How to COVER a Home

Story by Finn Burns serving with COVER Home Repair; Photos by Cassidy Francik serving with VHCB


After a home repair project in South Royalton, my supervisor and I drove to a home in Chelsea to measure the length and width of a roof. As I got up on the ladder. helping my supervisor measure, I realized just how high up and how steep this roof was. I immediately began to dread the work ahead of us, and I secretly hoped that I would be working with my other supervisor doing weatherization. Alas, my wish was not granted and I ended up working on the roof for 6 days. However, I sure am glad I was there for those 6 days, as it was very fulfilling to see the project start to finish.DSC_0010 (2)

The scaffolding was in place and it was time to go up on the roof to remove the old metal. Somehow I found myself up top with the homeowner, and even though I was on a roofing ladder, I was still very uncomfortable. What I found to be uncomfortable seemed to be easy for the homeowner; he had obviously been on this roff multiple times. I am sure the volunteers on the ground found the difference in confidence to be very funny. Seeing how the homeowner moved around with such grace and confidence, made me more confident and as I watched him, I learned some tricks that made moving about much easier.

When the old roofing was all off, it was time to put on the vertical strapping. I was instructed to put 2 nails every foot using the nail gun. I did the bottom half as the homeowner did the top half. After I finished my half, I watched the homeowner do his; I watched in shame as he did it roughly 3 times faster than me. From watching the homeowner use the nail gun and doing it over and over again, I began to move very quickly myself and by the end of the roof, I was just as fast as the homeowner.

FinnFour hours into the repair, I became more comfortable and much more proficient 20 feet above the ground. After lunch, the homeowner and I were back up on the roof with some additional help from a volunteer. Now came the time to put the new roof on; I had done this before, but never on such a steep surface. Despite some fumbles early on, I did as I did before: I watched and learned.

The homeowner and I didn't talk much other than small talk, but I learned so much from simply watching him. Ever since I join COVER, I remind myself of the slogan, "COVER views service as fundamentally a process of exchange in which each party offers something of great value to the lives of the other," at every site. At first, I thought this slogan was in place to make the homeowner feel good, but now I understand. I offered my services to the homeowner and in turn he taught me so many lessons that will help me tremendously throughout this year and the rest of my life. Despite my initial fears, I could not be more thankful for those 6 days.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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