Metal Roof vs. Shingles: The Different Benefits and Drawbacks to Know

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated July 11, 2022
A metal roof of a house with a brick chimney
Photo: Jasmin Merdan/Moment/Getty Images

If the time has come to add a new roof to your home, comparing metal roofs and asphalt shingles can help you make the best decision possible

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While you may agonize over things like paint colors and furniture choices, the roof over your head is arguably the most important part of your home, both aesthetically and in terms of safety. So when you’re deciding on a roofing material, you may be stumped when it comes to choosing between a metal roof and shingles. The two options have wildly different costs, but that’s not the only factor that sets them apart. Here are the benefits and drawbacks to each type of roof. 

What’s the Difference Between Shingles and a Metal Roof?​

Shingles are a common roofing material people have been using for decades. These shingles are shaped into smaller segments and go above the underlayment and sheathing of a roof. With this type of roof, the old materials need to be stripped away before new shingles are applied.

Metal roofs are a newer trend for homes, as many traditionally used them for structures such as barns or sheds. Because they are placed onto the top of a house in large pieces, local roofers can install them without tearing off the current roof. This method, adding an overlay, doesn’t address underlying issues, like roof damage. Most roofers recommend stripping down the roof to the sheathing to make repairs before adding new shingles. 

Both metal and shingles are reliable, durable roofing materials. Both have advantages (and disadvantages), so choosing the right one for your home comes down to several factors. Before deciding, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my budget?

  • How long do I plan to live in this home?

  • How important is energy efficiency in a roof?

  • How long am I willing to wait for this completed project?

What Is a Metal Roof?

A metal roof comprises large sheets of sturdy material such as steel, aluminum, or copper. Depending on the metal used, the sheets are covered with either a metallic coating or layers of paint to prevent rust. Metal roofs offer a wide variety of colors, textures, and finishes you can choose. You can also customize them to fit whatever design aesthetic you want, from traditional to contemporary.

Metal Roofs Pros and Cons

If you have a high budget, plan to stay in your home for many years, and are not in a rush to install a new roof, metal might be your preferred option.

Pros of a Metal Roof

Metal roofs are incredibly energy-efficient and are sturdy enough to easily last for 50 years or more. Because they reflect the sun, the amount of heat entering your home is reduced, which can net big savings on your monthly energy bills.

They are also sturdy enough to resist even the most extreme weather conditions, including high winds and heavy snow. Metal roofs also hold up better to hail than shingle roofs, but they can still be damaged by hail the size of a baseball (or larger). Metal roofs provide the additional benefit of being non-combustible, meaning they are much less likely to catch on fire. 

Cons of a Metal Roof

For most homeowners, the biggest drawback to a metal roof is the cost. Since the pricing starts at a minimum of $15,000, choosing metal for a roof replacement won’t work for every budget. Another drawback is that these roofs are difficult to repair or replace since large sheets are used instead of smaller individual pieces. And since metal roof installation is an intricate and time-consuming job, not many contractors offer this option, often leading to a longer wait for customers. 

Another drawback is the complexity of installation. It’s crucial that the contractor is skilled in metal roofing, as installing these types of roofs properly is tricky. If not done correctly, they can leak. Often, the only way to really repair a poorly installed metal roof is to replace the entire thing.

When it comes to insurance, companies offer a reduced premium for metal roofs—so you may save on your homeowners insurance. This may not seem like a con, but there’s a catch. When your insurance company reduces the premium, they often change the language of the coverage to state that the homeowner agrees that hail dents are cosmetic unless they break the metal—so you might have to live with a dimpled roof or pay out of pocket to replace it.

What Are Shingles?

A house’s roof covered with asphalt shingles
Photo: Victor / Adobe Stock

Shingles are a combination of asphalt and other materials, such as fiberglass or wood. Once a roof has been stripped of its old shingles and flashing, the new ones are applied individually.

This building material is available in many different colors and thicknesses. And while asphalt is the most popular option, you can also find shingles made of wood or slate. 

Shingles Pros and Cons

If you have a smaller budget, don’t mind a possible roof replacement while living in your home, and need the project completed fairly quickly, shingles could be a good choice. 

Pros of Shingles 

Shingles are affordable, readily available, and quick to install, making them a popular choice. They hold up well to the elements and easily withstand large amounts of rain, wind, and snow. In addition, shingles are sturdy, and fireproof and nearly every city offers plenty of roofing contractors who have experience installing them. And since they are applied individually, shingles are easy to fix since you only need to repair or replace the damaged ones.

Cons of Shingles 

Shingles have a shorter lifespan, generally lasting anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on the climate where you live. They also retain a great deal of heat since they absorb sun rays instead of reflecting them and can be susceptible to mold or mildew growth. They are also more prone to be damaged by hail and high winds.

And while shingle roofing installation is a relatively quick process, it’s also invasive and messy since the shingles go on with many, many nails.

Metal Roof vs. Shingles

Take a look at how metal roofs and shingles compare side by side.

Price

Depending on the material, color, and design choices, a metal roof will cost anywhere from $15,000 to upwards of $40,000.

They are sometimes referred to as a “forever roof” because they likely won’t need to be replaced in your lifetime, making the long-term cost savings significant.

Installing asphalt shingles is a more economical option, as the project will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000. While they won’t last as long as a metal roof, shingles do usually come with 25- to 50-year warranties, giving them a good bit of longevity. 

Most cost-effective: Shingles

Workers installing a new metal roof
Photo: Visoot Uthairam/Moment/Getty Images

Durability

As a general rule, a metal roof will last up to several decades longer than shingles. However, not all roofing materials are equal, and some metals are more susceptible to damage, such as dents. If you get a metal roof you should go with a 26- or 24- gauge metal, to ensure durability.

While shingles will begin to deteriorate after so many years, they are easier and more affordable to repair as needed.  Most durable: Metal roof

Options and Customizations

Both varieties of roofs offer customers plenty of options to customize the look of their homes. Metal roofs are available in virtually any color, shape, and size. They can look rustic, modern, or any other architectural style you desire. 

You can choose shingles in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and finishes. Some shingle designs even mimic the look of other materials, such as wood, slate, or tile. 

Most customization options: Metal roof

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