Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lynne and Reka's Roof Project (A Retrospective)

Cindy asked me to do a post about this project, so I dutifully comply:

A couple of years ago, some very dear friends of ours, Lynne Boyer and Réka Domokos, asked if I could help them replace their old laundry porch roof.  Lynne is a painter, and she offered to do a trade - paintings for carpentry.  I was totally into the idea, but we had a scheduling issue, because Lynne and Réka live in Hawaii, and Cindy and I live in Brooklyn.

Cindy's mother, Lila, also lives in Hawaii, and Lila started having some health problems, so we started going to Hawaii to help her and the family quite often.  On one of those trips, I made a visit to Lynne and Réka's house to check out what was in store for me.  Here's the state of the laundry roof in 2011.  This is the view from the back yard.

There were some noteworthy problems to try to solve.  First, there were these cross beams blocking their access to the washer and dryer.  In fact, I think the beams were actively trying to hit people in the head when they weren't looking.

Then, there was the fact that the Hawaiian mist was trying to turn Lynne and Réka's laundry roof into a moss garden.

And, the exterior staircase, the one Lynn and Réka use to access their living space, was supported by these 4x4 posts.  But the interior post had somehow long ago been cut short, and a 2x4 was scabbed on to the side of it.  Lynne and Réka's stair case was sagging, and that post was a dangerous bummer.  I wish I had taken a picture of the sagging steps...

Lastly, Réka needed a place to hang her kayak, and they both needed more head room, so we decided to make the new roof slope less.

I'm used to engineering things for theatrical purposes, but I'm relatively new to permanent structures, so the project intimidated me to the point of procrastination.  I did a lot of research - looking for photos of roofs that come off the sides of buildings, etc. as we waited for the stars to align and present us with an opportunity to build the project.  When it came time for Cindy's mom to get moved from her condo into a nursing home on The Big Island, the Keiter kids convened at their parents' Kailua condo to sort through all their family stuff and get the condo ready to be sold.  I wasn't to be involved in that process, but I wanted to be nearby Cindy for moral support.  So I joined her for the trip and planned to spend my days working on Lynne and Réka's roof project while Cindy was working in the condo.  On the flight to Honolulu, I made a sketch of the plan from measurements I had taken on my previous trip:

The day after we arrived, Cindy went to work in the condo, and I went to work on the roof.  There was so much mold in the wood, I thought demolition was going to be easy.  But it turned out to be a big job for me, a borrowed crow bar, hammer, and circular saw, and my muscles, which I brought with me special - all the way from Brooklyn, New York.

I cut the roof down in chunks.  Réka took this shot of me after I'd gotten through the first couple passes.  Honestly, it was a miserable job.

And here's the whole pile of roof chunks.  Such a small pile of wood for such a lot of work.

On to construction!  The first task was to install a ledger board on the house, and on that, I nailed the rafter hangers.  In Hawaii, it's very important that structures are built to withstand high winds and termites.  So I used pressure treated lumber and lots of metal joist hardware.

 Next, I had to install the posts that would support the roof.  I wanted to transfer the weight of the staircase to the supports for the laundry roof, so I could cut that offending 4x4 post out.  I also wanted to make more un-impeded space in the laundry area, so I decided to move the support posts to the outside of the walkway.

 Cindy was on temporary work relief from her mom's condo the next afternoon, so she cheer-led and helped me mark the locations for the posts.

Réka took a lot of these photos.  She's an excellent photographer.  And there's Lynne in the back, with her million dollar smile.  I'm fiddling with the first of 3 post anchors we had to install.

I used a borrowed hammer drill to drill the bolt holes in the concrete.  This is me marking the drill bit depth with a piece of tape.  It looks like Cindy brought her muscles from Brooklyn too!

 The rains came just as we finished up.  On one of the 3 post anchors, the bolt stuck up too far, so not having a hack saw, I just drilled a hole in the end of the post so it would sleeve over the bolt.  Here's the offending post anchor:

 The rain was also pretty lucky.

 The next morning, Cindy was dressed to impress, and I got started on installing the posts.

 We made a temporary work bench for their mitre saw out of some cinder blocks and planks that were lying around.  Cindy mock-nailed the chop saw down while I got the screw gun and prepared to anchor the saw for-reals. 

