Roof and Cresting
An 1880s Italianate Home in Albany, Oregon
Home What's New? Plat Maps Prior Owners Rooms Roof and Cresting Landscaping Lighting Furniture Basement Garage Renovation

Fixing the roof and cresting

Table of  Contents

Click on thumbnails below to see larger pictures of the roof.

Skylight and stained glass window (June through August 2004)

August 2003: When we bought the house, the main stairway and upstairs hallway had hand-stenciled red paint. At one time this must have looked great, but many years of plaster repair and other problems left these areas dingy. We decided to install stained glass windows in the stairway ceiling to let outside light shine down the stairway.

July 2004: One of the first steps was to build a skylight on top of the house. Because this skylight cannot be seen from the street, we didn't need to ask for approval from the local Landmark Advisory Commission. I used a 3/8-inch Plexiglas sheet to let light flow into the attic.

August 2004

Top: This view shows the bottom of the skylight as seen when you look through the attic at night. Bill Cutler painted the 2x4s and other wood members white so they would reflect more light down onto the stained glass windows below.

Bottom: I've cut a 4 by 4-foot hole in the second story ceiling. This will just fit the two antique stained glass windows we bought on eBay.

August 2004, Top:  Looking down on the stained glass windows from the attic. The windows we bought were made around 1880 and spent most of their life in an English home. Barb and I couldn't agree on which windows to purchase, so when we finally found a pair of windows we both liked, we put in quite a high bid. We hoped other people wouldn't bid as high -- and we were wrong, so this became a very expensive project. Once the windows arrived, we had extra metal strapping added on their back side so they should be able to hang horizontally without sagging. You can see these additional metal straps running down the center of the window and through the fleur-de-lis pattern.

Bottom: We installed mirrors to guide light onto the stained glass. Below the mirrors, I installed two banks of florescent lights and wired them into the hallway light switch. Now whenever we turn on the hallway light, the stained glass windows light up beautifully. Also, if you look carefully, you can see I installed a Plexiglas sheet directly above the stained glass windows. I sealed the area from air leakage with spray foam and double-sided foam tape. All this effort created a trapped dead air space to resist heat flow, and it keeps the stained glass windows clean. 

December 2004: The finished project as seen from the stairway. These pictures really don't do the project justice -- the depth of the stained glass is wonderful when light shines through it.

Attic Clean-up (August 2004)

Photos from August 2003: When we bought the house, the attic contained bags of insulation and lots of Styrofoam scraps. It looked like someone had bought in a pick-up truck load of leftovers from a construction site but hadn't bothered to arrange the material in a logical manner.

August 2004: A year later the attic contains a different mixture of junk. We took over half a pick-up load of Stryofoam to the dump. As a replacement, lots of wood shingles and other roofing scraps fell into the attic from the roofing work. So our first task was to collect about ten garbage bags of junk and drop them into the front bedroom.

Bottom: It looks like the existing rafters had foil-backed fiberglass batts with roughly an R11 rating. In the foreground, you can see newly purchased pink rolls of Miraflex insulation .

All the snow in these picture is actually flying particles of insulation in the air.

Top: Bill Cutler arranges insulation from the bags of construction leftovers. Once it was spread out carefully, this stuff should work great.

Bottom: We also installed Miraflex insulation (with an R-25 rating) and fiberglass batts (with R19 and R21 ratings). We both were coughing by the end of this job. Together with the existing insulation, the attic now had at least an R30 rating, so our heating bills should drop substantially.

The finish job looks MUCH warmer.

Reinstalling the cresting in 2004

It took a lot longer to reinstall the cresting than it took to remove. I bought stainless steel bolts and washers, so the new cresting won't be stained with rust from the fasteners.
The cresting returned from powder coating in October 2003, and it gleamed. It looks much better than this photograph shows. We had each piece sandblasted and coated with two layers of white paint.

Porch repair (July 2004)

Living room porch repair

As you can see, the living room porch's roof had failed. It consisted of: a snow-coat type membrane above a 1/2" layer of plywood on top of a sheet metal roof. This meant the plywood was sandwiched between two waterproof layers, a super way to get it to rot. 

