The Shiniest Roof in Virginia




autumn comes to RiverBank

As we approach the ninth anniversary of our moving to RiverBank, winding down from a busy summer absolutely packed with work, we're finishing up some big projects and looking with satisfaction to the next piece of the restoration. Most of the structural work is finished, with the capstone of our work, literally, being a new roof.

There was a time when we believed the existing roof was the original one. Since then, we learned that was not so. What we had was a standing block tin roof, one that was old, a century or more old, and badly rotted around the edges. Eight years of assiduous patching hadn't done the trick to stop it from leaking, and the leaks inside were beginning to damage the restoration we'd already done inside, mostly the replastered walls and stenciled paint jobs in the upstairs bedrooms. Before we lost the work we'd already done and because we agreed we had to do it eventually anyway, it was time to put down a new roof.

original roof boards exposed

Once the block tin roof was stripped away, the original pine roof planks were exposed and, except for a few places where long-standing leaks had rotted the boards (mostly around the roof edges where poison ivy had climbed all along the roof and infiltrated the tin) they were in remarkably good shape. We also got the chance, for the first time, to look into the attic, a place that historic preservationists lust after, because lack of access makes it hard for a house's occupants to clean, and things that get dropped in the corners tend to stay there.

Sorry to say, the attic was completely empty. Like the rest of the house, whose solid brick walls make it impossible for people to have dropped or secreted treasures or junk in little hidey-holes, the attic was a void. The walls extend in three courses all the way to the roof, and the roof pitch was so shallow that the trusses were actually carved on a shallow angle down to nothing. In other words, there was no place for things to drop. And, despite that we know the house was a hospital, like every other substantial house within twenty miles of Port Republic and Cross Keys, our roofer was sorry to report there were neither skeletons nor silver hidden up there.

The roofers were great, and the roof that now covers RiverBank is the shiniest in Virginia. It was great to watch the roof move from the worn-out tin blocks:

the roof before


through the hand-hammering and hand-shaping work of laying the new roof:

the roof during work


to the finished product:

the roof completed


New old-fashioned half-round tin gutters now funnel water away from the house, and now, when it rains, we hear, not drips, but the musical patter of rain on the roof, which makes for a great lullaby by night and a snug comfort by day. Now, when it rains, we don't have to run for the buckets and towels, and now the damaged walls and ceilings upstairs are slowly drying out, so plaster and paint repair is pending for the spring.


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