Conch houses are classic Florida cottages that are traditionally rectangular shaped with one or two stories, constructed with wood and set on piers to allow airflow under the house. These houses also have porches across the entire front of the house. Two-story conch houses have porches on both levels.
Conch-style architecture is a Southern Florida interpretation of the classical revival building style. Conch houses feature horizontal plank siding, low gabled roofs with shingles or sheet metal roofing, and double-hung sash windows. Carved wood braces or brackets may decorate the porches.
Conch houses are energy-efficient. The limestone piers under the houses promote air circulation, which naturally cools the homes and prevents rotting. Roof hatches also create air circulation. Metal roofs reflect the sun, keeping the homes cool.
Owners can collect rainwater from their roofs in cisterns. Louvered shutters block afternoon sunlight while allowing tropical breezes into the homes. Porches provide shade to keep the inside cool.
Bahamian immigrants built the first conch houses in Key West, using mortar made of sand, water and lime. They extracted the lime by burning conch shells. Many early houses were built like boats using timber framing; builders switched to balloon framing in the 1880s.