Difficult Conversations – Mortgage and Volcanic Ash

The ashfall continues in Barbados from the volcanic eruptions in St Vincent. Therefore, half of this article will conclude my mortgage series, and the other half will include my best advice on the volcanic ash.

If you are being advised to get a 25 to 30-year home-mortgage at this time, then in my opinion, you are being very badly advised.
Many of our parents who paid off their mortgages, got them when land was selling at around $1 to $2 per sq-ft. Now, it is more than 10 times that amount. Construction costs were around $75/sq ft. Now it is about 3 to 4 times that amount.
Middle-income salaries were around $500 per month. Those salaries likely grew ten-fold over their careers. So, they saw the mortgage component of their salaries getting significantly smaller, and much easier to pay during the life of the loan.

Before 1996, mortgages tended to be for only a part of the building costs. Persons normally had to find between 25% to 50% of what they wanted to borrow. This meant that they did not know the uncertainty of a 25 to 30-year debt repayment.
Times have changed. Land prices and construction costs are already very high, and are expected to continue to increase. However, mid-income levels are not expected to increase 10-fold like with your parents. You may be fortunate if they double during your career. It is as if you entered at the losing end of a Ponzi scheme.

Paying a 30-year mortgage for this new generation of working Barbadians, is going to be a very difficult burden for them to bear. Mortgages worked for our parents, because land was cheap, and wages were growing rapidly. This is a different time, and it demands a different house-financing model.
My best advice is for a couple to build a strong and durable starter house in 6 years, as I have described in two previous articles. Now to the volcanic ash fallout in Barbados.

The Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in Montserrat in 1995. It resulted in the destruction of the capital city of Plymouth, and the southern half of the island becoming uninhabitable. I was working on several projects in Plymouth before the eruption, and continued working in Montserrat after the event.
Many house roofs risk collapsing under 4 inches of ash. This can build up if the roof slope is gentle. For that reason, I have been advocating a roof slope of 30 degrees, after inspecting the damage from the volcanic eruption in Montserrat.

An approximate 30-degree roof slope reduces the risk of volcanic ash building up. It also attracts some of the lowest wind pressures during a hurricane. If roof gutter slopes were laid at about 2%, then they may be self cleaning.
Trying to clean roof gutters and roof sheets of a 2-storey house, on a ladder with wet ash, is an extremely dangerous practise. It should only be attempted by those in a hurry to see Jesus. That is why houses should be designed and built to be low maintenance.
If your house has less than a 30-degree roof slope, but was designed to survive a category 3 hurricane, then it may support 4 inches of ash. However, there are too many variables, like the quality of the connections, the condition of the timber, and the length of the span, to be certain. Therefore, let me suggest the following.

If you have safe access to your roof, then attach a high-pressure telescoping wand to your hose, and remove the ash. If you do not have safe access to your roof, then attach the high-pressure wand to a long telescoping roller pole, and remove the ash.

If one section of your roof has a gentle slope (like a car port lean-to), and it is safely accessible, then you may consider cleaning the roof, and then installing a tarpaulin or a heavy-duty plastic sheet. Whenever the ash builds up, simply remove the tarpaulin, wash off the ash, and reinstall.
Do not stand on your roof, otherwise, the combined weight of the ash and you may cause it to collapse. If some stubborn person decides to walk on your roof to clean it, then get out of the house. If the roof collapses, then occupants are likely to be injured by the falling roof, and choked by the accumulated ash.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

27 thoughts on “Difficult Conversations – Mortgage and Volcanic Ash

  1. It makes no sense building more houses.

    The available water resource has been totally allocated since 1996.

    It was spelt out in the 1978 Water Resources Study and predictable from the 1946 Senn Report.

    Construction is a dead end activity and although we may not realise it we reached the end a couple of decades ago.

    We have simply run out of water.

    We should not be building any more houses.

    Building sewers for what developments already exist probably makes more sense, particularly those close to Zone 1 Areas.

    If Singapore can reuse waste water we can too.

    Thus we should be looking at technologies for water treatment.

    We need to learn from Singapore.

  2. When you were in Montserrat did the people who were paying there house off in 6 years fair any better than the people that had taken a 30 mortgage. I would bet not The people who took the long term approach would have more present income. Either way they both lost their houses and it shows no-one can predict the future . So to say peoples incomes wont grow is just a guess, that interest rates will sky rocket also a guess…educated….but a guess just the same. Who would have thought that some Chinese man”s penchant for bat arse would bring countries to their economic knees. Not me I hate bat arse.