Bill Cutler helped with this repair project. Here we see him tearing off the old roof layers and installing new metal trim.
We found insulation stuffed between all the rafters under the various layers of roofing. At some point in the past, someone insulated this roof and all the sidewalls. Without this insulation, the house would feel awful drafty in the winter.
We roll out the fiberglass base and attach it will special nails that have a large plastic flange on top.

Roof-top walkway repair

The roof-top walkway leaked all winter long. I was able to catch most of the water in plastic buckets in the attic, but some got past my efforts and damaged the ceiling sheet rock slightly. So I decided to tear off the sheet metal and replace it with a torch-down roof.

Bill Cutler helps with clean-up and nailing down the base sheets.

After applying the torch-down, I lag bolted pressure-treated 2x4s to the roof and began putting up the freshly powder-coated cresting. I used stainless steel bolts to hold the cresting together. Hopefully this will keep the cresting from getting stained red, as happened with the prior installation of cresting.

Kitchen porch repair

The kitchen porch hadn't failed yet, but it was looking pretty tired. So I decided to rip it off and give it the same treatment as the other flat roof areas.

I apply the fiberglass base and metal trim.

The torch-down roofing goes on, and the metal cresting begins to go up.

The finished roof (November 2003)

This is a same area Dave Helton and I built that had all the dry rot. I'm particularly happy with the "stealth" vents -- they blend in so well with the rest of the 50-year shingles that they almost disappear. Can you spot them?
The back of the house ... all buttoned up.

Repairing the roof (September to November 2003)

A close-up view of the square nails used in the 1880's to hold down the metal roofing.
A truck with a long conveyor belt delivered all the roofing to the flat part of the roof prior to removing the old roofing.
Bruce Taylor of Do It Again Decor contracted to do the roofing. You see him here in the midst of tearing off the old roof. He did a super job -- highly recommended.
The old roofing comes off while the new roofing sits on the flat walkway.
More roof removal.
With the old roof removed, some areas were ready for plywood.
After tearing off the roofing, other areas -- such as this east-side gutter -- revealed significant amounts of dry rot.
All the old roofing is now off, and we have covered the roof with tarps. This picture shows David Helton who helped repair the dry rot.
The new shingles await installation while the rest of the roof is covered with tarps.
We have removed most of the eave over the kitchen to expose the rot and begin building replacements. You can see the first new replacement cedar rafter sticking out.
David Helton considers how to install replacement cedar 2-by-6s to repair the dry rot. We had to rebuilt this portion of the eves from scratch.
To provide healthy ventilation to the attic, I cut holes below the walkway. Each hole will receive a 4" by 12" white louvered vent.
Bruce Taylor is building up a waterproof valley.
Bruce replaced the metal gutter system by:
  •  removing and replacing any boards showing dry rot.
  •  nailing a fiberglass mesh to reinforce the gutter's valley,
  •  using a metal flashing so the gutter would look identical from the street
  •  installing a "torch-down" rubberized membrane topped with composition roofing. Bruce welded this top layer to the fiberglass by heating it with a gas torch.
After several weeks at MEI Powder Coating, the metal cresting looking absolutely super. The sandblasted and gave each piece two coats. Unfortunately, the picture doesn't really do them justice -- they just gleam. Now I will have to find bolts that won't rust and spend several days reinstalling them.
Almost done! Nearly all the roofing is gone from the walkway. Bruce Taylor was the real hero of this project--two thumbs up for his professional ethic and approach.

Removing the cresting in September 2003

When we bought the house, the cresting was rusty. It just didn't seem like I could simply paint away the rust, so I decided to remove all the cresting, have it sandblasted and powder coated.
I began removing bolts to separate the cresting into movable pieces.
Pieces of cresting head down the crawl hole
Only the 2 by 4 supports remain.

