For the last five months, I’ve had approximately 1,380 pounds of roofing shingles weighing on my soul.

Now, I didn’t know the exact weight of this project until I had to carry all of those shingles up a ladder over the weekend, but I did know that 1.) I have never roofed anything before, 2.) I hate being on roofs, and 3.) It had to get done. (Why? Because the bank said so.)



I thought long and hard about hiring this project out to a professional, but the fact is I’m reserving all the money I have set aside for “professional help” for a therapist, when this house sucks out the last bit of sanity I have left. Or else for the guys that are going to rebuild some sashes for my 150 year old windows. (Sanity, windows, windows, sanity… it’s a toss up.)


Anyway, since I decided against professional help, there was only one thing left to do… suck it up and climb up on the roof.

It doesn’t look so bad from the ground, but here’s the real story once you get up close and personal.


Yeah. Super fun to walk around on.

If you’ve been around this site for more than five minutes you know that I’ll normally take on any project without hesitation. Even if I know the project is going to suck, I still get pumped at the opportunity to challenge myself and learn something new. But this? But the pervasive feeling I had going into this weekend can only be described as grim determination wrapped around an unmistakable sense of dread.

Luckily I had a friend willing to stop by Saturday morning and help get me started, which gave me about zero minutes to dwell on my paralyzing fear of standing on the roof because I only had a few hours to learn everything I needed to know about roofing. And it only took about an hour for my body to produce enough adrenaline so that I could actually install shingles with my eyeballs open.

This was my view for most of the day. Not at all disconcerting.


But well worth the difference it made.


I had help for the first four hours of the day, then spent the next six hours tackling the rest of the back and starting on the (even more nerve-wracking) front on my own.

After ten hours on the roof I was so desensitized to the fact that I was on a roof, that I totally laid back and “rested my eyes for a minute” which ended up being a half-hour nap.


On a roof.

You can imagine the endless amusement I provide to my neighbors…

“What is she doing now?”
“It looks like she’s…. is she sleeping on the roof?
“Oh, god. Is she at least wearing pants?”

Okay, actually, my neighbors are awesome. Not only do they seem completely unfazed by my antics and the three foot tall weeds in my yard, but they totally came over Sunday morning to help me haul the last few 60-pound bundles of shingles up this ladder.


Also, that board you see on the roof jacks? That’s a 12 foot long 2×10, and I could not have done it without that thing. I didn’t actually use it except for climbing on and off the ladder, but it was the mental safety net I needed to get over my way-too-high-up-without-a-railing paralysis.

And around 3:30 Sunday afternoon, something happened for the first time ever in my 8 years of big DIY house projects…


I finished one early.


I know, right? That never happens. I definitely thought I’d be up on that roof for the better part of the week, but it’s amazing how intensely focused a girl can be fifteen feet up in the air.

And, I would like to state for the record, I did not fall off the roof even once. There was a point where I was working off of the ladder that was resting on the gutter and I realized the gutter was not, in fact, attached to the barn in any discernible way. So basically I defied all laws of physics for about 20 minutes while holding a nail gun and about 25 pounds of shingles, but you know what? I’m not going to argue with gravity.

I think the most amazing part of the weekend for me, other than the fact that I finished the roof largely on my own and early, was how much I learned over the course of two days. Saturday morning I knew nothing about installing shingles, and by Sunday afternoon I feel like I could absolutely take on another roofing project on my own. I can’t even explain in words how awesome that feels.

And even better?

Check. This. Off. The. List.

Hell yeah. Just one more big project to go. (I’m looking at you, garage siding.)


33 Responses

      1. Three things come to mind:

        1. DO plan to address the structural problems causing the swaybacked mule look on several of your buildings in the next 5-7 years, or plan on a new bonfire.

        2. Why didn’t you plan the roofing when you had the front end loader handy? You know, load the bucket with shingles, raise the bucket….?

        3. I hope you don’t toss and turn much when sleeping on a roof. It’s embarrassing enough falling out of bed…;-)

  1. Woohooo! Here’s to facing fear of heights! Take -that-, third step on a stepladder. That’s right!

    Congratulations :o)

    I painted rafter tails last weekend (not on my house, of course, those can wait. Riiiight).

