Best Roof Types for Florida and Coastal Areas in 2020: Miami FL, Houston TX, and Other Hurricane-Prone Areas

Let’s face it, weather is the driving factor for why humanity seeks shelter. When it’s beautiful outdoors, we are there to enjoy it. But when Mother Nature packs a punch, we all seek the protection under a durable roof of a well constructed abode.

Hurricane Mitigation — Adequate Roof Protection is a Must for Coastal Living

Seaside property, aka coastal living, has long been coveted for its fantastic views and access to beaches. Yet, the glaring disadvantage comes from hurricanes or tropical storms that make landfall.

Wind-damaged roof with blown off shingles
via Turner Roofing

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Did you know? Whether in Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Texas, it’s not uncommon to see many wind-damaged roofs from which some shingles have been blown off after a major storm or hurricane ripped through the area.

In the continental U.S., Florida tops the list of states with its 1350 miles of ocean-side coastlines. East, West and Southern borders are all exposed to the Atlantic sea. A great treasure when the sea is relatively calm. While sticking out like a sore thumb during hurricane season.

Wind Damaged Homes after Hurricane Andrew
via Florida Disaster

Hurricane Andrew, in 1992, was a historical storm that had an impact on Florida which is still playing out today. Wind speeds topped 165 mph, and left $25 billion in damages to the state. Around 125,000 homes in Miami-Dade County alone, were severely devastated or completely destroyed.

It may be impossible to overcome the ferocity of a natural occurrence that packs that degree of a punch. Since Andrew, Florida has sought to lessen the chances of that much damage occurring at once.

Did you know? Building codes throughout Florida have undergone significant changes, particularly to High Velocity Hurricane Zones (HVHZs), namely Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

In these areas, as of 2007, the laws governing construction of roofs are very thorough and highly specific. The goal is to ensure standard materials are used and implemented to withstand the intense pressure found in an HVHZ.

To get an idea of just how extensive the codes are, see this page on Hurricane Mitigation from Miami-Dade County’s Building Permits section.

In all, the state of Florida codes address hundreds of details for sloped and flat residential roofs. Everything from requirements on synthetic felt underlayment, precise spacing for fasteners, disallowing staples, taping over all joints in sheathing and retrofitting whenever possible. To top it all off, inspections before, during and after roof construction are deemed prudent and necessary.

Did you know? Roofing contractors have to be licensed, bonded, insured, and have a worker’s compensation coverage in order to do roofing work in the state of Florida. A prospective contractor has to pass a test to get the state license. A contractor also has to get a county license in the counties they will be working in.

Roofing Materials That Work for Miami Dade County and Other High-Wind Areas

Standing Seam Metal Roof on a beach house with cedar shake siding

There are essentially two camps in Florida, those that live in an HVHZ and those outside of those zones. Obviously, those in the zones, will need roofs with the highest wind resistance ratings.

Some roofing manufacturers, such as Union Corrugating, have product lines that are geared specifically toward residents in HVHZs.

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Which brings us to the roofing materials that work for coastal living. In most other areas of the U.S. sunlight is a huge factor as all roofs will age over the long haul due to constant sunlight (and heat) beating down on it.

With oceanfront property, salt in the air must be taken into account. And we’ve already covered wind from hurricane forces. Yet, those same forces can take your average rainstorm and have you realize horizontal, wind-driven rain that gets under overlapping roofing material, could pose a problem unlike other areas where rain tends to fall more vertically.

Clay, Concrete, and Slate Tiles

Spanish style clay tile roof on a stucco home in Florida

Orange-brown clay tiles on a home with stucco siding is virtually the default image of coastal living in Florida. Clay or ceramic tiles may come in other colors, are easily recycled and resistant to fire.

Clay tiles work for coastal living because they will not deteriorate from salt spray, plus clay tiles do hold up well to winds at 100+ mph. Installation benefits from proper flashing to ensure water stays above the tile. Clay tiles usually carry a 30 year warranty, and lasting up to 50 to 100 years is fairly common.

Boral Slate Florida Blend
via Florida Standard Roofing

For an even greater lifespan, natural slate can be another great option, where architecturally appropriate. 50 year warranties are typical and you’ll find it can last up to 100 years in many cases.