The original roof (August 2003)

The second-story roof had failed in several places before we bought the home, so it needed to be replaced before the fall rains. 
I began by checking on the historical district rules and found we could replace the existing composition roof with another composition roof. Very little of the rest of the roof can be seen from the street, and the rules allowed us to modify things as long as the view from the street didn't change.
I could see cedar shingles from the attic. Both the shingles and a layer of composition roofing needed to be removed.
You can see the flat part of the roof at the top of this attic photo.
The walkway on the top is covered with metal. This shows the crawl hole through the roof from the attic.
From the crawl hole looking west. The metal cresting is attached to pressure-treated 2 by 4s that were bolted to the roof.
Between the gutter and the walkway is a sloped roof area. This area had a layer of composition roofing applied on top of cedar shingles. I had both layers removed prior to installing 1/2-inch plywood sheets covered by tar paper and 50-year shingles.
Around the entire outside edge was a built-in metal gutter made by soldering 1-foot by 2-foot pieces of metal together. Rebuilding the metal parts of the roof using the original technology would have been quite expensive.
The east roof looking north along the walkway.
The east roof from the walkway. The patch covers were a chimney used to go through the roof.
The south roof from the walkway.
The southwest roof from the walkway.
The west roof from the walkway. Note the downspout hole in the built-in gutter. These gutters are about two feet wide and are covered with the same metal as the walkway.
The west roof from behind the chimney on the south end of the walkway.
The west roof from the main walkway showing the crawl hole and its small removable roof cap.
The northwest roof showing the upstairs bathroom vent. The pipe through this vent was so loose we could pull it straight up. So I ripped into the wall in the study to glue the pipe together.
The northwest roof from the north end of the walkway.
The north roof from the walkway.
Lag bolts attached the 2 by 4s to the metal roof. This seemed like a path for water to take into the house, so I had metal brackets made that would allow me to attach the cresting by screwing horizontally into the edge of the roof.
This close-up shows how the metal roof joins the composition roof. After looking at this, I had no trouble understanding why the roof leaked.
6th Avenue looking northwest. This photo and the next four show the lovely views from the roof and have little to do with the roofing project.
6th Avenue looking west.
6th Avenue looking east.
View to the southeast.
View to the southwest.

Cresting in 1995

The Allen house began life with a decorative cast iron cresting around the top and porches. The following human interest article explains how this cresting was removed and stored in Portland from 1966 to 1995. The article appeared in the Albany Democrat-Herald on Saturday, May 13, 1995:

Jane Morrison, left, gathers with Roseanne and Richard Siemens of Albany around the cast-iron cresting that blew off the house during the 1962 Columbus Day storm.







Iron cresting returning to Albany roof

By Cathy Ingalls

It's like the prodigal son coming home, said Richard Siemens as he gazed for the first time Wednesday at the boxes of cast-iron cresting that blew off the top of his Albany house during the 1962 Columbus Day Storm.

His wife, Roseanne Siemens, called the cast-iron bric-a-brac the birthday candles that had decorated the top of a cake, referring to her house at 208 Sixth Ave. S.E.

The ironwork was returned to the Siemens by representatives of the Boxco/Milligan Foundation of Portland after it was discovered in a Portland warehouse. The foundatino is a nonprofit organization founded to preserve the state's historical buildings, said foundation spokeswoman Jane Morrison.

Portland preservationists Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan discovered the cast iron after the 1962 storm while traipsing around Albany looking at historic houses. One of the builder's descendants had the cresting for sale in front of the house.

The cresting was stored with other artifacts the two men salvaged in the Northwest over several years.

The year before Milligan died, he told the foundation's executive director Cathy Galbraith that he wanted the cresting returned to the Albany house if the current owners would be willing to reinstall it.

The Siemens agreed to put it back on the home, believed to be the first in Albany to enjoy electricity. N. H. Allen, who built the house, generated power from a sawmill he owned. Allen ran a power line up Baker Street from the Willamette River to the house.

Three generations of Allens lived in the house, and later owners shared the home with 12 monkeys.

Walls in the house were covered with foam and linoleum to muffle the noise. The house has since be restored.

The Seimens bought the house in 1987.


The Allen-House.Com and websites are maintained by Dave and Barbara Sullivan who live in the N. H. Allen House at 208 6th Avenue SE, Albany, Oregon. Our home phone is 541-924-5983.