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The Best Roofing Materials for Off-Grid Homes!


The Best Off-Grid Roofing System!

When I started to research off-grid roofs I really had no idea which roofs were better than any other. I assumed that solar paneled roofs were probably the best as whenever I did any research on off-grid roofs that was automatically the first kind that showed up. Then there were other kinds of roofing systems like living roofs and thatched roofs that had to be considered. But, what I discovered was that the best roofing systems for off-grid homes were in fact cheap metal roofs!

There are really only 4 kinds of off grid roofing systems, they are:

  • Solar Paneled Roofs
  • Living Roofs
  • Thatched Roofs
  • Metal Roofs


Solar Paneled Roofs: As popular as these are becoming my research has led me to believe that unless you can build your own solar panels or the price comes way down the expense is not worth the electricity. I have often wondered why solar panels are so expensive. Well the reason is that solar panels are made with silicon and silicon is made from crystals that must be grown very slowly. This process contributes to the expense of the solar cells and it doesn't look like the price will be coming down anytime soon so unless you have a lot of money I really wouldn't recommend solar paneled roofs.


Living Roofs: Living roofs also known as green roofs are roofs that have plant vegetation growing on them. Some can be grasses, some can be native plants. These roofs are popular with the cob cottage crowd. So I also thought that these would be pretty good roofs for off-grid living. But, my research has shown me that living roofs are not the best. Yes they are cheap and relatively easy to put up, however, they absorb all of your water, are very heavy so much so that many structures cannot support them and do not really do anything for you. They don't give you heat or electricity, they can require additional watering, and they don't contribute in anyway except to provide additional oxygen for your surroundings but if you are living off the grid chances are there are lots of plants already around you. And, if there is one thing that is important when living off grid it's making use of everything that you have. So, living roofs are cheap, (unless they leak, which many do), they are easy but they don't contribute in any way shape or form and furthermore they hoard the rainwater that falls on them. So, once again I would pass on living roofs.


Thatched Roofs: Thatched roofs are by far the most beautiful of all roofing (at least in my opinion). If you've ever dreamt of a cottage in the woods chances are your dream included a thatched roof. Thatched roofs have been around for a very long time and are renewable since they are made from straw. And, if you can find the material and do it yourself, the cheapest. However, thatched roofs also do not provide for any of your needs off grid. You cannot catch water from a thatched roof. While they are renewable they can harbor rodents and since virtually no one knows how to build or maintain them in the “Colonies” they will have to remain in the realm of dreams for now. Too bad I think they are so cute.

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Metal Roofs: Well here is the last place I would have thought I would have landed when looking for the best off-grid roofing system. But cheap metal roofs either tin or galvanized steel win the award and take the cake for the best off-grid roofs ever. Not only are they super duper cheap but they can last for about 60 years. They are completely fireproof. If you were to put them on top of a cob cottage your whole house would be fireproof! Snow slides off so you don't have to worry about the weight of snow and they are lightweight making them easy to install. Moreover they are THE best roofs for collecting rainwater in a rainwater catchment system because there are no chemicals, tar or dirt attaching to the rainwater as it comes down off the roof.

So there you have it, cheap metal roofs are the best off-grid roofing systems hands you know!


Cob Cottage with Metal Roof

Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting


Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on July 04, 2012:

Olga, you might google "thatched roof" and then write to some of the companies that come up. They are probably located in Great Britain.

Olga vieira on July 04, 2012:

Can some one please help with how to chanel water away from a thatch roof ?

Great site and info

My email

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 13, 2011:

The only way to do that would be to have it separate from the house...IMHO.

Haley on December 13, 2011:

Yes Brie I read your article and thinking maybe there might be a way to have a metal funnel system to catch and direct rain water. The earthen roof is essential to the design of me house to function properly. But I am still interested in your opinion. If you desire to share one.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on December 07, 2011:

Have you read this article I wrote?

Haley on December 07, 2011:

Cob is slow to build, best if you have the climate for a long building season. It is also thermal mass so when a climate like mine has months of below freezing more precautions are needed. I chose earth bags and a geodesic dome, buried with a insulative umbrella and earth tube ventilation. If I do it right my home after about 2 years will have a constant temperature and continual fresh air. Water is my current challenge, our well went dry this year. I look forward to any ideas or feed back. Thank you Brie

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on November 30, 2011:

I've never heard of the umbrella house...I'll look it up. Cob houses are good at keeping heat in the winter and cool in the summer.

Haley on November 30, 2011:

Have you heard of the umbrella house? These have a living roof, but they are used to store heat in winter and cool in summer. Creating a constant temperature year round. I am in the process of building one. However I also desire a rainwater catchment system, I wonder if you might have some ideas of how one could still accomplish this.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 13, 2011:

They aren't as cheap and the stuff that's in them is not good for collecting rainwater off of them.

Frank on February 13, 2011:

Another excellent post, Brie. I'm in complete agreement on all points made about metal roofs but, wonder why common shingles and roll asphalt where left out of consideration?

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 09, 2011:

Yes, especially these days when everything is built to fall apart eh!

Tony L Smith from Macon on February 09, 2011:

Its nice to install something that last. Good article

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 08, 2011:

Thanks Becky, I never did either..until I did this research. It is really nice to discover something like this that works so well and yet is affordable...that seems so rare these days!

Becky from Oklahoma on February 08, 2011:

Interesting comparison of the different type of roofing materials. I've never really thought about metal roofing but this sounds like a clever idea. Thanks for an awesome Hub.

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 07, 2011:

I've heard that! Thanks for your comments, I'm glad you liked it. Too bad about those cute thatched roofs huh!

Loves To Read on February 07, 2011:

I thoroughly enjoyed this hub Brie. We had looked into solar panels but as you say they are so expensive. I love the thatched look but not good for fire prone areas and the living roof i think would keep the house damp.

We have a metal roof and as you say it is great for water catchment and very soothing to hear the patter of rain on the roof. The only thing here in Aus is that it has been much heavier than a patter in recent days.

Love and Hugs

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 06, 2011:

You sound like you sell them Katrinasui! Thanks for the comments.

katrinasui on February 06, 2011:

Modern Metal roofs are among some of the most practical and long lasting roofing solutions available to homeowners today. Great Hub Brie:)

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 06, 2011:

Me either! Thanks for commenting rpalulis.

rpalulis from NY on February 06, 2011:

I would have never thought metal roofs to be the best off the grid roof out there, makes total sense though, thanks!

Brie Hoffman (author) from Manhattan on February 06, 2011:

I think so too. I was very surprised that this kind of roof would be the best for off-grid homes but it really has so many good qualities. It's nice to know that there is something out there that works well and is affordable! And, I think they are nice looking too.

Thanks for writing Enlydia

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on February 06, 2011:

I rate this up for useful...I like the way you think and you presented a good argument for metal roofs...we had a metal roof on one of our houses when we lived in the country...another positive is the beautiful sound of rain on the is very relaxing.

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