Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roofing the Cabin

Feb-Aug 2012
It’s a multi-season, big-effort adventure to get metal roofing materials to a remote cabin.  But a fun and rewarding adventure it was.

Our cabin is in NorthWestern Canada, and very remote by most people’s standards.  It’s a 4-hour drive from my home to the end of the road.  Then a 28km ride by boat in the summer, or snowmobile in the winter.  There are no other cabins within a 1-mile radius, and no other cabin is visible from ours.  We have 13 virgin lakes within a 2-mile radius. The terrain is rugged Precambrian Shield.  This is a spectacular place for solitude and connecting with the natural world, as no unwanted guests would venture to find us there.

But the trade-off … it’s a challenge to do construction projects at the cabin.  With the ‘full-travel-day’ to get there, every project must be thoroughly planned, as there is no recovery if a part or tool has been forgotten. 

And how do we get 21 foot sheets (7meters) of metal roofing across a 28km lake?

It’s not practical to haul the metal roofing in the summer across the water, as we don’t have a barge or boat to accommodate such a load. We decide to haul the metal roofing in the winter across the ice and snow, as we can build a long sled that can be pulled by a snowmobile.
So now this becomes a multi-season (winter and summer) project.

21 foot Metal Roofing sheet across the ice by Snowmobile

We modify a utility trailer to carry the metal roofing, and we truck this from our home to the lake.  February is best-choice for ice-travel when it’s reasonably warm, yet the ice is still 3 feet (1 meter) thick and can support a truck. Fortunately for us, someone has plowed an ‘ice-road’ part way across the lake to where they are fishing with nets under the ice.  We drive our truck and trailer loaded with metal roofing to the end of the ice-road, and unload the metal roofing onto the ice.  The metal roofing is amazingly heavy, so we decide to split it into 4 sled-loads.  We transfer a quarter of the metal sheets from the ice onto our sled. 

Try not to tip the load
on the winding narrow portage trail

Since part of our route to the cabin is on the ice, and part is through ‘portages’ over land, and the portages are narrow and winding, we have to load the sheets vertically.  This is a very top-heavy load, so we travel very slowly (about double our walking-speed) to avoid tipping the load and wrinkling the metal sheets.  The last part of the trip, from the ice up a rocky slope to our cabin, is the most challenging.  The trail is winding, narrow, and steep.  The snowmobile loses traction, digs into the snow, and gets stuck.  The vertical load wants to tip over on the uneven trail, so my brother walks behind to keep the load upright. 

Metal Roofing delivered to the Cabin

After considerable grunting, lifting, shoveling, and sweating we deposit our first load of metal roofing near the cabin.  Over the next 2 days, we repeat this process 4 times, until all the precious metal roofing is stacked near the cabin. 

We are finished the winter-portion of the project.

In Summer (July), 2 long hard days are spent on the roof – removing the old shingles, then installing the new metal roofing.  Our planning and material-list and tools-list were all good.  A chimney flashing didn’t fit as expected – and there is no practical recovery from this, as it takes 10 hours of travel-time to get another flashing.  So the chimney flashing part of the project will wait for next trip.

Chimney Flashing Installed

 In August, we return to the cabin for another week of solitude.  And of course bring with us the new chimney flashing. 

It took 3 trips, 7 months elapsed time, winter & summer, over ice & water, for this roofing project.

It took multi-season planning and was physically challenging, but it was a fine adventure and a rewarding accomplishment.  This new metal roofing should be good for at least 30 years.  At age 62, this may be the last roof I will haul to the cabin.

… and yes, I did this with a colostomy

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