Many different types of houses are built on the coast every year around the world. The variety is limited to the owner’s imagination and type from Mediterranean Villas, Asian-inspired design, and more traditional inland styles.
There is no limit to the style of houses built around coastal areas, but the type and materials used will greatly depend on several environmental factors such as proximity to the water and consideration of severe weather risks.
When we talk about ‘types,’ we need to consider the design and the area it will be built. Considerations around severe weather, erosion, and other risks need to be evaluated.
Whether you are looking at buying an existing property or building one, there are some critical considerations to consider before doing so. Let’s take a look at some of these in detail.
1. Know the Weather Conditions In Your Chosen Area
Whether it’s East or West Coast, US or Asia, The African Coast or the Mediterranean, the first and most essential piece of research you need to do is find out about the weather conditions in that area.
While the idea of the coastal home conjures up images of lazy sun-filled days on the deck with great friends and great food while overlooking an idyllic tranquil ocean, there is a sold reality that needs to be accepted here.
Coastal areas worldwide are prone to severe weather, high seas, floods, heavy rains, and shoreline erosion. While these are natural processes that have been in motion for millennia, human contributions to global warming have increased the severity and frequency of these events.
The undeniable impact our industrial development continues to have on the environment plays an even more significant role when buying or building a coastal home. The single most important consideration is the materials used in the structure and the type of construction method.
2. Know Where to Find Resources On Flood Zone and Flood Elevation
Knowing your flood zone and getting the flood elevation certificate would be the first port-of-call on this journey. FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center and National Flood Hazard Layer provide detailed flood zone areas.
Bear in mind that a V-Zone property – oceanfront or near oceanfront – would add around 15%-30% to your construction cost and impact the insurance policies for this type of property.
If you are insuring your home through the National Flood Insurance Program, you will need this document to complete the property purchase. The Flood Elevation certificate details the critical aspects of your property like the elevation of the lowest floor, location, flood zone, and building characteristics.
Inland properties are generally less at risk from flood, but even so, it is still an excellent idea to make sure you know everything about your area’s sea and storm conditions before you look to build or buy.
3. Choose your Building Materials Carefully
Building homes on the coast brings challenges unique to ocean properties.
Salt corrosion, sand, winds, floods, hurricanes, and other severe weather events all play a part in the choice of materials involved.
External materials need to resist salt corrosion and be strong enough to deal with high winds and flooding that sometimes occur. Another factor with materials is maintenance. Low maintenance materials will be less costly in the long run and are less prone to failure under the stress of ocean conditions.
Stainless steel is by far the most corrosion-resistant material and provides strength in the frame. Concrete and treated wood is also suitable for framing.
For the siding, bricks are also recommended as they will outlast most other materials and are low maintenance, especially on the outside. Often composite materials such as Azek or Hardie plank siding are also good choices.
For the roof, metal roofing is the optimal choice as it is resistant to wind, rot, mildew, and termites. It also reflects heat, and this will contribute to lower heating and cooling costs in the property.
Protecting the house against hurricanes and storms is critical, and windows and shutters would be made from impact-rated glass or have impact-rated shutters. Impact-rated windows protect the interior from flying debris as they are designed to hold up under pressure.
Another consideration is critter protection! Coastal properties have many coastal creatures that will find a home very cozy and won’t hesitate to invade it if there is any chance they can.
Of course, not all coastal homes are at risk from severe weather so let’s look at some standard structural designs.
Getting The House Off The Ground with Stilts
Typically found in tropical and coastal areas, stilt houses are built on an elevated platform to allow water flows and flood (in extreme cases) to flow under the house, reduce the risk of damage, and defend the home from vermin.
Many homes using stilt construction are built on sloping ground, and the stilts are used to ensure leveling of the house. This construction is advantageous where coastal properties are at risk of storm surge and is recommended in areas where high sea levels occur due to tides or inclement weather.
Due to their height off the ground, stilt houses offer complete 360-degree views and provides a good balance between private and open areas, and these houses are often pre-fabricated and constructed on-site.
Stilt houses are considered eco-friendly as they don’t require excessive excavation or foundations as coastal homes go.
Pier and Beam or Post and Beam foundations
Popular in the 1960s, this type of construction offers several tangible benefits, especially where soil conditions aren’t ideal for a full slab foundation like steep slopes, tree roots, or water.
These can be lower cost as it’s easy and requires less material and labor. It doesn’t need extensive excavation and uses less concrete than other foundations.
Another benefit is that it offers builders easy access to install plumbing and electrical cabling and space to crawl between to solve any issues.
With minimal soil disruption to roots and trees, this type of design is also eco-friendly, and once the building has lived out its life, there is easier restoration to the site’s initial natural state.
Floors are usually well sealed to protect from critters and other potential unexpected visitors. This type of construction sees a resurgence as severe storms have increased due to global warming and more severe El Nino and La Nina events.
Post-and-beam structures grew in demand in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Typically seen in the barn construction of New England, this type of building uses large, heavy wooden beams that bolt together to form the frame.
