Bermudian roofs stand strong in Caribbean
Category five Hurricane Irma caused widespread destruction when it rolled through the Turks & Caicos in September 2017.
Clocking winds of more than 175mph it left at least 18 people dead, and downed 1,300 utility poles.
One of the few things left unscathed were ten Bermudian-style roofs built by Bermudian Guilden Gilbert, of Innovative Building Systems [Bahamas], based in Nassau.
“Hurricane Irma went right through Providenciales, Turks & Caicos,” Mr Gilbert said. “We had absolutely no damage on any of our roofs, and we were the only roofing system with no damage.”
He launched The Bermuda Roof 12 years ago, and is now looking to expand into other Caribbean islands.
Mr Gilbert moved to the Bahamas in 1997, six years after marrying a Bahamian, Sandra. Before moving, the couple heard that there was someone in Nassau building a traditional SKB Bermuda roof, but when they got there and inspected it, the quality wasn’t impressive. The Gilberts went with an asphalt shingle roof, common in the area. Mr Gilbert didn’t think about Bermuda roofs again until a few years later, when he started working as an insurance broker dealing with property.
“I started to notice property damage occurring here that wasn’t occurring in Bermuda,” he said, “particularly with the roof.”
At the time homes in Nassau were built to earthquake standards.
“The structure of the building was very strong, but the weak point was the roof,” Mr Gilbert said.
He noticed that the insurance market gave discounted premiums to people with Bermudian-style roofs, because they were considered more durable.
“Then I started to look at it more and more,” he said. “I came across the Dura Slate product that was used within the Tucker’s Point development in Bermuda. It was a lightweight option to limestone slate. The creator of the product is a guy who lived in Bermuda, and is married to a Bermudian.”
The Bermuda Roof’s first job was a 21,000 sq ft roof in Exuma, Bahamas.
He now has a crew of guys in Nassau who have been working with him for ten years.
“I trained them in the installation so I don’t have to get up on the roof any more to physically do the work,” he said. “I do spend quite a bit of time making sure it is being done to a high standard. It automatically adds value and brings a lower property insurance premium.”
One of the advantages of the Bermuda roof is that it’s designed for a tropical climate.
“An asphalt shingle roof will suck in the heat,” Mr Gilbert said. “A Bermuda roof deflects heat so it makes the structure cooler.”
His typical client is high end. “Typically I’m dealing with the architects, and most of the architects are somewhat familiar with the Bermuda roof,” he said. “When we started to work in Turks & Caicos, I sent information to an architect I reached out to, and he said let’s give it a try. He tried it and then used it on every development he had after that because he loved it so much.”
Most of his roofs are Bermudian in style only, but at least one is a functional Bermuda roof with a 70,000 gallon water tank built under the house providing potable water.
Mr Gilbert said the Bahamians don’t seem to mind the Bermudian-style roof on the landscape.
“The Bahamas don’t have a roof product to be identified with them,” he said. “Roofs are typically anywhere from asphalt shingles to cedar shake to concrete tile to Spanish tile. The roof has to meet code, but whatever roof product is used doesn’t matter.”
Because Dura Slate is no longer available, all the roofs now done are styrofoam adhered to a Plycem (structural cement board) substrate for maximum wind uplift performance.
“I’m in a joint venture with a friend of mine who owns a foam company,” he said. “He cuts the roof tile to my specifications. When I install, my goal is to retain the traditional Bermuda profile. When you look at my styrofoam roof against a slate roof you wouldn’t tell the difference in profile. The styrofoam creates the shape. Then an adhesive bonds it to cement board. Then we coat the styrofoam with a proprietary fibrebond product and paint it with elastomeric paint. The products trade under the Bermuda Roof name brand.”
Mr Gilbert also runs an insurance brokerage operation Chandler Gilbert Insurance Associates Ltd, a renewable energy company Alternative Power Source (Bahamas) Ltd which is also incorporated in Bermuda, and CG Captive Managers Ltd.
•For more information see www.thebermudaroof.com/contact
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