If you want a long-lasting, low-maintenance roof that stands out from your neighbors, metal is an excellent choice. But metal isn’t just metal. There are several different types of metal roofing materials to choose from to suit your home, style, and needs.
Deciding what metal roofing system to choose can be daunting since each material has its pros and cons. To help you decide, here’s a guide to the different roofing materials and styles.
- What is Metal Roofing?
- What Are the Different Metal Roofing Materials?
- Styles of Metal Roofing
- Cost of Metal Roofing
- How Do I Know if Metal Roofing is Right for Me?
- FAQ About Different Types of Metal Roofing Materials
- What Metal Is Best for You?
What is Metal Roofing?
Usually when people hear the phrase “metal roof,” they envision plain tin panels covering a rustic barn. In truth, metal roofing comes in a large variety of colors, styles, and shapes and is found on homes, barns, sheds, and businesses. Metal roofing is highly customizable and can even mimic the shapes of other roofing materials, such as tile or slate roofs.
Over the years, metal has become an increasingly popular roofing choice, and with good reason. Metal roofs have many pros, as they are:
- Durable. They are impervious to mold and mildew and hold up in rough weather conditions such as hail, snow, and high winds.
- Eco-friendly. Metal roofs reflect heat instead of absorbing it. This helps the environment by lowering the urban heat island effect. Metal roofs also reduce roof tear-off waste.
- Recyclable. Once a metal roof reaches the end of its lifespan, it can be recycled.
- Energy efficient. They are effective at retaining indoor temperatures. In winter, they keep in the heat and in summer, they cool your home. This saves you money on energy bills.
- Fire resistant. Metal roofs have a Class A rating, the highest fire-resistant rating.
- Lightweight. Weighing only half as much as traditional asphalt shingles, metal roofs are easy to install and put less structural stress on your home.
- Long-lived. Metal roofs last two to three times longer than other roofing materials. Some metal roofs even live to celebrate their 100th birthday.
Not all roofing materials are created equal. With metal roofing, each type of metal has a different life expectation.
|Type of Roofing||Expected Lifespan|
|Copper||50 to 200 years|
|Steel||40 to 70 years|
|Tin||50 to 75 years|
|Zinc||60 to 100 years|
What Are the Different Metal Roofing Materials?
From aluminum to zinc, there are several types of metal materials used for roofing installation. Each one is a good choice, and each has different pros and cons. Some, such as copper, offer a unique aesthetic. Others have unique benefits, like zinc’s self-healing ability. Here is a list of the different metals used in roofing.
Aluminum’s thin metal sheets are a malleable, soft metal that can be easily formed and shaped. However, its softness means it can be easily dented or bent. It is the most lightweight metal material available, making it one of the easiest metals to install.
Aluminum is well-suited for homes in coastal regions, as it is rust proof and resistant to salt and saltwater corrosion.
However, aluminum is slightly less customizable, as it doesn’t have quite as many color options as other metal roofing materials. It also has the shortest life expectancy of all the metal roofing materials, with an approximate lifespan of 50 years.
Although expensive, aluminum is one of the most energy efficient materials. Aluminum is a green option, as the majority of aluminum roofing systems are made from recycled materials.
Copper has been used as a roofing material for centuries. Although it is the most expensive roofing metal on the market, copper can last over a century. Durable and rustproof, it has the longest lifespan of metal roofs. In optimal conditions, copper roofing can sometimes survive for as long as 200 years.
Copper never needs to be painted or recoated. Its natural sheen is already aesthetically pleasing without a painted finish. As it ages, it loses its penny bronze and develops an elegant green patina, completely changing the color of the roof over the years.
The greenish patina is just as desirable as the original roof color. And the patina coat isn’t just for looks – it functions as a protective coating that prevents corrosion.
Copper is a lightweight material and won’t put a lot of structural stress on your building. Copper is 100% recyclable, making it an eco-friendly option for homeowners who want a green roof.
Since copper is a soft, malleable metal, it is one of the quietest metal roofing materials. However, copper is more susceptible to dents and scratches and may suffer damage in areas that experience a lot of hailstorms.
