Thursday, March 9, 2017

The "can't stand in the attic" solution looks inevitable in roof repair plans.

Sometimes on sunny days, we pull down the retractable stairs, climb into the attic, stand on an old wooden trunk and tip up the tiny skylight. Then, taking turns, we thrust shoulders and head through the small opening and gaze at the magnificent view to the northeast. We already have a great western view from our terrazza, but our eastern view is blocked by buildings that are almost as tall as our own. From the attic, we can see over the top of these buildings.

We drool over this northeastern vista. We can take in the rugged snow-capped Alpi Apuane mountains and also see hill villages such as Collodi, Monte a Pescia, Uzzano Castello, Buggiano Castello and Montecatini Alto. We can see Pescia and some of the Valdinievole, the Valley of the Nievole River. We want to experience this view more easily and be able to share it with visitors. And that’s another complication with the repair of our leaky roof.

The roof leaks because some of the terracotta tiles are moss-covered and broken, and the mortar is cracked. Also, it was installed many years ago, when guaina a caldo or carta catramata (insulating paper or tarpaper) was not routinely installed between the layers of brick and roofing tile. Once resigned to the reality that minor roof repairs would be inadequate to stop the leaks, we looked at the condition of the beams that support the roof and hatched an idea. Maybe we could subtlety add a few inches to the height of our roof.

As it is now, a head poked out of the skylight is almost the only way an average sized person can stand in our attic, since the highest standing spot is just under 6 feet, but that’s just in the center; then it quickly slopes down. Our thought was that if we replace the roof, we should also replace all the beams and joists, which are ancient and suspect. They look like they could last another 20 years, give or take 10 years. But then, they look ancient now, and maybe they could survive another 50 years. Who knows how long these things last? But if they do need to be replaced, wouldn’t now be a good time? And couldn’t they be just a bit bigger without even asking for special permission (with such permission being almost impossible to obtain inside a walled, historic city)? And could we put in some large skylights that open up, so we can stand under them and enjoy the northeastern view? Should we not also put in insulation while we were at it?

We told Juri to ask for these extra options when inquiring about re-roofing proposals. We would pay the extra for skylights and insulation. We were hoping that the contractors would say that all the beams needed to be replaced so that Juri would also share in the cost of that.

My beautiful computer art drawing made for the builder, which turned out to
pretty much a total waste of my time. 
And it was because of all these extra options that we had difficulty understanding Juri when he tried to explain what the three contractors had told him when he asked for the preventivi (bids). So Monday of this week, we arranged to have a friend we had met at church come over to give us advice and help us talk to Juri. Silvio speaks some English, and he is familiar with construction projects because he designed and supervised the construction of his own house. He also brought his nephew Giuseppe, who is an architect. If nothing else, we wanted to have some knowledgeable and impartial people giving us advice.

Silvio, Giuseppe and I crawled into the attic and held a high level council. The beams could be replaced, but they are not the cause of the leaking and it’s not absolutely necessary to replace them now, Giuseppe said.

If I were your neighbor,” he explained, ‟I’d tell you, ‘Paul, I’ll pay my share of replacing the roof tiles and putting on a layer of guiana, but if you want to replace the beams, that’s your expense.’ ”

Then we went down and talked to Juri, and that’s exactly what he said. And that would be the 10,000 euro he had quoted me a couple of weeks ago. His family and our family would share this cost. To replace all the beams and add insulation and skylights would be in the neighborhood of 40,000 to 50,000 euro, and Juri would not share in the extra costs.

We were happy that we finally understood the options and that we had received advice from our own independent personal experts. They left us to mull it over, but it didn’t take long for us to realize what to do. We’ll go with the existing beams, but we’ll also pay the extra cost of installing two large skylights on the west side. It’s not worth 30,000 euro or more to be able to stand up straight in a few more places. On warm days, we’ll open the skylights, stand tall and savor the bella vista. In that way, we’ll still have money left over to pop open a bottle of wine and toast our good fortune while dunking our cantuccini in a glass of vinsanto.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a good solution - hope it comes together quickly!


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