Leaky Roof

Feb 15th, 2012, in News, by

Leaky RoofIt’s the wet season, and not just outdoors.

Around this time of year, many people discover that their homes aren’t as impervious to water as they thought. Or, in layman’s terms, their roof leaks.

Afternoon thunderstorm in Jakarta
Typical afternoon thunderstorm in Jakarta

The wet season is not a new occurrence; it happens every year between November and April. Necessity is usually the mother of invention.

Leaks and Buckets

Leaks and buckets, and mushrooms

However, many Indonesian homes are incapable of withholding the daily deluge that descends upon them; water falls either down the wall or directly through the ceiling onto the floor. Every time it rains, residents need to run around the house and strategically position buckets, rags or whatever else they can find to prevent their house turning into a lake or (if they are unlucky and the ceiling collapses under the excessive weight of accumulated water) a swamp. Water running down the walls leaves stains and eventually causes the paint to blister and peel. Leaks can also stain and ruin furniture, electrical appliances, etc; it can be necessary to de-decorate the house or “redistribute” items of sentimental value.

Indonesian hotels may be of variable quality in some parts of the country, but like the plethora of shopping malls they don’t have leaks because the management knows that would appear unprofessional and be bad for business. It is also very dangerous because any water is next to electrical cables, although for many fatalistic Indonesians this is less of a concern.

So why do many have lower expectations of their houses? Even newer homes often have leaks that the local tukang (handyman) cannot fix, or can only fix temporarily.

Leaky School Roof in Pesawaran Regency, Lampung

And lower expectations of their schools?

To put it another way, if leak-free homes are possible in other countries with tropical weather, is an Indonesian house without a leaky roof too much to hope for?

Or is it better to remember there is still a significant level of poverty in Indonesia and adjust my expectations accordingly?

Opinions, advice and personal experiences welcome.

31 Comments on “Leaky Roof”

  1. berlian biru says:

    I’ve lived in three houses in Jakarta, they all leaked. I can live with it, it’s a question of listening under the ceiling where the drip, drip, drip is and sending the handyman up there in the morning.

    More worrying are the cracks, especially in Jakarta city centre where subsidence is a serious issue. My last house was clearly “settling”, it was a big house and you could see how the street outside was sinking. Very long cracks from basement right up to ceiling, all going in the same direction combined with windows and doors hanging badly in their frames with gaps that corresponded to the wall cracks all convinced me that I was living in a structurally unsound building.

    What amazed me was that there was no architect or structural engineer I could call on to give me a professional opinion. I contacted property agencies (major western companies with offices in Jakarta) and insurance companies in the naive hope that, as in the west, they would have such people on hand who could do a survey. Nope, even explaining the concept of what I was looking for simply resulted in blank stares. It did not give me great confidence in the quality of commercial building that is going on in this city.

    Insha’allah I’ll be long gone before a serious earthquake hits Jakarta.

    Anyway, I sold the house, doubled what I paid for it, the buyer has since flipped it for a further 50% profit. Hey who cares about the quality of the building, just look at the address and those beautiful neo-doric pillars and grecian porch.

  2. timdog says:

    Meh, I come from Cornwall, where the rain travels horizontally, and where, contrary to popular perceptions, granite proves to be oddly porous for such a hard rock.
    One of my earliest memories is of lying in bed watching a veritable air terjun sheeting across the doorway into the little concrete lean-to across the back of the house.

  3. Chris says:

    Related thoughts, slightly tangential: Why are Indonesians so afraid of going out in the rain? Some people claim that they will catch a cold if they get wet, but that is now proven to be an urban legend. And if they are so afraid, why are they so tolerant of a leaky roof in their respective houses?

    And why are most umbrellas available in Indonesia generally cheap and/or poor quality – is it to support the industry of umbrella boys (outside shopping malls) and umbrella repairers?

    Umbrella Boys Tukang Servis Payung

  4. BrotherMouzone says:

    What amazed me was that there was no architect or structural engineer I could call on to give me a professional opinion.

