Return to:
Windy Meadow Farm
    Horses and Riding
  Farm Life
List of other articles on by:




How Not to Paint a Tin Roof

Michael Hillman

Being raised in suburbia, the very idea that tin roofs still existed, let alone that I would ever own a home with one, was completely foreign to me. My naiveté of tin roofs went so far that I actually planned to replace our home's tin roof with a shingle roof soon after purchasing the farm. Bill, my younger brother, gave me his best "I'm not related to you look" when I broached the subject. As I began to iterate my reasons, Bill took the glass I was holding and smelled it. "I thought the doctor told you not to mix alcohol with those pills..."

Bill's argument that tin roofs were great, and the sound of rain on them was the most pleasing sound you'll ever hear, causing even an insomniac to sleep like a baby, fell on deaf ears. It wasn't until he mentioned that tin roofs last a lifetime, and only need an occasional coat of paint, that my mind began to change. I mentally summed up the cost of the two or three gallons of paint to the cost of replacing the roof and reluctantly agreed with his logic.

Over the ensuing years, I kept a watchful eye on the roof for any signs of rust. As the last of the initial farm improvements was completed, I broached the subject of changing the roof's color. My wife Audrey concurred, and green was quickly agreed to.

When told that the roof was my next adventure, Paul at Zurgable Brothers Hardware grinned, "The roof -- does Audrey know you’re doing this? I don't think she's notified the ambulance squad yet." In response to his inquiry of why I was only buying two gallons, I reminded him that I was a nuclear engineer and had scientifically calculated how much paint I needed. Paul smiled, "Didn't you say the same thing about your tractor?"

When I returned home, I grabbed a paintbrush and headed to the attic. Now, I should have been a little bit more tuned into the fact that if God had meant man to paint roofs on blistering hot August days, he would have given us skin that could withstand three hundred-degree temperatures. To steady myself while I opened the paint cans, I touched the roof with my hand. The smell my skin gave off was reminiscent of a blacksmith hot shoeing a horse. I tried to scurry back to the attic opening, only to find that my sneakers had melted fast to the roof.

Pain, as I quickly learned, is a powerful motivator, and before I knew it I was safely back in the attic, albeit barefoot. Unfortunately, upon realizing that my roof was the equivalent of a frying pan, I jettisoned the paint cans, which promptly rolled down and off the roof and onto one of Audrey's prize gardens. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to scrape my sneaker off the roof and dreaming up excuses.

"See, I knew you'd need more than two gallons" Paul smugly said, looking inquisitively at my banged hands, arms, legs and feet.

"Yeah, yeah, just give me two more gallons. By the way, do you have paint remover?" I asked.

"What size do you need?"

"Hum, do you sell it in 55 gallon drums……?"

The next evening I ventured out onto the roof once again. Up until now, I had managed to delude myself into believing that I had no fear of heights. But as I looked down at the ground, a mile or so below, I suddenly realized that I had a very real fear of heights. Once again I found myself making a mad scramble for the attic opening, again to the sound of paints cans rolling off the roof in the background.

The following day I returned again to Zurgable Brothers Hardware for more paint, paint remover, and all the clothesline they had. That evening, I made a roof ladder and cautiously crawled onto the roof, reassured that I was securely tied to our bed, two stories down, with six separate lines. Over the following two hours, I strung lines every which way imaginable across the roof. By the time I was done, the roof looked like it had a cargo net strung over it.

The painting on the shallow sloped sections of the roof went quickly. My nerves started to get the better of me on the steeper sloped front roof, but as the porch roof was below it, any fall would be short. The west side of the roof, however, was a whole different story. No roof was below it, and thus any fall from it was going to hurt.

After much haggling, I finally convinced Audrey to join me on the roof to watch for any signs of failure or movement in the roof ladder. In spite of all these precautions, my nerves quickly returned. Before I knew it, I was slopping the paint on as fast as I could while simultaneously reciting, nonstop, the act of contrition. Once secure again in the attic, I cut lose all the lines. Unfortunately, I never considered the possibility that they might stick to the wet paint. By the time I finished pulling them off and with it the paint holding them, the roof looked like I had painted it after one too many gin and tonics, which I had. Up close, the silver lines looked like tinsel on a green Christmas tree. Fortunately, they couldn't be seen from the ground, so I took refuge in an old painter’s saying, "high work is not eye work," and moved onto the furnace chimney.

Now I had held off painting the furnace chimney in hope that I would be rewarded for all those acts of contrition with some divine inspiration on how to paint it. Rising over ten feet above the roof, there was no easy way to get at it. I eventually settled upon the harebrained idea of using a four foot step ladder, propping up one side of it with some boards.

With a full can of paint in my hands, I nervously ascended the ladder. Once on the top step, I reached up and grabbed the chimney liner. The ladder thought this an excellent time to slide down the roof. I called for Audrey. No response. I called again. Again, no response. I rationally assessed my situation, and it occurred to me that I had only one option ... I screamed. Still no Audrey. By now I felt like I had been hanging for hours and started to consider my options, all of which started with dropping the bucket of paint I was holding down the flue and into the furnace.

Just about the time I had convinced myself that a gallon of paint wouldn't hurt the furnace, and that two broken legs really weren't that bad, Audrey appeared from around the corner, "What are you yelling about now?"

"What do you think I'm yelling about? The ladder's slipped. Will you come up and put it back into place?"

"Do I really have to get back on the roof?"




"Do you promise to stop making me look mean in your stories?"

"What? I don't make you look mean!"

"Have it your way, see you later." 


Read other Humor stories by Michael Hillman

Read other stories by Michael Hillman