4 Homes for the Price of One!


  • Forgot to tell you that when I saw the airbrushed picture of you in the Peace Corps it reminded me of an old friend who was posted to some terribly poor place in Africa, probably about the same time as you were in Brazil. He is an attorney and was working to try and help establish the legal system. But he was also given money to build a place for he and his wife using local labor. He hired a "contractor" who kept demanding more and more materials for this two room shack. My friend had some idea that not all the materials were going into his place but he was very surprised to learn when his place was done that the contractor had managed to build 3 additional homes with the "surplus" materials. He always said the US taxpayer got their money's worth, 4 homes for the price of one.

  • Dear George,

    I read with interest your comments on Cedar Shake roofs vs. Composite on the Sound Home web site. I will not attempt to weigh in on either side of that discussion, but offer an interesting case of side by side experiences regarding shake roofs.

    My neighbor and I built nearly identical houses side by side in Palolo Valley in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1980. We bought the contents of a container of "No. 1 Heavy" cedar shakes from the Pacific Northwest, and each used half of the shakes to cover our roofs. (I am told my shakes are thicker than what passes for "No. 1 heavy" today).

    I elected to take the (then somewhat unusual) step to first pressure treat my shakes with what was then called Woolmanizing, which I believe is roughly similar to CCA today. My neighbor did not. While Woomanizing in general was for structural lumber for termite considerations, I treated the shakes mostly for the anti-fungal and anti-rot properties.

    In any case, after 25 years, my shakes are still in very good condition while my neighbor found it necessary to re-roof about 5-10 years ago. During construction, after much deliberation, and contrary to prevailing opinion, I elected not to use felt, hoping to enhance ventilation and drying as it rains at least once almost ever day here in the valley. I am not having any leak problems that I am aware of.

    The roof is 2x6 T&G cedar with one layer of (fiberglass reinforced?) Monier roofing paper then covered with two layers of Reynolds Wrap tin foil (shiny side up in our case to reflect the hot Hawaiian sunlight heat up and away rather than reflecting furnace heat down and inside), then 1x4 battens gapped every few feet and installed at slight alternating angles, then the shakes in staggered pattern. (We used Cuprinol on the T&G cedar and maybe on the new shakes also, I cannot remember). We have had the shakes linseed oil treated about every 6-7 years. Our roofs are fairly steep for Hawaii. (Does 6 or 7 in 10 make sense? It has been 25 years since these figures were discussed!) I also have 2 dormer roofs of about half that pitch.

    The builder made a very interesting comment to me during construction that may have a lot to do with the difference in longevity. He observed that when it rained, the water would start running off my roof after about 5 minutes where as it would be almost 20 minutes before my neighbors roof started having any significant run off. This tells me the Woolmanizing pressure treatment minimized the water absorption and therefore minimized the degradation of the wood cells which I believe you mentioned as one of the major causes of deterioration of cedar shakes.

    I offer the above for the benefit of any of your readers still adamant on using cedar shakes for their roofs. I am pretty happy with mine. Thank you for your discussion on the subject.

    David Pursel, Honolulu, Hawaii


    Thanks for a great note and some very good points about maintaining cedar shake roofs. The lesson here is that if you decide to choose a wood roof (cedar or not) it must either be treated at the mill or you must treat the wood on a regular basis.

    A note of clarification: 'pressure' treatment is a factory process and can't be done on site or on the roof but you can treat wood roofs on site.

    BTW, I am writing this from Seattle where we have just had the wettest November in recorded history. The weather folks tell us that these storms originate of the coast of Hawaii. Thanks. - George

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