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Horne’s Roofing
Over a century in our community

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If you’ve lived in East Hants for a while—and especially if you live in the Enfield/Elmsdale area, you’ve probably heard of Horne’s Roofing. They’ve been roofing so long, Kevin Horne had to draw me a family tree.

“My great-grandfather, Frank Horne, was installing roofs in the early 1920s and his son Vincent was roofing in the 1940s,” explained Kevin Horne. “Frank Horne did work in the 1920s for the great-grandfathers of some of Enfield’s residents today. And I’m doing roofing for the current generation.”

Kevin Horne is also related to the MacDonells—the Hornes and the MacDonells are two of the oldest names in the area. Such an ancient line of reputable roofers has obviously gone through some changes, and Kevin doesn’t see eye-to-eye with some of them.

“The biggest difference is all the safety precautions. I’m old school, and the harness systems are annoying; it takes longer and ropes get tangled. We used to make our own wooden scaffolding and  sometimes it would give way and we’d fall. I’ve had some spills over the years. Now there’s steel scaffolding, but a few months ago I fell off the steel staging and fell 20 ft. Broke a few ribs. Fell 35 feet when I was 20.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Hornes baulk at some of the new rules, but it’s not the ones that ‘take longer’ they object to the most—it’s the time-saving changes that impact the final result. “You can’t see what you’re doing with an air gun,” said Kevin Horne. “With hand nails and a hammer, you know your nail has gone in.”  Clearly, this family is ‘old-school’ in more ways than one. Solid, dependable, hard-working and focused on doing a top-notch job in every case—the family starts young and finishes old. Kevin Horne began “helping the old man” with roofing when he was in school. Throughout his life, he also held down a full-time job in Air Canada and his brother Darcy still works with AC—just like the previous generations in the family, most of whom worked from their teens until their 70s and held down two jobs at the same time. Kevin’s Uncle Greg Horne (Frank’s grandson) retired from his full-time career with CN rail years ago, but he still works every day with Kevin and Darcy, even though he’s pushing 70.

Greg’s brother, Terry Horne, has also long retired from his career in the school board, but he’s still roofing at 77. Like the others in the family, he has also had a few falls. “There was this house in the North end of Halifax and the space between the houses was too narrow for the steel, so we built our stage and it broke—I fell 24 feet,” Terry Horne said, “but I’m never nervous on a roof. When we did the church roof near Sullivan’s Pond we had to hoist the shingles up 115 feet by hand. We could see the Halifax Harbor from up there.”

When asked if he at least used the required harnessing at his age, Terry Horne replied, “Yes, it’s the law.” 

There was a pause. “I gotta watch what I say because my kids don’t want me to keep roofing.”  

Kevin Horne is no spring chicken himself, and he finds himself avoiding difficult jobs like steep roofs or churches today, but he doesn’t plan to stop soon. “It’s a physical job, but you feel like you’ve done an honest day’s work,” he said. “My brother Darcy and I never thought about whether we liked it, we just wanted to do it. We’re used to it.”

Their ‘old-school’ work ethics have built a solid reputation for generations of happy customers. But sadly, this is the last generation of our local roofer family who have been with us for over a century. “My brother and me have girls,” Kevin Horne said, “and they’re not interested in roofing.”

News paper clippings from 1920s of Payne's grocery, roof by Frank, Edward and Vincent Horne. Note the 5 Digit telephone numbers! 

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