Janet Combs

Regular readers will not be surprised to know that everything is not always hunky-dory here on Planet Janet.

Let us first examine the antiquated phrase “hunky-dory,” which is curious because it sounds like the exact opposite of what it actually means—which is “fine, going well.” As a former reporter with exacting research standards, I immediately delved into the origins of the phrase online and ended up taking a brief, unanticipated nap. So, I will spare you the details, and get right into what is not hunky-dory around here.

It’s the chimney. It leaks.

The first thing we did after purchasing our fixer-upper—before we moved in—was to find and engage a professional roofer to replace our 25-year-old roof. The damage on the old one was evident to the untrained, unobservant eye—even mine, which is famous for pulling into our driveway after work on my birthday and completely ignoring a gorgeous new Pindo Palm planted smack in the center of our front entrance and festooned with balloons.

My point is, even I was able to spot the holes in our roof caused by years of scraping by tree limbs and observe there were more old shingles strewn about the yard than were adhered to the top surfaces of the entire structure.

We hired a reputable roofing company for a fair price. But the problem is, while anyone can see what’s happening on projects at the ground level, no homeowners routinely ascend a ladder to do a walk-around up on the roof when the job is complete. But maybe we should. In our case, we would surely have noticed clues about the cover-up of a major leak.

After a recent South Carolina vicious sideways rainstorm, we noticed some water in our fireplace. Our chimney cap was rusty, so we replaced it—figuring that would do the trick. But last week’s repeat rainstorm produced the same disturbing results.

We had to hire a new roofer to go up there and check it out—because in two short years, our roofing company has disappeared to another state, along with our roof’s lifetime warranty, I suppose. The new roofer took photos of massive amounts of tar smeared up on one face of our chimney, invisible to us on the ground or from any upstairs window. When he removed the shingles from the area, he discovered rotted plywood underlayment—just covered up with this frosting of tar and skimpy layer of shingles. This explains the vast water damage we noted downstairs, directly below our fireplace, in the drywall ceiling under our raised home. We’ll be fixing that mess in a future column, which should be just hunky-dory.

The roofer had to improvise a temporary solution to seal off the chimney. He had exposed a long-standing defect but would have to address it later when he had the proper materials on site, and forsooth, heavy rain was forecast all week for our area! Forsooth is yet another archaic phrase that has appropriately found its way into this hunky-dory column.

Before he left, we asked him--why would our initial roofing contractor do such a cover-up job? He told us that many roofers hire inexperienced labor when the season is in full swing, and that some crews really don’t know what they’re doing around the angles caused by things like chimneys, so they patch over problems, get paid, and get out of town, chim-chimeree, chim-chimeroo! Though to be honest, he did not say that last part.

I suppose with drone technology, we could have requested a fly-over and seen the evidence of the Pawleys-Island-Tar-Pits-chimney-fix before we paid the final installment. If you are currently re-roofing your home, you might consider asking for this service before making your final payment.

“But Janet,” you say, “many roofing contractors might find your suggestion insulting!”

“Just hand them this column,” is my response, “and everything will be… hunky dory.”

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Contact her at www.janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.