Whether you are building your dream home from the ground up or renovating an existing residential structure, Louisiana’s hot, humid climate presents some unique challenges. In addition to following guidelines for hurricane safety, choosing the right building materials for a hot and humid climate can be the difference between a durable and comfortable home and one that degrades quickly over time.
Your building contractor will handle most material choices, but at MLM Incorporated we know it’s important for you to understand the process behind our choices. Have more questions? Feel free to contact our team to learn more about the best building materials for hot, humid climates, or keep reading. In this post, we discuss materials as well as building guidelines for Louisiana homes.
What are the best building materials for a hot humid climate?
When considering the best building materials for a hot, humid climate, protecting against moisture and heat damage is crucial.
In our climate, people will tell you that you can almost hear mold growing. In Louisiana, building materials that block this mold and moisture are key. This is complicated, as the best strategies for keeping moisture out of a building often also trap it inside.
The best building materials for hot, humid climate balances both. These materials may include:
- Permeable indoor wall coverings: These allow moisture to escape from the building
- Fasteners: Stainless steel and aluminum fasteners will be the best choice to repel rust
- Vapor barriers: Vapor barriers under the house can keep moisture from seeping up through the ground
- House wrap: House wrap protects the home from moisture but also allows moisture to evaporate
- Siding: Siding that allows moisture to evaporate quickly is the best choice
Foundations are complicated in Louisiana and the other Gulf States and depend completely on the site. Some houses in flood-prone areas will be raised, while others can sit directly on compacted soil. An engineer will evaluate your site to determine the safest and most durable material based on the type of construction.
What are the best roof materials for hot climates?
Your building is only as strong as your roof. The best roof building materials for hot, humid climates are durable and waterproof. These may include:
- Asphalt shingles: This roofing material works well in terms of preventing mildew and mold but is energy inefficient
- Cedar shake roofing: Easy to replace and energy-efficient, cedar shake roofing is a popular choice in Louisiana
- Metal roof: Even in the humidity, powder-coated metal roofing can stand up to the weather and last 30 to 40 years
- Spanish tile: Spanish tile roofs protect against rot, rodents, heat, and humidity for up to 100 years
- Slate roofs: If you never want to replace your roof and are looking for a completely waterproof option, slate roofs are the way to go
Other materials like solar roofing and green roofs are less common in Louisiana but have an added bonus of energy efficiency. Green roofs also add value to the environment around the home.
Regardless of your roofing material, it’s important that the “foundation” of the roof be properly constructed, too. Roofs should be laid on a membrane that keeps any leaks from reaching the underlayment. Keep in mind that poorly ventilated roofs keep all roofing materials a few degrees hotter. In turn, this makes it harder to cool your home.
Which building insulation material works best?
The following insulation materials are good options in our hot, humid climate:
- Mineral wool
- Flexible elastomeric
- Cellular glass
- Plastic foam insulation
Mold cannot grow on these, but it can grow on paper backing or fiberglass boards made with foil scrim kraft (FSK). Make sure your insulation is completely dry when installed. Discard any insulation that becomes wet during construction.
What are the best window and door options?
Wood is a beautiful material for windows and doors, especially in all of those lovingly restored homes in New Orleans. But when it comes to the best building materials for hot, humid climates, it’s not a great choice. Wood is subject to rot and insect damage and requires constant maintenance and repair.
High-quality vinyl windows and door frames are typically the best choices. They stand up to moisture and insect damage in our climate. They are virtually maintenance-free and last for years even in the harshest weather Louisiana can throw at them.
In terms of window glass, double- or triple-paned low-E glass can help improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Are there sustainable building materials for a hot and humid climate?
Sustainable building materials can help protect the environment and improve our relationship with it. Consider using:
- Materials that are recycled and sustainable (e.g., recycled concrete, bamboo, and sheep’s wool)
- Net-zero building practices
- Landscaping that utilizes grey or stormwater
These sustainable building materials and practices go back to the first rule of Louisiana home building best practices, as we’ll discuss now. Work with nature instead of against it for the best results!
What are some guidelines for building homes in Louisiana?
As a rule, one of the best guidelines for building homes in Louisiana is to work with the water, not against it. That water is coming from all directions: the Gulf of Mexico, the steamy summer air, and the tributaries that bring water from the north.
This approach works with natural beauty and abundance instead of fighting against nature. It can inform your design or restoration in making good decisions. Here are some of the most important considerations for building homes in Louisiana.
Start with site selection
Louisiana homebuilding best practices start with site selection. There are a variety of things to consider, literally from the ground up.
The ground in Louisiana is subject to shifting and subsidence. This is due to flooding and soil movement in the Mississippi River basin. Choose a site that suits your use, considering what modifications to the design you’ll need to make to tailor it to your chosen site.
Continue with site design
Site design encompasses a lot: from whether or not you’ll build a raised structure (to prevent flooding) to where on the site you’ll place your home.
When it comes to residential construction and renovation, site design is also important for ensuring proper access and ease of use. It will also take into account any future expansion or renovation goals.
Consider building orientation and design
Building orientation takes the wind, water, and sunshine into account. This allows for not only protection from storm damage but also effective and efficient heating and cooling. Having rooms with two exterior walls to allow for the flow of air is a great design choice. Using wing walls, shutters, and casement windows to move air through your building helps, too.
Your contractor or architect can help you make the best choices here.
Don’t ignore hurricane codes
Hurricane codes in Louisiana are crucial, specific, and strictly enforced. Hurricanes with high winds, flooding, and pelting rain are a matter of when not if.
MLM Incorporated has worked in Louisiana for over 15 years and our team knows these codes well. Any experienced contractor you work with should have a full understanding of what codes are relevant to your build and be able to fully explain your requirements.
Plan for building use
This takes into consideration things like what you’ll use the building for and how. If you are renovating an existing home, will exterior changes affect access to the building, driveway, or street? Are you planning on adding outdoor features like a pool, large deck, or accessory dwelling unit?
Think about all the ways in which you might use your new or renovated building as you work on your design.
Be a good neighbor
Being a good neighbor is important, not only in how your home integrates into the existing community of humans but also with nature.
If you are building a new house, will your structure block access or a view for neighbors? Can you use eco-friendlier products? Does your home fit into the style of your surrounding neighborhood?
Work with MLM Incorporated
Overwhelmed by the prospect of figuring out the best building materials for hot humid climates? MLM Incorporated can help you build your dream home, work on a historic home, or undertake a renovation all while optimizing for the best performance in hot and humid Louisiana. We are proud to offer our design, build, and renovation services to homeowners across the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help you create your dream home!