Amesbury Roof Repair

July 10, 2017

“We’ve had our eyes on this roof for several years now,” says John Alioto, Longyear Museum’s Facilities Manager. He’s speaking about the kitchen ell and shed roofs on the Mary Baker Eddy Historic House in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he and his team have been on the alert since the day he had to insert a piece of flat of copper to replace a cedar shingle that had deteriorated.

A combination of age, moisture, and moss damaged
the shingles on the Amesbury shed roof.
“Shingles were literally falling to the ground,” John explains. “Portions of the roof on the rear kitchen ell were deteriorating due to a breakdown of the wood caused by years of exposure to rain and snow, and the resulting bio growth that took over.”

With growing concern that rainwater might seep through the tar paper or ice-and-water shield underlayment and leak into the house, repairing the kitchen ell roof became a top priority. The attached shed roof was in equally poor condition.

The job began with extensive research.

“Planning is a very large part of taking care of the historic houses,” John continues. He and Rex Nelles, Longyear’s Historic House Project Coordinator, diligently consulted industry-recognized reference books on cedar roofs, built a small model to work out the flashing details, conferred with experts, and designed a strategy for how to proceed. After considering six different types of wood, the team settled on red cedar shingles from the Pacific Northwest.

“We really needed to protect the house for a longer period with this repair, so we decided to go with a thicker, more durable shingle that can last through years of tough weather,” says John. To further prolong the life of the new roof, the team also decided to add an air space under the shingles to speed up drying time after a rain.

Longyear hired roofers experienced in historic preservation, and Rex was onsite every day overseeing all phases of the project.

Underneath the new shingles and on top of the ice and water shield (a thick membrane that resists moisture) is a layer of strapping: horizontal bands of wood that are evenly spaced in intervals, promoting air flow and enabling shingles to dry more quickly.

“We began by stripping the old shingles off the kitchen ell roof, installing strapping, and then adding new shingles,” Rex says, recalling the particulars of the job. “The second phase involved stripping the shed roof, making repairs to the deteriorated sections, and installing long-lasting asphalt shingles.”

Wooden shingles weren’t a good option for the shed, he points out, given the shallow pitch of its roof. Since asphalt is both durable and less costly than cedar, it was the perfect solution for this out-of-sight location.

Amesbury shed roof before (left) and after (right) repairs.

The final step in the process was installing the copper gutters.

“Because copper inhibits bio growth, copper strips were also added at the ridge and partway down the kitchen ell roof,” says John, explaining that rainwater picks up minute amounts of copper as it flows over the strips, dispersing it onto the cedar shingles and prolonging their life.

Deteriorated wooden gutters were replaced with long-lasting historic half-round copper gutters.

With periodic cleaning and water-repellent treatments, the new historically-accurate cedar roof should last for up to three decades, and the copper gutters for well over 50 years.

New copper gutters and completed repairs on the kitchen ell roof.

The Amesbury house is the oldest in the Longyear collection, dating from the late 18th century. This summer, we expect to replace deteriorated clapboards and trim prior to painting the exterior. We also hope to begin restoring historic windows and installing protective storms.

If you would like to support upcoming work at the Mary Baker Eddy Historic House in Amesbury, please click here.
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