There are two key differences though between slate and concrete/clay tiles. Clay tiles allow for more airflow, allowing the water barrier/underlayment to breath better. Secondly, the weight load from slate is significantly more than all other roofing materials.

The reasons slate and clay tile may not work for you are cost and fragility. Both can easily cost $15 per sq. ft. for installation and likely top that given the extensive regulations in Florida coastlines.

However, given the longevity of slates and tile, the cost is actually a great value. In terms of being fragile, this occurs when a force with extra weight impacts the material.

Large hail will take its toll on any roof, though slate tends to be the best.

Did you know? human walking on top of either a clay or slate tile can lead to a loss in its structural integrity if not outright cracking. Further, large branches falling onto the roof are capable of cracking either of these tile options.

Wood Shakes

Cedar roof with skylights

Along the U.S. northeastern coastline, wood shake roofs are the default image. In Florida, there are pockets such as Naples area, where they are most popular.

They work for coastal living because cedar shake is well known to hold up well near salt water. Plus they can withstand wind speeds up to 245 mph. For a home that is without a stone-like siding, the natural beauty of wood shakes is hard to match.

But there are a few reasons why they aren’t the choice of many. Wood simply doesn’t last as long as most of its alternatives and to last up to say 40 years, takes lots of routine maintenance.

The cost is moderate, at around $10 per sq. ft. installed, but realistically the roof will last 20 to 30 years.

To resist burning and insect infestation the wood can be pre-treated, but this just adds to cost and ongoing upkeep.

Installation is also fairly labor-intensive and in the strict code environment of Florida, that may reason enough to de-emphasize shake when the alternatives are longer lasting and arguably more durable or requiring less upkeep.

Metal Roofing

Standing seam, 24 or 26 gauge, Galvalume steel panels offer great resistance to sea spray corrosion. Aluminum and zinc are also great corrosion-resistant options. While metal roofs don’t fit in the traditional look for seaside living, they have a lot to offer.

The reasons metal roofing works for coastal living are numerous. Color options are numerous. Textures and shapes are plentiful. Standing seam is most popular, but metal tile and shingles are suitable options.

Metal doesn’t burn, insects won’t feast on it, and an aluminum based roofing or coating (aka Galvalume) will resist the corrosion that salt can throw at a home.

Typically, metal roofing is rated to withstand winds between 110 mph and 160 mph. As we noted earlier, some manufacturers will carry a line that is specifically meant for the HVHZs in Florida. With standing seam panels, there is no crevice along the exposed roof for leaks to develop, which is always to concern for tiled roofing.

Add in the fact that metal roofs usually last 50+ years, the material is 100% recyclable and that cool roof technology significantly enhances its energy efficiency, and it’s hard not to call this the top choice for coastal roofing.

Did you know? If you like the look of clay tile, but are concerned about the heavy weight of tiles and high cost, you can opt for stone coated metal tiles as an alternative.

Stone-Coated Steel Roof Tiles

The cost is generally $10 per sq. ft., give or take, depending on the system, and the value in terms of durability and longevity is fantastic.

Other Roofing Materials or Types

Flat roofs tend to be popular in coastal living. For residential, a roof that is entirely flat is not so common, but where balconies or patios are found, the roof above may be flat. Regardless of how well this works in coastal living, structures will still be constructed in this fashion.

For the material that covers a flat roof, wind resistance is less critical and the material tends to have negligible impact from salt spray. The main concern from Florida building code is that any structures or vents that may reside on the flat roof must be properly fastened and sealed.

Asphalt shingles are the number one selling roofing material in the U.S. The economical version of such shingles aka 3-tab are poor choice for any area with high speed winds.

The 3-Tab (60 MPH to 70 MPH wind uplift rated roof covering) shingles will be ripped off and leaks will be inevitable. Architectural grade shingles rated to withstand wind gusts up 130 MPH are your best bet for high wind areas.

With all that said, if we were to rank the roofing materials from best to worst for coastal living, it would go like this:

  1. Metal Roofing
  2. Ceramic Tile
  3. Natural Slate
  4. Wood Shakes
  5. Asphalt Shingles — in a distant last place

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