Up on the roof first thing in the morning…

Uncle Joel is afraid of heights. Always has been and it’s not easing with age. But some things are simpler than others, and fortunately for me one of those things is working on the new addition’s nice flat roof. Also, getting up there is no big trick.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t put it off as long as feasible, just because it’s still the top of a roof and I’m afraid of heights. To get past my limitations, I resolve to hit it first thing in the morning – after first coffee but before breakfast – to get it done and out of my life. Also, I approach all scary or distasteful jobs with a sort of ritual of meticulous preparation.

In this particular case, I had to mount the outdoor antenna of Terrapod’s (prototype) passive cell signal booster (Yes, I owe you a care package post. I’ve been lazy…)


…as high as possible on the Lair’s wall, and that meant climbing on to the bedroom’s roof. Scary but doable even for me.

The process for mounting a ladder to the Lair which will permit ol’ scared and one-legged Joel to safely get on top of the bedroom is a little complex, but that aids in the ‘ritual of meticulous preparation’ previously mentioned…


Move the stairs away from the porch. (Don’t forget to unbar the bedroom’s back door, because as soon as you have moved the stairs you’ll remember some essential tool, part or step in the process you left inside the cabin.)


Untie two cords holding the free corner of the sunshade to the junipers. Push one grommet off one hook so that the shade lies flat against the cabin.


Extend Landlady’s Gorilla ladder. Climb up and tie the ladder to the handhold lag-bolted to the side of the cabin for that purpose.

Yes – that last step isn’t only a nod to my acrophobia. It only makes sense when you live all by yourself in the boonies. I have one former neighbor whose life was forever ruined by a ladder that slid sideways for no particular reason. And that’s why every part of the cabin likely to host an extended ladder is ringed with securely-mounted handholds or eyelets.

Once the ladder is securely in place…


…the transition is so simple it doesn’t even scare me. And I had a real lifelong problem transitioning from a roof to a ladder even before I lost my leg.

(The easy part) Affix the antenna as high as practical on the wall facing the nearest (>10 miles away, and not in line of sight) cell tower…


Terrapod’s detailed instructions called for me to drill a 1/2″ hole in the wall just under the antenna to accommodate the coax but I balked at that until I’m sure the contraption actually does some good. Right now the coax is passed through the loft’s vent window. If I decide the antenna is to be permanent, drilling the hole at that part of the roof is actually a trivial affair because I can get at the wall behind the insulation.

ETA: Oops – the other end of the contraption…


I still have to work out how best to mount the indoor antenna. Right now it’s just dangling over the loft railing – and I have to say, not doing any obvious good but it’s early yet.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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11 Responses to Up on the roof first thing in the morning…

  1. Ben says:

    Actually the dangle might be the best “mount” of all, because it’s out in the open with no structure to absorb the signal. Did you think to check how many bars you had on your phone while you were up on the roof? If you didn’t have a good signal up there, a passive unit is unlikely to be of much help.

    Also, hold your phone near the inside antenna. Does it gain a bar?

  2. Joel says:

    Did you think to check how many bars you had on your phone while you were up on the roof?

    No – and I had the phone with me, too. Really wish I’d thought of that. I will say though that signal strength is always consistently higher on the ridgetops than down in my hollow, and generally a little higher in the loft than on the main floor. So it might do some good.

  3. Zelda says:

    Do you have any concerns about lightning hits from having the device on your cabin?

  4. Joel says:

    Won’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, but no. The only metal I want above the peak would be a thoroughly grounded lightning rod – but the chimney cap is above the peak and has never been struck that I know of. A small antenna on the wall below the peak shouldn’t increase risk.

  5. bmq215 says:

    Metal above the peak should only matter if it’s tied to ground. So the chimney cap might be an attractor if there was a path from the stove into something like water piping, but not if the stove is just sitting on some nice non-conductive tile. Ditto the antenna contraption. If the inside end is just floating in air it should be a far less optimal “path” than any nearby tree, even if they happen to be shorter.

    Actually, now that I think about it, your off-grid system and pier foundation might make you pretty damn lightning-proof. Is your system grounded in any way? Or does it all just go back to the batteries?

  6. Joel says:

    “Should only matter” is not the same as does not matter when it comes to lightning. I am reminded of a lightning strike J&H’s house took on their stovepipe, which was decidedly not grounded but where the tiles on the pedestal exploded like grenades just because. Nobody was injured but H complained of tinnitus for a month. Lightning doesn’t really care.

    Also in 2015 I lost my inverter to what I think was an indirect strike and never did learn where the lightning actually struck. But the inverter was definitely toast, so it doesn’t really matter.

  7. bmq215 says:

    Agreed. I tend to think of lightning the same way I do poison ivy. I think I’m relatively immune and that’s a comforting extra layer of protection but I still avoid it like the plague because it’s just not worth discovering that I’m wrong.

  8. John in Philly says:

    We have a complicated ladder made by a different company.
    Although it hasn’t yet happened, I’ve begun to think of it as a finger guillotine.

    I don’t like heights one little bit.

  9. I like the permanently mounted handhold idea. I’m going to steal that.

  10. Joel says:

    🙂 It’s your house and you can put handles on it if you want to.

  11. terrapod says:

    Looks pretty good up on the wood wall near the peak. Just hope it is somewhat aimed at the nearest cell tower with the flat profile towards same. My thought was that when using your phone as the computer hot spot, you set it close to the indoor passive unit. With some luck and aim it may give you a slightly better signal than otherwise. You can also tweak the indoor coiled part by either stretching out the coils a bit or compressing them to see which way improves the bars on the phone. If it is all for naught, we learned something. Like Thomas Alva once said, I now know 999 things that don’t work and found the one that does when developing the light bulb..

To the stake with the heretic!