Inching Along…Frettingly

The Cross House has received two Heritage Trust Fund grants which have allowed work on the exterior which I otherwise would have been unable to fund.

This work has largely determined my project schedule since the summer of 2015. The 2017 grant work is already behind schedule because the work anticipated has been profoundly impacted by the reality of the work required, mostly involving the repair work to the shingles of the south facade.

When I wrote the 2017 grant, I thought the shingling was, well, not that big of a deal, mostly requiring the infill of missing shingles.


The three arrows to the left are small areas with missing shingles. The right arrow is where I am currently working, So, I had planned to simply infill the sections of missing shingles. Easy peasy!


Not. Soooooooo not.

Right away, the SE corner proved a unanticipated, never-ending nightmare. Once the scaffolding was erected, and once I was able to get really up close, and once I was able to ascertain conditions under the shingles, all Hell broke lose. Rather then do some minor infilling, I removed all the shingles in the SE corner, had to replace large sections of sheathing, replace rotted framing, rebuild two window frames, replace most of the window trim, and custom-cut every single new shingle. Remember?




Better! And now the outside corner has ben completed.




Most of the damage to the SE corner was caused by long-term issues with the built-in gutters. These issues have now been addressed.

In moving to the main south second-floor wall, there is another issue. Almost twenty-years-ago, all the paint was removed from the shingles. This is good. But the shingles were not then painted or even primed. This is bad. Very bad. Because, for almost two decades now, the south sun has brutalized the wood shingles.


While standing on the ground things don’t look too bad.


Up close, the shingles look like this. They should be smooth. The shingles on the west, north, and east facades did not look anything like this.


You can see some missing shingles between the windows, and just under the left window.


And here.


But…but…in getting up close and being able to touch the shingles another terrifying portrait is revealed.


There are also a great many cracked shingles.


The entire south wall of shingles is highly damaged AND barely attached. So, not only are the shingle brutalized by the sun, they have somehow come loose. Almost every one stands proud of the shingle under it. They should fit together tight.

This ain’t good!

Because I am so behind schedule, I have been fretting about all this. Part of me has thought: Just infill as required and move on. Part of me has thought: Remove all the shingles and do things right.

I know, y’all will think: Ross will, of course, choose the latter! The time pressure though has been making me think of taking the former rather than latter approach. I know! Who is this guy?


Until today. I stood on the roof looking at the new work (right) and untouched shingles (left). The new work comprised new shingles and original shingles. The latter have been turned over, lightly sanded, and re-installed. They look new. Once painted, you cannot tell the difference between the old and new shingles. The new work is also tight! And smooth!


I could simply pound a zillion finish nails into the brutalized shingles and this would, in a sloppy way, solve the detached problem. But you cannot properly disk sand shingles when they are attached. No, ideally, they get removed; intact shingles can be turned around and easily sanded.

Thus, while looking at the above image (good to the right; bad to the left) I knew that I could only live with one option: Do It Right.

I will remove ALL the south wall shingles. Hopefully I will not discover massive damage to the sheathing, framing, and window frames. Pray for the house!

The really hard part will be to create some kinda mapping system so I can put oddly cut shingles (against the big arch for example) back in their original location. This will save a lot of time not having to create new, oddly-shaped shingles.

Being November, the weather is another issue but I think, based on long experience, that I can work through to January.

And. once again, thank goodness for audible books. My current read.





  1. Desiree on November 7, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Good call Ross. Although I understand that just patching may have some time appeal, you would never be happy with it and would come back to it at a later date, no doubt cursing yourself for not doing it right the first time! The Cross House will still be standing in another hundred years due to your diligence in doing things right.

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:15 am

      Thank you, Desiree.

      That is actually my goal: to assure the Cross House another century of life.

      What I’m doing makes no financial sense but the idea that the house will still be around in 2119 is a powerful motivator.

  2. Harlan on November 8, 2019 at 12:06 am

    You need a work shop inside to cut round ones on bad days so you can keep up.

    • Ross on November 8, 2019 at 12:15 am

      Harlan, I do have a shop and I do that on rainy days!

  3. Dan Goodall-Williams on November 8, 2019 at 3:07 am

    Ross, I so wish I lived near you so I could help. However, northeast PA is a bit far. I’m hoping someone near you will come and help and get it done quicker. Your work is impeccable and doing it right is the only way.

    • Jp Dillon on November 8, 2019 at 11:36 am

      I wish I lived nearby too! I’m in New York right now, but to be honest I’d totally drive out to help for a summer! This house and this restoration is quite literally magical, and is to the highest caliber of what someone would dream for someone restoring a house: Somebody who not only wants to make it pretty, but someone who wants it to survive for another century or two.

      • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:10 am

        Jp, get your car ready for…ROAD TRIP!

  4. Sandra Lee on November 8, 2019 at 5:56 am

    It will get done with the baby steps Ross methods! Hopefully you can get helpers for this more arduous task!

    Any additionL funding for the increased & unexpected extensive SE damage?? Small heritage grant to hire helpers for the work? Is this possible? Maybe calculation of estimated additional costs due to all items mentioned in this post?

    Be careful & keep up with the audio books!

