Thursday, May 03, 2018

Shingle through the front window

My mother's house was built to accommodate my parents' growing family. It was completed shortly before their second child - me - was born. For fifty years it has withstood several hurricanes, major windstorms, hail, pounding rain, all without major damage.

Until today.

Today after work I meant to mow the lawn at my house, but the early afternoon was hot and humid, and a thunderstorm was supposed to be on the way. I decided to hold off until about 6:00, by which time the storm would have hit or missed. I came to my mom's house, took care of the cats, and got out the ironing board I bought her last weekend so she could iron some of her slacks that needed ironing. While she ironed, I sat in the front room and checked my friends' updates on Facebook and Twitter. When she was done, I put the ironing board away and headed down to use the downstairs bathroom.

A few minutes later she was calling for me to hurry upstairs. A shingle had just smashed through the front window.

Image may contain: plant, table and indoor

In those few minutes the storm had hit, manifesting as a severe windstorm with some rain. The storm had picked up an asphalt shingle from somewhere and sent it as a high-speed projectile through the front window next to where I had just been sitting.

No automatic alt text available.

For  the past few years I have been finding random shingles while I have been mowing the lawn. I don't know where they're coming from. They have a black base coated with green pebble finish overlaid with white flecks. This was another one of those. 

Image may contain: plant

You may recognize this window as a favorite location for cats to sit and watch the outside world, as seen here with Romeo and here with Peaches. Fortunately, no cats were in the window when it was smashed.

Image may contain: plant, tree and outdoor

My first instinct was to smash out the rest of the glass, to eliminate the possibility of any pieces falling like guillotines. But better thought prevailed, and I realized the insurance adjuster might want to see the damage as it was done.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

I covered over the window with some not-very-waterproof material, so I am hoping that there aren't any major wind or rainstorms before we can get it replaced.

Image may contain: plant, grass, outdoor and nature

The lawn is now covered with shingles and pieces of shingles. My first thought was to pick them up before they could do any more damage. But, again, I thought the insurance adjuster might want to see them, so I left them in place.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Tellingly, the lawn is also covered with magnolia petals. Is this a clue as to where the shingles came from?

Image may contain: grass, plant and outdoor

Fifty years this house has gone without damage. How long will it be before this sort of thing happens again?

UPDATE, May 4, 2018


I took today off to take my mom for a medical procedure. We left at about 9:00. The lawn was wet, so as I helped her to the car, I told her to be careful not to slip on the grass - or on the shingles that littered both the back and front yards. I had left them in place so the insurance adjuster could see them in situ, but I planned to clean up the ones in the back yard when we got home.

We didn't get home until nearly 1:00 in the afternoon. We got settled in. My mom lay down on the couch to recover from her procedure, and I set to work putting in a slightly better temporary fix for the broken window until the adjuster can get a look at it and we can get started replacing it - or possibly replacing the entire fifty year old bay window. When I was done I stepped outside to check the mail.

I noticed something immediately: some of the glass from inside the house had made it outside the house and onto our flagstone front porch. The flagstones have needed repair in the past, and some of the steps have been replaced, but this winter many new cracks appeared. Dealing with them is a major project for this summer.

Then I noticed the second thing: a crumbing polystone angel - the same one who, in her younger days, guarded the broken bottom step as it was repaired - had been moved from the broken top step, where she serves to dissuade anyone from coming all the way up the steps. Had someone put mail in the regular mailbox, instead of the temporary one at the bottom of the steps? Wait ---

The shingles that had littered the porch were gone.

So were the bits that were on the steps.

And all of the shingles that had littered our front yard.

Had the insurance adjuster stopped by and collected the evidence?

Or had someone come by and removed the evidence that linked the damage to our house to the shingles from theirs?

(SPOILER ALERT: The insurance adjuster hasn't stopped by yet.)

As I walked around the front yard looking for any remaining shingles - there were none - I saw our next-door neighbor, who I haven't seen in the better part of a year. We shook hands and spoke. I told him about our window (assuring him that the shingles hadn't come from his roof - I checked), and he told me that part of his fence had been wind-damaged, too. While we spoke, I noticed that the lilac on the edge of our yard closest to his house was starting to bloom. (It was fully in bloom in just four hours.) As I turned to go back in the house, the mail carrier called to me and handed me our mail.

I went out the back door and stalked around the back yard to collect all the shingles I could find.

No automatic alt text available.

These are the shingles - shingle fragments, really - from the back yard. They are the same color and condition as the one that came through the window.

Image may contain: plant, outdoor and nature

A close-up of one of the back yard shingles. The black base is covered with a roughly 50/50 mix of green and white granules, which should produce a light grayish green color from a distance. It is also badly weathered and raggedly torn, creating black spots where the granules are missing.  What houses in the neighborhood had shingles like this, in this condition?

Only one way to find out. I decided to go for a walk.

The plan was simple: I would walk south to the end of the block, cross the street heading west, then turn into the alley behind the first row of houses, where there are several detached sheds and garages that might have roofs somewhat less well maintained than the houses they belong to.

No automatic alt text available.
My mom's house is on the upper right. The smashed window is near the white spot that is the statue of Mary in a grotto that I bought my mom for Mother's Day thirteen years ago.

It didn't take long to spot the first candidate, which I saw as soon as I turned down the alley.

Image may contain: sky, tree, car, plant, house and outdoor
Garage is in lower left of image above, just off the alley.

The roof of this garage is in terrible shape. Most of the shingles are broken off or missing entirely.

Image may contain: outdoor

Could this be the source of the shingles? It's certainly lost a lot of shingles. But, despite the terrible shape that the roof is in, the shingles that remain don't show the black spots indicating missing granules.

The second candidate was a little more surprising, yet at the same time is the most obvious. It's the house directly across the street from the broken window, the second one from the top left in the photo above.

Image may contain: sky, house, cloud and outdoor

The reason this is surprising is that, from the front, the roof doesn't seem to have lost any shingles. But from the alley that runs behind it, you can see there are quite a few missing shingles.

Image may contain: outdoor

In the zoomed image, you can see that several of the shingles are missing - and several broke off raggedly like the shingles I found in the back yard. In addition, considerable weathering is evident, in the black spots that indicating the missing granules, as observed above.

When I started my investigation I had two suspect houses in mind. Neither of them are the ones I found with damaged and missing shingles.

Will any of this be of any consequence? That's doubtful, unless my mom is going to try to recover her house insurance deductible - which could be considerable. We'll see, But at least now I have photos.

No comments: