Most Popular Roofing Materials for Beach Homes

Time: 2021-07-30

Most homes in the United States have asphalt, or composite, shingles on their roofs. These shingles are relatively affordable, but they are not made to withstand harsh conditions or even to last very long under fair conditions. Conventional roofing material tends to be an inferior choice for coastal homes. Get to know six roofing materials that are popular choices for beach homes, due to their strength and their appearance.

1. Clay Tiles

Clay tiles are often found on coastal homes, as they fit in perfectly with the Mediterranean-inspired architecture found in certain coastal areas, including Florida and Southern California. They may not work with the aesthetic of other coastal areas, such as New England. Besides their beautiful appearance, clay tiles offer practical value for coastal properties. They are exceptionally durable since they are naturally resistant to the weathering effects of water and sea air. They are fire-resistant, too.

Clay tiles do come with a few potential drawbacks. For one, they are quite heavy — heavy enough that some homes may not be able to support the weight. Their heft can be a positive quality during high winds, however, since it helps the tiles stay in place. Another downside for some homeowners or property owners is that clay tiles can be quite expensive. Considering they last around 40 to 50 years or more, however, clay tiles can be well worth the upfront cost.

2. Slate Tiles

Another traditional roofing material that works well for coastal homes is slate. Slate is a natural stone material that comes in a variety of colors, including neutrals such as black and gray and more colorful shades such as green, red and purple. Like clay tile, slate tiles are incredibly durable and fire-resistant. Slate roofs can last a century or more, making them one of the most long-lasting roof types. Slate is a traditional choice for Colonial and European-style homes, such as French chateaus, but they can also work well for luxury beach homes.

Slate has some of the same drawbacks as clay tiles and to an even higher degree. Slate is heavier than clay and also tends to be more costly. The weight will typically call for extra framing which can add to the complexity and cost of installation. In short, slate is a great option if you're willing to make a substantial investment to have a beautiful roof on your beach home that lasts a lifetime.

3. Steel

Steel is a popular metal roofing material used on a variety of home types, including beach homes. Steel roofing materials come in large panel sheets and can be left a metallic color or painted or coated in any color. Metal is much more affordable than the other materials we've discussed so far, but it also offers a very different appearance, which may look perfect on your beach house.

Stainless steel and galvanized steel are both options you'll see on the market today, and both offer some practical benefits. Because metal naturally reflects heat rather than absorbing it, a metal roof can keep the attic attic, and in turn, the whole home cooler, which can be a big plus for coastal areas in hot, sunny climates. Stainless steel and galvanized steel also have properties that make them resistant to corrosion that would normally affect other types of metal.

4. Copper

Copper is another type of metal roofing material you'll see on some coastal homes. Copper can be installed either in the form of tiles or large sheets. Copper starts out beautifully shiny but then develops a lovely greenish patina as it ages. The natural patina makes copper resistant to corrosion, allowing it to last for centuries with little need for maintenance, in some cases. Copper is seen as a unique and luxurious material, making it perfect for beach mansions with an old-world feel.

While copper is weather-resistant, it is a fairly soft metal, meaning it is susceptible to scratching and denting if it's hit by hail or debris during a storm. One of the main downsides to this material, for many people, is the price point. Copper is one of the most high-end roofing materials you'll come across, which is why it's primarily associated with opulent structures. However, copper tiles tend to be more affordable than large sheets.

5. Wood Shingles and Shakes

Another traditional choice for coastal home roofing is wood shakes and shingles. Western red cedar, in particular, is a classic choice for homes along the New England coastline. A more exotic option is teak wood, derived from Asian trees in the mint family. Wood shakes and shingles combine the elements of rustic and elegant in a way that makes them perfect for many beach homes. Shingles are smoother and thinner while shakes are a bit thicker and rougher.

Though wood may seem like a weak material compared to the others we've looked at, it can actually be quite durable. In a storm, wood shingles and shakes are resistant to wind and to impact from debris. By pretreating the wood shakes or shingles and properly maintaining them, you can also expect a wood roof to effectively resist more gradual issues like rot and mold. A wood roof can last up to 40 years or more in some cases. It can be the perfect complement to any beach house, from a nautical shack to a luxurious vacation home.