Now, we were in business.

I put the two end posts in place and temporarily braced them with 2x4's.

 Then I installed the horizontal beam and braced the whole structure back to the house with the first two rafters.

The slope looked good.

I installed the 3rd post and had most of the rafters up in no-time.  Unfortunately, I made a measurement error, and the rafters weren't coming off the house at a perfect 90-degree angle, so I had to go back through, pry all the nails out, correct the problem, and re-nail the rafters to the cross beam.  That was a pretty big bummer, and I was too embarrassed with myself to take any pictures of the rafters before I corrected their position.  So here's what it looked like when I was done for the day and everyone was talking story.

The next day, I removed the cross braces from the original posts, finished installing the last of the rafters, and through-bolted the old stair support posts to the rafters.  

I also installed little cross braces at the tops of the support posts - mostly because I like that sort of style.

And a wide shot at the end of the day: 

The next step was to put the plywood on the roof.  That's pretty standard stuff.  You tack some plywood up to give yourself a walking/working surface, and then you cut plywood pieces to fit - starting from the highest side of the roof and working down the slope.

By this time, the Keiter's were through sorting their mother's condo out, so Cindy came to work with me every day for the rest of the project.

 She was an excellent assistant, although how she hammered nails in this position, I have no idea!

Here we are using a chalk line to mark where the rafters run, so we could nail the plywood down along the interior rafters as well as the edges.

Et, voila!  Shade returns to the washer and dryer.

Next came the roofing membrane.  We bought a two-part peel-and-stick system with some aluminum edging.  The manufacturer instructions specified that the layers had to be unrolled and left to flatten out in the sun for a little bit.

Then we cut the first run to length and put it in place.  When installing roofing membranes, you start with the low end of the roof so that subsequent courses overlap in the direction that the water sheets off the roof.  We also started with a skinny course of the underlayment so that the seems for that layer didn't line up with the seams for the top layer.

Cindy supervising me.

 The edging goes on before the second/top layer.   It's just tacked down with nails.

 It got pretty hot on the black roof in the sun.  Here, Lynne caught us taking a break. 

Cindy doing the peel for the second layer, which is folded in half length-wise and done in two steps.  First, the upper half.  Peeeeeeel.

Gently pick up.

Flop over, and stick.

Then, since we didn't have a big weighted roof roller, we marched over the seams with our feet to make sure it was well stuck down.  We met in the middle.


Repeat the process in the hot sun a few more times, and you've got yourself a finished roof surface!  But there was still more to do.

First, I removed the offending 4x4 stair support post with a handsaw.  Before the project, the stairs to the house had been sagging, so I jacked the post up to make the steps level before I bolted it to the rafters.  When I cut the post off below the rafters, the stairs stayed solid - much more solid than they were before, in fact.  And they were level.  A success!

I have no idea what I was doing in this photo:

I installed some new cross bracing above the new roof line, just in case.  The structure was quite solid without it, but I figured it might be helpful if a typhoon came or something... And here's Keiter with a howzit for you.

Lastly, we nailed a plywood barrier between the stair support post and the house to protect the water heater from the elements.

And, we installed some pulleys and rope cleat for Réka's kayak.

I had hoped to paint the new roof for Lynne and Réka too, but there wasn't enough time in our trip.  So Lynne and Réka took care of that part.  Here's a couple of shots of the finished project as we left it for them.

No more posts and cross braces wanting to smack your head while doing the laundry, and plenty of room for Réka's boat.

The roof was so sturdy, I really wanted to put a little green roof on it.

That little roof certainly has a lovely view - this is looking out towards Honolulu Harbor.

It was a beautiful sunset, but I also just like this picture.

Our fee?  These beautiful paintings by Lynne Boyer.  If you don't know about Lynne, she started out as a professional surfer and became the Women's World Champion in 1978 and 1979.  And now she's a full-time artist, doing paintings mainly in Hawaii and Hungary, where Réka comes from.  You can see more of Lynne's artwork at her web site:

Ta da!


  1. WOW, what a great write up! WE LOVE OUR ROOF, and it is so well built by a true master and will stand strong and long, thanks Lory and Cindy! This was such a fun project! We love You TWO!!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Hi there! If you're a robot, if you're mean, or if you're trying to sell something, I'll probably delete your comment.