Whitewashed Roofs

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27  ESV)

Housing on Guam was different from the ubiquitous wooden frame houses in the USA. Individual homes were built more like apartment complexes with concrete walls, ceilings and floors. Local earthquakes and typhoons made this a good solution to the island housing needs. There were advantages and disadvantages to the design.

One of the advantages was obvious as I setup my Amateur Radio gear. I purchased a small radio tower from a departing missionary and an antenna from a departing enlisted man at the Naval Air Station. I eliminated the need for guy wires and special mounting base by standing the tower next to the house and anchoring it to the concrete ledge protruding all around the roof. It was a great solution, easy to implement and provided great access to the roof.

Roof access was vital to survival in the tropical climate. With concrete construction most of the houses sported flat roofs. Take a slab of concrete the size of a house, add in regular earthquakes and cracks develop. In addition to the cracks the moisture in the air, low humidity was 85%, was an incentive for mold to grow in leaps and bounds on the roof turning it black.

If you studied solar heating you would recognize that black is a great color to collect heat. Unfortunately we want to reduce the heat in our home, not increase the Easy Bake Oven effect. In order to reduce the cost of electricity from air conditioning there was a semi annual schedule to paint the roof a beautiful and blinding white.

The local hardware and paint stores made a fortune on roof paint. Some paints were reputed to have anti mold formulas. This special formula demanded a higher price. We tried it once but the mold returned just as quickly as with cheaper paint. Applying the paint to the roof was a laborious task preceded by a thorough cleaning of the surface.

Cleaning the surface required using a power washer. These gas powered, high pressure washers worked great. They performed several functions at the same time. First they removed the unwanted mold and loose paint from the roof. For the family member inside the house the washer revealed the areas where cracks had developed by flooding the house with water. Finally the high pressure water stream quickly removed flesh and muscle down to the bone if you weren’t careful which way the nozzle pointed. I know from experience!

Discovering the cracks in the ceiling was good. This was the first part of the second step to recondition the roof. After the water dried tar was applied to the long and sometimes deep cracks on the ceiling. The patchwork quilt was then covered by a thick layer of shining white paint. A cloudy day was best for painting so the reflection didn’t hurt the eyes. The finished product was beautiful to behold, plus, it provided a functional result. Painting the roof white could reduce the interior temperature of the house about 10 F degrees on a sunny day.

Painting complete, radio tower attached to the house, things were in order to live in the tropics another year or two. The entire job was simplified by the ready access to the roof via the radio. We lived in a white washed bunker ready for the next storm.

Jesus called the religious leaders white washed tombs because they looked good on the outside and were filled with death on the inside. Our home was first cleansed by the blood of Christ on the inside and then white washed to remove the exterior mold and decay. Often we concentrate on the outside appearance while the inside is in shambles. A clean exterior may make the inside feel cooler but it doesn’t clean it up. It may be a good time to stop looking at the roof and start cleaning the inside.


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