    Structural engineers and surveyors are actually available – there are even some good ones. The main problem is that they are rarely listened to when the contractor is focused on cutting corners and building below spec.

    There are individual well constructed homes when the owner has overseen the project and knows something about construction. But the mass-produced houses in the complexes are generally dire.

  5. berlian biru says:

    There are individual well constructed homes when the owner has overseen the project and knows something about construction. But the mass-produced houses in the complexes are generally dire.

    The upper-end housebuilding market seems to be dominated by Arab-Indonesians hence the -how shall I put it?- over-exuberance in design of some luxury homes in Jakarta.

    The house to which I referred above was one such example, it looked magnificent if a wee bit over the top, only after I purchased it was I told “Oh sure everyone knows old Pak Ahmad only ever uses cheap, second-grade materials in his building”.

    I learned this to my cost after termites ate through the cheap wood, yes wood, roof joists and it was confirmed to me that the house was built on a site of local subsidence and which was simply filled in with builders’ rubble. I won’t bother mentioning the cheap under-strength electric cabling which was a fire hazard.

    The house I subsequently bought was also built by an Arab developer but with the crucial difference that this was his own family home. The difference in build quality was as chalk and cheese to other houses I’d looked at as well as the one I’d just got shot of.

  6. timdog says:

    the -how shall I put it?- over-exuberance in design of some luxury homes

    Once some good few years ago I went to a press conference in Jakarta at the headquarters of some absurd company that specialises in fitting out the homes of the ludicrously rich and the tragically tasteless. The building itself was a monumental skyscraper featuring the tallest doric columns on the planet, and, if I recall correctly, a bevy of Greek gods saluting the Jakarta fog from the summit…

    I have no idea why I went to the press conference, but my companion was a slick young German chap. Perhaps we just wanted the goodie bag (if you’ve never been to a press conference in Indonesia, it’s worth worming your way in; you always get a goodie bag, and it’s sometimes really quite lavish)… Anyway, I do recall that the goodie bag in question contained a large ceramic plate featuring a picture of some lemons…

    We sat on uncomfortable faux-renaissance chairs and drank filthy coffee while a pair of flunkies launched the company’s new brochure. As slide after slide flashed up on the screen, of grotesque candelabras and baroque dining tables, of pictures of King Charles spaniels in gilt frames and four-poster beds, my companion and I – the only uncouth bules in the room – slowly succumbed to a kind of ill-concealed hysteria, snorting, sniggering, and spitting foul coffee everywhere…

    And “We also,” one of the flunkies announced, “are able to design your prestigious new-build home for you…”
    Visions of spiral staircases flashed across the screen, and of internal fountains playing over marble floors. We slumped in our chairs.
    “We also do exterior design,” the flunky said, “such as for this project in Surabaya…”
    The picture flashed up, and I spilt what was left of my coffee. I hissed to my companion, “Holy shit, I know that house; I used to live near there…” And indeed I did; I had watched them installing the flaming concrete venuses on the rooftop, and seen dark men with old orange tee shirts wrapped around their heads struggling to install the stained glass windows and bottle palms.
    My companion’s jaw had, quite literally dropped.
    I was giggling – “Honestly, it’s the stupidest house I’ve ever seen…”
    But he was no longer laughing. He tugged at my arm and whispered urgently “But this is serious; I know this kind of architecture: this is fascist architecture…”

    And of course, he was right; it is fascist architecture. It represents the same grotesque indulgence of ego and abdication of restraint. But there is a difference – if that abomination had been standing over some Italian town square, or indeed in the capital of some Central Asian dictatorship, it would be truly sinister.
    But when it constitutes nothing more than the expressed ostentation of a Chinese-INdonesian businessman, any glimmer of horror, any echo of jackboots vanishes, and it simply becomes comically contemptible, the vision of a used car salesman run amok…
    The building is still there, by the way, 500 metres north of Galaxy Mall, on the left. I bet the roof leaks…

  7. Oigal says:

    I do confess one of the things I like about Surabaya is taking friends around to “those” areas to see the look of amazement on their faces at the size and sheer classless crassness designs. It really is a very funny tourist attraction, but you to get to point out that not only to they look stupid and grotesque now but in three years they look stupid, grotesque and rundown. I wonder does it ever occur to these clowns that people are laughing at them (Perhaps they should read the Drum’s most recent post 😉 )

    On a more serious note, how on earth does Indonesian house paint qualify as such, it would not pass muster as kinder-garden water colour in most countries and wears the same way.

