Did You Know??? Water Runs Uphill in Costa Rica!

You may not have heard this but apparently water does indeed run uphill in Costa Rica. Well if you took lessons from the roofing and eaves trough practices that are so common you would come to this same conclusion, if you walk around on various roofs as a common practice as I do. Damage to roofs, ceilings and soffits is a very prevalent problem yet I can only shake my head when I see what has been done. It was as if the workers and fabricators did indeed think water runs uphill. However the evidence is to say the least no surprise and quite contrary to some pretty bizarre habits all leading to results that are not pretty. I inspect and repair homes where there is regularly hundreds to thousands of dollars of damage all because of bad design and practices that are mighty strange. Plus all of these are quite easy to avoid when living in a tropic climate with a minimum of 2 meters of annual rainfall. Not conditions under which one would think that so many bad habits would continue to exist. Here are three simple rules to follow to avoid getting caught in a money pit of a roofing system.

1. Do not build a low slope roof (under 3/12 or 25% slope) that is the first welcome mat to constant leaking problems. Get that rain off the roof as fast as possible where as low slope lets rain lay around to find less desirable exits.
2. Avoid the very common zinc teja (metal sheets bent to supposedly look like a tile) as this stuff just does not fit together well and is rarely installed correctly which makes a bad product and even worse one plus straight flashings just do not fit with curved tin. The pieces that would be required to make this actually work just aren’t made hence it is just much easier to not make this mistake in the first place.
3. EAVESTROUGHS are all horribly designed or should I say not designed at all.! Never accept a standard profile as they are all done wrong. Yes that may seem incredible but thus far I have as yet to find a single one that is designed correctly. These are the single greatest offenders to water running uphill concept. Since the outside edge of the trough is built to go higher than the inside edge when a trough gets full of water as is sooo easy to accomplish when we get our downpours the water has no way to go but into your eaves and on into your house. Alternatively if the outside edge is lower than the inside where it attaches to the facia of your house then an overflow goes off into your garden rather than into cause damage in your home. Yes very easy to fix at design and installation stage but once on your home the only way to fix this is throw it in the garbage and start over again especially if you have bad trough and a bad roof cladding like zinc teja in a deadly combination.
4. Never use galvanized materials since such only saves you 10% as compared to buying the much superior baked enamel finish metal that lasts way longer everywhere but especially so when near the ocean. If you go to paint galvanized, as most people do after the fact, this paint is quite expensive so much so that your cost of metal and paint will end up being 20% more hence no saving at all! All that only to end up with a seriously inferior product requiring much more future maintenance.

This is also why there is a whole chapter in the e-book covering Tropical Roofs since this is the worst place to try to save money or cut any corners or worse yet if you have inherited someone else’s errors.


About Trevor

I have lived in Costa Rica for 19 years and have been active in real estate development over that period and construction in general. I am a qualified Journeyman carpenter and cabinetmaker from Canada. My current focus project is building custom green homes and housing packages all built out of SIPs or Structural Insulated Panels.

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