Journalist, Author & Detroit-Home Renovator

Eaves + Denitls: A $27K Surprise

dentil You see that, right there? Those rectangles up at the roof line? Yeah, you’re staring at $8,860.

Those are some damned expensive boxes.

We just got our most recent bill today. The whole thing was another $60,000, but one line item was the final price tag for the dentils — essentially the decorative edge on Matilda’s roof. The frosting on Georgian Revival cake, if you will. Nine thousand dollar frosting. 

These are not things we could have anticipated when we embarked on this crazy-wonderful crazy-batshit adventure. Yes, we knew we would need new windows; we were prepared for that price tag. Plumbing? Water is good. Electrical? Well, I do love me some wifi so I can watch my stories. Heat? Mos def.

Fancy white boxes? Uh…

But these are the things you learn when you start peeling back the layers on a 100-year-old house. Have I mentioned that Matilda hits her century mark next year? That’s right, she was built in 1914. EavesCollageAnd, as with any centenarian, she was starting to slope a bit. Not only was the roof sagging, but it turns out the eaves of the house were only holding on with bailing wire and bubble gum. Ok, not really. They were being held on by about a half-dozen nails. Not sure which would be worse. Either way, it did not give us confidence about the structural surety of our house during a heavy Michigan snow.

Our contractors discovered this little problem when they were rebuilding the south roof line of the house — the one with all the new brick. As they came around the corner of the east wall, they realized *exactly* how bad it was. Dirt, carcasses and rodent nests rained down on their heads. They looked like they’d been fighting fires, as covered in black soot-type as they were. And man did it smell. We never realized why Matilda had this weird old-lady odor. It’s because she was molding from the inside. Ouf.

So, instead of “someday” scraping and painting the eaves and dentils, as originally planned, we had to start from scratch. Even the contractors were surprised. First they had to tear down the existing eaves and rebuild the entire structure, including new rafters and soffits. That cost $13,400.

Then we had to tackle the dentils. Ideally, we’d just scrape the paint off, shoot them with a fresh coat and nail them back up. Nope. Karl and I would be scraping paint until 2020 because there are 94 dentils on our house. We tried to have them chemically stripped by a millwork facility, but the cheapest option was $30/dentil. So, the better option was having new dentils cut from fresh cedar. Our contractor built them himself, complete with the trim and a first coat of paint. That was $8,890 — or $94/dentil — with installation!

But there’s more! Once the dentils were installed, they had to be caulked and given a final coat of paint. There is a business that specializes just in caulking; this fascinates me. That tab? $4,814. (Though, they will also fix the lintel above the doorway as part of that, so…)

So when you drive by our house or look at pictures, gaze lovingly at our roof line and know that you’re looking at $27,154.

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