Saturday, April 19, 2008

zinc sheets or "Sa Li Ngua"

Sa Li Ngua? It is a saviour kind of building material for the poor and needy. A rich man can donate ten pieces to a man whose house was burnt in the early morning. Some politicians can easily send 100 zinc sheets to garner some votes. As for me, one or two pieces meant that I could collect rain water to wash my clothes in those long ago days. Just two pieces of zinc sheets and one oil drum - we had free and clean rain water for our family. Praise God for that.

Corrugated galvanised iron or in simple Sibu terms, zinc sheets for roofing were common easily obtainable makeshift building materials. I remember that this was a common sight when I was a school girl in Sibu : a farmer would buy one or two sheets, rolled them up and carried them home on his bicycle. He would be pushing his bicycle, often he would be barefooted. Soon he would use them to save rain water from the roof in an oil drum. Another recyling idea.

He could use the two pieces to build a new chicken coop, or repair his leaking roof. He might use them as a shed for his wife who washed in the open verandah.

Or in another scenario, the zinc sheets would be the new wall of his little extension of a small kitchen.

This is just to show you how versatile the corrugated galvanised iron was in the lives of the Foochows in the last fifty years.

Today the tin roof is more often rusty and very identifiable. To me they reflect the struggling life of many inhabitants of Sibu, trying to stretch their ringgit as much as they can. Tin roofing being one of the cheapest and easiest to use building material will continue to be the pet material of not only the pioneers of an area but the itinerant and poorer inhabitants of Sibu.

They will colour the scenary of Sibu and remind any onlooker that life is still a struggle amongst 80% of the population amidst the grand development of multi million ringgit homes of the rich and famous. Thieves have even been known to steal the miserable pieces of roofing from the absolute poor people. When the theives could not still money, they take any removable building materials.

In fact, unknown to many Foochows the corrugated galvanised iron roofing has been rather well documented throughout the world.

It is used in Mount Lawley, Western Australia. One can still see the tin roof to the crushing plant of an abandoned tin mine Northern Territory, Australia. There is the famous corrugated iron Church (or tin tabernacle) in Kilburn, London.

According to the Wikipeadia write up, CGI is lightweight and easily transported. It was and still is widely used especially in rural and military buildings such as sheds and water tanks. Its unique properties were used in the development of countries like Australia from the 1840's, and it is still helping developing countries today.

Early manual corrugated iron roller. On display at Kapunda museum, South AustraliaCGI was invented in the 1820s in Britain by Henry Palmer, architect and engineer to the London Dock Company. It was originally made (as the name suggests) from wrought iron. It proved to be light, strong, corrosion-resistant, and easily transported, and particularly lent itself to prefabricated structures and improvisation by semi-skilled workers. It soon became a common construction material in rural areas in the United States and Australia and later India, and in Australia also became (and remains) the most common roofing material and is even used in urban areas (in which application it is usually painted) but not as commonly as in rural areas. For roofing purposes, the sheets are laid somewhat like tiles, with a lateral overlap of two or three corrugations, and a vertical overlap of about 150 mm, to provide for waterproofing. CGI is also a common construction material for industrial buildings throughout the world.

Wrought iron CGI was gradually replaced by mild steel from around the 1890s, and iron CGI is no longer obtainable - however, the common name has not been changed. Galvanised sheets with simple corrugations are also being gradually displaced by 55%Al-Zn coated steel (GALVALUME® steel) or coil-painted sheets with complex profiles. However CGI remains common.

(Source:Wikipedia® )

2 memories:

Unknown said...

I like to hear the sound of rain falling on corrugated zinc sheet roof. It reminds me of many ggood and bad memories!!

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Did you have the "poorest" moment of your life?

I went with a group of friends to stay in a friend's farm house upriver and suddenly there was a heavy downpour. It was like a two room hut which gave us shelter and three of us ladies were so worried about getting wet. But it was impossible not to get wet. The men took pails, tins, and every receptacle to hold the rain water so that parts of the floor could be dry.

That evening we ate from the tins with some bread. And we slept in our dirty clothes with no blankets, no dry mats. (We could not move forward in the afternoon because the river was too treacherous.)

The zinc roof was so full of holes that later we could see all the stars.

That was our night's stay at a "hotel of a thousand stars". We felt poor and rich at the same time.


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