Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Leaking Roofs

"Ark The 'Erald Angels Sing"

It’s been a bit wet.

In fact it has been so wet that the ducks have all had new seals fitted to their nether regions. A leaky duck is a very unhappy duck you know.

My next door neighbour has started behaving quite odd. He has suddenly started collecting animals. Two horses, two cows, two dogs, two cats - strange really they are all in pairs. It has been a bit of a bother though, their amorous behaviour is keeping me awake all night. He got two rabbits a couple of weeks ago and now he has 3,726 of them hopping around all over the place.

An enterprising bloke down our street has a new sign up outside his shop:
“Arks made to order, new models always in stock”

It is, of course, LRT (leaky roof time) again in South East Asia and the time when you remember that last year you promised you would repair that leak in the roof “when the dry weather comes”. The dry weather has come…and gone and the roof is still leaking.

There are a lot of leaky roofs at the moment.

I was talking to an insurance salesman the other day. He had his head in his hands.
“Merry Christmas” I said.
“Get stuffed” he said.
A week later I saw him again.
“Happy New Year” I said.
“Where can I buy razor blades?” he said “my gas oven has run out of gas.”
“You can’t bake a cake with a razor blade” I responded.
“Get stuffed” he said.

For some who have lived in Bali for a while a leaky roof is just part of the wonderful texture that makes life in Bali what it is.

For others, however, leaking roofs drive them mad and drips anonymous is picking up new members again. You may hear them from time to time mumbling the drips anonymous prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the drips I cannot fix, the strength to fix the drips I can and the wisdom to know where to put the bucket.”

Why do so many roofs leak?

Well there are a number of reasons:

1. Most houses have roof tiles that are handmade and so vary slightly and don’t lock together quite as well as they should.

2. When installing roof tiles the spacing of the lathes that support the tiles is often not as accurate is it should be and as a result some designs of roof tiles won’t seat properly.

3. Standard practice on houses in Bali does not include the use of sarking or underfelt as a waterproof membrane under the tiles.

4. Standard practice is for ridges to be heavily concreted into place, only small amounts of movement in the house will crack the concrete.

5. Poor waterproofing of end walls where the roof meets the wall.

6. Insufficient slope on roofs which results in wind driving rain up the tiles and into the roof.

7. A bizarre lack of understanding of the mysterious ways of water.

Unfortunately many tukangs don’t understand about roofs. Last week I went to see a man with water pouring into a bedroom. When we came to inspect the roof it was surprisingly well made and one of the few roofs in a “standard” house I have seen with a full membrane installed under the roof tiles. Unfortunately small leaks where the end walls meet the roof had been “repaired” by people who, instead of repairing the roof properly from the outside, tore out parts of the membrane from inside and in fact made the problem much, much worse.

Be careful who you let onto your roof.

Waterproofing is a bit of an artform really. It is surprising how only a very small crack in concrete combined with that insidious capillary action can produce a significant drip underneath and a substantial loss of demeanour for a house dweller. The results of a leaking roof can be devastating and Bangli has a special wing to care for leaking roof victims. Leaking roofs can also damage your house and contents.

How to avoid your roof leaking

If you are building a new house put a waterproof membrane under the roof tiles and make sure the roof is properly installed.

If you have a leaking roof make a note of where the drips are. If they are next to a wall or in the ridge then you may have to wait for dry weather before they can be properly sealed. If leaks are in the centre of the roof moving tiles around may be sufficient BUT be careful who gets onto your roof.

Many roof tiles in Bali are very fragile because the has clay been fired at low temperatures using wood (often less than 800 degrees). To get effective fusion of silica ideally you need to get up over 1,000 degrees. As a result tiles break easily and someone climbing around on your roof can do a lot more damage than you can imagine.

I recently met a very poor Indonesian family who had saved hard and recently had their roof upgraded replacing bamboo beams with timber. The upgrade was a nightmare with badly placed and broken tiles everywhere. As a result the house was flooded and one room remains unusable. They cannot afford to have the roof repaired. A tragic story but unfortunately all too common in a country lacking in standards, training and understanding.

If your roof is badly leaking it might be a good idea to simply start again. The tiles can be removed, a waterproof membrane installed and the existing tiles replaced. This is a comprehensive waterproofing job, the tiles will not be damaged because they have not been walked on and the cost is not too high because the existing tiles can reused. Any broken tiles can be replaced and the tiles can be painted to seal them.

There are other options such as replacing your tiles with “Colourbond” but we’ll talk about that another day.

Of course if it carries on raining at this rate the roof leaks will become somewhat irrelevant and an ark might become a sound investment.

Phil Wilson

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

17 July 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180