Pros and cons of a metal roof
A roof is a significant investment, and if it’s time to replace yours – or if you’re building a new home and thinking about what material to cover it – you could be looking at a big expense. And because roofing can affect your home’s energy-efficiency, you may want to consider materials that will make a positive difference in this area.
“The trend I am seeing right now has been a long time in the making but we’re finally seeing homeowners actually ask how the roof they install on their home will impact their home’s energy use,” says Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries in Piqua, OH. “I have said for several years that, if you’re in the roofing business, you’re in the energy business, and finally, consumers are starting to take note of that fact.”
When it comes to choosing materials for roofing, metal roofs are growing in popularity. However, but are they right for your home? These are some of the factors to consider.
Anyone who has lost shingles and sprung a leak during a storm understands the importance of a durable roof.
According to Dale Walton, manager of residential product marketing at CertainTeed, metal roofing is a worry-free product because it is extremely durable and long-lasting. “In general, it has superior impact, fire, and wind-resistance compared to most asphalt and wood shake roofing products.”
While other types of roofing materials require replacing in 20 to 30 years, Walton says a metal roof has a life expectancy of 50 years – or longer.
And this long lifespan includes holding up to inclement weather. “Hailstones can puncture asphalt shingles causing them to leak, which requires an immediate replacement of the damaged shingles to preserve the integrity of the roof and prevent water damage to the home,” explains Eamon Lynch, director of warranty services at Power Home Remodeling.
“However, metal roofs also withstand extreme weather and falling debris better than asphalt roofs,” Lynch states. And that means if you live in a region where hail storms are routine, a dent or two in your metal roof won’t be a big deal.
More upfront investment
A metal roof is more expensive than asphalt shingles. According to Home Advisor, the cost for a metal roof ranges from $120 to $900 per square (or 100 square feet). On the other hand, asphalt shingles are in the price range of $70 to $160 per square.
If you don’t see yourself living in the same house for a long time, a metal roof might be too expensive. “However, inflation, the cost of materials, and labor all factor into the final price for a homeowner, so some may find that the investment is still worth it,” Lynch says.
One advantage of a metal roof is the variety of choices available. “They come in a variety of colors and styles to match the aesthetics and design of a home. And some manufacturers offer metal roofs that are made to look like terracotta tiles, which is a popular style in the southwest,” says Lynch.
In fact, there are several other styles you can also mimic. “Metal roofing can be shaped to resemble natural roofing products – such as shake, slate and tile – without the added weight and maintenance associated with those materials,” Walton says.
However, it’s not easy to install metal roofs. And some traditional roofing contractors are unable install metal roofs. Walton explains there’s a limited pool of contractors who are capable of this type of installation. “This is due to the fact that metal roofing can be more of a challenge to install and the tools needed are unique to metal,” he says.
For example, if a roofer misaligns or tears an asphalt shingle, Lynch says it’s merely a matter of redoing the work. “However, metal roofs are made up of large pieces of metal that have to be measured to custom-fit a home, so there is really no margin for error in the installation process.” That’s why you need to ensure you’re working with a skilled roofing company.
A metal roof has a glossy surface, and while it’s beautiful to look at, Lynch says it’s also slippery. This is important information for contractors during the installation process, and when the roof needs to be repaired or inspected. “Also, snow and ice can become hazardous – it might slide off the roof in large sheets as it melts, as opposed to asphalt shingles where the melting of snow/water will make its way into the gutters.”
Metal roofs are known to excel in energy efficiency. “They reflect the sun’s UV rays and heat away from a home, which help to keep it cool during hot summer months,” Lynch explains. “In more temperate regions of the country, the glossy top-coat on a metal roof is available in darker colors, which help pull additional heat into a home.”
The configuration and construction of the metal roofing system also makes a difference. “Constructing the roof with a batten and counter-batten system that creates an air-gap between the sheathing and the metal roofing panel provides a superior configuration for optimizing energy savings,” says Richard J. D’Angelo, project manager at JWE Remodeling & Roofing.
“With this setup, metal roofs have been shown to provide a 45% decrease in the flow of heat out of the roofing system, as well as a 25% reduction in cooling costs,” D’Angelo explains. “Similarly, in warmer months, the air-gapped metal roofing panels allow for significantly less heating of the attic, so the reflective property of the metal panels saves on cooling costs.”
Additionally, metal roofs get high marks in terms of being environmentally friendly. “Metal roofs are more environmentally friendly to both install and remove,” says Lynch. “They are lighter to transport and more easily recycled, whereas asphalt shingles most often end up in a landfill when they’re taken off a home.”
Compatibility and Performance
While there’s a variety of roofing options, they might not all be a good fit. According to Lynch, you shouldn’t assume that a steel, zinc, copper, or aluminum roof is automatically compatible with your home.
“Chemical reactions can occur when the wrong material interacts with a home’s existing siding, gutter systems or window frames, so again, it’s very important to choose a skilled roofing company for this kind of project,” he says.
The performance of metal roofs is sometimes due to the location. “Certain types of metal roofing don’t perform well in coastal areas due to the salty sea air, so galvanized (zinc-coated) steel, zinc, aluminum or copper roofing products may be optimal in those areas,” states Walton.
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.