  2. Actually, shingles are not that bad once you get into them. I’ve done it twice on small projects. Although if I never do it again, that’s just fine with me!

  3. We decided to re-roof my brother’s house this summer. After one day we called in the pros. Not because we couldn’t do it (we totally could!) it’s just that they are so dag-gone fast and accurate and good at it, that what would have taken us a good week or so, took them 2 days. I’m ok with calling in help on roofs! But it was totally awesome that you learned how to do it and conquered your fear of roofs!

  4. I think you must have been suffering from altitude sickness when you fell asleep, That far up. Please after all this heavy lifting, do not forget the outlet covers. MD

    1. Oh my god, right? I would totally do that. But I’m a weekend ahead of schedule now so (fingers crossed) I’ll have time to focus on those details before D-day.

  5. When we were younger & our parents weren’t home, my brother & I crawled out a window onto the roof and made a snow man (obviously in the winter). Rolled balls of snow ON THE ROOF large enough for a snowman and then stacked them up, scarf, carrot nose – the whole thing.

    Our neighbor/family friend saw us and called our parents. The window got screwed shut after that.

  6. What is that dip in the peak of the roof in some photos…

    I would never have the guts to get up on a roof.

    1. That dip is one of the many awesome things about a 150 year old barn! Not exactly structurally sound, but it’s unlikely it will fall over in a strong breeze…

  7. I take it that those are your Saturday blue jeans and not your Sunday pair. They did not look Holly to me. I thought all your jeans had holes in them?

  8. You’re the hottest roofer I’ve seen in a while.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Kit, you’re a braver woman than I, conquering that fear of heights deal. Just looking at some of your photos left me woozy. And yay! One more thing off the list!

  10. Good job!!! I knew you could do it!

    Last time I did a roof I broke through the rotted plywood sheathing and fell through straddling a beam between my legs. need less to say – That Hurt. I stripped down to my underwear right there on the roof to see how bad the damage was and if I needed stitches or anything (no). Needless to say, my helper got more of a view than he bargained for.

    My Victorian is gonna need a new roof soon and it’s just too ste NOT to hire out. I’m getting too old for that kinda stuff anyway. Pretty hard on the knees – even with knee pads!

  11. Awesome! I’m jealous of your new roofing skills! I hope to learn new skills for home repairs. I bought my first house about a year ago and it’s an 81 years old fixer. I’m currently building a 36′ wrap around deck by hand. But roofing is definitely on my “to learn” list.

    Also, is that a Little Giant ladder? We have one of those, they are awesome!

  12. After going through exactly the same debates as you, we’re about to start roofing our house ourselves next week. I’m not so scared about the height, but I am definitely feeling that sense of dread about the scale of this project and our current lack of knowledge. Glad to hear that the learning curve wasn’t too bad for you. Hopefully it’s the same for us. Oh and I arranged for roof delivery. No way I’m carrying 110 bundles of shingles up a ladder. Good for you, woman!

  13. Did you have to remove the old bad shingles or were you able to just put another layer on?

    1. I just pulled off whatever was loose and put another layer on, but that doesn’t mean it’s the way to do it.

      Michigan code is that any structure can have up to two layers of shingles on it, but when you do that you’re cutting the lifespan of the new shingles in half.

      In this case, however, the wood under the old shingles is pretty rotted through and tearing them off would have meant resheathing the roof (which would have meant redoing all of the rafters) so that was going to escalate into a much larger project that I was willing to take on in the next 4 weeks!

      As it is, I expect the roof will be fine, but I’ll probably do an overhaul on that barn sometime in the next 5-7 years.

      1. Florida allows two layers also but I didn’t realize it cut the life so much.

        So I guess in a case like this you use relatively short life shingles and hope they still look better than what you covered over by the time you rebuild the roof. Hopefully by the time you get to the roof the walls won’t need rebuilding also!

  14. Wrangling roof shingles must be the best workout ever! I remember the summer I worked as an actual wrangler on a guest ranch. I had to saddle and unsaddle, by myself, something like 20 to 30 horses every day. That was like forty pounds of hiking leather over my head. I had the most awesome arm muscle definition. Note to self – to get awesome arm muscles, work as a roofer.

  15. Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

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