In theory, the north side of Comstock House should have been easier to shingle than the south. Yes, more shingles would be required because there's more square footage to cover; there's no chimney or porch cut-out to break up the wall on this side. But that also would mean, in theory, that the project should go faster because there would be less time-consuming work on chimney flashing and trimming all those end shingles into custom shapes to fit. It looked like a more straightforward job overall. In theory.

(RIGHT: Jim Scotchler unwraps the third of three shingle palettes that have been used to date. Each palette contains 13 squares, and each square is intended to cover 100 square feet. Actual coverage is less due to defects - shingles too narrow or uneven - and because we are strictly using the old standards where there is only 4½ inches of shingle exposed)

Before any work could begin, we had to evict our squatters. Honeybees had lived in a portion of the north wall for as long as forty years, and getting rid of them required tearing open the sheathing. We moved our scaffolding from the south side of the house to the corner with the bees, and made a date with beekeeper and "structural extraction" expert Coral Pawka to round 'em up and move 'em out. The tale of this adventure is told in a previous post (don't miss the video).

The other major obstacle was reaching the peak and upper section of the northwest corner. There's a three-foot bump-out for the kitchen, making it impossible to erect the usual scaffolding up against the house. This corner also has the electrical service, so there were also safety concerns about having a scaffold near the lines. We contacted Marshall Scaffolding in Santa Rosa and arranged for them to set it up, and their solution was ingenious. A traditional scaffold remained on the east side and on the west, sections were built up both from the ground and from the roof over the kitchen. Planks bridged over the twin scaffolds. A photo can be seen at the end of this post; every part of the structure was absolutely rock-solid, even at the very top. My highest recommendation goes to these good folks. But like the removal of the bees, this was essentially a separate construction project from the work at hand.

We have some concerns that the bees may try to return to the location of their old home in the spring, even though all the honeycomb is gone (we hope), their former residence between wall studs is now packed with insulation, and every possible entrance way is sealed (we hope). We likewise expect that the new shingles will deter the woodpecker that did so much damage over the windows in the servant's bedroom and attic.

The real estate agent told us that a servant had died in that bedroom (VERY doubtful) and hinted that some thought it haunted. Then a few weeks after we moved in I heard a knocking coming from there; assuming it was a plumber or someone working on the house, I checked outside. No one around. The same thing happened shortly thereafter, and confess that I was now mildly spooked. Finally I caught our "ghost" in the act; instead of the furious rat-a-tat-tat I associate with Woody Woodpeckers, this fellow makes a few pecks that sound like knocking or hammering, then peeps into the hole to see if there's anything for eats. Before the reshingling I kept a big aluminum skillet in the attic, and whammed it against the wall whenever I heard the "ghost," which seemed to exorcise it for a couple of days.


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