New Peak Cap

About 20 years ago, when I built our garage/workshop, I made a bad decision. I made a lot of good ones too, so don’t get me wrong. The bad one was the roof peak cap that I chose to install. The metal roof has worked flawlessly for me over the years. The peak cap has leaked since the day it was installed. The building is insulated, and I wanted the peak to be vented, and the product the lumber company decided to sell me was a cheap aluminum thing.

About a year ago, I found myself at the lumber company I often deal with, and decided to order the materials I would need to replace the peak. I believe I made a much wiser choice this time. The materials sat in the garage for about a year, but my mind was active much of that time. 20 years ago, my knees were just 40 years old, and I remember installing the cap by straddling the peak with one leg on each side and my knees bent. I can still remember how my young knees hurt when I came down from that job. I was pretty sure my 60 year old knees would no longer tolerate that kind of punishment. So I spent the year thinking about how I would go about this project and still be able to walk once it was done.

The steps, as I saw them, were to somehow get myself, tools, and materials safely up on the roof, provide myself with a work platform suitable for removing the old cap and installing the new one, and the capacity to store my tools safely while all this was going on. Yes, it took me a year to figure it all out, and yesterday, I got up the nerve to assemble the necessary equipment, and tackle the job.

Getting myself and the materials safely up and down from the roof was the easiest part. For years I’ve been cleaning the garage chimney by using the bucket of my bulldozer to hold my extension ladder. I raise the bucket until it is at the right angle for the ladder to lay down on the roof, climb up into the bucket, extend the ladder, and walk up the roof. I’ve done this one enough times that I could do that part in my sleep.

The work platform part of the problem had also been worked out some years ago. In order to install the antenna for my long-range cordless phone, I had fabricated a little table with legs that sat neatly over the peak of the west entry-way to our home. This table’s job was to provide a safe platform for my ladder, which I leaned against the side of the house to install the antenna on the peak. As luck would have it, the pitch of that roof is the same as the garage. I kept this table even though it was in the way thinking I might have some future use for it.

The peak needed to be vented, so I had bought some special foam material that conformed to whatever pattern the roof had, and had another very special feature… a row of adhesive that allowed the assembly of each section of cap on the ground, and that actually stayed put until it was screwed down to the roof. Previous efforts with such foam strips involved trying to keep the dang thing in place while drilling and screwing while trying to balance in a very high and slippery place. The cost of this foam vent material was not cheap, but I’d recommend it to anyone trying to do something similar.

Armed with the selection of tools I’d chosen, the first row of new peak, and the little table, I mounted the roof and started getting organized. I had hoped I’d chosen to install the old peak with screws, but found nails up there instead. Back down I came to fetch my nail puller. Friends, if you have nails to pull out of boards and you don’t have one of these devices, you should drive to your nearest hardware and get yourself one. As it has been for many other projects, this tool was perfect for this job.

I’d arrayed my growing pile of tools on the table that straddled the peak, settled myself on the table with nail-puller poised, and started removing the first section of the old cap. I then very quickly returned to the ground. Besides crazy humans, what is the one creature that loves the peaks of roofs? Wasps of course. They did not take kindly to my pounding, nor were they pleased when I pulled the roof off their snug nests in the peak of the attic. My trip to the ground was to grab every bottle of wasp killer I had. Here is where the bleeding heart part of being a bleeding heart liberal kicked in. I do admire these resourceful creatures, and their pluck at attacking anything that threatens their young. They are home builders extraordinaire, and they consume the larvae of numerous destructive insects. However, I do hate the thought of getting stung and falling off the roof, so I used most of 3 bottles of this high pressure liquid, and am happy to say I did not get stung once.

I did about half the job without shoes, but eventually the sheet metal got so hot I had to get my shoes on. I’d pull off a couple of sections of the old cap, remove any of the old deteriorated foam or other insulation so the peak was open, then slide the new section of peak under the table, drilled pilot holes with one cordless drill, then installed the self-tapping roof screw with a different cordless drill. Once I had installed several feed of the new cap, it was time to move the table. I did this by spinning around on the table to face the other direction, placing my feet carefully on the roof on either side of the peak, and lifting the table up and sliding it 6″ or so. I’d do this 5 or 6 times until I had another section I could work on. Then I’d spin back around, and get back to work. The spinning caused a problem.

The tell-tale sound of a thunk followed by a ssssssssss bang was my first clue. I’d spun and dislodged my trusty Dewalt cordless drill from its place on the table, and it slid off the roof and onto the ground. A trip down the ladder was followed by an assessment that the drill still worked (yay Dewalt) but it would no longer change directions. I took it apart on my workbench and determined what had come apart, put it back together, and was back in business in a few minutes. No change to my operational method was made, however.

The second time my drill fell off the roof, I decided I’d better rethink this thing. As I was walking down the ladder, I thought some sort of bag that I could hang over the edge of the table would work better. Perhaps I could thread an “eye hook” into the 2″ lumber on the table. By the time I’d made it into the shop, I’d changed my mind about the bag, and had settled on that staple of construction tools, the plastic 5 gallon pail. The pail stayed put for the rest of the project, and I did not drop another tool.

This picture shows me putting the final screws into the final piece of cap on the project. It took me years to finally order the materials I needed to fix the faulty peak cap, and a year of shuffling my feet before I finally got up on the roof, and in a day, I had the thing accomplished. I hope the wasps find other suitable lodging.

One Response to “New Peak Cap”

  1. Nick Holland says:

    I do love your garage, Ted.
    Glad the problem wasn’t with any of the very few nails I helped you put in it. 🙂

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