Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Lordy Lord there's always a snag. Every worker knows this, it's etched on their faces. If not too many, or too deadly, it won't drive them to drink. Maybe.

Our little snag arrived with the initial steel roof order. I'll spare the name of the company, because I've always liked 'em and always used 'em over 30 years of putting up these steel roof suckers. Lots of thrills and good rides with various co-workers.

So the pallet of steel arrives, dumped off the lumber truck which is packed to take this pounding. Doesn't hurt a thing. And the steel is packed in bands and hardwood pallet boards and both sides are equally protected with cover sheets of steel. Don't ever throw those cover sheets away! Over these 30 years I've squirreled away enough steel cover sheets to have a nifty cache, and I'm planning at least two old roofs to steel over with them. Woodshed structure type, and maybe even the stone hut if it comes to that. I'm awful partial to cedar shingle and would roof every late August through October with cedar if I could find the work and someone wanted to pay for the material cost. It's like handling books, or stout pages, broadsides, crisp and aromatic. Top of the line.

Back to the steel roofing on this job — bust the pallet open and start to work. Three sheets in and we find a damaged sheet. Easy to detect: there are evenly scored scratches running a foot long alongside each rib of the three foot wide sheet. Bend down closer and inspect the scratches and you will find a finely rolled ball of paint. That's the paint come off your new roofing. Either rollers or some procedure when packing the sheets, uniformly scratched every third sheet because when we set aside the first damaged sheet and worked with the next three sheets, up came the second damaged sheet. The exact same description and problem.

Believe me reader, I've been there, on almost any other job these scratched sheets are going up on the roof. "No one's going to see them 30 feet away on the ground". And they are right. And they are wrong.

At that point you call the lumberyard who delivered the order. If you're lucky, as I am, you get an owner who is understanding. In fact he will bend over backwards to deal with this headache, although it is no worse than yours for sure — your job has stopped. It's kicked apart all scheduling. Now we have to work backwards to the steel company who issued the order and await replacement sheets. No one's digging any further down into the pile of delivered steel. Once you start fussing with steel you start scratching steel, so I leave be the good 6-7 sheets left to almost finish the job and with the torrid weather, duck out of the sun and await the replacement sheeting.

You wait a week, maybe two weeks. You are waiting for two replacement sheets. It's a surprise when one day you return from another job and there flat bam left in the yard is a 17 foot pallet dressed out just like the first order of steel sheets. This is the replacement order. The sample of touch up paint you requested from the good lumberyard owner isn't here, because another worker took that message and he, well, forgot to order the paint. I've run forklifts in lumberyards since I was 12 years old, on and off them, and off them is the worker who drops down stakes and watches how the forks slide under the merchandise. Twenty feet away from this new order I can clearly see where the forks have busted the sides of my replacement sheets. Ruined in other words. Weirdly, and just like that, my replacement sheets are gone, and weirdly a third sheet (not requested) sits there fancy and perfect. So I'm halfway home.

Still without one sheet, and already waiting almost two weeks, phone calls begin. It's Labor Day weekend and no one is thinking much about labor. I call the manufacturer and make things known, then call the lumberyard and do the same. Of course no one knows how the replacement sheets have been damaged but damaged they are. It's the new zen koan of the modern era. The Shit Happens era. Even spending some hours in my mind with vice grips and tender loving care can I think of twisting out the delicate over-flap and all important edge that have been ruined. Of course it would be the important edge to each sheet. If the damage was on the other side of the sheet we could have tucked it in and buried it.

With the sales rep at the steel manufacturer's location I ask for his name, his boss's name, this region's rep's full name, and while we're at it, let's have the name of the President of the company. Not an underling, but the one who wakes up every morning and thinks about his/her company, how'd they'd like to see it run. He or she probably wants to see his company run the same way I want to see a steel roof built and sewn. Water tight. Now this sale rep is worried he needs "a lawyer". I assure him there is nothing lawyer about me. He's just met someone who has watched a job site of materials fall apart right before his eyes and I'm past curious why. There is a why to why.

There is a reason why the materials were packed and delivered damaged. Honestly, there is. There is a reason why the replacement sheets were damaged and still delivered that way. If the driver — and this lumberyard always has square-shooters at the wheel — was halfway decent, he would have reported the damage as soon as he returned to headquarters. When I called bright and early the next morning the owner knew nothing about it. Holy-moly do I miss the old ways. This long about many decades worth of fear and trembling is for the birds.

So the steel manufacturer and the lumberyard — guys making trouble but I also think guys wanting to make things right — will continue with us into September.

The big bad trapezoid shape roof old estate farmhouse built by a revolutionary war soldier and his family and tended to by my family now for many decades will persist, and I promise you, finish.

photos © susan & bob arnold