Roofing Contractors Do This Kind of Labor

Many years ago I took on the task of teaching a few friends some roofing. The project we tackled was a rock roof. Roofing a rock roof is horrible. Actually, the job consisted of re-roofing a rock roof. A rock roof is a low pitched roof that is covered in tar paper or heavy felt. The paper is covered in hot tar and then rocks the size of pebbles are strewn over every inch of it. They are ugly roofs in my humble opinion and are in constant need of repair and upkeep. After strong winds or heavy rains, rocks cover the ground. They get all over and they are a nuisance. I believe they were in style in the 1950’s. Thank goodness they went out of style.

I wasn’t a roofing contractor nor were my friends roofing contractors but I had some roofing experience and understood roofing products and materials. I also understood that we didn’t want to put another rock roof on that house so we had to check out the pitch. Shingles cannot be placed over roofs that were below a certain pitch or grade. For the life of me, I can’t remember what that pitch was, but I remember that our project roof just barely met the requirements for shingles.

If the roof were any lower pitched we would of had to use rolled roofing material which are the same roofing products used on flat roofs. That particular roofing product is easy to lay but it’s also ugly. People notice your roof, so you might as well use roofing materials that are pleasing to the eye and rolled roofing isn’t one of them.

Our first task was to strip the roof down to bare wood, meaning the plywood that lied beneath the tar paper. For the most part this is not a difficult part of roofing except when the original application of tar soaked through the felt and basically glued the paper and rock to the plywood. This made it quite a bit more difficult to tear off. Using spade shovels or flat shovels, which technically are not roofing products or tools, we would shove the tool under the felt and rock and lift and tear. It’s unbelievable how how heavy pebbles and felt paper can get. The roofing chore was backbreaking. Usually you wouldn’t see roofing contractors do this kind of labor. They left the heavy range of roof work to the manual laborers.

Tearing up a rock roof is also amazingly dirty. Every time you tear up a chunk of old roof you create a small dust storm. Buildings and homes shouldn’t have been permitted to use this stuff. Sometimes you had to work around roof windows and skylights which were a pain in the rear too. We all wore bandanas or masks to shield ourselves from inhaling tons of dust.

Laying the new roof was a breeze. The felt paper is very easy to lay over wood. It’s clean and rolls easy. Laying the shingles are just as easy and the roof looks spectacular when you’re finished because there are no bumps and unsightly mounds that might be apparent while roofing over existing shingles. The lines and contours of a new roof are beautiful to the roofing eye. It was a great experience for everyone. We actually had a good time and no one fell off during the process.


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.

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