We have just finished installing our roof structure and cover. Our strategy was to install it quickly because the rainy season is here with all it’s power and we need to start working under the roof.

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Our workers can finish welding under it so all metal work will not be delayed because of the rain and our common tropical weather of the season.

Being able to build up our structure on steel, allows this flexibility in terms of construction. With some other material, we would have to wait for our walls to be finished in order to install our roof structure.

This would happen after three or four months because this means you would have to install electrical and mechanical systems too, before finishing your walls. Yep! It sounds like too much work and time before we can stand and work under a roof.

The roof is extremely important when you want to build a house in the tropics.

Some people worry first about the humidity inside the house coming from below (floors and lower side of the walls), some care about exterior wall maintenance (cost and how often a product needs to be applied), or some complain about excessive sun going into the rooms and over heating the house.

All these problems have a solution and it is an architectural design solution that has to do with the roof and not the walls, their construction material or protective products.

Rule number one for roofs in the tropics is to have wide eaves. It is suggested that you go for a minimum of 4 feet or 1.20 meters wide. This passive technique will not only give you different options for aesthetics and improve the looks of the house, but it will protect walls from rain, it will project shadows that will protect the house from excessive sun and if structured and built correctly, it will give some extra stability to the general structure of the house.

Rule number two would be to keep it simple. Ask your designer to incorporate a roof that has no breaks, turns and less flashing possible. This will simplify the construction a lot, it will also help lower your budget and will reduce the possibility of leaks, specially where roof changes direction.

Rule number three would be to have the correct slope depending on the selected construction material. First of all try to keep it light. That will help your budget, your house seismic resistance and installation agility. Then try to have a minimum of 15% slope for the roofs, and if you are going to have a flat roof (suggested to use as roofs separators in small proportions) then go for a small slope of no less than 3%. If you are going for 1% slope, then try to install the selected material in single pieces or sections, so you have no cuts where water could get in.

There are a variety of metal options for roofs. Corrugated galvanized sheets, structural channel, rectangular plate, enameled corrugated sheets, Metal Lock, Total Span and Arcus cover (aluminum alloy with zinc and silicon). There are also products that already come with an insulation in a “sandwich” form. You can choose to buy all these products already painted or you can decide to pain them after a year of installation if you select plain zinc.

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Rule number four: insulate your roof. You can choose many products in the market like Prodex, or fiberglass, but air itself can the best insulator by far. Try to leave twenty centimeters in between your ceiling and the actual roof cover, so air can flow. You must leave an air intake and an outlet, and try to locate these openings where you know there is constant breeze and be ready to design a 30% slope minimum roof.

It also helps when you know from which direction the wind normally comes from, the rain fall direction, the sun’s heaviest incidence and a proper shadows study. After following these simple steps, you can relax. You have solved some of the most common design and construction problems in Costa Rica.

You should also implement other passive strategies to help protect your home from leaks, humidity, insects, and many other consequences of our beautiful tropical weather that keeps Costa Rica so green.

Until next time…

Written by Costa Rica Architect Gloriana Mejia who focuses tropical modern architecture and believes in following very basic principles: simplicity as a guide for good design, compact areas as a solution for space, passive solutions for sustainable architecture and context as a main character of the frozen music that architecture is….

For more information, please email Gloriana Mejia using the simple form below:

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There is one comment:

  • Eric Chavarria at 11:01 pm

    Hi…. I am buying a lot in Pavones Costa Rica and would like to know if you have any two story home designs that you have already drawn up and would like to sell….? I am a Tico however my spanish is pretty bad as I was brought to the states as an 8 year old kid. I am a licensed contractor in Florida and was noticing the differences in building techniques. I will be building the home myself with the help of the local builders (they are pretty good as I have watched them build small houses and concrete bodegas). I am looking for a concrete block to story home with gypsum interior walls and a nice looking metal roof. Let me know if you can help….. I would like the house to have 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and about 1600 to 2200 sqft with a balcony on the second floor. I have a program I use at home (Home designer pro) however it automatically uses things like asphalt shingles and wood trusses that would probably not be used here in Pavones. I look forward to yourresponse.

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