Sunday, January 15, 2012

Roof holes and loft insulation in Cyprus

It has been a recurring theme of this blog that, when it rains (mostly in the winter in Cyprus), the roof leaks. Not over anything that matters too much, thankfully, but a steady stream over the (uncarpeted) stairs. It had almost become a way of life - when the sky turned grey, I went to fetch a bucket and the cool box to catch the worst of it.

A little over a year ago, after some other leaks had developed, Richard and his sailing buddy Tim P (The P distinguishes him from our son Tim) went on the roof and mended some of the holes they found. They stopped the bathroom leak; but, sadly, their efforts did not fix the one problem we have had ever since moving into our house - the leak over the stairs. Tim P did comment that there was a huge amount of bird mess on the roof, and he wanted to clean it off. We could not imagine how it would help; if anything, I thought that it would help to plug holes in the tiles!

Richard has kept studying the roof, off and on, and we - like a few others who have crawled on our roof - could not understand where the hole could be. And, while there is some loft space above our bathroom, where Richard did manage to spot one of the holes a year ago, the area where the leak was happening was inaccessible.

So, early in December, Richard decided that the only way to solve the problem was to cut a hole into the loft area that he could not reach. If nothing else, he thought that perhaps he could affix some kind of membrane inside the roof, to channel the water out when the next heavy rain happened. Here's the area - beautifully panelled - above our stairs, which he decided to cut into:

He had not been sure how to do it without making a mess; but Tim P had bought a useful tool for the boat, which enables holes to be cut without first cutting into the piece to be removed. So Richard borrowed it, and set to work:

It made such a dreadful noise that there was no way I could stay and take further photos. Even Richard, who tolerates loud noises better than I do, went to fetch some ear defenders. But the eventual access hole looked like this: 

To his surprise, he found that there was already a membrane inside the roof - unusual in Cyprus, but then the guy who built our house did it very well, on the whole. That cast a whole new light on the leak problem. The hole in the roof could be anywhere - it was being channelled down to the lowest point, which was, indeed, where our leak was happening. 

Richard also noted that it was very cold up there, and thought that it might be a good opportunity to put some loft insulation in - also not common in Cyprus.

The hole remained for a week or two, then he bought some hinges and other fittings, and made a very tidy job of turning the removed panel into a door: 

A couple of weeks ago, after a few dry days, he and Tim P went back onto the roof again. They searched thoroughly, but simply could not find any holes. They talked about using some special sealant to pour over the tiles, which would plug any small leaks, but Tim said, while they were there, he wanted to clean away the awful bird mess. So they borrowed the hose from the boat, and attached it to ours, and cleaned away a vast amount of - mostly ancient - bird mess, bits of bird nests, and other gunk.

The following day, it rained torrentially. I put out the bucket to catch the leak... and there was no leak.

It rained overnight, steadily, for several hours. We were not awoken by drips on the stairs... and when I got up, they were completely dry.

Apparently, the bird mess had formed some kind of dam on the roof which was catching water that then dripped through the tiles. Getting rid of this meant that the rain simply slid off the tiles as it was supposed to, and any small cracks did not cause problems.

It was like a miracle!

So, Richard found somewhere that sold loft insulation - the pink fibreglass stuff that we've used in the UK - and last weekend, they cut and fitted it. It didn't take all that long, but left a lot of dust which I've swept away and mopped.. but at night my throat seems to get scratchy and tickly even now, a week later. It's so cold that we don't want to leave windows open... so I've suggested that they don't do any more insulation until the spring.

Has it made the house any warmer? Hard to tell, really. On a cold day, houses in Cyprus just do feel cold... I'm sitting here wearing two sweaters and a fleece, and while not as cold as I was at our old house (we do have good double glazing here, and central heating that we run for a couple of hours, at about 14-15C morning and night) I'm still not warm. 


Mhairi said...

Excellent news concerning the leaks. As for insulation; definitely better to leave it until such time as windows can be left open. Fibreglass can play havoc with breathing.

Anonymous said...

Hi there.
I'm planning to move to Cyprus, but before I make my definite decision, I wanted to know how is life in Cyprus, concerning prices of food and how does it cost to rent a room or a house! I'm flight attendant and my company will open base in Paphos, so I really want to apply for this new base, but I have to be sure that I'm doing the right thing.
Thank you.
Kind Regards, Cátia Mira -