In America, copper and lead roofs appeared on important public buildings beginning in the 18th century. By the 1920s, lightweight, no-rust aluminum entered the market, as did paint coatings that added color and longevity to both aluminum and steel roofs. Today, more Americans than ever before are choosing metal roofing materials that are strong enough to survive hurricanes, hail, and wildfires while saving energy, reflecting heat, and requiring little to no maintenance. Sounds too good to be true? Metal roofing boasts all of these benefits along with a lifespan of up to 50 years or more.
What is a Metal Roof?
A metal roof is simply a roofing system made using metal pieces, tiles, or panels. It is designed to provide resistance to outside elements including air, water, heat, and sound. The roof also contributes to the structural support and aesthetics of a building.
Types of Metal Roofs
All metal roofs will provide longevity, eco-friendliness, strength, and low maintenance. But that doesn’t mean all metal roofs are created equal. The installation, appearance, and cost can vary based on the style you are looking for.
- Exposed Fastener – Exposed fastener roofing is one where you can see the fasteners on the roof, they are not covered up by panels or ridges. Instead, the panels are overlapped and fastened directly to the roof deck or framing through the face of the panel. This is the least expensive type of metal roof, and it is a popular style for both agricultural and residential buildings.
- Standing Seam/Hidden Fastener/Concealed Fastener – Standing seam is another commonly used type of metal roof. Using this method, all of the panels snap together, and the screws are hidden by seams or ribs. When installed correctly standing seam is considered a higher quality system and is more popular than exposed fasteners simply because of the sleek and more finished appearance.
- Vertical Seam – Vertical Seam is an admired style of standing seam. The vertical seam roofing has modern high ribs in widths of 12″, 16″, and 18″ apart. These taller ribs allow Vertical Seams to be installed over open framing as well as solid decking. In addition, the hidden fastening clip allows unlimited expansion and contraction, making them ideal for hurricane zones and coastal areas.
- Pre-Formed Panels – Pre-formed panels are made in standard dimensions and shapes and come from hardware stores. The panels are then brought on the side and cut down to the style, slope, and dimensions of your roof. Some homeowners may attempt to use pre-formed panels to do their own metal roofing, but this often leads to unfinished cut edges and a tough installation process. You can get a perfect panel installation at a reasonable price when you use a qualified roofing contractor.
- Granular-Coated Panels – Granular-coated panels provide all the benefits of a metal roof but mimic the look of asphalt shingles. Embedded with stone granules on the surface of the metal panel, they have a textured look to the surface which is popular in residential communities. They are typically fastened with hidden fasteners and can be installed over a batten/counter batten wood grid system or directly to the deck.
Types of Materials Used for Metal Roofs
While there are limitless combinations and alloys of metal, there are 6 main types of metal used in all metal roofs today. Each one carries unique pros and cons based on your needs, location, and budget.
- Aluminum – If there was a popularity contest for metal roofing, aluminum would be the clear winner. This metal is lightweight, durable, and resistant to rust – the perfect trifecta!
- Copper – Copper is a very stately metal that is distinguishable by its shiny-like-a-penny exterior. Over time, copper changes to a blue-green color (remember the Statue of Liberty?) But it will last a lifetime and is not prone to damage of any kind.
- Rezibond – This material has now taken the place of the Terne Tin product, which was the original “go to” metal for over 200 years. Rezibond is a coated steel material that can be formed into panels, soldered, and painted in the same aspects as Terne Tin metal. This material is resistant to most weather conditions and can last for more than 100 years if properly maintained.
- Zinc – Zinc has become a very popular option due to its self-healing properties. You can manipulate zinc into different shapes and designs, which provides beautiful styling options. Zinc is also highly recyclable, but it is one of the more expensive metal roofing options.
- Steel – Steel is usually a combination of other metals in an alloy to be used on commercial buildings. Steel is a strong option; in fact, it is the hardest metal. However, it is still susceptible to rust and corrosion. It works extremely well in hail and winds but should not be used in humid or coastal areas.
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel can withstand corrosion and degradation for 60+ years, making it a great choice for a long-term option. It is great for both heat and freezing temperatures because it doesn’t expand or contract in extreme temperatures.
Metal Roof Styles to Choose From
While metal roofing has been synonymous with barns or outdoor structures, today’s styles are much more. These styles go beyond the country or farmhouse style and stretch into modern commercial and residential applications across the country.
- Diamond Shingle – Who says metal roofing has to be straight? The diamond shingle is created with individual 16-by-16-inch, painted steel shingles that can be painted in any color you’d like with a matching or contrasting band or rib to cover the fasteners.
- Victorian Shingle – A Victorian shingle replicates the scalloped style of the Victorian era with clear-coated, Galvalume-steel panels embossed with the profile of five shingles.
- Slate – Slate features “split” edges, which give the look of slate without the weight. Slate metal roofing comes in panels that are roughly 4’ x 1’ and are embossed to suggest six separate slates.
- Shake – Shake is actually painted aluminum panels that provide a realistic representation of hand-split wood without the high installation costs and upkeep that a real wood roof demands.
