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Tips for Handling Roof Leaks

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The rainy season is upon us. At this time of year, Jakarta is subject to heavy, sustained downpours. In addition to problems with street flooding (see rainy season tips), Jakarta residents often experience problems with roof leaks. Following are common questions related to roof leaks and suggestions for what can be done.

Why are roof leaks such a common problem in Jakarta?

Heavy rains, imperfect roofing products, and poor installation guarantee that your roof WILL LEAK. How much or how often, will vary, but almost all roofs leak. The most common roofing materials used in Indonesia are ceramic, clay or brick roof tiles. Many of these tiles are still manufactured by hand and often have small defects that cause them to not fit tightly together and allow for shifting over time. Roof tiles are often not installed with proper waterproof sheeting under them (tar paper, rubberized sheeting, etc.) and the rafters they sit on are usually not level.

The roof ridge and joints are jointed with mortar and usually lack waterproofing. What does all this mean? There will always be gaps and spaces for water to get through your roof.

Be aware that often the water does not drip directly below the actual problem area and may run down a rafter or a tile to another location before dripping.  This makes finding the source difficult.  The other problem is that you are not aware of a leak until it is raining and almost always a repairman is not able to come during a rainstorm to evaluate a problem.

Occasionally, during a rainstorm, I hear what sounds like dripping onto the ceiling tiles, but I don't see any water or spots. What should I do?

In fact every roof leaks, but due to size or rapid evaporation these leaks are not always visible. At times, however, drips can be heard. For the most part, if you cannot see it, don't worry about it too much.

I've had my roof repaired several times already, but still have a leak. Now what?

As with most contracting and/or maintenance in Indonesia, the question should be, "What are they fixing"? When roofing contractors here are asked, "Will the roof leak?", they often respond, "Let's wait until it rains". With no standards for installation, inspection and cost-saving measures (i.e., not using waterproofing) their answer is probably an appropriate one. Most roof leaks occur either because a roof tile has shifted, a roof ridge or roof joint has not been waterproofed properly, or a flat concrete roof does not slope properly toward a drain.

If you are having recurring roof leaks try the following suggestions:

  1. Have the entire roof checked for visible shifted and/or broken tiles.
  2. Have the roof ridges checked for cracks and chips. These areas should be re-mortared and a waterproof coating should be applied. Materials could have dried out during the dry season.
  3. If the leaking is occurring from a roof joint and/or junction or due to improper sloping of a concrete roof area, then a long-term solution should be discussed with a roofing expert and proper materials be agreed on.
Is there any kind of roof maintenance that should be carried out?

Prior to the rainy season, and throughout the rainy season, the following preventative measures can be taken:

  1. Have all exterior drains inspected and cleaned from debris and make sure that they are properly covered.
  2. Have the roof checked for shifted tiles or broken/cracked tiles
  3. Have flat roof surfaces checked for standing water. Standing water indicates improper sloping and/or a clogged drain.

Our thanks to Colliers International for their generous contribution of this article!

Last updated February 3, 2014.

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