  3. nextparty246April 15, 2021 3:38 PM


    Desalination technology essentially provides an unlimited amount of water.


    Desalination of water from the sea is expensive, in fact back in 2006, when Apes Hill Golf Course was being built a director said it was too expensive and could not be paid for out of the expected profits of the Golf Course.

    Until the price falls and can justify the building of more houses then construction is at a dead end!!

  4. The sooner the authorities realise this simple fact the less chance of screwing up what water resources we have by contamination.

  5. @John

    Your absolutely correct, Barbados has been OUT OF WATER for years, authorities SIMPLY do not understand essential infrastructure. Government has always operated with the philosophy, GOD IS A BAJAN and will provide, ha, ha. The expression will COME BACK TO BITE YOU IN THE ASS covers the situation. Competent government has been on a slippery down slope since independence, the consequences are now pushing the country to FAILED STATE STATUS. The present and past several governments operated in the DARK AGES all the time claiming FIRST WORLD STATUS and the Barbados populace were more than happy to go along with these ideologies.

  6. Is it the number of buildings the effect the water situation or is it the increase in population?

    Unless the rain pattern changes to where we have a more reliable /consistent amount of infiltration to cover the dry season then we will always have difficulties during the dry season – until we can cover the lack of infiltration by desalination.

  7. On average, rainfall varies between 40 and 60 inches per year depending on the year.

    BWA plans for 40+ inches per year.

    Their design yields for wells takes this into consideration.

    The politicians, bless their hearts, plan for 80 and above because they don’t know better!!

    We’ve been below 40 year before last and above 60 on occasion.

    Sometimes the West Coast wells have to be shut down to avoid salt water intrusion.

    A dry year will hammer any uninformed decision to increase demand.

    We need another source of water.

    One is to sewer and treat, another is the Scotland District.

    True desal is a third option.

    All of these options need extremely close attention to the plants that produce them … like in Singapore!!.

    I see there are 208K+ new cases for COVID in India today so far.

    Yesterday ended at 218K+.

  8. Of ash, how funny?

    On mortgages and housing – your anti-analytical approach continues to include too few variables in a desperate attempt to transport readers to a bygone era.

    That was less funny than the come to jesus missive, we must admit.

  9. Wily

    Bring me a print or a recording
    Since all of of them claim it as you said at least one should be able to find

    I have never hear anyone in government or any bajan claim first world status
    I have here some say that is what they would love to / is aiming

  10. John 2

    You like many suffer from a short memory.

    Did Owen Seymour Arthur not set a date certain when Barbados would have been a “developed country”?

    Did Kofi Anand not come to Barbados and infused the respectability ethos with notions of “punching about its weight” in global affairs?

    Just asking!

  11. Pacha

    You like you are suffering with no understanding.
    Read what i said and try to comprehend. What you said is not confirming what wily said but is infact supporting what i have said,

    When that date came did Owen declared that we had become a First World Country?
    Did he declare it it before or after?

    Just asking too

  12. Lie! None of them! They always expressed First World Status as a goal.

    But I think they should aspire to a better status because First World countries became that way off our backs, from slavery and exploitation that continues to this day with the G20, G8, WTO etc and all the rules they make to suit themselves.

    The way to stop us from begging is to pay us what they bloody well owe!

    Our ancestors built the bloody first world countries! Most of them that throw their weight around, at any rate.

    The same status they now use against us was built off our free labour.

    But yes, I do believe that in the meantime we should show them what we can do without the bloody vampires and their blood money, even if it is our ancestors’ blood that made them that money.

  13. Than you Donna

    There are some who just like to pull down Barbados

    @ Wily

    Barbados borrow money and is in debt

    Is the great powerful debt free.?

  14. Utilization of Kelut’s Volcanic Ash as the Aggregate Mixture of Concrete Brick
    Article Preview
    Kelut volcano had erupted in February 2014. The eruption has produced various materials i.e. ash, sands, etc. Volcanic ash contains various elements such as Si, Al, Ca, Fe, Na and P. It is potential to be used as raw material for cement-based products. This study investigates the utilization of Kelut’s volcanic ash as the raw material of cement-brick. The Kelut’s volcanic ash was analyzed to determine the contents of iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), and silica (Si). The volcanic ash was screened to obtain 100 mesh size of ash. The volcanic ash of 100 mesh size was mixed with cement, sand, and water with ratio of 1 kg cement, 2 kg volcanic ash, and 15 kg sand (1 :2 :15). The mixture of volcanic ash, sand and cement was poured and pressed in the concrete brick mold. The concrete brick was then aerated in a room for hardening process. The experiment was repeated for another ratio of raw material (cement: volcanic ash: sand = 2:1:15) and the age of the concrete brick (46, 61, 75 and 89 days). Concrete bricks were analyzed to determine the quality and the mechanical characteristics. The results has shown that Kelut’s volcanic ash has a composition of aluminum (Al) 4.707%, silica (SiO2) 23.4%, and iron (Fe) 3.85%, that is like the composition of the cement materials. The concrete bricks which are made of cement, Kelut’s volcanic ash, and sand with the ratio of 2:1:15 has a maximum compression strength of 18.85 MPa at the age of 89 days. The addition of Kelut’s volcanic ash has improved the strength of concrete brick. However, too much volcanic ash will lead to increasing compression strength.

