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Roofing materials for tropical climates

Last Updated Apr 3, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider


When we think of tropical climates, we think of balmy days and warm nights. Anyone who lives in the tropics knows that tropical climates also have extreme weather. When a cyclone comes, your roofing material needs to be able to stand up to heavy rains and high winds. What are the best roofing materials for tropical climates? Let's have a look at the options.

  1. Metallic Roofing 

  2. Concrete Roofing

  3. Slate Roofing Tiles

  4. Terracotta Tiles

  5. Ceramic Roof Tiles

  6. Membrane Roofing

  7. Photovoltaic Shingles

  8. Choosing Roofing for Tropical Climates

Metallic Roofing

Metallic roofing can be a good material for tropical climates. However, you need to take care when choosing metallic roofing. According to studies, metallic roofing can reflect up to 66 percent of the sun's energy away from the roof. This isn't quite as high as some other roofing materials, but it is better than others. A light coloured metallic roofing is probably your best option because a light colour will reflect light.

Metallic roofing

Good quality metallic roofing will cost more than some other materials, but can be worth the extra cost. When properly installed, metallic roofing stands up to extreme weather conditions better than most other materials.

Concrete Roofing

Concrete is another excellent choice for tropical roofing. Concrete is heavy and will resist being blown off the roof in heavy winds. Concrete tiles can withstand winds of up to 193 kilometers per hour. Concrete reflects up to 77 percent of the sun's energy away from the roof. If you choose a light colour, it will reflect more heat than a dark colour.  White "S" shaped concrete tiles are even more effective at reflecting heat.

Concrete roofing

Concrete roof tiles can look like terracotta or slate tiles. The best concrete roof tiles for tropical climates may be flat tiles. Concrete tiles aren't quite as maintenance-free as metallic roofing. Occasionally, you will have to hire a pressure cleaning service to remove grime from your concrete roof tiles to restore them to their original condition.

Slate Roofing Tiles

Slate is one of the oldest roofing materials. It is a heavy material and slate tiles are usually flat, which helps them stay put in heavy winds. The downside to slate is that it is an expensive roofing material. While expensive, slate is a stylish roofing material that can add value to your home.

Slate roofing tiles

As with any roofing material, choose a light coloured slate for a tropical climate. Slate comes in a variety of colours, from greys to earth tones. A light grey or earth tone will reflect heat. Slate tiles should be professionally installed by roofers who know how to install them in a tropical climate where heavy winds might be a problem.

Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tiles are used in hot climates around the world. There is a reason for this.  In general, terracotta tiles have low heat absorption. Both the shape and colour of terracotta roofing tiles can contribute to keeping your home cooler during the hot months.

Teracotta tiles

Today's terracotta tiles are oven baked and have a protective coating that helps reflect the sun's rays away from your roof. "S" shaped terracotta tiles allow air to circulate, which helps prevent heat capture.

Ceramic Roof Tiles

Lighter than concrete or terracotta, ceramic roof tiles can work well in tropical climates. A white ceramic tile will reflect most of the sun's heat energy away from the house. Ceramic tiles come in a wide variety of shapes and in dozens of colours, including tiles that appear aged. For tropical climates, a lighter colour is best. White ceramic tiles will reflect about 77 percent of the sun's heat away from the house. Other light colours will also reflect a great deal of heat away from the house.

Ceramic roof tiles

You can find both flat and shaped ceramic roof tiles. As with any type of roofing material, they should be installed by local experts who know the weather conditions in your area.

Membrane Roofing

Sometimes called "rubber roofing," membrane roofing materials are actually made from Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM). It is a relatively new type of roofing material, but is able to stand up to harsh weather. Membranes made from thin sheets are also used under conventional roofing to help reduce heat transfer and shield the roof from water.

Membrane roofing

If you already have a roof and don't want to replace it, you can have your roof painted with a similar material. If you choose a light colour, it will reflect light and help seal the roof. A professional roof painter will do a thorough job.

Photovoltaic Shingles

Solar power and tropical climates go together. Photovoltaic shingles are a new development. As more companies produce photovoltaic shingles, they are coming down in price.

Photovoltaic shingles

You can use photovoltaic shingles on part of your roof or your entire roof. They now come in a variety of shapes and colours. Photovoltaic shingles may be the perfect way to reduce your energy bills and provide roofing for a tropical climate.  

If you choose to install solar panels instead of roofing shingles, make sure you get quotes from a variety of solar power installers. Choose an installer who has been in your area for a number of years and knows how to install solar panels that will withstand weather conditions in your area. The last thing you want to do is choose an inexperienced installer and see your solar panels uprooted from your roof when a cyclone comes.

Choosing Roofing for Tropical Climates

The best person to help you choose roofing for a tropical climate is a local roofing contractor. Get quotes from several roofing contractors. Base your decision on:

  • The number of years they have been working in your area (a more experienced roofing contractor will know how to install a roof that can withstand the weather in your area)

  • Their advice (should include facts about their roofing material in a tropical climate)

  • Their reputation in your area (they should be able to supply you with references)

In tropical Queensland, a roofing contractor must be licensed for any job over $3,300 in value. Most roofing jobs cost more than that, so be sure your contractor holds a "Roof and Cladding" or "Roof Tiling" licence. To find out more about roofing licence requirements in other states, visit the Roofing section on licensedtrades.com.au.

Choosing a roofing contractor is an important decision in any climate, but may be even more important in a tropical climate. Your roofing contractor must know local weather conditions and be able to install a roof that can withstand high winds and torrential rains.

As mentioned above, light colours are best for tropical roofs. You want to choose a colour that will reflect heat, not absorb it. Some other steps you can take to make sure your roof doesn't turn your house into an oven include:

  • Installing reflective insulation under your roofing material.

  • Installing vents or whirlybirds to allow hot air to escape from your ceiling cavity.

  • Insulating your ceiling with bulk insulation.

Lighter colours can reduce your dependence on air conditioning by 10 to 15 percent. Reflective aluminium insulation and bulk insulation can reduce your air conditioning bill even further. The initial cost isn't high and your reduced energy bills may pay for your insulation within a few years.

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