The roof is one of the most important parts of a building – anywhere in the world when we inspect villa. It’s your protection from the elements and they are particularly fierce in the tropics.
Look up. Can you see the sky through the roof? Not a good sign, if you do. Any visible leaks or stains on the ceilings or humidity marks on the walls? Peeling paint? All bad signs for water leakage or humidity.
If it’s one of those pretty grass roofs called “alang-alang” check how thick it still is and when you will have to replace it. They don’t last very long these days as farmers use fertilizer to make the grass quicker which makes it last less. If you can get as much as 8 years out of a grass roof, that’s as good as it gets these days. Also, check the inclination of the roof. For ‘alang-alang’ roofs you prefer to have a steep inclination (35% or more) so the rain quickly runs off. Every additional degree adds a year to the life expectancy of such a roof!
If the roof is made of tiles, check whether these are local tiles or imported from Java and whether you can still get them if needed. Ask whether the owner keeps a stock of unused tiles somewhere. There are all sorts of qualities and colors when it comes to tiles. Most are made out of local materials like terracotta and sometimes slate and some come with a waterproof glaze. There are also some modern materials to be found like metal, concrete, asphalt, and plastic or even glass – made in Indonesia or imported. The price per square meter varies hugely. Note that a tile roof can get very hot if there is no proper insulation installed. Come at noon and check it out yourself.
The most durable roofs are made out of ironwood shingles called ‘sirap’. They are usually nailed in 3-4 layers on top of each other. More is better and a roof with only 2 layers is rubbish. Here as well, you like to have insulation against the heat. ‘Sirap’ used to be by far the most expensive type of roof covering. But Alang-Alang has caught up during the last few years and is definitely more expensive now if you consider its limited lifetime.
Flat concrete roofs have been quite common in Bali for the last 10 years or so. Most of them call for trouble in the rainy season. Microscopic fissures of the concrete top layer are the culprits. There are a number of different waterproofing techniques and materials on the market at hugely varying costs. Talk to an architect to find out what works best these days. The typical cement-based types don’t last very long as they break under the heat of the sun and need to be replaced every now and then. There are some new nano products available that may even come with a warranty. Inspect villa and ask the owner what waterproofing he or she has installed on the flat roof and how long ago. You may have to redo it sooner or later. To get it done properly, it’s not exactly cheap.
The next thing you need to carefully inspect villa is the roof structure. It’s most likely made out of wood, but what kind of wood? Cheap local wood or a hardwood like camphor called ‘kamper’ or shorea called ‘bengkirai’ or ‘meranti’ in Indonesia. Both are hardwoods from Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Nothing below the quality of ‘kamper’ and ‘bangkirai’ is acceptable. But it is not just the quality of the wood, also the dimension of the structure is important. Whilst you may not be a civil engineer to calculate the required specifications, just check whether the beams are straight or whether they got bent from the load of the roof over time. But here comes the most important part: are there any signs of termite infestation? It’s not too difficult to detect. Termites create mud tunnels to move forth and back between a food source and the colony to protect themselves. If you see those or some dry rot on the wood or tiny brown pellets (termite droppings) on the floor that’s a huge red flag and you will need to call the experts to look at it and determine what can be done. There is anti-termite treatment from professional firms available in Bali. To get a building treated against termites that lasts, you may need to drill holes in the floor of a building and inject anti-termite liquid and inject the ground around the building periodically to prevent new colonies from entering the earth beneath a building. It’s war!