    On a lightly linked topic, I was in East Timor when the UN (Aka under qualified African Employment agency) decided the the main government building on the esplanade needed its roof repainted as it renovated the building after the departing Indonesians trashed it one of many gestures of goodwill and maturity. Now like all government buildings this building size was inversely proportional to the actual work performed and simply put it was huge.

    So happens I was staying with the two brothers who got the job to repaint the roof vivid green. Away they went with their army of local people, fully equipped for roof work, sandals (this was before owning sandals became a beating felony) 20 cent paint brushes and the best paint money can buy direct from Indonesia.

    Well end of day two, the brothers come back and announce job complete and we all head off for a cleansing end of day ale. As we drove past the newly painted den of corruption the 5pm topical downpour begun. The lad’s eyes grew wider and wider as hundreds of litres of vivid green paint washed off the roof and down each floor of the building which unfortunately until then was a very pretty and clean white..

    Lastly safety alert if you have bought any of those cheap fluro lights including the little curly ones from a very large Hardware chain recently. Dump them now, the Chinese ones have very very dodgy ballasts and have caused several fires already.

  8. ET says:

    I’m beginning to believe that shoddy workmanship in Indonesia is something of a socio-cultural thing. Perfect structures won’t need need repairs very often, leaving the masses of tukangs without work and income. Having to call more often for a repair keeps the social fabric alive and at the prices they ask for their interventions no one will complain very loudly.

  9. berlian biru says:

    I do confess one of the things I like about Surabaya is taking friends around to “those” areas to see the look of amazement on their faces at the size and sheer classless crassness designs.

    No need to go to Surabaya, a leisurely drive along the main road in Pondok Indah will give you plenty to behold, whether it’s the army of ten-foot Grecian warriors along the garden wall, bright pink gateposts outlined in tasteful gold paint or my favorite the plump cherubs on clouds climbing through the blue sky on some bloke’s front porch pillars.

    All in all enough elegance to provide a photographer with Jakarta’s answer to those coffee-table books of Balinese houses mentioned in another thread.

  10. Chris says:

    The building is still there, by the way, 500 metres north of Galaxy Mall, on the left. I bet the roof leaks…

    Yes, I know the house you are talking about. I pass it at least twice/week. I think it is quite possibly the ugliest house ever built, but my Indonesian wife thinks differently. A work colleague said she used to know the people that live there, and the style of architecture did indeed reflect the character of the occupants.

    The next time I go past, I’ll stop and take a photo and upload it here so it’s not a mystery for everyone else.

    In the meantime, here is a Google Map of the location:

    View Ugliest house in Surabaya in a larger map

    I can’t decide whether it is a shame or a blessing that Google Maps doesn’t yet offer “street view” in Indonesia.

  11. Chris says:

    it’s a question of listening under the ceiling where the drip, drip, drip is and sending the handyman up there in the morning.

    The ceiling of my house is very high and usually it’s raining too hard to hear the drip, drip, drip.

    Eventually, we had to send our local tukang up while it was raining, and even then the “fix” only lasted until the following wet season.

  12. timdog says:

    It is a beauty, isn’t it Chris? The perfect vision of a diseased mind…
    Mind you, the bottle palms are growing along quite nicely these days…

  13. Jakartass says:

    Driving past a parade of grotesque monuments to ego – it matters not where, ‘cos they’re everywhere – I commented that if I had the financial resources to build a monstrosity like those we were passing, then I certainly wouldn’t build it on a major road with all that pollution and traffic noise.

