Why We Chose a Painted Metal Roof, Using Bamboo Poles & Water Problem

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. Cutting Metal Roofing

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.

New Wood House

 Using Bamboo

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. Bamboo Bodega

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.

Painted Metal Roof

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.

2. A ceiling that is 5 inches higher, providing more headroom and more area for the heat to rise into.
Wood House Costa Rica

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.

Water stained Laurel WoodOur 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. orbital sander on water stain

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. 

Laurel Wood Interior ceilingIf 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


10 comments on “Why We Chose a Painted Metal Roof, Using Bamboo Poles & Water Problem”

  1. Mary Paredes Reply

    You mentioned you used the orbital sander? which one in particular? what grit sand paper did you use? I am doing research for my husband who has to do this in the cabin we just purchased. Help! I am clueless with these things.

  2. Craig Anderson Reply

    Now that is some tough roofing project you’ve got there. Great job. CR looks beautiful, but I will stay in the Pacific NW for now.

  3. Jared Reply

    Thanks for the info. Your building is looking good and I think the green is a great choice. I am currently here in CR and trying to find corrugated metal sheets longer than 3600 it drives me crazy that everyone laps the sheets and therefore reduces the life of the metal as it will always rust at the lap point. Back home the sheets were ordered cut to length I am hoping there is a similar service here.

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  4. Casey Reply

    Good choice of roof, same as ours, but you didn’t mention how noisy it will be in the winter rains. To mitigate that, we put a layer of thin foam that comes in rolls and has one side (upper) coated in foil. This helps a little with the noise, but more importantly, it reflects heat and acts as a backup barrier if the metal leaks. Beneath all that we have “sheets” of 3″ thick styrofoam, which really cuts down on the noise. I’m sure styrofoam is not the ultimate acoustic dampener, but it’s what’s available.

    Most houses over here in P.Z. are gabled. Gable roofs are superior here in that they give you shade on all sides, shed the rain better (more gutters), and for the standard single floor block house, they look better, too.

    Also, there is another material that you didn’t list, which is very good. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of it, but it comes in small sheets and appears to be made of some composite or compressed material. The appearance is the same as the Spanish clay tiles and it is supposed to be a 50-year roof. More costly than the metal, though.

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    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Casey – I have seen that other material on displays but the store always says it’s not available anymore. I don’t know how it compares to any of the other materials.

      There is a recycled composite material made available from Dos Pinos recycling but there is no proof that it lasts the amount of years they claim & it is twice as expensive and hard for me to get over here in Limon.

  5. Joseph Reply

    Such great info, Kim. This will help me out so much when we get to CR. I have a question: I noticed that most CR houses have hip roofs. Wouldn’t it be easier to make a gabled roof? Is there something with the crosswinds that keep builders from making gabled roofs? Also, It seems to me that gabled roofs are less likely to leak. Hip roofs are more complex and have seems that can let water in.

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    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      J – Most houses here (Tico’s in Limon) have a gabled roof. It saves on material and is easier to build. We chose hip because of the second floor height. It would be hard to reach to varnish, clean, etc. Also, with a gabled roof the rain run off is only directed to two sides. The rain here can eat away at a hillside so the more options you have for water run-off the better.

  6. cindy Reply

    Bless you..what a lot of work.. and invaluable info for anyone else daring enough to undertake the task. I’m glad you rescued your laurel wood!

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  7. caryn and marlene Reply

    The wood is really beautiful, so glad the sander works for you. Can’t wait to see it finished.

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