Just back from a fantastic five days off with the fabulous Kay and other friends and family and glad to have a couple more days to unwind from all the relaxation.

Just back from a fantastic five days off with the fabulous Kay and other friends and family and glad to have a couple more days to unwind from all the relaxation. One of the most difficult things for me to do is simply relax. For some reason time is like a vacuum for me that seems to always be filled with numerous projects and other experiences.

The plan for the week was to simply relax and not think about work or much of anything else for that matter. I am pleased to report that the plan was nearly flawless but not without a roofing lesson.

This trip was to the tropical island of St. Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean between Martinique and St Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are numerous points of interest and activities, the plan was just to lay around by the pool or beach and eat too much and enjoy the readily available supply of adult beverages. So there was no snorkeling or horseback riding or zip-lining. Just lounge chairs and some books.

The lesson came along on the second day when the sign went up on the burger grill: “Closed for five days for roof work.” Well, this was a problem as the open-air dining facility had the best grill around and was closest to the pool. While the venue changed, the eating went on unabated.

I had not noticed it before but the roof did look pretty rough on a couple of sides, especially where the vent stack was located. As usual, the roof of a restaurant (especially a burger joint) has a rough life where the grill vents spewing grease droplets all over. I could not resist having a chat with the roofers as they started the work of removing and replacing the smooth-cut wood shingles.

The crew’s specialty was “anything wood” and they were working out of a local contractor’s shop. The roof structure was what we might call open-spaced sheathing. Unlike a more traditional application of wood shakes or shingles, this application was unique in that there was no coursing of felt between the rows of shingles. On reading a bit about island application of wood roofing, it seems that spacing the shingles side-to-side and not using any kind of waterproofing membrane allows the roof to breathe. This makes the natural cooling process work much better and I must say, at least on an anecdotal basis, seems to work just great. It is always difficult to argue local construction practices and traditions.

This being a very long way from Canadian cedar, I had to wonder about the shingles being applied. I learned that nearby Guyana mills perfection shingles using the wood from their indigenous Walaba trees. This rainforest tree has many uses and roofing is one that was commercialized in Guyana years ago. It has the appearance and color of cedar and is said to last up to 40 years in the exposed application.

While the “open air” nature of this restaurant would seem perfect for this type of shingle application, I discovered that Walaba shingles are featured on upscale homes on St Lucia. Most of the roofs on the island are covered with painted metal, but there are some other varieties of steep roofing products around, mostly seen on resorts. Metal is valued here more for its ability to withstand high winds than for its appearance.

So it was not only interesting to discover a type of wood shingle I had not seen before but also interesting to once again discover a predominance of metal roofing in the tropics. I am certain that the issues of fireproofing are still a concern for designers, but it is easy to see how the look and natural breathability of the Walaba shingle roof is an attractive option for owners who must make roofing choices in paradise.

All in it was a pretty good week. I not only learned how to reach a new level of relaxation, but of a unique roofing application which I must plan on revisiting, just to see how it looks a couple of years from now.

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