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Choosing the Best Roof for Coastal Homes

This coastal home has a 5-V Galvalume roof. This coastal home has a 5-V Galvalume roof.

While coastal homes come with unbeatable views and easy ocean access, they also take quite a beating from the elements. From severe winds to torrential downpours, there are many factors to keep in mind when choosing a building material that offers adequate protection and durability.

Choosing the right roof for coastal homes is particularly important, since the roof material acts as a barrier from rain and wayward debris, while contributing to the overall attractiveness of the house. To help you decide on the best roofing for your Charleston-area home, we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of some of the most common materials.  Items to take into consideration also include the pitch (or slope) of the roof. Shingles are not suitable for anything less than a 3:12 slope, and even in these cases Sea Island Builders chooses to use an Ice and Watershield underlayment whenever applying a shingle roof. A 3:12 slope means 3 inches of fall for every 12 inches of horizontal distance.

Slate roofs. Slate roofing’s distinctive, attractive appearance makes it a perfect choice for Colonial, French, and other exotic revival-style homes. Slate boasts a long lifespan and low-maintenance requirements, and is virtually fireproof. However, this type of roofing can be quite expensive, and usually requires specialized installation from an experienced professional.

Copper roofs. While copper’s expensive price point makes it less popular, it is one of the most durable and long-lasting roofing materials. Copper roofs have been known to last for centuries—the oldest copper roof in the United States was installed on the Olde Christ Church in Philadelphia in 1742! Copper naturally resists corrosion, and its light weight puts less structural stress on homes. As copper ages, it changes color and develops a striking greenish hue.

However, this type of roofing material is fairly soft, and can easily dent and scratch in thunderstorms and hail and require repair. Standing seam copper roods can be installed on roofs with pitches as low as 2:12. A standing seam copper roof normally runs 20% more than a comparable standing seam aluminum roof.

Architectural Shingles. Shingles are one of the most popular types of roofing among contemporary builders due to their low price and durability. Asphalt shingles typically come with a 30-year warranty, though the shingles themselves often last longer. Shingles are offered in a wide array of colors, complementing a large variety of housing designs and styles.

However, asphalt shingles can rot if inclement weather persists, and require periodic preventative maintenance. Shingle roofs are limited in application by the pitch of the roof to which they are being applied and should only be installed where a slope greater than 3:12 is present. This type of shingle normally runs 50% of the cost of a galvanized steel roof.

Galvanized steel. Galvanized steel, or also known as Galvalume, is a relatively inexpensive metal roofing material that can last more than 60 years if properly installed and maintained. Galvanized steel roofing comes in many different colors and styles, such as painted steel or stone-coated steel. Made of alloyed steel with a protective zinc coating, this type of material is resistant to rusting, strong winds, and rain. The protective zinc coating helps protect steel roofing from rust, but this needs to be reapplied every 20 years or so.

Extra care must be taken during the handling and installation of Galvalume roofs because any scratch in the protective finish will lead to discoloration and corrosion within a couple of years. Most galvanized steel roof manufacturers will not warranty their product in coastal applications if within a mile of the ocean or other saltwater source.

These types of roofs, as with most metal roofs, come in two types of panels: standing seam and v-crimp. A Standing seam metal roof normally costs around 20% more than the same metal roof in v-crimp. V-crimp roofs also have exposed fasteners, while a standing seam metal roof does not. Both are extremely water tight and durable when properly installed.

Solid aluminum. Aluminum has grown in popularity as a roofing material over recent years, since it is low maintenance, corrosion-resistant, and energy efficient. Since aluminum naturally reflects light and emits heat, this type of roofing can help you save on heating and cooling costs. It’s lightweight and sturdy, though not as durable as galvanized steel. Most aluminum roofs last 40+ years depending upon the thickness, or gauge, of the paneling being used. Solid aluminum roofs carry a very good warranty for coastal applications.

Wood shakes. While wood shakes are not as common as other roofing materials, this kind of roof can give a home a classic, traditional appearance. A high quality, properly installed wood shake roof will generally have a 20-40 year life expectancy. However, without routine care and maintenance, this type of roofing is highly susceptible to mold, rot, and mildew. Cedar shake is the preferred choice by Sea Island Builders, and normally we install a shake that is 5/8” thick. It is very important to make sure that the shake shingles are properly sealed and protected prior to installation to ensure the longevity of this type of roof.

Sea Island Builders generally uses the best method possible when it comes to the materials and means of installation on our projects. There are many other aspects of roofing and installation that need to be considered when selecting a roof for coastal homes and the roofing underlayment. Most builders use 30# felt paper as their roofing underlayment. Sea island Builders uses an ice and watershield underlayment on more than 90% of their projects. Feel free to call the Sea Island Builders team at 843-883-7430 to discuss roofing in depth with a construction professional.


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