    It was then pointed out to me that it was all bling: if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

  14. timdog says:

    Jakartass, that’s exatly the point.
    Behind the monstrosity in question here are complexes of very average bungalows, which obviously no one gets to see.

    The people who build those horrific piles do indeed deliberately choose the most public spot in which to build them. I hope, I sincerely hope, it would hurt them to know that the bules are laughing at them…

  15. Oigal says:

    Bit like the Ferrari pimpling Jakarta…Am I impressed? In Australia yes and envious..all those open roads waiting to be thrashed.

    In Jakarta..nope ..just immediately think “you complete corrupt and prize moron”. It has to be be tainted money, no one would abuse such works of art and waste such money on the roads of jakarta if their funds were from honest personal toil.

  16. Chris says:

    You mean, like Melinda Dee’s? She has two!

    Mercedes Ferrari Melinda Dee

    Melinda Dee Ferrari Citibank

    NB The personalised number plates.

    They have been “repossessed” by Citibank, who will most likely sell them (along with the Mercedes and other cars plus seven properties) to help repay part of the money stolen from their customers.

  17. Jakartass says:

    Just down the road from the school where I ply my honest toil, I’ve observed the erection of a 10 bedroom mansion (for a family of four) whose owner picked out the hideous ornamentation in gold. In one of my regular rants to my eager-eared teenagers, I drew attention to it. There was a chorus of titters: it was to be the home of a lass in their year.

    Naturally, I omitted that particular rant when teaching her class.

    A couple of weeks later she was picked up in her elder brother’s shiny red Ferrari. I suggested to all classes but hers that the family was well prepared for the pending floods. The car is so low slung that it could function as the family submarine.

  18. timdog says:

    The Ferrari yes, but surely you wouldn’t be impressed by those houses if they were in Aus, Oigal?

    Hell, back in Cornwall we always have a good snigger at the home counties retirees who sell their business in Essex, buy a modest bungalow near the beach, and install a couple of modest concrete lions as symbol of their success and upstanding Englishness…
    Mercifully we have such things as planning laws, but can you imagine if one of those Surabaya suburbanites got to build their mighty folly there…

  19. Chris says:

    As promised, here is a photo of the (in my opinion) ugliest house/mansion in Surabaya. Unfortunately, you can’t see the particularly tasteless stain-glass window.

  20. Jakartass says:

    Thanks for that Chris.
    That picture is priceless. The house itself is absolutely tasteless.
    It’s also worth noting that it’s at a crossroads so there’s no escaping it.

    So, who’s the owner?

  21. agan says:

    Time-honored real estate mantra LOCATION! LOCATION! and LOCATION! is true everywhere world wide over but to most Indonesian, definition of ideal location maybe slightly different then those of their bule counterpart.

    We may have cobble stone garage to match Bugattis, carerra marble counter top kitchen adorned with a Last Supper painting, full herb backyard organic garden and Form follows function architecture albeit the leaky roof;
    We still prefer to be located conveniently close to main road and more importantly close to the cut throat bustling world of kaki lima’s street food vendor: from brekky bubur ayam ,karedok, comro, es teler, brownie kukus to midnite nasi uduk in the wee hour.

    Spoken like true orang kaya baru!

  22. Jakartass says:

    This “bule counterpart” lives in a back street and has a regular supply of snacks and meals from the passing kaki lima.

    Spoken like a true orang miskin lama.

  23. Oigal says:

    Well contrary to popular belief, I am an appalling capitalist front of the plane thank you very much and yes give me the Ferrari! However, to use such a vehicle on Jakarta roads should be a whipping offence (perhaps after prayers on Friday?).

    Naturally, large house with pool and private bar but again any hint of marble columns or gargoyles should be greeted with the horse whip. Although I would consider a large statue of a naked Bali lass just to annoy the FPI types.

