Earthquake Roof Repairs

Earthquake Roof Repairs

One thing that can be said about Christchurch right now is that there are a hell of a lot less chimneys on roofs around town right now.

What’s more is that hundreds of roofs have been left exposed and hazardous due to roof tiles that were shaken out of place during the earthquake and have slipped down the roof leaving gaping holes.

This then leads to water damage once the rain starts, causing cracked ceilings and encouraging mould growth.

Damaged Roof Tiles on Kerrs Road, Avonside

Firstly, this should never have happened. I’ve been on a heap of roofs in the last month or two and every roof tile I’ve seen has its own shaped hole on the back. For 9 out of 10 of the roofs I’ve been on, this hole is completely unemployed. In fact, I’ve only seen the hole used as it should be on one roof, and that was on a 100 year old house on Kerrs Road in Avonside.

You see, the hole is there for a specific reason. Each tile is supposed to be connected to a wooden slat on the roof by a metal wire that goes around the slat and through the hole on the tile.

Dangerous Roofs

Whether this is required by the building code or not is unknown – I’m no builder – but the reason for it is obvious and highly important to save injury and death.

On many of the houses that have had tiles slip out of place, the tiles themselves have not been secured by this wire and, in many cases, the tiles are heavy enough to cause serious harm if they fall from the roof onto residents of the house that have fled outside to escape the building during a quake.

Fix Your Roofs!

The good news is that, if the tiles themselves aren’t broken, many of the houses that have these tiles can actually be easily fixed.

Understandably, a lot of houses have been temporarily abandoned following the earthquake so it’s no wonder that they haven’t been repaired.

However, in other cases, a lot of effort has been taken to put tarps over the damaged areas to prevent the rain going in. Often, this is actually:

  • A pain in the ass to set up
  • A waste of time

If you don’t tuck the tarp under the tiles above the hole, rain will simply fall on tiles higher up and then run down the roof, under the tarp and into the hole.

And those cheap blue tarps you can buy? Forget about them. Absolutely useless. They tend to last a fortnight at most before they turn to shreds in the sun, rain and wind.

The heavy duty grey tarps are more expensive but can last for months without replacement. If you’re lucky enough to have the professionals turn up to weatherproof your roof, they’ll probably rock on up with an industrial size tarp to cover almost your entire roof.

Tarps on a Broken Roof

The thing is though, as mentioned, it’s far better to repair the damage rather than cover it up.

Repairing Roof Tiles

Roof tiles are actually surprisingly technical things. They have all these ruts and grooves that mean that when you kick them back into place, they suddenly click in with the tiles around them and take quite a bit of effort to remove them again.

For this reason, repairing these roofs is actually bloody easy. Especially if you have good solid tiles that aren’t brittle and don’t snap when you walk on them.

Repairing a roof can be surprisingly easy and immensely satisfying. You’ll need:

  1. A ladder

If you want to look a bit more professional, you’ll also need:

  1. A rubber mallet
  2. A crowbar
  3. Some gloves

I find that a hi-vis t-shirt also makes you feel like a proper builder for the day.

Here’s the process:

  1. Get up there
  2. Clear a bunch of tiles from the damaged area and stack them in piles around the edge
  3. Place the tiles back onto the wooden struts working (and this is important if you want an easy job) from left to right and bottom to top

That’s actually it. All done. Your roof is now watertight again. Easy huh?


Earthquake Damaged Roof in Christchurch

Earthquake damaged roof in Christchurch


The same roof after less than an hour's work

The same roof after less than an hour's work

Chances are that you’ll have a few broken tiles as well. Not necessarily because they fell off your roof but because they are brittle and were shaken to pieces during the quake. In some cases, the wooden supports in your roof may also have warped or twisted slightly, causing the tiles to crush together.

If you do find you have a few broken tiles at the end, your best bet for now is to take them out and put them all back in all together in just one place on your roof, just like in the below photo.

Broken Roof Tiles

Now you’ll only have water leaking through your roof in one place and you can put buckets in your roof space to contain any water that comes through. It’ll also be easier to tarp that one area of broken tiles but, again, it’s almost easier to leave it open and place buckets underneath.

On another note, if your roof looks like this in the Aranui, Bexley, Bromley, Dallington or Avonside suburbs of Christchurch and you need a quick repair job to minimise the damage, leave me a comment and I’ll see if I can help.

However, your first step should always be to contact a professional builder who can take care of both roof and chimney repairs and give you a receipt for your insurance. Either way, take some photos of the damage now so that you have a record.

Disclaimer: As mentioned, I’m not a builder. Or any other kind of tradesman. Just someone who likes to sort out problems myself if I can rather than wait for the professionals (this bugs my wife!). All of the above is not an official way to fix your roofs and, if you can, you should really seek the assistance of a professional and refrain from going on your roof yourself if possible. If you do go on your roof, take extreme care, particularly when walking on damaged tiles.

Are you on Twitter? Know some people with damaged roofs that might benefit from this post? Smack that Tweet button!

  • Ktbnz

    Hi Mark, I posted re: this post on TradeMe in case somebody needed roof repairs in your area. Can you confirm if you are offering this service for free or do you intend to charge? Cheers

  • Thanks James. Good idea.

  • Thanks, yeah no charge so long as it’s local and I have time! It’ll be a short term repair to reduce water damage. And only for those that need it! If you’re a healthy young male then get to it! And again, if you can get the professionals in then that’s always gonna be your best bet.

  • Also look at the mortaring along the capstones – I had a few tiles come out and a neighbour put them back for me but I got a roofer out to check and he is coming round next week to lay them all down flat and mortar in along the ridge as many of those were loose and unmortared down

  • Yeah it’s that mortar that I haven’t been able to help with. The ridges on a lot of these houses are a mess. It looks like the tiles are placed on the roof and not fixed, but then the ridge capstones are placed and they are cemented in. The cement hasn’t stood up well to the earthquake.