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Winter can be extremely harsh on buildings, both inside and out, but using the right materials can keep things cozy while saving money and energy.

When discussing cold weather construction, it is important to clarify the specific climate a project is in. Some regions only experience freezing temperatures for a short part of the year, while others can 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. Learn more about how does the weather work is a great way to prepare for winter for those leaving warm climates.

All of the materials on this list will work for temperate, seasonal winters, or cold weather all year round. Nonetheless, builders and owners should consider their specific needs 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 highly resistant to the elements, with a low risk of leakage. They look great too. The image of a shiny tin roof may come to mind, but metal roofing 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 lightweight. 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 metal roofing in effective and efficient water and snow drainage should not be overlooked. Moisture management is one of the top priorities of a good building envelope, so having a roof that consistently resists water will help protect the entire building.

If metal roofing is not an option, asphalt shingles are a good addition for winter climates. The more traditional look may appeal to some people better. They are also affordable and offer waterproofing and easy installation.

One thing to keep in mind with roofing is shape. Gabled or pitched roofs are the way to go for winter climates because they allow rain, snow and ice to slide off rather than accumulate. 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 because water collects much more easily than on a sloped roof.

Best wood materials

Wood is a versatile building material with all sorts of uses on construction projects. It can be ideal for decks, doors, window frames, walls, floors and even shingles. However, some woods are better suited to the stresses of cold weather than others.

The best choice when it comes to wood is cedar. It is water resistant and has excellent outdoor durability season after season. It doesn’t tend to chip like other woods, reducing maintenance needs between seasons. Cedar is an especially good choice for cold areas because it is an excellent insulator.

Mahogany can also be a good choice for winter, especially for those looking for a nice warm reddish color. It is not as strong as cedar, so it needs a protective coat or finish to give it extra resistance against the elements.

Oiled mahogany is a good choice for outdoor applications. Protective coatings, such as powder coating, are a good way to waterproof materials. Even in terms of aesthetics, standard paintwork is prone to chipping or peeling between seasons. Consider a more durable solution or coating method for wood as well as metal and even windows.

Best Flooring Materials

Flooring is a bit more flexible and customizable since it’s indoors, but some materials are more comfortable and retain heat better. Carpeting is a common choice for flooring in cold climates, in part because it is one of the best insulators for flooring. It’s soft and warm, and its flexible structure means that warping due to humidity or cold air is not a problem.

Rubber parts are a good choice for places like the garage or doors. Carpets can be difficult to clean, so using rubber doormats will save you time and effort. They will hold slush, water, ice, snow and mud in easy-to-clean transition areas so carpeted floors don’t get messy.

Best Wall Materials

Walls come in layers and are the most important factor in cold climates. Typically, they should be structured with a weatherproof exterior wall, insulation containing spray or rigid foam, a moisture or vapor barrier, and the interior wall. There are necessary elements, of course, but these are the ones that need the most attention in winter.

When choosing an insulation material, the focus should be on sealing as much as possible, especially moisture. Moisture management is a big issue in cold climates. People prefer a warm, slightly humid temperature indoors, but when this humidity meets the cold from outside in the walls, it can lead to condensation buildup 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 constructing walls. They are an integral part of the building envelope. It is generally better to opt for sealed windows rather than sliding ones in cold climates. Sliding windows are more likely to allow warm air to escape and cold air to enter.

Weather 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 thought, it’s easy to put together a structure that will effortlessly withstand even the most freezing temperatures.

Emily Newton is the editor of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations are changing our world.