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Low Cost Roofs

"What Do You Want Now?"

Ever heard of a man called Maslow? Probably not unless you are one of those really, really interesting people who spends his life studying the nose picking habits of fieldmice or reading management books about how to motivate your staff such as that captivating tome "Energising Your Privates, essential reading for the four star general." If you are not such a person Maslow could well make watching the paint dry seem like a spectator sport.

Now Harry Maslow had a wife who wished to be kept in the manner to which she was accustomed. She was always wanting things, new shoes, handbags, diamonds, and the like and whatever Harry bought for her there was always something else. It was costing him a fortune, she seemed to think money grew on trees.

"Trees, of course, it all started with that snake" thought Harry. "The slimy squamata whispered in Eve's ear and suddenly she wanted an apple, not just any old apple of course, it had to be a special apple from the tree of life. But then once she ate the apple she wanted a pair of matching designer fig leaves - one for her and one for Adam. People are always wanting things."

Harry considered all this, what do people really want? He thought he would do a little research. He shut his wife in the back yard and observed her through the kitchen window. For 3 days she babbled about hairdoes, Olay Oil and stick on eyelashes but then she went very, very quiet.

Then in the middle of the night there was a terrible wail.
"What do you want?"
"I'm starving" she yelled, "I could eat a dead dog."
First want is FOOD he wrote in his notebook. He threw her a nice steak and kidney pie and went back to bed.

"Have you paid the rent Harold Maslow?" she yelled two days later.
SECURITY he noted. He showed her the paid up rent book through the window.

Another day passed.
"What do you want now?" he said.
"Don't you love me any more, Harry?"
LOVE he carefully wrote in his book.
"Of course I love you my little sweety pie." He said.

Two days later he heard her talking to herself.
"I haven't had a bath for a week, I must look a mess."
SELF ESTEEM he wrote. He gave her a tin bath, a bar of carbolic soap and a hairbrush.

The following morning he looked out of the window and found to his surprise that she had
gone into the shed and found a table and a chair, she had pulled out an old television, repaired it and was watching an interesting programme about nuclear physics on the Open University.
Harry was amazed, SELF ACTUALISATION he wrote in his book. He started to feel a little uncomfortable.

The following morning he woke up to a gentle ringing noise and a scented odour in his nostrils.
He jumped up and looked out of the window. His wife was sitting cross legged on a large red cushion, her eyes closed.
"What on earth are you doing" he queried feeling rather vexed.
"Transcendental meditation and not so much on earth but more on an ethereal plane" she murmured softly.

"This has gone far enough" he thought so he let her back into the house. But it was too late, to his surprise she finished her meditation, walked in the back door, out the front door and went off to India where she opened an Ashram teaching transcendence to film stars and unemployed rivet catchers.

And so it was that Maslow became totally boring and developed his well known "Hierarchy of Needs" which can be really useful if you want to find out what bribe can be used to persuade some poor unsuspecting victim to accept the difficult and highly political role of secretary of your local knitting club.

But Harry Maslow got it wrong.

You see knowhere did he mention a "roof over your head" which, as we all know, along with dental floss is one of the most basic of human needs.

Roofs are important to us. In actual fact it could be said that in this world we are all judged by our roof. On the streets of London, for example, the people who have a cardboard box to live in are considered of a somewhat higher class than those who sleep under the stars.

Of course some people don't care much for the status factor, they just want a roof over their heads but don't want to pay too much for it. For these people the following table provides a rough comparison of minimum prices for the roofing materials generally available here in Bali.

Material Price per square metre
Labour plus materials
Polycarbonate Rp 178,221
Ironwood shingles Rp 150,000
Onduline corrugated bituminous sheet Rp 144,000
Low grade Alang alang Rp 90,000
Low cost clay tiles Rp 78,750
Cladian corrugated plastic Rp 78,400
Corrugated zincalume Rp 47,000
Corrugated clear fibreglass Rp 44,000
Corrugated asbestos Rp 38,000
Bamboo shingles Not known
Cardboard box Rp 20,000
Banana leaf Free

Yes, believe it or not asbestos is still for sale here in Indonesia. It is a low cost and very effective roofing material however for obvious reasons it's use is definitely not recommended. Asbestos panels are usually fairly safe especially if they are painted, the danger occurs if it breaks or is cut with a saw or a grinder releasing particles into the air which can be breathed in. As we all know they lodge in the lungs and years later can result in mesothelioma ‐ a condition that is not very conducive to "passing away peacefully in your sleep".

Some materials are not suitable for gently sloping roofs. A pitch of at least 36 degrees is recommended for roof tiles, alang alang and shingles. If the slope is lower than this the wind can drive rain into the roof. For more gently pitched roofs corrugated sheets are far better, they fit closer and allow you to increase the overlap of the sheets as the pitch decreases.

Roof tiles come in a wide range of designs, materials and qualities. The lowest quality are handmade from local clay and are fired in local wood fired kilns which do not get hot enough to fully fuse the silica. As a result these tiles do not fit well together (because they are hand made) and are often porous and break easily.

The above price is for the lowest quality of tiles. Generally speaking there are three qualities of standard tiles and then many types of higher quality and better specified tiles. The highest quality are glazed and to glaze a tile much higher temperatures are required to fuse the glaze, this high temperature results in a much stronger tile.

The price of alang alang (thatch from a local grass) has now overtaken tiles. There are also three quality levels of alang alang which is related to the density of the grass and the resulting thickness of the roof. If you look on the underside of an alang alang roof you will see the horizontal bearers that the grass is woven onto. On higher quality roofs these bearers are very close together.

Alang alang has deteriorated in quality over the years. With rapidly increasing demand for villa construction the production has been increased and these days fertiliser is used which results in poorer quality grass. There was a time when Alang alang could last 12 to 15 years while nowadays 5 to 8 years is more the norm and even less if the roof is overhung by trees.

Ironwood shingles are becoming more and more popular as an aesthetically pleasing replacement for alang alang. They must be installed correctly with firstly enough layers of shingles and secondly correct overlapping of the shingles or the roof will leak. Particular care is needed on roof ridges.

Bamboo shingles are available but I have little information I'm afraid.

Onduline is a bituminous corrugated sheet and useful as a replacement for asbestos but it is not cheap.

Polycarbonate roofing has become very popular particularly for carports and pergolas. It can look very stylish but is also not cheap. It also has a major problem in that it is very rarely properly installed and often leaks.

Corrugated zincallume is corrugated steel sheet with a zinc aluminium alloy coating to stop it rusting. Formerly corrugated iron was galvanised steel and much thicker than its modern replacement. In Bali the steel is usually very thin and easy flattened if you walk on it. Corrugated iron roofing is very noisy in a rainstorm and can be very hot underneath in the middle of the day.

Cladian is a corrugated plastic which is low cost and very effective but may discolour with extended exposure to sunlight.

Corrugated clear fibreglass is very low cost but deteriorates fairly quickly in sunlight. The UV light changes the polymer structure making it translucent and brittle so it will crack easily.

Cardboard boxes come in a range of shapes and sizes, they are warm and comfortable but are not good in the wet.

Then there are banana leaves.........

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
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