Able to withstand the weight of snow and earthquakes, post-and-beam structures are an excellent option for coastal homes.
Although unlikely to deal with snow and earthquakes, they provide immensely robust frames and, coupled with storm-proof windows and shutters, give the homeowner peace of mind when it comes to withstanding severe weather events.
The modified octagonal house design with the low roof forces the winds down to the roof and then around the sides of the house, allowing these homes to withstand high winds easily. Gable-ended roofs are more vulnerable to high winds as they can lift the roof by getting under the eaves.
The solid structural elements presented by post and beam designs offer better protection against severe weather such as waves and wind, especially in hurricane-prone areas where the high storm surge risk is high.
Coastal Homes Around the World – The Villa
Let’s take a look at some of the different styles of coastal homes found around the world. The beauty is that they can be built in any style. With construction considerations taken into account and using suitable materials, professional design and construction offer the homeowner the opportunity to realize their dream by the sea.
Mediterranean-style houses exploded in popularity in the roaring 1920s, where wealth and leisure were the watchwords in the USA. Based around the Mediterranean Villa, these homes offer a blend of Spanish and Italian architecture.
With the Spanish influences of Florida and California, villa-style homes abound in those coastal areas. These homes are Italian Renaissance, Spanish Revival, and Modern Mediterranean, each slightly different in flavor and style.
Italian Renaissance homes are marked by columns and rounded arches, reminiscent of this era in history. Simple, clean lines and a low pitch roof are typical Spanish Revival designs and have roots in Spanish colonial architecture.
With open floor plans, spacious indoor-outdoor living, and a blend of Spanish and Italian influences, the Modern Mediterranean home holds the traditional characteristics but gives it a modern spin.
Asian Style Coastal Homes – Natural and Easy on the Eye and the Environment
Asian-style homes use natural materials and blend into the surroundings to give them a ‘closer to nature feel. Gardens and plants play a significant role in design as owners feel part of the natural landscape.
Taking their design from China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, these homes reflect the culture and style of the Far East and have a great appeal for people looking for a more ‘Zen-style feeling and atmosphere in their homes.
The Beach Bungalow – The Quintessential Coastal Home
Usually, single storey with an open plan balanced design, a sizeable unenclosed veranda with pitched columns, and featuring plenty of windows, the bungalow has been around since the late 1800s.
Originally designed to host English Officers during their occupation of India, bungalows featured wide covered porches with steeply angled roofs as shelter from the sun and monsoon rains. They were small, simply constructed homes with a central living area with peripheral areas and made efficient use of the limited square floorage space.
Using little nooks and crannies with window views and half-story attics with built-in shelves and cabinetry are characteristic of bungalows worldwide. Of course, modern design ideas and materials may vary, but the core of the bungalow remains.
Some bungalow options include the traditional ‘craftsman’ to the California bungalows featuring wood (especially redwood) and stucco design rather than brick to the modern bungalow version using steel, glass, and concrete.
The Tudor option incorporates elaborate chimneys, tall, narrow windows, and half-timber decoratives to the Prairie-style homes that use massive piers for roof support and broad flat chimneys; bungalows offer an excellent variety in materials, contrasting colors, and roof and chimney options.
The Modern Farmhouse – From Inland to Ocean
Characterized by large rooms and bright, airy spaces, these homes have become more prevalent in recent years. Large open kitchens with double or triple storys offer comfort, play, and great views from the upper floors.
Bringing the ranch-style and feel to the ocean keeps that ‘Great-Plains’ farmhouse atmosphere but with the added benefit of the ocean views and modern amenities.
Traditional and Contemporary Coastal Homes
The traditional coastal home takes its base from the English cottages of the 1600s, and the first homes around Cape Cod were based on these designs. These have undergone changes over the years, and now very little of the original English cottage heritage remains.
Contemporary Coastal Homes feature oversized windows, asymmetrical floor plans, and strong design geometry, and these types of homes are well suited to California’s climate.
Plantation Style Homes- A Blend Of Colonial Designs
Taking their look from a mix of European and American colonial homes, the Plantation home is reminiscent of the West Indian sugar and Hawaiian pineapple plantations from the 1800s and 1900s.
External features such as Creole-style cottages, verandas, and porches with flat or slightly pitched roofs and plenty of windows with overhangs accentuate access to the ocean views and overall coastal home experience.
Coastal Homes -The Sky Is The Limit
Whether you are buying an existing property or building your own, consider the following before doing so.
Outside of the environmental aspects discussed in the opening portion of this post, do your due diligence by talking to other people in the area regarding contractors (If you’re building) and find people that have done this before.
Don’t skimp out on the materials and get the best quality you can afford, and check out the types of existing homes in the area you want to build. A mountain chalet may not be the most suitable design for an island beach home, and while a three-story home may be desired, it may not necessarily be popular if it’s going to obstruct views of your neighbors.
The reality is that the variety of styles and designs for coastal homes is unlimited, and only your budget and imagination would be the determining factors. Single, double, and triple-story levels and a vast selection of colors, materials, and structural elements are readily available to bring your vision of your perfect coastal home to life!