The New Year is here and so the workers are returning from a long holiday break to take off our roof. Our house is essentially three pavilions with separate but connected roofs. The living room is in the middle. Currently the living room walls are about 10 feet tall and there is a low, slanted roof that traps a lot of heat. The walls are going to be extended to 12 feet high, including a ring beam, which will make the whole structure much more hurricane proof. And then on top of the ring beam we will have a new, peaked ceiling with louvers on each end. This will make the house much cooler and allow many more breezes to flow through this large, 30 by 30 foot space.
Grenada is located 12 degrees north of the Equator and hurricanes typically form at 15 degrees and higher so we have a much lower chance of hurricanes occurring here than most Caribbean islands. In fact, Grenada is the first island where boaters can get insurance for their vessels. Every island north of Grenada is 15 degrees latitude or higher and no hurricane insurance is available for boaters. This is one reason Grenada has such an active marina business. Many boats dock here during hurricane season either for protection or to get repaired during this turbulent time.
As you may know, Grenada got hit by a fierce hurricane in 2004 – Ivan. The worst part was that the storm was tracking quite a bit north of Grenada, as would be expected, and turned suddenly – right as it aligned with Grenada and came south. People had less than 2 hours to prepare and it devastated much of the island with 98% of the buildings being damaged. Miraculously, only 2 people perished. The only buildings to pull through relatively unscathed were all newly constructed and had been built to hurricane standards – with ring beams, for example. Prior to Ivan, the last hurricane was Janet, in 1955.
We debated a lot of options before deciding to raise the roof because of the cost and disruption to the house. Every other alternative that we explored would only partially address the heat issue – maybe – and we thought ultimately we would not be happy with the result so we just gulped and went for the “right” solution. Originally, we hoped to have the new roof completed before December but by the time we got a solid design, coordinated it with some patio work we wanted done and had an Engineer check everything out, we ran out of time to have it completed before we arrived.
The tricky part was connecting the three roofs so there would be no leaking in the future. The roof on the two side wings will be at a different height than the new ceiling roof. The timing concern was that the break for Christmas holiday would interfere and we’d be stopped mid project (with no roof) for a couple of additional weeks. Plus, the rainy season has been going later and later into December in recent years. I think it ended up being a good decision because it rained – a lot (multiple times, every day almost) in December.
Now it is January and the work has begun. The first couple of days were slow as everyone figured out how to do this major construction without completely removing the roof since we are living here during construction. Fortunately the walls are cement and the floor has heavy tiles so we should not have any floor damage from water. We were wondering how level the floor really is and how much water would stay in the room after each rain. The courtyard, kitchen and bedroom entrances to the living room are all 2 steps up so we knew the rest of the house would be protected and there is a straight out exit to the pool and patio and we were hoping, fingers crossed, that the water would run right out the big sliding glass doorway to the patio.
The first major piece of work was removing the asphalt tiles from the roof and removing about 4 feet of roof off either side so the side walls could be made taller. If it rained, we’d get minimal leakage over the bulk of the roof and the room was only totally exposed the length of the room on the 2 sides. Piece of cake, right? We had a small rainstorm on Friday afternoon and there was only a little standing water after it was over – no problem.
Saturday evening was a different story. We were out on the covered patio having dinner with Nadica and Mikiah, my best Grenadian friend and her daughter (my Goddaughter), when a big storm blew in. I jumped up to close our bedroom windows and started laughing as I approached the living room. As predicted, there was only dripping throughout most of the living room as rain came in between the cracks in the planks but the 2 sides where there was no roof, the rain was pouring in. Plus, because the 2 roofs for the other pavilions are already peaked, all the rain was running down those slopes into the living room on either side. This meant that to get into the bedroom wing I had to walk through the waterfall that was so beautifully cascading into the living room. I was soaked and laughing. Caribbean rain is warm so it is an entirely different feeling to get wet here – no problem.
Most of the water did run out the doorway as we had hoped, but there were a few low spots that collected a good bit of water. Of course one low spot was right in front of the bedroom wing doorway so we had to slog through about 3 inches of water before we reached the steps up. This gave plenty of time for Mick’s webbed feet to soak up a ton of water that could then be dripped everywhere – first order of business for week two was making a platform that would cover any water. This worked perfectly for us but Mick just walked around the platform and through the water to approach from the side. HMMMM. Ultimately, we were worried about having the standing water sit for any length of time because of potential damage to the floor, so we ended up just sweeping out the low spots. Problem solved. Fortunately the rainy season has ended and we have and very little rain since then.
Construction is such messy work. Lots of breaking up of concrete which means lots of little pieces of rock lying all over and dust everywhere. I hadn’t processed that in order to make the walls higher, they would have to pull off a little of the roofs on either side pavilion so we have had openings into the kitchen and both master bedrooms that lets in rocks, dust and mosquitos. Delightful! The mosquitos this year have been the fiercest I’ve ever seen and I’m hoping as the area dries out, they will die or head elsewhere. In the meantime, we’ve been camping out in our air conditioned office during the day that does not abut the living room so all 4 walls and roof are intact.
The workers have been really diligent in cleaning up the site every day. Everything is carted off, stacked up and swept before they leave each day. I was thanking one man about the clean up one day and he said something interesting … He said of course they were cleaning up so it would be as nice as possible for us but, even if we weren’t on island, they would do it anyway because it was much more motivating to arrive at a clean job site each morning. Makes sense to me AND I really appreciate it.
Work has steadily progressed and after a few days of lots of activity, but not much visible change, we are now seeing the skeleton of the new roof going up through the peak holes of the roof. YEAH! It’s really exciting to see the progress.