Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blue Skylights

I mentioned in my previous post that my neighbor's roof was a disgrace, what I didn't include was a picture of my own:
This was the state of my sorry skylight as of the middle of January.  This next picture is even more fun:

This one is nice becauseit really shows how the panels were deteriorating.  At the top, on the left of the greenish panels you can see where it's all dented in - that's where a cat nearly fell through many months ago but we didn't really feel the need to fix it as the water was dripping directly into our bathtub.

I have been planning to replace them for a long time, and I'm proud to say that they now look like this:

A major improvement, right?  Yes, I agree, and I'm thrilled!  But you have no idea how much work was involved in getting these lovely blue panels in place.

I won't bore you with all the details, just a few of them.  After I figured out what material to use (polycarbonate) and where to buy it, I finally got off my lazy ass and got the stuff.  One thing I've learned here in Brazil, which is not Do-It-Yourself friendly, is that's it's best not even to mention that you're going to do it yourself.  Otherwise, they'll tell you you can't do it.  So I pretended I was working from a list that a 'contractor' had given me, as I was feeling out what was available and would serve my purposes.  Inevitably, the sales clerk asked me who was doing the work, and I told him some guy, and he asked me if the guy had worked with polycarbonate before, and I said that he claimed that he had, and we laughed and carried on.  Everything came in pieces four meters long, which looked pretty funny tied to the top of my little car.  The panels rolled up into a big roll which fit in my hatch.

One thing I opted to do was to simply duplicate the basic structure of the panels that were already there - I didn't take advantage of the fact that the polycarbonate is very flexible, and I could have made a really nice curved cap to fit over the space, but it would have been much more involved so I didn't.  Here's a picture of how curly the stuff is:

The curliness was a bonus, but I was more interested in its heat-absorbing (and hopefully sound-reducing) qualities.  I also figured it would last a lot longer than the stoopid corrugated panels I had previously used.  We'll see about that.

What followed was a lot of sawing and drilling and riveting and caulking.  I had to make a chop-saw jig for my circular saw to cut the aluminum, it worked pretty well.  I ain't no carpenter, but I can carpent when the need arises.  It took forever as I'm super slow, but I'm pretty confident the end result is solid.  Here's one of the finished panels:

Next came the fun part. What you can't tell from the picture on my roof is that the air shaft under the skylights is about 30 feet deep.  It would not be fun to fall down it, not even a little.  So I pulled out the harness I'd purchased long ago to save me from almost certain death:

My brothers had to patch up those skylights the day before my wedding without the benefit of ropes and harnesses, but that's another story.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of me in action as I tore out the old panels and then put in the new panels.  I'm still not quite done, but most of the heavy lifting is finished and the ropes have not been 'tested.'

One of the corollary tasks I performed in order to facilitate the job may be the coolest thing of all: I cut a hole in my roof so I'd have easier access to it.  It's still not easy access, as I need to climb two ladders to get up there, but it's better:

It's hard to tell from this picture, but it looks down through the attic, then through the trap door and down to the second floor of the house - it's a long freakin' way down.

So now let me go on a bit about the results of my new skylights.  I'm waiting for a nice, big, juicy downpour, but as far as I can tell they are quite waterproof.  Cats will not fall through them.  They do appear to reduce street noise.  And one more thing:

You may have noticed, being the extremely observant reader that you are, that the panels I purchased are blue.  I did that because they were out of white and gray.  Let me tell you something my friend, they make practically the whole house blue during the day:

As a friend of mine observed, it's like being in an aquarium.  It really is.  I kinda hate it actually.  I'm starting to get used to it, and the sun may eventually bleach out some of the blue, but it's really really really blue.  It's so blue that when your eyes adjust to it and then you step into normal light, everything looks really really really orange for a few minutes.

So what's my next project?  Figuring out how to mute the blue.  My expensive art degree taught me at least one thing: complementary colors placed side by side will generate maximum contrast, but combined one with the other they will cancel each other out, ie turn gray.

Anything orange under this blue turns a kind of sickly gray.

So here's the plan:  hang big, orange paintings in the air shaft and paint an orange mural: this should take care of some of the reflected blue light in there.  But probably what will make the biggest difference will be to hang some orange fabric under the skylights.  It pains me a bit to do it, but although I like blue I don't like it that much.  And I don't plan to buy any more polycarbonate anytime soon.

Well, dear reader, you made it to the end of another long post.  That means you're either a total dork on the same wavelength as I am or you have nothing better to do.  So as a reward, I'm going to post a picture from my new series of street 'bombs.'  This was painted today, and took me all of five minutes.