Steel is the most common metal roofing for both residential and commercial buildings. Created from iron and other components, steel metal is one of the strongest metal roofing materials available. It is Earth’s most recycled material.
Steel roofs don’t last as long as metals such as copper or aluminum, as they last around 40 to 70 years.
One big downside of steel panels is that they can rust. To prevent this, protective coatings are applied to steel to make it corrosion-resistant. These protective coatings last approximately 20 years before they need to be reapplied.
Some of the weather-protective substrates are:
- Cold Rolled Steel. It has a rusty look and is easy to shape.
- Galvalume. Galvalume steel is coated with a combination of zinc and aluminum to make it impervious to corrosion.
- Galvanized. Galvanized steel is coated in a protective zinc layer to make it resistant to corrosion. It’s the most popular type of steel roof.
- Stainless Steel. Stainless steel is impervious to rust and corrosion. It has a larger price tag than standard steel, but it typically lasts twice as long as regular steel, making the long-term investment worth it.
- Stone-coated. Stone-coated is layered with a mixture of stone granules and zinc to protect and strengthen the roof. It gives the roof an appearance of asphalt, clay tile or wood shakes. It is less corrosion-resistant than galvalume and galvanized steel.
- Weathering Steel. Weathering steel forms a protective layer, like a protective patina. Weathering steel is low-maintenance and designed to resist corrosion.
These days, a tin roof is a rare find. Tin roofs declined in popularity as aluminum roofs became a more popular alternative and rendered tin roofs obsolete. Today, tin roofs are no longer used or sold much. It may be difficult to find a company to install a tin roof.
Typically if people mention a “tin roof,” they usually mean steel or aluminum roofing material.
A weather-resistant roofing choice, zinc resists corrosion, wear from harsh UV rays, and mildew growth. It is also fire resistant.
While zinc is known for its strength and durability, its malleability allows it to be formed into many different shapes.
Zinc’s oxidation allows it to self-heal from scratched surfaces. Over time, zinc will reform to its original shape, getting rid of scratches or blemishes. This is why zinc roofs require very few repairs.
Like copper, zinc forms a protective patina over time that defends against rust, weather, and corrosion. The patina will change the color of the roof from a dark color to light blue or bluish gray.
One con of zinc is chalking, which causes white streaks that marr the roof’s surface. Regular cleanings, painting, or protective coatings all can help prevent chalking. Some things that cause chalking are:
- Extreme temperatures
- UV rays
- Paint coatings
Zinc is 100% recyclable and can last 60 to 100 years.
Styles of Metal Roofing
Choosing the material of your metal roof is important, but you’ll also need to consider what shape and design your roof should have. Flat panels are typical, but for homeowners who dislike the look of flat panels, metal shingles are an option.
Here is a list of different styles of roofing you can choose from to customize your roof. These styles can come in aluminum, copper, steel, and zinc materials.
Like a series of mountains and valleys, corrugated metal roofing consists of a repeating pattern of wavy S-shaped ridges and grooves. The ridged design gives corrugated roofs more structural strength than flat metal panels.
Corrugated roofing requires more maintenance since the fasteners securing the panels to the roof decking are exposed, leaving them vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. The roof will require recoating and caulking over its lifetime.
R-panels, a type of screw-down panels, have exposed fasteners. Their panels have raised ridges of various sizes with flat spaces between them. R-panels are 36-inch metal panels.
Because they are inexpensive, R-panels are a popular choice. They are typically used for commercial and industrial purposes rather than residential metal roofing.
Standing seam are roll-formed metal panels connected by hidden fasteners, vertical legs (or ribs) attached to both ends of the panels. The hidden fasteners offer several benefits:
- Better aesthetic than exposed fasteners.
- They protect fasteners from extreme temperatures and UV rays
- Watertight design prevents moisture
- Less likely to leak than exposed fasteners
The standing seam design is low maintenance. The fasteners should be checked regularly. Standing seam roofs need to be repainted with a protective finish called Kynar 500 several times during their lifetime.