- Tile – Metal tile roofs are installed to mimic the look of clay times. A 38-inch long panel carries a thick profile of 6 clay tiles. They are even painted to give the look of authentic clay tile roofing, without the maintenance and fragility of ceramic.
9 Advantages of Metal Roofs
Millions of homeowners across the country are making the decision to invest in a metal roof and it’s easy to see why! They carry several benefits and will likely last the rest of your life.
- Durability – Metal is the most durable roofing material on the market. They are impervious to fire, rot, and insect damage. It can withstand severe hailstorms and even hurricane-force winds.
- Safety – They are virtually indestructible and will not spark or ignite into flames during a wildfire or lightning strike. They can also stand up against other elements of Mother Nature, such as high wind, extreme temperatures, or snow and ice buildup. This provides increased safety to your family and belongings inside.
- Energy Efficiency – Metal roofs save significantly on energy costs because they reflect heat. This means your AC doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your home cool in the summer. In many areas, it can reduce your utility bills by 10-25% or more.
- Environmentally Friendly – Shingles create 20 billion pounds of waste every year. Metal roofs, however, are extremely environmentally friendly. They are manufactured with 25-95% recycled content, depending on the material used, and are also 100% recyclable at the end of their life.
- Stylish – 7 out of 10 homeowners choose metal roofing with the traditional vertical ribbed panels or “standing seam” construction. But, they can be customized to match any style of home including metal shingles, shake, tile, Victorian-era diamonds, and more. Gone are the days of corrugated tin on a barn; today’s metal is elegant, modern and beautiful.
- 60-year lifespan – Asphalt shingles typically need to be replaced every 15-20 years. The lifespan of metal is easily 3X that long. This means by the time you’ll need to replace your roof – you would have paid for three roofs using shingles.
- Sustainability – In many areas today, you’ll face strict requirements to reduce energy and maintenance costs. A metal roof can significantly reduce the heating and cooling of your building because the metal naturally reflects heat rather than absorbing it.
- Higher Quality Material – You can choose a variety of materials and thicknesses for your metal roof. Combine the best materials with a variety of finishes and coatings and you can ensure your metal roof will stand the test of time.
- Extensive Warranties – You will find better warranties in metal roofing than you will in any other materials. Most manufacturers will offer their own unique warranty with coverage against chalking, fading, warping, cracking, etc.
Disadvantages of Metal Roofs
Most homeowners find that the advantages of metal roofing far outweigh the disadvantages. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a metal roof.
- Affordability – The benefits of metal roofing come at a price. Typically, you’ll pay twice as much for your metal roofing as you would for asphalt shingles. While it is cheaper than both slate and shake, it still carries a hefty price tag.
- Noisiness – Some homeowners are concerned that their metal roofs will be noisy. This can be a problem if it is not installed correctly. However, today’s installation techniques bring the noise levels down to manageable levels.
- Expansion, Contraction, and Fasteners – Some metals will expand and contract in extreme temperatures. Contractors understand this and use installation methods that account for this change. Using the correct fasteners, clips, and installation techniques minimizes the concern for expansion or contraction.
- Inconsistency of Color Match – If you need to replace part of your metal roof in the future, it can be tricky to match the right shade/tone of the original. However, with today’s color-matching paint technology, you can bring in a sample and your contractor can match it as close as possible, or you can repaint the entire roof.
- Performance – Performance problems only occur if the original metal roof is not installed correctly. If you use a reputable contractor who is experienced specifically in metal roofing, you should not experience any performance problems.
Myths About Metal Roofs
- They Attract Lightning – People assume that if metal conducts electricity, a metal roof is like standing in a rainstorm holding an umbrella. This isn’t the case. First, metal roofs are grounded by a lightning protection company. Second, if the roof is struck, the electricity is dispersed, and metal is fire-resistant.
- They’re Only for Farmhouses – Sure, metal may be more familiar in rural areas – but that’s probably because the metal used in suburban neighborhoods often looks like every other roof. Many times, you won’t even notice that it’s a metal roof because they can blend in with any other architectural styles.
- They’re Vulnerable to Hail – Hail can damage any roof if the hailstones are big enough. However, metal roofing with a Class 4 rating means that it can withstand a 2-inch steel ball dropped from 20 feet without tearing, fracturing, cracking, or splitting. Can it dent? Yes – if you choose a soft or thin gauge metal. But the roof itself is not vulnerable to hail.
- They Heat Up a House – Metal does get hot – but it actually reflects heat, rather than absorbing it. Most metal roofs come with a built-in thermal break that releases heat back into the atmosphere keeping your home cool and your energy costs low.
Metal Roof Cost
Because metal roofing is a premium home product, you can expect your new roof to cost roughly two to three times what an asphalt shingle costs. The national average costs around $18,500. Most roofs will fall between $15,000 and $26,000.
Deciding to invest in a metal roof for your home means you’re making a decision that will affect you 20, 30, even 50 years down the road. This is why it’s important to understand the balance between cost and benefits.
Metal Roof FAQs