Published: August 29, 2013
Thanks to a hard weekend of work by a crew of six men, I have a new peace of mind.
The crew replaced the faded wood shake roof on my Rockrimmon home with fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood.
We thanked our crew with pizza and beer for their work.
But I also need to thank a former neighbor, Randy Murrish, who did some heavy lifting of his own that contributed greatly to my new sense of tranquility.
For us, it was a simple process. My wife, Cary, researched all the roofing options available, selected a style and color of asphalt shingle and submitted our decision to the homeowners association, which waved it through without comment. (Waved it, that is, after they smacked down her inquiry about a smooth steel roof common in ski towns. Our HOA was having none of that nonsense!)
The new roof is something we'd wanted to do since we bought the house. It was 1997 and the massive Buffalo Creek wildfire west of Denver a year earlier was fresh on our minds.
But short of cash - a theme in my life - we prayed for a hail storm. But hail rarely came and when it did that dang wood shake was just too tough to destroy.
I remember being frustrated when hail damaged neighbors' homes and their insurance companies agreed to pay. That was the case in 2000 with my neighbor Randy.
"My cedar shake shingles were crumbling," he recalled. "Then we had a hail storm and I convinced my insurance company to pay half."
Randy was further motivated by a major wildfire in New Mexico that year and the Hi Meadow fire near Denver.
"I saw the devastation," he said. "I knew it was just a matter of time before it happened in Colorado Springs."
But when Randy researched the covenants of our Raven Hills Homeowners Association, he learned they mandated cedar shake. (It's amazing, frankly, that no one saw the inherent risk of having kindling as the chief protection for your home. Especially in a region with so many lightning strikes and wildfires.)
A few neighbors had persuaded our HOA's architectural control committee, or ACC, to allow concrete tile roofing materials. But when he studied them, Randy learned they were too heavy for our homes.
"The houses that had them, their roofs dipped in the middle because of the weight," he said.
So he put together a 20-page proposal to the ACC to justify using asphalt shingles. He had photos of the shingles on million-dollar homes in nearby Peregrine. And he submitted letters from real estate agents who said the shingles did not hurt home values.
Randy even analyzed the improvements asphalt offered in fire safety, cost and durability.
"I did a complete presentation," Randy said. "But before I got home that night, they already voted me down."
(We wrote about his fight with the HOA in 2000 as he tried to install the first asphalt shingle roof in our neighborhood.)
So he grudgingly replaced his roof with wood shingles treated with fire retardant. Randy did something else, as well. He vowed to change the rules.
Already, Boulder had banned wood shake roofs in 1994 and other cities followed. Colorado Springs didn't ban new wood shake roofs until October 2002, after the Hayman fire. But many HOAs were reluctant to allow asphalt shingles, forcing homeowners to install expensive cement and coated-steel roofs.
So Randy got himself elected to the ACC. It took a couple years, but eventually rules were changed and now asphalt shingles protect houses throughout Raven Hills.
(In fairness, our HOA was no different from many others. And wood shake roofs remain common across the region. In fact, they were mandated by covenants in Mountain Shadows and are blamed spreading the Waldo Canyon fire on several streets.)
I called Randy, who now lives in Seattle, to tell him we were thinking about him.
I told him he'd been right all along. As he had feared all those years ago, wildfire did visit the Colorado Springs area, horribly, last summer and again this year.
The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires finally scared me enough to choke down the cost of a new roof.
It's such a comfort, actually, that now we're thinking of covering our wood siding with brick or stucco.
But without people like Randy willing to speak out and fight, I might be writing a much different column, about aesthetics clouding good judgment. It would have been a lot harder for us to finally rid our home of its rotting and cracked wood shingles.
Instead, replacing our roof with attractive, common-sense materials was a breeze - except for writing a check with lots of zeroes on it.
So, for that, I thank you Randy.
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