The Church Street House where I lived as a teen had a fireplace and it was my job to keep the fire burning in the winter. The chimney leaked from the time we moved arrived in 1972 until my father had the chimney removed in the 1990’s sometime. He tried all sorts of remedies and fixes but nothing really did the trick at all, and each year we would have some new brown spot on the ceiling, as if we owned some invisible gravity defying dog who refused be housebroken.
I swore I would never own a house with a fireplace, and I would have kept that promise had this house not had one, but it was such a great house, even with the fireplace. True to the Firesmith family tradition, the chimney leaked even before I moved in. The realty agency sent someone to fix the leak, and if they had, this would be a very short essay on chimney leaks, now wouldn’t it?
If you walk into a mechanic’s shop and the place is eerily quiet that is a sign you need to ask directions to the zoo and then move on. Times are hard right now and there are a lot of people looking for work, whether or not they are qualified to do it, so I was looking for someone was in the business of fixing roofs, and who had a good business. Remember the last time I got into this and had a friend of a friend do it? Yeah, if that had worked out we would be here either. The search continued.
Of all the things to happen oddly, I went up in the attic to poke around and see if I would plug the leak somehow and it occurred to me after nine years of leaking of various levels of failure it was time to get serious. So I did what everyone does when they really have to make a decision; I found a way to procrastinate. I went to the Y to work out which is a time honored method of procrastination. The odd thing is I have actually bone home repair to keep from working out before. Anyway, when I pulled in there was a truck in the parking lot looking like it had survived a nuclear blast and on the side of it was one of those magnetic signs that read, “ACME Roof Repair” Okay, that isn’t what it actually said, but I won’t give anyone a free commercial until I find out if the leak is fixed or not.
When I talk to a contractor, and I talk to contractors every day of my life at work, those that talk the best game of how great they are usually are trying to sell something other than their work. I know a salesman when I speak to one. What I want to hear is how long you’ve been in business. I want to know your ideas on what might be wrong, and what went wrong with what I’ve tried. I also want whoever I’m talking to become a little antsy if the conversation goes on for too long. I don’t want to hear how cheap the work is going to be. I want to know it is going to be done right, and if there is a problem done the road, someone will come fix it again, and again, until it is done right.
Acme isn’t a salesman at all. In fact, he doesn’t have much charm at all, and that is a good thing in my book. I tell him what the problem is, and he tells me it ought not cost a fortune but he has to see the work before he can give me a real quote. I give him directions to my place, and he shows up exactly on time, which I like. I like someone who sells his work by telling me what he can for a price and then vowing to stick by it if something weird happens. The inspection takes just a few minutes and then he tells me he’ll come back later in the week. The price is lower than the friend of a friend was years ago and I like that. Acme has a plan and I like that.
The bad thing is they wanted to come really early in the morning to work. I’m usually asleep early in the morning, but the temperature gets up to a billion degrees in the heat of the day on a roof so I was in no position to make anyone suffer. The appointed hour arrived, and all I got was a two hour nap. Immediately the war began. No, silly, not with the roof people, the Wasp War. They discovered a wasp nest the size of a New England state hidden under the eaves. I told them all they needed was a large container of dishwashing detergent, and that would kill the wasps.
One of the guys looked at me as if to say, “Gee, you hired us and it would be rude for me to say ‘bullshit, those wasps will eat me alive if I throw dishwashing detergent on them’ but I really think if I throw that stuff on them they will chase me off this roof and I’ll scream like a little girl.” He tosses the large container of dishwashing detergent upon the nest and lo! The wasps were killed!
If noise means work then I got my money’s worth. They pounded and hammered and I tried to sleep. A few hours later they started finishing up so I went up to check it out. It looks good. They put a sheet of rubber stuff under the shingles around the chimney, put in new shingles, and then calked around the edges. The coated everything between the rubber and the roof with tar so I think this might work,
Now, watch what I tell you; it won’t rain again for another two months.