can fit into his mouth – and half of creation that doesn’t – as fair game. Every time a cracked slate slid off the roof it was a rush to get to it first. Then a wrestling match to prise it out of his jaws. He even stole slates from a stacked pile. And chunks of old batten would be taken away for a long chew in the horse’s field.

Our other roofer’s mate was equally annoying. When you’re stripping a roof that you know – by being woken up at night by the skittering and galloping sounds from the ceiling – is inhabited, and you don’t know how large (or aggressive) that noisy tenant might be, you tend to take things slowly when removing those particular slates. And when you suddenly hear a noise … and see something fast and hairy racing towards you as you reach out to remove a slate…

You tend to get annoyed when you discover it’s one of your kittens who’s climbed into the roof space to help out.

Helpful kitten can be seen in the next picture (by the chimney) fulfilling his role as building inspector, a role he carried out for most of Day Two. Taking his job very seriously, he’d like to either sit in front of me, to check the slates were being laid correctly, or waft his tail in front of my face – to remove any build up of slate dust.

On Day Three we had the most challenging part of the job – slating around the chimney. Being an old stone chimney there wasn’t a straight line or a right angle anywhere to be seen, so we had to cobble together some metal flashing to butt up against the stone and interleave that with the slates. This was made more difficult by the fact that we didn’t have a ladder long enough to reach the right hand edge of the chimney. So (picture three) we put a ladder on the slope of the red tiled chicken roof and I stood on the top of it.

Health and Safety would have had kittens who, in turn, would have climbed up my body to sit on my head for a better view.

I diced with death and kittens until about six when we stopped for the day. After all there was one more day of dry weather to come and the only job left was to put on the faitage (strips of metal along the ridge) and to seal the flashing to the chimney.

Just before bedtime the weather forecast changed. The High’s visa had expired and showers were building up over Normandy. We raced outside and carried the 2 metre strips of faitage up onto the roof. I straddled the ridge in the gloom trying to arrange the metal strips as best as I could. I didn’t have time to fix them properly as we had to cut them to shape around the chimney, but at least I could pose them. And it wasn’t windy.

Until the next day. The showers not only arrived they brought unexpected gusts of wind with them. And our faitage was balanced on the ridge by gravity and goodwill. Back I went up the roof ladder and, in the rain and the wind, started shuffling the faitage and roof ladder around. This is not easy, as it involved one person (me) getting on and off the roof ladder – alternately swinging onto the ridge, straddling it, sliding along it etc – and one person at the bottom of the roof ladder helping move it over windows into its new position in the middle of the roof. Our new plan was to use the weight of the roof ladder to hold the central section of faitage to the ridge and tuck the other 2 metre strips under the central faitage. It wasn’t a permanent solution but it was enough to keep the rain out.

Then came another wait for a dry day when we could cut the end faitage to size, butt it flush against the chimney, nail them all down then seal the chimney flashing.

Job done (final pic)

We still have the dormer roof and sides to do, but that can wait.


Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .

An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.

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The Roof Part Two (or how to re-roof a house in between showers) — 4 Comments

  1. You are braver than I. I’ll loan you another cat if you need more supervision, a lilac point Siamese. Mr. Chessie thinks he’s the emperor of the universe and loves high places to oversee his realm.

  2. Wow. I keep trying to picture how it was roofed when the house was built. (And if they had cat and dog supervision in those days, too.)

    The house is adorable. I bet it’s fun to live in.

    • I imagine it was originally roofed using local materials. The stone for the walls came from a 100 yards away. In fact it was built on a rocky outcrop and you can see one of the boulders (about 5′ x 3′) poking out of the base of the wall below the chimney. The internal beams are roughly cut tree trunks and I’d imagine the early battens were split hazel lathes. The terracotta tiles would have been imported though.

  3. My knees get wobbly even thinking about you climbing on that roof and I had to go have a stiff drink when you reached the point about climbing on it in the rain.

    But the finished product is lovely. You, and your able supervisors, are to be congratulated.