What Lies Beneath

Our roof tiles, on the terrace

As I write this, half of our house in rural Mallorca is without its roof tiles. Such is the construction of these typical old fincas that, as I stand inside and look up at the terracotta tiles that form our ceiling, I can see the sky through the thin gaps between some of the tiles. Fortunately, it’s blue sky and not ominous rain clouds . . .

Busy Between Breakfasts

The builders arrived yesterday morning, promptly at 8am, to begin the job of repairing our old roof. Fortunately, they’re working on one side of the roof ridge at a time, so the showers of dust that fall periodically through the gappy ceiling tiles aren’t landing on my computer; I’m in the roofed half of the house.

Who Needs Scaffolding?

It’s a big job. The three builders – Moroccans working for a local Mallorcan firm – began by carefully removing the traditional curved roof tiles. All done, I might add, without the aid of scaffolding; our outdoor wood-fired stone oven adjoins the house and they’re climbing onto that to get onto the roof. The tiles that have survived intact are currently stacked on the terrace, to be replaced in due course.

An hour after the workers had arrived, they were sitting on rocks in our back field, eating what the locals call ‘second breakfast’. (If that sounds a bit greedy, they probably had only a glass of milk and a biscuit for the first one – fairly typical). Then, they swung back into action, removing cement and some strange yellowish lumps that The Boss identified as foam he had once injected into some of the gaps between the roof tiles, to stop rats from using our roof space as a penthouse pad.

It was the noisiest day we’d ever experienced here in the valley. Somehow, amid the banging and crashing that was going on, the three builders managed to maintain a lively and ongoing conversation. Which was more than we could do indoors.

Scantily Clad 

At 5pm, peace was restored. The workers had left for the day, leaving us to inspect the first day’s progress. There was a mini-mountain of rubble on the drive – looking like something Tracey Emin might have created. And our roof had been stripped back to what appeared to be a thin layer of tarred felt – the only thing that had been between the ceiling and the roof tiles.

It was obvious why we’ve had rain coming into the house: a couple of decades of fierce summer heat and ravenous rats had turned our roof’s undergarment into something resembling black lace. Hopefully, the new stuff will be more like Damart . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2012

4 thoughts on “What Lies Beneath

  1. Love the blog Jan – and after ten years on the island (and six of those maintaining our own finca hotel) – I can fully relate to all your stories.

    Just wanted say (- before the roof goes back on again!) I did this for two of our cottages we had at the hotel – and the builders we used made a very impressive “sandwich” to give us complete peace of mind for future leaks and insulation:

    On top of the tiles (you can see through now) they put a complete thick plastic sheeting. Then on top of that an insulation tile that came in long sheets with a kind of “tongue and groove” connection to ensure no gaps. On top of this went a thin coat of concrete – then the original roof tiles, all nicely cemented in at the gable, ridge and valleys. We enjoyed 5 years of leak free and insulated heaven after that little combination (until we sold – I’m assuming it’s still going strong).

    However, I need to add – the insulation on the roof didn’t stop the heat escaping and cold entering through the beautifully preserved original windows and doors. I also had lots of problems in the initial year there with humidity passing through the Mares sandstone walls (this was later cured with a silicon spray applied at the end of August when the walls had well and truly dried out from the long summer). The windows and doors were “made good” with long, thick, heavy curtains – then you could actually get warm inside.

    Rural living has it’s learning curve – but when you find your way through all the “fixes” it makes it all worth it!!

    My biggest winter treat is still the re-discovery of a good old electric blanket – that is sheer joy on a winter night in an old country house!!

    Looking forward to your next installment!

    Hasta pronto


    PS – There’s a great book written by Tomás Graves about living and surviving in an old Mallorquin House – it’s called “A Home in Mallorca” published by La Foradada – I thoroughly recommend it!

    • Thanks,Roger, for your comment! Having studied the progress of the work so far this evening, it seems our builders are using a similar process – so I am hopeful of being warmer and drier this winter indoors! The silicon spray sounds as though it could be our next ‘investment’. Oh, and some heavy curtains. The spending never ends, does it? But,as you say, it’s all worth it to enjoy Mallorca’s beautiful countryside. Thanks for the PS too!

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