What are the best building materials for cold climates?
Winter can be extremely difficult for buildings, both indoors and outdoors, but using the right materials can keep things comfortable while saving money and energy.
When discussing cold weather construction, it is important to clarify the specific climate in which a project is located. Some areas only experience freezing temperatures for a short part of the year, while others may have snow and ice for more than six months. The intensity and length of the season will determine the degree of protection a building needs. Learning more about how the weather works is a great way to prepare for winter for those leaving warm climates.
All of the materials on this list will work for temperate and seasonal winters or cold weather all year round. Nonetheless, builders and homeowners should take their specific needs into account when deciding what would work best for their location and the size of their building.
Best roofing materials
The best roofing material for cold climates is undoubtedly metal. Metal roofs are very resistant to the elements, with a low risk of leakage. They look great too. The image of a shiny tin roof may spring to mind, but a metal roof can be crisp and modern, as well as more traditional, classic American, or farmhouse.
Metal roofs are great for insulation and tend to be very light. They are also generally less expensive than shingles and are often easier to replace because they come in large sheets rather than hundreds of individual pieces. The advantage of a metal roof in terms of effective and efficient snow removal and watering should not be overlooked. Moisture management is one of the top priorities of a good building envelope, so having a roof that is consistently water resistant will help protect the entire building.
If metal roofing is not an option, asphalt shingles are a good second choice for winter climates. The more traditional look may appeal to some people better. They are equally affordable and offer waterproofing and easy installation.
One thing to keep in mind with roofing is the shape. Gable or pitched roofs are the way to go for winter climates because they allow rain, snow, and ice to slide off rather than build up. Moisture management is much more difficult with a flat roof, and the material will need to be replaced more frequently. Leaks are also much more likely with a flat roof, as water collects much more easily than on an angled roof.
Best wood materials
Wood is a versatile building material with all kinds of uses on construction projects. It can be ideal for decks, doors, window frames, walls, floors and even shingles. However, some woods are better adapted to the constraints of the cold than others.
The best choice when it comes to wood is cedar. It is water resistant and has great outdoor durability season after season. It does not tend to flake like other woods, reducing the need for maintenance between seasons. Cedar is a good choice for cold regions because it is an excellent insulator.
Mahogany can also be a good choice for the winter, especially for those looking for a nice warm reddish color. It’s not as tough as cedar, so it needs a protective coat or finish to give it extra strength against the elements.
Oiled mahogany is a good choice for exterior applications. Protective coatings, such as powder coating, are a good way to protect materials from the elements. Even in terms of aesthetics, standard paint is susceptible to chipping or chipping between seasons. Consider a more durable coating solution or method for wood, metal, and even windows.
Best flooring materials
The flooring is a bit more flexible and customizable since it’s inside, but some materials are more comfortable and retain heat better. Carpet is a common choice for flooring in cold climates, in part because it is one of the best insulators for flooring. It is soft and warm, and its flexible structure means that deformation due to moisture or cold air is not a problem.
Rubber parts are a good choice for areas like the garage or doorways. Carpets can be difficult to clean, so using rubber doormats will save you time and trouble. They’ll hold slush, water, ice, snow, and mud in easy-to-clean transition areas so carpets don’t get messy.
Best wall materials
Walls come in layers and are the most important factor in cold climates. In general, they should be structured with a weather resistant exterior wall, an insulation containing aerosol or rigid foam, a vapor or moisture barrier and the interior wall. There are some necessary pieces, of course, but these are the ones that need the most attention in winter.
When choosing an insulating material, emphasis should be placed on waterproofing as much as possible, especially moisture. Managing humidity is a big problem in cold climates. People prefer a warm, slightly humid indoor temperature, but when that humidity meets the cold outside in the walls, it can lead to condensation build-up and water damage. Brick and vinyl are good choices for exterior walls. Brick has a nice classic look and is an excellent insulator. Vinyl is a good option for people who like the look of wood siding, but with better insulation and a lower price.
It is also important to consider windows when designing and building the walls. They play an essential role in the building envelope. It is generally better to opt for sealed windows rather than sliding in cold climates. Sliding windows are more likely to allow warm air to escape and cold air to enter.
Withstand any storm
Preparing a building for freezing temperatures doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Choosing the right materials is all about insulation and durability. With enough time and consideration, it’s easy to put together a structure that will withstand the freezing temperatures effortlessly.
Emily Newton is the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized, a magazine that explores how innovations are changing our world.