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Living in a cold climate or a place that gets harsh winters can make building tough. You need to find cost-effective materials that can handle lots of moisture, cold temperatures, and hard winds for a good part of the year. Finding the right materials for building in cold climates can pay off big in the long-run.
The best building materials for cold climates include the following: A vinyl siding that is inexpensive and sturdy, a metal or an asphalt roof to melt the snow off, carpet or vinyl plank flooring, double-paned windows with a seal around the edges, and a spray foam insulation to keep the heat in and cold out.
When building a home, it is crucial to work with the right materials. You want to make sure that it stays comfortable and warm, without spending an arm and leg on the heating bill each winter. This article will discuss different building materials that work best in cold climates.
The Right Kind of Roofing
The first building material is the roofing of your home. Using the right roof can help in cold temperatures because it keeps your home warm. It prevents snow from accumulating on top of the house, and more.
There are a variety of roofing materials to choose from. In cold climates, you can’t just consider it’s cost and curb appeal. You also have to take into account the durability and efficiency of the materials during winter, once the snow starts coming down. Some of the best options include:
Metal roofs are beloved in almost any weather condition. They are durable and inexpensive compared to other types of roofing materials. They work great in cold temperatures because they fare well under high wind speeds and heavy snow. They are smooth and designed to let the snow slide right off the surface, which helps prevent leaks into the house and icicle formations that other roof types may cause.
Depending on the company you use with the metal roofs, you may add some heating cables and snow guards. These can be useful in snowy climates because it prevents large ice sheets from coming off the roof at once. With the correct installation, they can keep your home cozy and warm during the winter.
Asphalt roofing is one of the most common types of roofing found on houses in cold climates. It is affordable, easy to use, and does a great job of keeping your home warm and insulated.
These shingles are affordable for roofing any home. The asphalt inside is used for waterproofing and is easy to install without costing too much. When building a new home, choosing the finest, yet cost-efficient products is important, which asphalt roofing can provide.
If you would like a better alternative for asphalt shingles, cedarwood shingles are a great choice. It is more durable yet still affordable. It also adds more insulation. Wood shingles may not be a traditional choice, but they can weather the freezing climates and snow.
Composite and Slate Shingles
Heavier materials are better when keeping your home safe and insulated against the cold climate. Some builders may recommend concrete for this purpose, but it is more expensive and heavier than other building materials.
Composite and slate roofing materials are good picks if you want a solid roofing option for winter. They provide good security and enforcement while also making your home comfortable and warm.
EPDM Roofing Membranes
EPDM roofing membranes are unusual to work with compared to other options, but can also keep your home nice and warm. These membranes are often referred to as rubber roofing by many contractors since the material resembles and mimics rubber.
The composition of this material makes it sturdy, even in the most extreme conditions. This makes it perfect if you live in a location with an irregular weather pattern.
The materials mentioned above are options that you can use to build your home. There are other alternatives, but these are the top choices that can handle the harsh elements brought by the cold climate.
The Best Flooring in Cold Climates
When building a home, you need to pick the right flooring. Strong but comfortable flooring is perfect for keeping it warm on cold winter months. Some of the best flooring to use for cold weather include:
Carpet is the perfect solution for any home that has to deal with the harsh and cold weather. It will not expand or contract that much. It can serve as a barrier between the cold temperature and your home.
Many homeowners are fond of working with hardwood flooring because it looks nice and easy to install. However, the biggest issue of using hardwood flooring in cold temperatures is that when the temperature decreases, the wood contracts, unlike carpets.
When a carpet is installed, it is stretched out and tacked into place. It is perfect during the winter because it is warm and soft. It comes in different choices, allowing you to pick the color, plushness, and other features that fit your preferences.
The biggest downfall in using carpets is that it attracts dirt and mud. In the winter months, this can be hard to keep clean. Without proper care, the carpet will get worn-down and ruined quickly.
Vinyl Plank Flooring
Working with carpet is often the best choice in winter conditions because it is thick and will insulate your home. But if you don’t want to worry about the upkeep of the carpet, then vinyl plank flooring is the way to go.
With the right choice of vinyl plank flooring, you can acquire something that looks good, can insulate any room, is durable and waterproof—all beneficial if you live in a colder climate. The plank is designed in a floating manner that can adapt to the temperature. This gives it a leg up over hardwood floors without leaving gaps during the winter months.
Vinyl flooring also has a foam pad underneath, which provides insulation through the floor. It ensures that the whole flooring doesn’t get damaged with all the mud and snow that gets trekked in during the day.