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:12 am

      Sandra, the grant work allows for a 20% contingency. So, I’m crossing my fingers!

  5. Andew Hewitt on November 8, 2019 at 8:25 am

    good idea to turn those shingles over and look brand new it reminds me of reading a magazine a while ago an old Scottish house were the owners turned over their flagstone floor or stone tiled floor which was badly worn using the undamaged underside . IT gave them a brand new looking old floor in their hallway but original to the house. Hope you manage to get there as It looks great but as with all projects its always the last few meters or inches that are a struggle to finish .

  6. Seth Hoffman on November 8, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, this is a good illustration that the sun protection paint provides is just as important as protection from water. UV light is a force to be reckoned with!

    Have you looked for suppliers who can provide pre-cut shingles to match the size and shape of the originals? It would certainly be more costly than re-using and sanding the old ones, but perhaps the cost would be worth your savings in labor?

    Lastly, although tedious, I’m sure the effort in doing it the right way will pay off. If you just patched it together, you’d likely find yourself coming back and spending more time on it again later, whereas doing the full reconstruction should only require periodic repainting for the rest of your lifetime.

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:09 am

      Seth, I priced pre-cut shingles but each company had a minimum which was like twice what I needed.


  7. Stewart McLean on November 8, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    *Overwhelming indeed! You are up to the task like few others. Fortunately the unpainted shingles appear to be on the second floor only. I have been planning a similar project.
    *My thought, which I don’t know will work is to get a crayon of the sort used on brick for marking. I count 23 rows of shingle on the Cross House so, using the letters A-W, I would mark the bottom row starting at the left with A1. It makes more sense to me to have the shingles starting with A when I reinstall. Moving to the right, I would mark each shingle with A+ the next number in order. A1,A2,……… I plan to label broken shingles Letter, #, and decimal point #.
    * another positive thing about your house is that the shingles are all the same width or close to it, A1.1,A1.2…. The plan is to have old carton(s) for each row. I am envisioning liquor cartons that have dividers that I can use to make the space the right width for the shingles. It would be fortunate if two shingles would fit the width of a carton. This will allow me to put each numbered shingle in the correctly lettered box(es) in numerical order.
    * Have some questions about some of my ideas. Sanding the back side and flipping them over when reinstalling has been proven by you to make sense, but would covering the floors in the room inside the windows with builders paper (or with drop cloths), setting up clothes lines, dipping the shingles in paint, and using clothespins to hang them to dry inside work? Can one install repainted shingles? Is there a reason that the back sides of shingles should not be painted?
    * Any way, I hope that this idea might help you figure out what will work for you.

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:08 am

      Stewart, you really need to move to Kansas and help me!

  8. Brian A on November 8, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Have you inspected the still-painted shingles further to the left on the SW corner near the octagon? Hopefully they will be in better condition, as the shingles were elsewhere. If so, that section will go faster and will be a nice reward for your tedious, hard work on the rest!

    • Ross on November 8, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Brian, the shingles over to the left (west) were stripped like 20-years-ago, but they were then painted. So, yes, they are in MUCH better shape and I don’t plan to remove them.

      I hope!

  9. Linda A. on November 8, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Aww, darn it Ross. I was hoping that the shingle process would get easier and quicker as you got around that corner. I am getting antsy to see this finished south side, but in the long run, you would always kick yourself, looking up and seeing those shingles not redone correctly. It will be meticulously done by you and hopefully never have to be this labor intense again. Just repainting years from now seems like a breeze in comparison to all of this initial repair work. Hang in there. You got the world cheering you on!!!

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:06 am

      Linda, I am also antsy to see a finished south side! Very antsy!

  10. Liz on November 9, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    It’s been amazing keeping up with your painstaking work. You treat the house with such integrity. I thought of you today as I was listening to Audible – Home by Julie Andrews. As soon as I’m through, it’ll be on to her second memoir, Home Work. Highly recommend if you haven’t listened already.

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 1:05 am

      Thank you, Liz, for the kind words…and reading recommendations!

      • Liz on November 11, 2019 at 9:03 pm

        You bet! Happy inching!

  11. Mary on November 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Always darkest before the dawn.

    Once you get past the sleeping porch with it’s 3D shingles cuts it will go quicker. Besides, the two big windows take up a lot of that wall.

    The Heritage Trust people know with old structures that there can be far more rot and damage than appears on the surface. And until you rip into the siding you just don’t know. When and if they drive by they can see progress. Beautifully and masterly done progress and that takes TIME.

    The two grants were for stain-glass windows (mostly done), new roofing (all done), gutters relined (done), porch columns (done), and the restoration of the south facade (underway).

    In addition, the radiator system is done. The west and north facades are done, and the east facade is about half done.

    Not even going to the fact that the structure is almost 9000 sqft and 3 stories tall (or the equivalent of siding six 1500 soft homes).

    If I was on the Heritage Trust board your house would be one of my success stories….The grants work.

    • Leigh on November 10, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Mary: so true. And it is mostly done by Ross.
      More power to you, Ross.

    • Ross on November 11, 2019 at 12:53 am

      Thank you, Mary!

      BIG hug!

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