Southern California is hot, and the record-breaking drought has only added strain to residents trying to keep cool. If you are building a new house or completing a sustainable renovation of your current home, carefully consider your roofing options. You may think aesthetics and durability are the primary factors in roof design, but your material choice has further implications—from reducing your carbon footprint to keeping your home cool in the hot summer months. Below, we will detail several popular roofing options and assess their use in southern California.
Wood shingles are popular and inexpensive, but they have low fire danger ratings—this might affect your insurance rates, especially in southern California. Additionally, though California doesn’t get much rain, sun exposure may cause wooden shingles to warp and crack, leading to the need for replacements. In sum, wooden shingles are not a sustainable option for California homes.
Clay or slate tiles can withstand some of the hottest temperatures possible. In fact, many clay roof manufacturers offer warranties of 100+ years. The initial price is expensive, but you will likely save money over time; their fire safety rating can potentially lower your insurance rates, and their durability will prevent the need for frequent replacements. However, do your best to purchase reclaimed tiles; mining the clay is not a sustainable process.
Metal roofs are popular for their low prices and quick, seamless installation. These roofs outperform conventional asphalt shingles under adverse weather conditions, including high winds, hail, and fire. They also keep interiors cooler as temperatures rise. As a result, this is a great sustainable choice for southern California homes. Just be sure that the metal has no hazardous chemical coating—rain could strip it off and pollute nearby soil or groundwater.
Roof design is nearly as important as the material. For example, utilizing a living roof—most often covered by grass and vegetation—can lower both heating and construction costs. Similarly, roof overhangs and canopies can prevent excessive heat gain from direct exposure to the sun. When choosing a design, however, be sure to understand the weather and climate of the area. Figuring out the fire danger rating of your area and materials can greatly inform your decision.