  15. Cement made with volcanic ash can make cities stronger and greener
    By Nick Lavars

    Producing cement is a hugely energy intensive process that accounts for around five percent of global CO2 emissions, so scientists are continually searching for greener ways of doing things. Now a team from MIT has found that pulverizing volcanic ash and adding it to the mix can not only make the process more environmentally friendly, but the resulting structures stronger as well.

  16. Fuel import bill increases again

    ” Barbados’ fuel import bill has increased for the third year while the country continues efforts to become a renewable energy economy.

    Based on information released by the Central Bank on Wednesday, Barbados spent $728.1 million on overseas oil products last year. This is about $16 million more than the amount in 2018 and is the highest total since 2014 when the bill was $877.5 million.

    It continues a recent trend of increased spending on imported petroleum products, and comes as a new report reveals that in recent years Barbados’ energy consumption outstripped the performance of the economy.”
    Article by
    SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, shawncumberbatch@nationnews.com.

    If there was no curfew the bill would be over 1 billion dollars.

    Barbadians have deep pockets so they will continue to waste millions of dollars.
    All they know is drinking rum ,smoking weed, fast food & burning gas like it is water. Just after the lockdown, Barbadians motorist had a line extending from Chefette Wildey to Bank Brewery with car idling in the line for hours. A similar trend was also noted at other Chefette outlets.

  17. Is the writer of this an overseas Barbadian? If he is not he should be placed on a raft and towed out of our territorial waters. The nerve ….

    “All they know is drinking rum ,smoking weed, fast food & burning gas like it is water. ”

    No mention of work.

  18. What is the global-warming impact of the omnipresent drive-through?

    Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

    Drive-throughs cause motorists to waste a lot of gas and harm the ozone layer.
    Drive-throughs are hotspots for air pollution.
    Drive-through employees are regularly exposed to toxic fumes that can have long-term health effects.
    Customers in their cars are also exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals that accumulate in the confined space of the car.
    The study below reinforces the point.

    Drive thru employees and users could be breathing in harmful levels of polluted air, new research by Coventry University has found.
    The study, which was done collaboratively with the BBC, measured air pollution at 10 drive thru locations across the UK over a two-week period, and found levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter peaking at many times the standard limit (40µg/m3).

    The spread of American idle may be an exciting prospect for companies seeking to expand this lazy food-getting method to the rest of the world–but it’s a devastating one for the environment.

    Cities across America are banning the construction of fast-food drive-throughs, in a bid to cut air pollution and combat climate change.

    Measures to reduce idling – leaving a car’s engine running while it’s stationary – are also gaining in popularity and have been put in place in some US cities, including Boston.


    The consumption of alcohol can have profound effects on personal health as well as community health. There is a substantial proportion of people in Barbados who drink at levels that increase the risk of harm both to themselves and to others. Alcohol can also have social consequences such as contributing to violence, crime and antisocial behaviour in the community.

    Regular excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk over time of chronic ill health and premature death. Episodic heavy drinking places the drinker and others at risk of injury or death.

  19. Barbadians waste millions of dollars on fast food/ unhealthy diets, drinking excessive quantities of rum & smoking excessive quantities of weed & tobacco. If the country were to take a holiday from alcohol consumption many individuals would end up with ” Rum fits”.
    Rum go a lot a men & some women on the island BEWITCHED.
    We should not forget that European Christian colonists used alcohol as a chemical weapon of warfare in their genocidal and ethnic cleansing mistreatment and exploitation of African & indigenous peoples around the globe.

    If you don’t like these comments you can lump it, some people can’t handle the truth.

  20. Or perhaps I should. The group has divided commentaries into those made by locals or those in the Diaspora. The overseas crew is supposed to be a bunch of negative Nellies. What can be boldly be said by a local are traitorous words in the mouth of the overseas crew.

    Was. Not/never about you. Chill.

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