Rubber is best used to protect areas like the garage, against the cold temperature of the concrete. They can work in some areas of the basement as well. Using this throughout the house is not recommended, but this is a great solution for areas where cold concrete floors are a problem.
Tile flooring is not a good option for cold weather. It works best for warmer climates because it stays cool and does not retain any heat. What works well in warm climates might not in cold climates.
As mentioned earlier, tile flooring does not retain heat. It can make any room in your house colder compared to the other areas. If the whole house is tiled, it is unlikely for it to warm up. It’s best to minimize the use of tiles as floorings to keep your home warm during winter.
Picking the Strongest Windows
The glass you use for your windows is important. You need to have thick and multi-pane windows to help keep your house safe and warm.
Multi-pane windows work better in colder climates as opposed to single-pane windows. Working with double to triple-pane windows can help in lowering your utility bill, even when it’s frigid outside.
The naturally created vacuum between these panes will work to your advantage. It will act as the insulating material, eliminating the amount of energy lost in the process.
In addition to this natural vacuum, insulating gasses are used to fill in the areas between the panes. This helps to further reduce how much energy is lost out the windows during winter. A few examples of the gas types used include krypton and argon.
If you are looking to upgrade your windows or building a new home, consider working with low emissive glass panes. These have a coating of metallic oxide right on the inner surface.
While this may sound all technical and impressive, it simply means that this helps in keeping your home warm. The coating will contain the heat inside your house.
What to Look for In Windows?
Apart from the look and design, here are a few things to consider when picking out the windows for your home. The following features will help ensure that your home stays nice and warm:
This explains how resistant the windows are to letting the air out of your home.
This explains how much visible light the glass on the window will admit.
Solar Heat Gains Coefficient
This explains how much ability to shade the window has.
This is the insulation value of the window. It shows how much it can prevent heat from leaving or entering your home. For windows located in colder climates, you want a lower U-Factor to keep the heat in your home.
What Siding to Put On My Home?
When building a home, there are two factors in picking out the right siding. Make sure you pick one with good insulation abilities and can withstand any local climate. Moisture resistance is another factor to consider when those big blizzards hit. The wrong siding can cause damage and keep your home cold.
What Siding Options Do I Have?
There are a variety of siding options for your home. All of which can look nice depending on the type you choose. However, not all can fare well in areas with cold weather. Some can make your home feel colder than usual.
Here are details on some siding options:
While wood siding gives a classic look to any home, it is not good for homes with cold weather. Many homeowners don’t use it since wood is often more expensive than other options.
Like wood flooring, wood paneling may start to expand and warp due to temperature changes and winter freezing. The maintenance of wood to prevent damage and cracking is extensive, making it a type of siding to avoid.
Vinyl is a good alternative if you like the wood siding option. It looks similar but is less expensive and much easier to maintain. It is appealing to the eyes and is unlikely to decay or flake like the wood siding.
There are plenty of less expensive vinyl that you can choose from, but don’t settle for the bare minimum. Keep in mind that a low-cost vinyl may not be durable enough to weather higher winds. Low temperatures during winter can cause it to crack and fall apart. However, if you are willing to shop around, it’s possible to find a nice yet affordable vinyl.
Stone or Brick
Using stone or brick can add a classic element to your home, just like the wood siding. However, they will work better against the harsh climates. These materials are used in the north and proven to keep homes insulated and warm.
When the temperatures drop, brick siding is considered an energy-efficient option that stores all the heat inside. It means that when you heat the home, the siding will keep it in. This type of siding can also resist the wind.
Moisture will sometimes find its way into the crevices and grout, making this the biggest issue that homeowners need to resolve. This can lead to mildew and other potential damages if left uncleaned.
The final option on our list is fiber cement. This is a type of composite siding that is used in homes. It is a mixture of cellulose, cement, and sand. The appearance is similar to wood siding, while the price is in the same range as the vinyl siding.
Compared to wood siding, fiber cement is more effective in keeping water out. However, it can be damaged if the freezing and thawing cycles of winter wear out the paint and finish. This can be a great choice if you can maintain it properly.
Each siding option has its pros and cons. It will depend on the type of home you want, the amount of money you can spend, and how much protection you want in your home.
Insulating Your Home Against the Cold
Picking the right insulation is one of the best things that you can do to keep your home warm. The higher-quality of the insulation, the more efficient it will be.
