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Roofers must make the climb even as temperatures rise

As temperatures hovered around 100 degrees on July 21 and 22, the conditions where Jesse Liberto and Paul Sansone work felt even hotter.

The two men have spent 12 and 29 years, respectively, repairing and replacing the roofs, gutters and siding on residences in Catonsville and the surrounding communities

Sansone, who does roofing for 40 West Contractors at 1304 Pleasant Valley Drive, said last week's wave of stifling hot weather isn't unusual.

"Every summer you get your hot stuff," said Sansone, 46, who has lived in Catonsville for 40 years. "On the ground, if it's 100 here, you can add an extra 10, 15 degrees up there.

"Even days it's 90, 95 (degrees) here, it's still 100 up on the roof."

Occasionally, he said, his crew will start a job, quit later in the day when temperatures climb to their peak, then resume at 4 or 5 p.m. when things have cooled somewhat.

Asked if he had any tricks of the trade for staying cool, Sansone replied, "Not really. How many tricks can you do?"

And there is little comfort to be found during days like last week, when high temperatures were matched by high humidity.

While the average high in Catonsville is 88 degrees, according to weather.com, last week's temperatures came uncomfortably close to the 104 degrees recorded several times in July, the most recent of which came in 1988.

The record for Catonsville in July was 107 degrees set July 10, 1936.

"It's miserable. It's extremely miserable," said Liberto, a 29-year-old lifetime Catonsville resident who works for Westview Roofing at 305 N. Beaumont Ave.

"It's a battle," he said. "Once you hit a certain temperature, you can barely work with the shingles."

In extreme heat, shingles can stick together and become so malleable that work boots dig into the dark material, Liberto said.

During a heat wave, though, there is little flexibility for what workers can wear on the job, as heavy jeans and work boots are standard for safe work on roofs.

Liberto said some days he and his crew will get lucky and have gutter work to do, which means they can wear shorts.

He said some of his co-workers will munch on salty snacks, like pretzels, to retain water, but he's "not too fond of that."

In addition to drinking plenty of water, taking frequent breaks and showering off with a hose, Sansone and Liberto said they often try to start a project earlier on hot days.

Noise ordinances, though, prevent them from starting much earlier than 7 a.m., they said.

"As long as the homeowners are alright with it, (we'll start) at 6:30 a.m.," Liberto said. "It's just enough time where, if the neighbors called the cops, they wouldn't bother us because it's 7 a.m."

Jobs in rural areas, Sansone said, can start as early as 5:30 a.m. because the sound must travel farther and won't disturb neighbors.

Liberto said neither he nor his workers have needed to go to the hospital for a heat-related problem and if they start showing symptoms, they are assigned light duties and monitored for the rest of the day.

Sansone admitted that he has probably been close to having a heat-related illness, but he also has never had to seek treatment.

Sansone said he considers telling his crew to stay home when temperatures are predicted to be above 100 degrees.

For Liberto, taking a day off is not an option. He said like every worker, he has bills to pay and they don't melt away even on a hot day.

"(You just hope) for any kind of breeze that may be lingering around," he said.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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