6. Thatch

Another option you won't likely see on inland homes in the US but you may see on the coast and more tropical locations is thatch — dried reeds and grasses that are tightly layered. Because it has such a distinctly tropical feel, thatch is a great roofing material for beach huts, houses and hotels in warmer areas. Even if you're not interested in thatch as an option for your home's roof, it can be the perfect topper for an outdoor pavilion.

Thatch comes in both natural and synthetic forms, both of which offer practical value in addition to the unmatched appearance. Thatch may seem like a weak material, but it has been used on roofs for thousands of years because of its strength and insulation abilities. A natural thatch roof can last up to 20 years, and synthetic thatch can last 50 years or more. Natural thatch is an exceptionally sustainable roofing product since it's completely biodegradable.

How to Select the Right Roofing Material for Your Coastal Home

Whether you're replacing a roof on an existing home or choosing a roofing material for new construction, selecting the right material is critical. Since beach homes tend to be subject to harsher conditions than homes in many other areas, the responsibility to choose the right roofing material in these situations becomes even more critical. Let's look at the various factors you should consider when choosing the best roofing material for your beach house:

1. Weather-Resistance

Elements like sun, salty air, rain, winds and more can all take a toll on the roof of a beach house, but some materials can stand up to these elements much more effectively than others. Looking for weather-resistant roofing materials is absolutely essential if your home is on the coast. Make durability a top concern as you consider potential materials.

In particular, you want to make sure a roofing material is resistant to corrosion since salty sea air, humidity and rain could otherwise compromise your roof's integrity. You also want to make sure your roof is wind-resistant. Hurricanes strike the US coastline an average of five times every three years, so you should prepare for this scenario. You want to give your roof a fighting chance at remaining intact in the face of high winds. For the best weather-resistance, you want quality installation and quality materials.

2. Insulation

Insulation should be a concern for any homeowner, but it's of particular concern when your home is located in an area that experiences extreme temperatures. For example, if your home is in Miami Beach, the oppressive summer heat can place a high demand on your air conditioning system, resulting in high energy bills.

Your roof is one of your home's key defenses against outside temperatures, so it's wise to select a roofing material that offers an impressive insulation value. This will not only help keep out the hot sun but the cold, as well. If there are seasons when you want to keep the inside of your home warmer or colder than it is outside, then insulation is an important factor.

3. Maintenance

Another factor to consider is how much maintenance a roofing material will require. Since coastal homes tend to experience harsher conditions than the average American home, they may require more roof maintenance. If you don't want to perform maintenance tasks yourself or hire a professional to do so, then you'll want to make sure you choose a roofing material for your beach house that is low-maintenance. To do that, you might have to choose a more expensive material.

Regardless of which roofing material you pick, it's critical that you understand what upkeep is necessary to keep your roof looking attractive and to maximize its lifespan. Typically, maintenance for beach home roofs involve basic tasks like removing debris as well as periodic weather-sealing in some cases. Another critical aspect of maintenance is repairing any roof damage that does occur before it leads to a more serious problem.

4. Aesthetic

Aesthetic appeal is an important consideration when choosing a roofing material since it will have a significant impact on the overall appearance of your home's exterior. Owners of beach homes often take pride in their home's coastal style, so why pick a roofing material that detracts from that?

Ideally, the material you choose will fit the style of your home. This doesn't necessarily mean that if you have a Spanish Mission-style home, you have to have clay tile, or if you have a New England coastal home, you must use cedar shakes. Choose the material that you like best for your home. You may be able to customize the appearance by choosing a specific variation or color, as well.

5. Cost

Another practical factor to consider when choosing a roof for your coastal home is cost. You'll want to consider your own budget and determine what materials are available in your price range. However, simply comparing materials based on their price can be misleading. Let's say you choose an affordable material, but the roof will need to be replaced in 20 years. If you still own the property at that point, then you'll be paying once again for a new roof.

A higher upfront investment can pay off over time if you choose a material with more longevity. When you choose a material like wood or slate, you may never have to replace the roof.

6. Building Codes

Finally, you'll need to check local building codes to ensure you choose a material and install it according to your state's requirements. Coastal states tend to have much stricter codes when it comes to things like roofing because hurricanes are more likely. If you live in Florida, you'll be dealing with some of the most stringent codes in the country.

Remember that material is not all that matters. In many cases, the way it's installed is just as important. Be sure you abide by local codes, and feel free to ask your roofing company for advice on ways you can further protect your home from weather and other issues. For example, they may recommend positioning a rain screen on your roof before installing wood shingles if you live in a humid area.

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