You will never forget your first shot | The property



The hallmark of a good builder is the willingness to admit your mistakes. If they are really good, they are rare, which makes them even more memorable. Most of all I remember the first one.

I was on the rooftop north of the city on October 6, 1986. I worked alone installing a skylight on the kitchen ceiling. I had been in town for less than four months and was still in the pretend till you get there in my carpentry career.

My boss at the time was impressed with my quick learning curve and convinced me that I was ready for a weekend job. So, with some confidence and a lot of trepidation, I agreed to give it a try.

The installation of a skylight in a ceiling with beams and tongue-and-groove decking starts at the bottom as the hole has to be centered and it is impossible to know where the beams are when standing on the roof looking down at tar and gravel.

Since the roof had 4 “thick sheets of rigid insulation above the deck, the space between the ceiling and the roofing material was not very deep. This meant that a 12-inch drill could pierce the entire assembly.

After determining the four corners of the skylight, holes were drilled and dowels were inserted into each hole so that the shape of the box was visible on the roof, where the next stage of work would take place.

Climbing onto the roof, I was delighted to see the dowels, but a little worried that there seemed to be a small depression on the flat roof where a new light box would be built. Since I was relatively new to flat roofs, I just assumed it was normal and decided to make sure that the new roof has a lot of resin build-up.

Over time, tar and gravel roofs became less common, but in 1986 they were still the rule. After you have scraped off as much of the gravel as can be separated from the resin, the next step was to grind the resin and paper with a blunt hatchet.

After the first double blows, when I felt confident, I felt something wet on the back of my head. What the heck? Snowflake on October 6?

Having moved from Boston in June and having spent high school and college in Michigan, I’m no stranger to snow, but never in early October. Welcome to Santa Fe.

The snow started getting heavier and I knew I was in trouble. I climbed off the roof to tell the sweet homeowner, an elderly woman in a wheelchair, that I had stopped to get the plastic to cover the work. By the time I returned, the snow was 2 inches deep, and all the pots and pans the woman owned were scattered across the kitchen, filling with an even chorus of clinking sounds.

I quickly built the tent out of plastic and weighted the edges with two by four concrete blocks to hold them in place, but it was useless. The trench was collecting water from a room larger than the kitchen downstairs, and the melting snow simply seeped through the gravel beneath the tent. Snow cannot be removed from the engraved roof.

By the time this bizarre storm ended, 6 inches of wet soil had fallen. The next day, everything melted and ended up in the poor woman’s kitchen. I didn’t get a chance to see the extent of the damage because she called me that night and fired me. You never forget their first shooting.

Kim Shanahan was

Santa Fe has been an eco-builder since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him by phone


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