Which Roof Is Best In Coastal Areas: A Flat Roof Or A Pitched Roof?

Many homeowners fantasize about beachfront properties with gorgeous views, bathed in the lull of the waves crashing on the shore. But considering the unique challenges of building in coastal areas, particularly regarding the roof, you’ll want to avoid getting “in over your head.” Fortunately, construction and design experts online provide a solid foundation of experience and knowledge.

Pitched roofs are often better than flat roofs in coastal areas. While flat roofs are easier to install and cost less, pitched roofs are less prone to leaks or wind damage, which are common in humid areas with plenty of rainfall. They also have fewer maintenance issues and longer lifespans.

Issues such as your budget and design and the possibility of hurricanes, the presence of salt water, and rain will impact your decision on whether you want to have a flat or pitched roof. Both roof types have advantages and drawbacks, which may make the difference between staying dry or getting soaked. Build a sturdy, dry home by examining the relevant information collected on the topic.

How Living Along The Coast Impacts The Roof Of Your Home

Living alongside coastal areas means encounters with its natural hazards are almost inevitable. These environmental factors may affect how long your roof (and thus your home) will last. It would be wise to keep the potential risks in mind and plan around them.

Salty water causes increased corrosion to walls, foundations, and roofing. The humidity frequently encountered in coastal areas leads to consistent exposure to the salt, which requires proper sealing and maintenance to keep your home structurally sound.

While the shape of your home is mainly irrelevant to the risks that accompany humidity and can be negated to some extent by proper construction techniques, heavy winds may directly be aggravated or mitigated depending on the shape of the roof.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the average speed of tropical storms is around 50 miles per hour, but stronger winds may accelerate to over 110 miles per hour. The slope of your roof, and the materials from which you build it, can make your home sturdier and more resistant to damage inflicted by storms.

The Shape Of Your Roof And Life Along The Coast

Build your home along the coast with hazardous weather conditions in mind. Because your roof is guaranteed to face the punch of all the elements, it must be sturdy, leak-free, and weather resistant.

The size of your building, particularly your roof, is also relevant to its sturdiness. With smaller rooms, installing additional supports is less necessary as the walls may help support the weight. Large rooms with lots of space between the walls require additional support to prevent roof collapse.

It is harder to install these supports with a flat roof, while the supporting structure and frame are integral to pitched roofs. But even with pitched roofs, the degree of the slope is essential as too steep a gradient will add unnecessary weight and surface exposure to the elements.

Regarding the weather, higher levels of rainfall and consistent humidity may lead to water pooling and leaks. Flat roofs frequently have no outlets for water buildup, so the increased exposure may cause water leakage into the building. And if the water doesn’t leak through, the roof may collapse due to the added weight.

The shape of a pitched roof naturally reduces the duration of your building’s exposure to destructive forces. With pitched roofs, water, snow, or any other debris is guided down the sides by gravity, and the slope prevents water pooling and reduces the odds of leaks.

While flat roofs can often be wholly torn from a building when encountering harsh conditions, the risk of damage from tropical storms is lower for pitched roofs. Pitched roofs are more aerodynamic and thus better at avoiding being grabbed by the wind. Building pitched roofs properly using appropriate materials can make them resilient, even against stronger storms.

Different Shapes To Consider For A Coastal Pitched Roof

Not all pitched roofs are created equal. According to Science Daily, pitched roofs at a 30-degree angle perform better when facing storms than other roof shapes and slopes. Testing also found that additional surface angles around the house produce more resistance, reducing the amount of flat surface area winds can pummel.

Gable roofs, which are pitched roofs sloped into two sides and forming a triangular shape, are probably the most encountered pitched roof but are not the sturdiest. Since the crown only splits down two sides, there will always be an exposed face to the ridge side where the slopes meet. Variations to the gable roof include the gambrel, cross-hipped, saltbox, A-frame, and intersecting hip styles.

Often formed as a central ridge extending down four sides, hip roofs are roofs that have slopes to every side and no exposed vertical faces. They are the sturdiest roof shapes when facing harsh winds. Similar shaped roof styles include the pyramid, bonnet, combination roof, and jerkinhead.

If your area isn’t prone to stormy weather, simple styles of pitched roofs will protect your home against leaks and moisture while being stylish and less costly. Gable-type roofs or roofs with straight slopes, such as the skillion roof and butterfly, are sharp, clean contemporary designs with minimalist appeal.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Flat Vs. Pitched Roofs

Due to their inherent structural properties, flat roofs and pitched roofs have different characteristics that determine their suitability for use in coastal areas. Their costs, weather resistance, maintenance, structural integrity, and durability are pivotal considerations.

 Flat RoofPitched Roof
CostEasier to install and less costly.Pitched roofs have a more costly and lengthy installation process.
Availability of spaceThe clear area above creates an additional living space on top.It offers a potential enclosed living area within its walls, such as a loft or attic.
DesignContemporary, sleek, and minimalistic.It has a rustic, classical design but is often considered blocky.
Structural integrityStrong above smaller spaces but weaker above larger areas.Solid frames make for a sturdy installation regardless of size.
Resistance to weatherMore often prone to leaks, or puddles on the surface may cause the roof to collapse. Susceptible to storm damage.Slopes create a natural weather resistance, even against strong winds, and gravity prevents the excessive buildup of puddles.
MaintenanceYou may often need to clear off snow, puddles of water, and debris.When encountering problems, you must perform maintenance, but not as often as with flat roofs.
DurabilityFlat roofs may require replacement every 10 to 20 years.Pitched roofs regularly remain sturdy for well over 50 years.

In addition to their structural benefits, pitched roofs also potentially save energy by offering additional surface area to install solar panels and allowing the collection and recycling of rainwater.

shutterstock 1937916055


Since coastal areas subject your home to various environmental dangers such as saltwater, heavy rainfall, and dangerous winds, planning for these hazards when you build your home along the coast is crucial. The shape of the roof you choose to place on top of your house determines how well it withstands the elements.

While pitched roofs tend to be more expensive during their initial installation than flat roofs, they require less maintenance and are sturdy and resilient. When you choose a properly designed pitch roof and build it with quality materials, it can withstand heavy weather and protect your home for several decades.