Metal naturally expands and contracts as it heats and cools. This causes wavy roofing, a phenomenon known as oil canning. Standing seam roofs give panels breathing room to expand and contract, reducing waviness and preventing fasteners from being pulled loose by the movement.
Screw-down metal roofing is held in place by exposed fasteners that pin the roof to the roof decking. Because it is simple to install, screw-down panels are one of the cheapest metal roofing styles on the market.
Screw-down panels don’t give metal room to contract and expand with extreme temperatures. The pressure this puts on screws can lead to them getting broken or lost. However, screw-down panels will not oil can because they are tightly secured to the roof, and this prevents waves forming in the metal.
Because the fasteners are exposed, it leaves them vulnerable to the elements, so the roof will require maintenance during its lifetime. The screws have to be replaced about every 10 years.
Everyone likes having a lot of options, and metal roofs deliver on offering homeowners a broad selection of customization choices.
Metal shingles are an option for those who don’t like the look of long metal sheets. If metal panels feel like they are only suited for barns and not for homes, a metal shingle roof may be the best style for you.
Metal shingles can be created to resemble:
- Asphalt shingles
- Clay tile
- Wood shakes
Cost of Metal Roofing
The single biggest drawback of a metal roof is the cost. The upfront cost can be two or three times as much as other types of roofing materials.
However, because they don’t have to be frequently replaced, the long-term cost ends up being the same as asphalt shingle roofs, which have to be replaced more frequently, as they have a lifespan of only about 15-25 years.
|Type of Roofing||Typical price range per square|
|Aluminum||$895 – $1,565|
|Copper||$600 – $1,450|
|Steel||$325 – $775|
|Tin||$300 – $1,500|
|Zinc||$700 – $1,750|
How Do I Know if Metal Roofing is Right for Me?
There are many factors to think about to determine if metal roofs are the right fit for your roofing needs. Here are some things to consider to help decide if a metal roof is right for you.
The upfront metal roofing cost may be pricey, but a metal roof will be cost-effective in the long run. If you are planning to move anytime soon, you won’t benefit from the expenses of a metal roof. Of course, metal roofing is a valuable asset that increases the sale value of your home and saves money on energy bills.
For some, the curb appeal of metal roofing is an attractive option that looks sleek and modern. Others don’t like the look. There is a wide selection of colors and styles available to customize your roof. Whether the aesthetic is for you or not is up to your personal tastes.
Customers concerned with reducing their carbon footprint will enjoy having an eco-friendly roof over their heads. Metal roofs offer many eco-friendly benefits:
- Reduce tear off waste in landfills
- They are recyclable
- Lower temperatures
- Reduce the urban heat island effect
- Better retain indoor temperatures and save electricity
Homeowners Association Rules
Not every homeowners association organization permits homeowners to install metal roofs. So don’t get in trouble with your HOA – check HOA regulations first.
Everyone is busy and no one wants to deal with the hassle of maintaining a roof. For homeowners searching for a roof that doesn’t require much upkeep, metal roofs are low-maintenance.
Snow and ice usually slide right off a metal roof, which makes them a great option for cold climates.
FAQ About Different Types of Metal Roofing Materials
Any white or light-colored roof is best for hot weather. Light colors reflect heat, whereas dark colors absorb it.
Walking on your metal roof will not damage it. Just make sure to wear soft-soled shoes, as shoes with hard soles can cause scuffs, or dents in the metal.
Take extra precautions when up on a metal roof. Metal roofing is slick and slippery, and rooftops are dangerous, so make sure that you don’t fall.
All roofs need good ventilation systems, and metal roofing is no exception. Ventilation increases your roof’s energy efficiency and prevents condensation and ice dams from forming.
What Metal Is Best for You?
Now you know the different types and styles of metal roofing available on the market. What metal roofing material will work best for you depends on you and your home.
If you’ve decided to get a metal roof, then no matter the type of roofing, you can find the right roofing contractor for the job today.
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