  24. Chris says:

    An interesting quote about occasionally over-exuberant housing design in the Citraland housing complex, west of Surabaya. It markets itself as “the Singapore of Surabaya”:

    Most residents occupy houses designed by the developer, mostly in the sleek, urban tropical style fashionable in Singapore. But many who have bought just land have built houses “in different styles,” Ms. Harijanti said, a practice the developer is trying to discourage. With mixed success, a drive here suggested, confirming something about which there was little doubt: even in the Singapore of Surabaya there is a limit to how much of Indonesia you can take out of Indonesians. Across sprawling plots, some owners had built the kind of gigantic, over-the-top houses common in the wealthy quarters of Indonesia’s cities.

    A block from a house with a Normandy castlelike tower was a new home designed in the Greco-Roman style popular nowadays among wealthy Indonesians. Its owner, Anthony Halim, gave visitors a tour of the basement, where the servants’ quarters were arranged around a garage for 10 cars. Upstairs, in the main living area, a bas-relief showed a young couple sitting leisurely as a servant poured water on the toga-clad man’s left hand. Centurions brandishing spears and swords stood guard.

    “I like this classical style, and my wife also likes it,” said Mr. Halim, 45, who said he was in steel. “The real Singapore is, of course, better than this place, but this place is much better compared to other estates in Indonesia.”

    Halim House, Citraland

    You can read the full article here.

  25. agan says:

    This “bule counterpart” lives in a back street and has a regular supply of snacks and meals from the passing kaki lima.

    Spoken like a true orang miskin lama.

    Aha…You are as Indonesian as a mahasiswa koskosan dweller who are often at the mercy of kaki lima food vendors power of ngutang when Bank of Mom and Pop’s monthly allowances is coming late if ever.

    Btw I have never been inside any of those ginormous house, don’t even know any of the pembantus after all they are house pembantu who live by the master albeit in the basement and I’m a field pembantu live in a guilt free humble crib I can call home.

  26. timdog says:


    So, who’s the owner?

    I snuck in once when they were still building it – a vision of dusty tukangs shuffling rubber-sandalled around a post-apocolyptic landscape of spiral staircases…
    I asked who the owner was, and they said “Chinese”; I asked where he got his money and they said “business”…

    Chris’ picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but you get the idea. You can see why my German buddy hissed with such alarm “This is fascist architecture”, can’t you…

  27. Asri says:

    …leaky roofs, crumbling school buildings and “Indiana Jones” bridges…to name a few…
    and House of Representative spent billions of money for only one meeting room, another billions for toilets in the same building…. so many things to love about Indonesia and be proud being Indonesian, but facts like those ignorance and greediness that lead to corruption really make this nation (or just the people?) is so hard to loved and make it’s difficult to hold my head high *sigh*

  28. pjbali says:


    I often wondered that if I were to spend that kind of money on a house why the shared wall? I had the unfortunate experience of a neighbor tapping in through a shared wall to access my water pipes. Is there anyone other reason apart from sharing the foundations?

  29. Chris says:

    I often wondered that if I were to spend that kind of money on a house why the shared wall?

    Possible (unconfirmed) ideas:

    1. Everybody else is doing it, so why don’t we?

    2. To maximise available space indoors.

    3. They have never heard of the backyard, and think play time for kids involves either TV, DVDs or PS2.

    4. They are worried about ghosts or thieves sneaking in between the gaps. (Many Indonesians often leave their lights on outside their house overnight, inside rooms which have nobody in them, and both when they are on holiday).

    5. Spy on the neighbours, hear the things their CCTV can’t see.

  30. Chris says:

    A semi-related question: Why does the paint always peel off my home’s walls at the same height? (See example below)

    It doesn’t happen on every wall, it doesn’t happen only near where water pipes are, and it always occurs at about 1 metre off the ground.

    I don’t think it’s incorrectly mixed paint, because otherwise it would happen everywhere (and it doesn’t).

Comment on “Leaky Roof”.

RSS feed

Copyright Indonesia Matters 2006-2023
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Contact