There are also different types of insulation you can use in your home, including:
Fiber insulation is easy to find, and you can choose the type, shape, and size that works for your home. There are a few options, but you should choose the one with an R-value of 49 or higher. Loose-fill fiberglass insulation is a good option with a value of 60, so it will keep your home warm.
Fiberglass is one of the best and least expensive options available. It will not put a lot of stress on the side of the home or the floor of your addict. It isn’t flammable and is perfect for keeping heat inside your home.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is more expensive than other types of insulation but has a higher R-value, making it a better choice. This is a good option for those who live in extremely cold temperatures. Additionally, this is a good deal because it can reduce tasks you need to do with insulation, like caulking.
Spray foam insulation comes in liquid form. It will move around, fill all the spaces, and seals up any leakage, gaps, or cracks found in the walls or the attic.
Blown-in insulation has a lower R-value, but can still provide the needed insulation and protection. It works well for any temperature, making it a good choice, whether you are dealing with a low or high temperature. This is recommended for any hard-to-reach areas in your home that needs insulation.
To use the blown-in insulation, you will need to hire a professional. This is the best way to get insulation in all the right spots without causing damage. Talk to them about what R-value they are using inside the walls and ask about where they think most of the heat is escaping so you know where the insulation is being placed.
To use the blown-in insulation, you will need to hire a professional. This is the recommended method to place the necessary insulation without causing damage. Discuss what R-value will be used inside the walls and ask which areas require insulation.
Understanding the R-Value
The R-value will determine the right type of insulation for your home. This is an important metric that will indicate how well the material in the insulation will resist any heat flow. The insulation you pick and the R-value that comes with it will depend on the type of climate you have.
There are different types of R-values you can use. But if you live in a colder climate, an R-value with a minimum of 49 is the best option. The higher the value, the better. This also indicates the quality of the insulation. For colder climates, the thickness of your insulation should be near 16 inches or longer.
Taking Care of the Pipes
Your contractor will likely put pipes that can handle cold weather, but there are still a few things to consider.
If you don’t take care of your pipes and the temperatures get too cold, it can be a big mess. Pipes that burst because of the cold temperature can be hard to replace and may cause serious water damage.
Here are some ways that you can take care of your pipes in cold weather:
Seal Up the Holes and Cracks
Seal up the pipes running through the floors or walls if you see any gaps. If you notice cold air slipping through, use spray foam or caulk to fill the gaps.
While it is not always the case, the hole may lead outside. This is the perfect opportunity to seal it. The goal is to prevent any cold air, coming from outside, to get through the gaps and holes. This allows the pipes to stay as warm as possible.
Use Some Heating Tape
Another alternative to keep the pipes from freezing up is to use heating tape. You can find a variety at any local hardware store, but a good brand to use is the HEATIT HISD 6-feet Pipe Heating Cable.
Before purchasing your heating tape, keep in mind that there are two types. The first type will do the work for you and can sense when the heat gets too low. When it notices that the heat is lower, it will automatically turn itself on.
The second type will require you to keep track of the temperature. When you notice that the pipes are getting too cold or your home isn’t able to keep up with the weather outside, you will need to plug the heating tape. You can unplug it when you are done.
The heating tape helps to keep the pipes warm no matter how cold it gets outside. It can reduce the risk of your pipes from getting too cold and bursting, making a mess.
When building a home in places with cold temperatures, it is important to use the right materials. This can help keep your home secure and prevent heat from escaping when the weather gets harsh, and the temperatures get low. The right materials will be energy-efficient, can lower your utility bill each month, and keep your home comfy in the coldest temperatures.
- Azo Build: Building materials Suitable for Cold Conditions
- Bailey Line Road Cold Weather Construction: Five Tips for Building Well
- Modlar: Considerations for Building Design in Cold Climates
- Slideshare: Building Material for Different Climate Activity
- Wikipedia: Krypton
- Wikipedia: Argon
- Wikipedia: Dielectric Gas
- House Energy: Top Double and Triple Glazed Window Manufacturers
- Building Science Corporation: Building in Extreme Cold
- David Barbale: What Kind of Siding is Best for Cold Weather
- Roof Jacks: Top 5 Roofing Materials for Winter Temperatures
- Builder: Winter-Proof: 5 Tips for Building Homes in Cold Climates
- Amazon: HEATIT HISD 6-feet Pipe Heating Cable
- Hardwood Bargains: What are the Best Flooring Choices for a Colder Climate?
- The Balance Small Business: 6 Great Tips to Keep Pipes From Freezing
- Better Homes and Gardens: How to Finish Cedar Shingles and Siding
- Wikipedia: R-Value (Insulation)
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.