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Our Roofs Catch Water


Everyone who visits our island knows Bermuda is renowned for our friendly people, gorgeous beaches, pastel-colored homes and white roofs. While the majority of Bermuda’s attributes are self-explanatory, many tourists ask why we have white roofs with built-in steps. To understand this, we need to go back a few hundred years.

With no rivers, streams or other fresh water vessels, the early settlers to Bermuda came up with the most ingenious idea ever known to man. (OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still incredibly clever.) And that, of course, is the ability to harvest rain by way of our roofs.

How does it work? Simple.

Rain water hits the lapped or weathered slate profile roof that has a step-like appearance. The water then trickles down and is caught at the bottom of the steps by the rainwater glide or gutter. The glide/gutter escorts the water flow into the rainwater leader or downspout. Water from the downspout is safely delivered to concrete water tanks. Depending on the age of your home, water tanks can be found either underneath or beside every home in Bermuda.

What’s with the steps? In early construction days, the slate that was used to build Bermuda roofs overlapped one another and presented a step-like appearance. Not only was it proven to be aesthetically pleasing, it also determined the lapping (or step) formation which slowed down the flow of heavy rainfall, making for efficient water collection.

Why white? Bermuda roofs are made of limestone, which is white in colour. In the past, lime mortar was used; however these days, roofs are painted with a lime-based whitewash. White is also the most logical colour to reflect sunlight and deter heat from penetrating the house.

Can salt water enter your tank? Not your typical daily issue, but it does present a challenge during a hurricane. Whether you live oceanfront or more inland, hurricane force winds can kick up their fair share of salt water. To prevent salt water from contaminating water tanks, locals employ an old tactic. The size of the leader (or downspout) mouth is roughly the same size as your average tennis ball. The trick is to stuff a tennis ball in a sock, wrap it tightly and place in on top of the leader to completely cover the hole. It works like a charm.

You could say Bermudians are pioneers of water conservation. Catching rainwater is also very economical. The average water tank in homes across Bermuda, holds between 15K – 20K gallons of water. The average cost of getting water delivered to your home is just under $100 for 900 gallons. While visitors to the island may not embrace rain on their vacation, Bermudians typically greet “tank rain” with open arms and closed wallets. It truly is our liquid sunshine!