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Hot climates can beat the tar out of roofing shingles – literally. Tropical sun may be great for beach parties, but it’s brutal on residential roofing. In the US, warm region building codes require shingles that can withstand the sun’s rays and handle the temperature swings of the night and sudden storms. Whether you live in the Florida Keys or the Southwest’s desert region, choosing the right shingles for hot areas is crucial.

Experienced roofers know that your sun-soaked roof can reach oven temperatures. Organic asphalt shingles can’t stand the heat. In fact, many southern codes prohibit installing “tar” shingles in favor of modern fiberglass formulas. Fiberglass shingles are designed for extreme heat, and are better able to endure hurricane-level winds and humidity.

How can you choose shingles for hot areas?

Consider weight, warranty, design, and color:

  • Weight: While cold climates call for heavy shingles, warmer climes allow for lighter roofing materials. The middle of the weight range, from 240 to 270 pounds per 100 square feet, is ideal. Factor in…
  • Warranty: Modern shingles are grouped by the length of the warranty – ranging from 20 years to at least 40 years. Your specific weather extremes, as well as the quality of installation, will greatly affect your roof’s longevity. Even the best warranty won’t help if a Category 3 hurricane strikes. Also look at…
  • Design: The familiar “3-tab” shingles have given way to newer designs. Modern laminated shingles are better able to withstand long tropical days. They use texture and color variation to scatter and reflect sunlight and reduce heat build-up. Heavier than single-layer products, “architectural” shingles are less prone to wind damage. You’ll also want to consider…
  • Color: White is right for warm-weather areas. Dark colors absorb heat, and intense tropical sun magnifies the effect. Choose pastels and light color blends rather than the deeper earth tones popular in the northern US.

Other important factors for shingles in hot areas:

Price: You DO get what you pay for when you buy shingles. They’re competitive commodities. For warm regions, though, you’re paying for aesthetics more than longevity. Keep in mind the importance of proper…

Installation: Blistering heat makes life miserable for roofers. Shingles become soft and more vulnerable to work damage. Nails can drive right through the shingles, leading to failure later. High-quality shingles help alleviate these problems. If your budget allows, you may want to consider using…

Alternative shingle types for hot climates:

Slate tiles: Natural slate doesn’t heat up like standard shingles do. It’s beautiful, heavy, fireproof, incredibly durable, needs little maintenance, and laughs at big storms. However, costs range from $12 to over $20 per square foot (higher than even 40-year shingles), and finding qualified installers can be difficult.

Clay or concrete tiles: Advantages are similar to slate. In fact, clay tile roofs are very popular in Southern states. Since they’re a manufactured product, these tiles are readily available and easier to install than slate. Prices are higher than fiberglass shingles and lower than slate.

Metal roofing: Long favored for commercial roofing, metal is gaining steadily in residential markets. New products mimic other shingle and tile styles and offer all the high-end products’ advantages. Metal roofs also offer superior reflective properties for a cool roof and lower energy costs, at a fraction of the weight of other roofs. Costs vary dramatically.

Life in Margaritaville should be sunny and carefree. When you choose the right roofing materials to stand up to tropical extremes, your reward is peace of mind. Consider your budget and all the options, and make a smart decision you can live with for decades.