Uncovering The Past

This is the roof valley adjacent to the south chimney. It goes way way up to the tippy tippy top.


The cementitious roof tiles were, I believe, installed circa-1930. They are, mostly, in good condition and will last till the end of time.

However, along this valley I discovered numerous cracked tiles, no doubt caused by being walked on. This is bad. A quick fix is to insert some metal under the cracked tiles so any water getting in will just flow down the new metal rather than rot the wood supporting the roof.

To accomplish this, I removed each broken-off piece, cut some metal to size, inserted it under the tile, then caulked the broken-off piece onto the metal. Easy-peasy!


However, I was startled to discover, under the circa-1930 tiles, the ORIGINAL wood shingles. These shingles are from 1894! Golly.






  1. Christine on September 25, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Hi Ross, I’m surprise that the roof wasn’t clad in slate originally. Can you see easily which shingles are cracked? How can you get to the broken ones without walking on them? Are you going to change the flashing? It looks like it could use a bit of Ross treatment.

    How exciting to be able to practice a new home restoration skill. I’ll bet you’re glad to be putting down the paintbrush for a while.

    Looking forward to seeing the updates for this area.

    • Ross on September 25, 2020 at 11:08 pm

      Christine, the cracked tiles are obvious.

      Tomorrow, I begin work on reworking the built-in gutter in the SE corner. Then onto re-pointing the north chimney!

  2. Nancy from New Yawk on September 25, 2020 at 8:05 am

    One man’s “easy peasy” is another man’s “oh-my-gawd”. I fall into the latter category, although I’m not a man. Kudos upon kudos to you!!!

    • Ross on September 25, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Thank you, Nancy from New Yawk!

  3. Robin Biddle on September 25, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Wow! In between the siding shingles and now the roof shingles, it would be astounding to know the number of wood shingles used to shingle that house! I bet that roof weighs a ton! I am curious also about how you can fix the tiles without walking on them too. Great discovery, Ross.

    • Ross on September 25, 2020 at 11:05 pm

      Oh, I walk on the tiles, Robin. It’s the only way. I just step…gingerly.

      • Robin Biddle on September 26, 2020 at 9:28 pm

        Marvel should offer you a sweet movie deal for all of your Superpowers! I would have problems with just getting up on that roof for starters!

  4. David McDonald on September 25, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Id love to see the house WITH the restored original roof! Even the angle of the shingles is different. It would give a whole new look to the house. I think it would make the house more cozy-yes, even that gigantic space. I know you said not now but do you have any intention to go back to the original roof?

    • Ross on September 25, 2020 at 11:04 pm

      David, just after I purchased the house a retired roofer told me to leave the cementitious tiles alone as they will last forever. “People remove them and, fifteen later, have to do the roof again!”

      I do sometimes fantasize about putting back a wood shingle roof and, most importantly, the galvanized metal flourishes which crowned the tippy top and ends.

      • David McDonald on September 25, 2020 at 11:16 pm

        Gotcha! Totally understand.
        But, yes, I agree that those metal touches-small fences, spires, whatever–basically lightning catchers! But oh so practical! –would add the “crowning” touch! Literally! A crown for the Cross house! Those houses here in the Brush Park area of downtown Detroit that have been “restored” with metal fencing and spires don’t look exactly right or good . The original designs look waaaay better and more complete.
        So, as a finishing touch,eventually, I say, yea, put ’em back!! 🤗

  5. Alexander Thornton on September 25, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Hm. I wonder if it would be feasible to paint the 1930’s roof the color of the original wood roof one day? Although, if it were possible, I guess it’s likely you would have to do it on your own due to the asbestos.

    • Ross on September 25, 2020 at 10:57 pm

      Hi, Alexander!

      Painting the 1930s roof tiles would just add to the overall maintenance of the house. Yikes!

      Also, I’ve no idea if the tiles are cement-based or asbestos. Both were available at the time.

  6. Barb Sanford on September 26, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Ooh. One of these days this house will stop handing you projects when you poke into a new corner. One day.

    Two questions:
    1) Can you tell how the original wood tiles were treated? Were they painted, stained, or left bare? and
    2) Can you get replacement shingles for the broken cementitious tiles? Does anyone still make or sell them?

  7. Mike on September 26, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    I am surprised that they were able to put the cement tiles directly on top of the wood shingles, since it wasn’t a smooth surface. Amazing that it has only had two roofs in 126 years. When we bought our house in 2001, it had three layers of asphalt shingles on top of the wood shingles, and we had to have it all torn off and new plywood decking put on. The original wood shingles were so brittle that they fell apart, yours would likely be the same way. I like your roof, it looks very much like slate.

    • Liz on September 28, 2020 at 10:06 am

      I agree! If it ain’t broke…!

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