A Good Stopping Point for Summer

When you are running a business and restoring an old home, as you might imagine, the two purposes are constantly at odds. It costs a lot of money to restore an old home, and businesses are supposed to be about making money. Throw in the environment, which we are trying to safeguard in all that we do, and it adds a third purpose to the business, further complicating the mix of priorities, but in a fun way. like a puzzle.

An associated dilemma is when is good enough good enough? A friend of mine used to either quote of misquote Voltaire and say that Good is the Enemy of Great. In other words, if all you want is good, you will settle for it all the time, but Great is a heck of a lot more expensive.

Getting back to the house, we would love to polish it and re-polish it, keep improving and refining, but at some point, we have to actually rent the place to pay for it!  Since we roared from a tough but weird Indiana winter, not nearly as bad as the one before but still not an early thaw, to a rainy Indiana spring it was tough finish our exterior like we had planned in time for the beginning of our in earnest rental season beginning with the big academy weekends in late May, reunion and graduation weekends  (sometimes early June for grad weekend), and then off into summer.

We had chosen to restore the original roof as best as we could figure, taper sawn untreated cedar shingles. We had found evidence of some sort of shingle both in photos  and in some built over old roof sections and then the revealed wall section that was the subject of the last post.

The oldest picture we have of the home, 814 east shore drive, taken sometime between 1889 and the 1920's when a second story was added. We use it for clues and for style inspiration.

The oldest picture we have of the home, 814 east shore drive, taken sometime between 1889 and the 1920's when a second story was added. We use it for clues and for style inspiration.


There was some debate that they might be oak. A quote of 80k for oak shingles for the house made us hope they weren't, and further investigation found them to be way too light for oak, and the grain seemed to match cedar. Now if we were the National PArk Service, we would go on to ask what kind of cedar? By the 1890' and 1920's, the time of the two early building periods on the Clemens Vonnegut Jr. House, much of the southern Cedar had been logged out, and we were getting it from the transcontinental railroad in the West. but then someone reminded me that Cedar grows in the midwest too, and is still harvested locally. That's all find and good but we finally gave up on the taxonomy of cedar, and just went with the cedar we could get from a local distributor, west, south, canada, wisconsin... as long as it keeps the water off. We decided on untreated, since if you keep your roof dry and hoze off moss in the shady spots every few years the treatment, often a sad chemical soup on top of Cedar's already great water resistant properties, just add a few years. It will allow the roof to age naturally and take on a nice even patina over the years, we hope.

Anyhow, you might imagine, putting shakes on is labor intensive, and perhaps since we got untreated, not the common choice, it took a looong time for them to arrive. If you go with the standard American roof solution, asphalt shingle patches made from oil and sand, a peppy crew of latins can have it on in like 6 hours. However cedar shakes need attention, and this is a complex roof, not a simple ridge job on a development in Levittown. You need to line them up right, and set them wide enough apart that they can expand and contract with the temperature and water they might soak up while not having it be too random, and cover the seams of the ones below so you don't get leaks. It takes a mind for geometry and for us that mind lies in the head of a guy named Matt Salyer from Hibbard, our lead carpenter, whom our original foreman Garth identified as having a knack for the three dimensional. Matt and the guys went to work juggling weather, the desire to strip off all the old roofing at once ( a satisfying job) but not wanting a bad rain to ruin the interior he had worked on for a year (Ok.. a year and three quarters) and create the need for a mess of blue tarps Katrina style, then he had to repair soft spots, rotten eaves, even some roofline sags in a very visible spot, and get the thousands of shingles on and lined up like a military parade, only shingles don't follow directions very well, so you have to do it yourself. Meanwhile, they had to restore the siding as well, detailed above, and paint the whole house before the renters arrived and our Historic Restoration Grant writer Kurt Garner had to snap photos in time to meet a state deadline for our now two year old project to be certified for a tax break. It was hard work, but they (just barely) got it done, a busy month and a half or so..


There might have been a section or two yet to patch the observant eye might have caught, but we won't tell anyone, and it's done now..

Whew.. now e can focus on the landscaping.. and that dang copper tub!




To Book or Inquire please contact Kathleen Aman

 (574) 404-7740