10 November, 2008

Patching the Garage Gutter, A Mystery Solved, A Hidden Danger, And More Kitten Pictures!

Way back in March we began our plan to redo the gutter on the back of the garage because it is pretty much a disaster. In sum, the previous owners never cleaned it, it was solidly packed with mud, there were holes along the length, and most of the roofing material that anchored it was simply gone. Water was cascading down the front exterior, and also getting into the structure so that there were solid sheets of ice covering much of the interior back wall. In spring and early summer, we fought off a carpenter ant invasion that was no doubt attracted to the damp roof beams. That was fun (not). It took forever to get them all.

The photo below is from March. The shiny surface on the brick is ice. The ice on the ground formed from water pouring out a big hole in the gutter.

We originally planned to make the gutter repair (more likely replacement) a priority project. But you house bloggers out there know how it is. Other projects creep up unexpectedly, and you suddenly find yourselves diverting time, effort, and, most importantly, money to things like leaky roofs and rotting windows. Where did the warm weather go?

With temperatures plummeting into the thirties, something had to be done. The brick is in bad enough shape on the back wall; we definitely don't want the garage fending off another onslaught of ice this year. So today, on what may be the last dry, sunny (but chilly) day for a while, I patched the gutter. This is the before:

I don't know if you can even count this as a "patch" job. I had cleaned the area as best I could, using various garden tools to dig out and sweep away the inches of compacted dirt and trees (yes, trees) that were growing out of it. Then I used an entire can of black roof cement to rebuild the lip of the roof, where it meets the gutter. I used the cement and reinforcing fabric to build up the areas; hopefully, this will keep the water flowing along the gutter and down the drain. For the holes along the length of the gutter, I used silver aluminum gutter tape, the same stuff we used on the roof of The Box House.

And this is how it looks now:

Voila! Cross your fingers we'll get the garage through the winter!

Getting a job done, even a temporary fix, is satisfying. But this one was satisfying and solved a mystery that had been bugging us. When I was regrading along the side of the garage, I kept coming up with shovels worth of strange glass rocks.

The previous owner's granddaughter had never seen them before, and we finally decided it must be some kind of glass landscaping mulch, which is available in a rainbow of colors. But no! When I was cleaning out the gutter, some of what I was removing was old roofing tar that had slid down the front and solidified into this hard, brittle, glass-like material. I pulled back some of the roof membrane for a better look, and yes, there was more of it, hard and glassy. When I climbed down and told my mom about it, she had a sudden flash image back to her childhood in Chicago, when using pitch or tar as a water sealant was the norm. The tar would solidify, and you'd find just such stones as these in the alleyways. They made good toys.

Sometimes working on an eighty-five-year-old house feels like treading an alien landscape. The Box House is so different from the homes I grew up in.

After cleaning up, I sat down at the computer and Googled all sorts of things about tar and pitch and roof fixes. Researching roof and gutter repair (after the fact) made me aware of something I hadn't thought of before I began. Because the roof on the garage is way more than thirty years old, the tar I was breaking off along the edge and chucking into a garbage can might very well contain asbestos. I wasn't wearing a dust mask for this job, as I wasn't creating much dust. But let this be a lesson to you out there on the hidden possibilities of asbestos. Don't do what I did!

Oh, well. At least I was wearing gloves.

And now for something completely different--it's only two more weeks until we get our Maine Coon kitties! The breeder has been keeping me up to date with what's happening; they just had their neuter/spay surgery and were microchipped over the weekend. She had some new pics, too, so here they are:

Boy kitty.

Girl kitty (left) with one of her other siblings.

Girl Kitty.

Ted won't settle on names yet. Phooey. So until they arrive, they are just Boy Kitty and Girl Kitty. I have to think of them that way, otherwise the names the breeder gave them will stick.


Jean Martha said...

My Mom talks about "pitch tar" - as a depression era kid they used to CHEW IT like it was gum. Ick!

Super cute kitties.

Joanne said...

Ick and *shudder*

Anonymous said...

Kitties! Gorgeous kitties!! Oh I have to come see them sometime.....as well as The Box House.....and you and Ted. We must have a longer visit than a five minute thingy in a gas station parking lot.


Anonymous said...

Such sweet kitten faces! They look like they've just dipped their noses into the flour bin.

Joanne said...

They are so sweet. It's been too long now since we've had a cat underfoot. I didn't realize the extent of just how much I miss having a cat sleeping on my desk. (Although I'm not sure how much napping on desks kittens will do.)

Joanne said...

Sandy--We thought it was kinda funny that we were on the same road, but different highway exits. I just feel bad you had to wait for what must have been close to an hour! You're welcome here anytime.

Anonymous said...

It was hilarious!

Ted: We're at a Shell Station

Me: We're at a Mobil Station

It still makes me giggle.


Jen said...

oh......look at the kitties!!!
soooo cute.
we find tons of coal chips around the house. they look kinda like solid black glass. Actually there is a small pile still in the basement.