Why we chose painted metal roofing, how we used bamboo to help with building, and combating water stains from the incessant rain on our interior wood ceiling.
Roofing Options in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica your roof is, in my opinion, the single most important investment that you can make for your new home. If you make a bad decision you will know it within the first 2 months. You will either have every forest creature thinking that it is a tenant building or you will have water dripping all over your stuff. You should be able to put on your roof and forget about it for a while.
In order of most to least costly, our options were:
1.) Asphalt Shingles (Almost Never Used but you see them on a handful of Expat houses) – The rain here can be so hard at times that it just beats the asphalt right off of the shingle. They also get very, very dirty so you must use a darker color so it doesn’t look dreadful and then that attracts the hot Caribbean sun to your house. Sold in boxes of individual shingles.
2.) Clay “Spanish” Tiles – Roofs that we have seen of this type generally have a tin roof placed underneath of them which adds excessive weight and cost to your roof. Unless these are expertly laid you will have problems with leaks. We think that these are pretty but people we spoke to wouldn’t use them again. Individual tiles are sold in bulk.
3.) Painted Metal Roofing – Baked on paint on both sides with the top coating that includes a “rain-x” type of finish. The two primary types are flat with ridges and a Spanish tile look. Last year when I visited the U.S. in both Tennessee and Kentucky flat painted metal roofing seemed to be all the rage. The paint can be scratched and areas where cuts are made are susceptible to rust. There are generally 3 colors available clay, green and white. Sold in individual sheets of 26 guage steel at 107 cm wide at various lengths.
4.) Non-painted Metal Roofing – The popular choice here in Limon. We used these on our first two cabins and wish we would have done more research. While it appears that this is the cheapest option, it is not. Your roof must be painted with an anti-corrosive paint after the first two years and then every two or so years after that. Any painting that needs to be done is always bad for the environment. Without this upkeep your roof will start to rust and then eventually these zinc sheets turn into a colander. It comes in 26, 28 or 30 guage steel sheets in 82 cm wide at various lengths.
5.) Plastic roofing sheets – While not a viable option for long term water control these can be used as skylights, green houses or temporary structures. The plastic deteriorates quickly in this climate.
We ended up with the green painted metal roof based the cost of approximately $36 per sheet that covers about a 4 meter area while the non-painted metal sheet is $18 per and covers only about a 3 meter area.We used 32 sheets total at a cost of $1152 versus 40 sheets at a cost of $720. The $432 difference is less than what painting every 2-3 years will cost us. We also like the way the green color blends into the environment. We really liked the look of the Spanish tile painted metal roof but the design has large half moon shaped openings which are difficult to seal and bats and birds frequently make homes in the space.
We have a big clump of yellow bamboo that we use normally for garden projects and fruit picking poles. All projects that have a limited time requirement and don’t require us to treat the bamboo. It is a very sturdy material and we once had dreams of making our house out of it but the lack of good information, experienced builders and quality clumps in our area forced us to look in other directions. We do however use it when ever we can. Like in the photo below where we used it to build our wood drying/work area. Bamboo poles + Rope+ Roof = Instant shelter.
We also used it to guide the metal sheets up to the roof. We laid three bamboo poles against the house structure and using a rope gently pulled them up. It did not scratch the paint on the underside of the roofing.
Building in the Rain Forest – Our First Water Problem
In this picture you can see that before putting on our exterior roof we put down an interior wood ceiling. The interior roof reduces heat and adds beauty to the house. We put our interior ceiling on top of our structure beams for two reasons.
1. In this climate we need to be able to inspect all of our wood beams for termite or water damage. If the ceiling material covers the structure beams your house could be half eaten before you even realize it.
Well of course during the time it took to nail down our wood ceiling it rained. For days it rained. I was left with this…beautiful laurel planks covered with water marks. It broke my heart. After our metal roof was placed I tried sanding the marks off.
Our powerful grinder/sander would race all over the wood without control plus I couldn’t hold it up above my head for more than three swipes because of its weight. Our palm sander couldn’t sand deep enough to remove the stain. I scoured the internet to find a solution. I found a wood bleach but it wasn’t available in Costa Rica. Even if it had been I would have had white streaks instead of brown streaks. I thought that I was going to have to stain it all dark brown, which is yucky. Then our friend Caryn suggested an orbital sander. She said it had the power of a grinder with the weight of a palm sander. I went right out to buy one.
I was so happy that it was working! It is a lot of pain in the butt over my head work but the stains are actually gone. The original beauty of the laurel is restored. As you can see in this picture, the wood is so beautiful that it would have been a shame to have to stain it.
If you enjoyed reading this and are interested this stuff you can start here with our 1st post of our 1st phase of this project Road & Septic.
Leave a comment if you have a question or a tip for us! Thanks