April 8, 2004 (Ira Pilgrim)


It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do.

Elbert Hubbard

According to Benjamin Franklin, lightning rarely strikes a house with a metal roof. Being on a mountain top, lightning was a hazard. I therefore constructed an aluminum roof and grounded it, since it would repel rather than attract lightning. The problem was that no matter what I did, I couldn't seal the roof against rain. My aluminum roof had been leaking a bit for 20 years. Early in the year 2002, I stepped out on it and my foot gave where there should have been very solid 3/4 inch plywood over 2 x 8" rafters. It was obvious that the wood under the aluminum was rotten. After consulting with builder Jesse Cisney, I set about fixing it. I spent most of the month of June tearing off all of the aluminum roofing and replacing all of the rotten wood. It was one hellofa job.

I decided to replace it with a Hypalon roof. Hypalon is a polyethylene plastic and it is often called a "rubber roof." I contracted with a firm in San Jose to do the job. They were going to come here on Friday, July 12th and do the roofing on the weekend.

On Wednesday the weather people said that there was a 20 to 30% chance of showers on the day before and on the day that the roofers would arrive. The roofers said that they would be here "rain or shine." What to do?

I figured that if the wood got wet, the roofing would simply seal in the moisture and the new roof might rot. Obviously, if I waited until it rained it would be too late. If I were to protect the roof, I would have to cover it with plastic before it rained. I could take a chance on the odds. After all there was a 70 to 80% chance that it wouldn't rain. I could go with the odds and do nothing.

Now logic comes into play. If I did nothing and it didn't rain, everything would be fine. If it did rain, I would risk ruining my new roof. I could either guess that it would or it wouldn't rain. The important factor in my decision would have to consider what would be the consequences if I made a wrong guess?

I decided that the consequences, if it rained, were unacceptable. Hedging my bet and covering the roof with plastic sheeting would involve about $80 worth of plastic sheeting and a few hours stapling it into place. I decided to do it. I thought of the $80 and two hours as rain-on-the-roof insurance and thought that it was worth the price.

Well, it didn't rain. Did I kick myself for having wasted $80 and two hours? No, I did not. I had made the right decision. The fact that it didn't rain did not change the wisdom of the decision at all.

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