June, 2002
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Volunteer Recognition Issue: First State Roofing Crew


I  only had two inspectors left to call when I dialed Dave Pack. The pre-dawn rain disappointed me. The First State Chapter had volunteered to put on a roof for the nearby Habitat for Humanity® project. The rain was problematic. It wasn’t a real hard rain, but it was rain nonetheless.

Our schedules are tough. We book a week to 10 days in advance. Once set, a home inspection cannot be moved. Half of our membership offered to donate this day. No one was getting paid. The volunteers all just wanted to help. We were looking forward to the task at hand.

I had already called Bill Stecher at 6:45 a.m. He had taken a vacation day from GM to help. He told me that he would be willing to put the roof on if it cleared up a little bit, maybe that afternoon. I turned on the news. Spotty rain all day. It didn’t look promising. I know Bill’s heart is in the right place, but it didn’t make sense to be up on a slippery roof. Funny, Dave Fogerty, a Candidate member shared the same desire to help just a few minutes ago.

Volunteers.gifThe adage that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions popped into my mind as I called Dave. I said, “Looks like we can’t do it today, the rain is fouling up our plans.” He responded, “The hell with that, I’m going! I’m picking up Rob. We are going to be there at 8:30!” Rob was the last inspector on my list to call. Everyone knows you don’t call Rob Pfeiffer before 7:30 a.m. (Photo: First State Chapter members on a Habitat for Humanity® roofing project: (l to r) Jeffrey Boyce, Rob Pfeiffer, Dave Pack, vice-president; Bill Stecher, Phil Parke, president; Jeff Rau, treasurer; and John Spoehr, secretary)

Wow, I thought. The tide has turned. Spirit can make this happen. It’s just 15 square on a six twelve pitch, maybe we can do it. How many guys do we need? We can do this. I started the calls again. Phil Parke had called Don Pyle, who said despite the rain he planned to go over and nail up some starter shingles around 9 a.m. Bill said he wanted to go over, too. Unfortunately, Dave Fogerty had already gone in to work.

Jeff Rau and Jeff Boyce agreed to come by and help if the weather cleared. Sounds like a roofing team. Seven guys, one roof, one rainy day. Some men faint in the face of diversity, others snarl in its face.

When we pulled up to the job site, the supervisor said, “I really didn’t expect you guys today.” He added while nodding and pointing upward, “The rain and all.” Rob responded, “We’re willing.” Our wet group donned rain jackets and knee pads, gloves and safety glasses. We put on hats and grabbed hammers.

The site supervisor came back and said, “I really don’t think it’s safe for you guys to get up on the roof today.” I argued, “We will not put ourselves at risk. None of us have insurance. We are all solely dependent on our ability for a paycheck, so if we fall off we won’t get any future pay as inspectors. We wouldn’t risk our livelihoods.” The supervisor shook his head back and forth contemplating the profound and apparent lack of reasoning in my argument, but conceded.

Up we went. When the last guy got on the roof the heavens opened. Down we went, off to breakfast where we determined the division of labor. Up we went again an hour later. I watched the guys begin to work. It was completely different than we discussed over coffee just a few minutes before.

Don tied himself off with a rope and headed down to begin the starter course. Jeff steadied him and held onto his rope. Dave grabbed the air nailer and walked boldly to the edge. Phil picked up a bundle of shingles and marched down toward him. The other Jeff, perched on the low corner, started to cut shingles into the far end of the starter row. Rob carried supplies up and down the ladder. Bill began to work quietly on the front of the roof. I cut shingles and slit open bundles, trying to stay ahead of the guys.

About an hour later the rain really began to come down. The wind picked up. Most of us were eying the ladder when Dave, reading our minds said, “I am not getting down.” Fortunately, the downpour was just for five minutes.


It was rather surrealistic being up on the roof in the rain. The roof was wet but the shingles were dry. They were in the wrappers. We stood on wet felt paper while nailing down dry shingles. The shingles we stood on were drier than the roof!

When the lunch whistle blew, we all took a break. The crews working inside were all dry and dusty. We looked like wet rats. They wisely ate inside staying dry. We ate outside in the heavy steaming mist. We were already soaked through. What did it matter? When the pizza arrived, Don was the first to open his wallet treating his fellow “roofers” to a hot lunch.

Twenty minutes later up we went again. Phil wondered aloud, “if we could get MRC credits for a hands on roofing seminar” Jeff piped in, “yeah, what not to do when putting on a roof.” Dave chimed in, “What would OSHA have to say about this class?” Rob, the smartest among us, volunteered to call Heather at ASHI in Chicago. We warned him not to get distracted, and to stay up on the roof. All the while, Bill worked quietly on the front roof.

When we were nearly done, the site supervisor came up. He had previously peered at our work from the ladder’s edge, not venturing into our territory. He now dared to inspect the inspector’s work! The other Jeff asked, “Have you ever seen a better job?” No response. “Have you ever seen a better job done in the rain?” Still no response. “Have you ever seen us do a better job in the rain?” He smiled and quipped, “No, and don’t give up your day jobs.”

At the end of the day, I stood in awe of my peers. We had every reason to be proud. This was certainly the only roof installed in the county that day. None of us wanted to see the project delayed over our participation on the roof.

Okay, we admit, the back roof wasn’t looking real good. Bill, working quietly on the front, had laid things out nicely. You can’t string or chalk a line in the rain. But it was finished. The roof wouldn’t leak. One more family would have a dry roof over their heads. We all felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

On the next day at the trade show, Joe Schwab, who couldn’t attend our last meeting, said, “I read last month’s minutes. I guess I will see you guys tomorrow on the rain date for putting on the roof for Habitat.” We had to answer sheepishly, “the roof is done.” He looked a little dumbfounded and disappointed. “What’s the point of having a rain date, if you are going to put the roof on in the rain?”

Sorry Joe, we didn’t mean to exclude you from the fun. We all silently understood that the camaraderie sprinkled with friendship would grow, and our day’s adventure would become embellished as the years passed. I think we even impressed ourselves. The First State ASHI Roofing Crew encourages all of you to have as much fun one day.