5 Benefits (and 3 Drawbacks) of Residential Metal Roofing

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Reviewed by Ami Feller
Updated May 12, 2022
A residential metal roofing
Photo: dbrus / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Metal roofing comes in sheets or shingles in a variety of materials.

  • Well-installed metal roofing can last a lifetime without replacement.

  • Metal roofs are made with recycled materials.

  • Metal roofing can be expensive but helps you save on energy bills.

  • Choose from a wide selection of colors and finish options.

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If you’ve ever had a leaky roof, you may have experienced difficult maintenance and costly repairs. As an alternative to the traditional asphalt shingles found on most roofs, you may want to consider metal roofing for your next replacement.

These low-maintenance, energy-efficient roofs are gaining popularity thanks to their wide range of style options, superior strength in the face of the elements, and a decades-long lifespan that eliminates the need for costly replacements. Learn more about the different types of metal roofing and the benefits they have to offer.

Metal Roofing Materials

Most metal roofs consist of panels or sheets laid and fastened on the roof structure. There are also metal shingles designed to look like a variety of roofing materials, but these tend to be more expensive and difficult to install. Several different types of metal are used for roofing, including:

  • Copper is durable and fully recyclable, offering protection from corrosion and lightning. It’s among the most expensive roofing materials.

  • Galvanized steel, a copper alternative, uses a zinc coating and heavy-duty paint to limit corrosion and rust.

  • Stainless steel is a completely rust-free option, but it comes at a higher cost than galvanized steel.

  • Aluminum is lightweight and weather-resistant but tends to dent easily.

Several alloys, including zincalume and galvalume, have also been created by combining steel, aluminum, and zinc. These are also gaining popularity thanks to their improved durability. For instance, galvalume is becoming a more popular alternative to galvanized steel because the latter tends to rust and corrode more easily. 

Benefits of Metal Roofing

Metal standing seam roof
Photo: U. J. Alexander / Adobe Stock

There are many reasons to install a metal roof on your home:

1. Durability and Long Lifespan

You may find that the initial cost of a metal roof is higher than more common roofing materials such as asphalt. However, metal roofing is an investment that can last you a lifetime.

A properly installed metal roof has an expected lifespan of 40 to 70 years and requires little maintenance during that time. Standing seam roofs that have hidden fasteners don’t require a lot of maintenance. On the other hand, screw down metal roofs with exposed fasteners will need to have all the fasteners replaced at some point‚—generally within 15 to 20 years. 

A metal roof’s lifespan is often accompanied by a manufacturer’s warranty of 30 to 50 years. This exceeds the expected lifespan of traditional asphalt shingle roofing, which tends to last 20 to 50. 

Metal roofing’s unique durability can withstand fire, salty sea air, extreme temperatures, and gusts of wind of up to 140 miles per hour. Rust-proof coatings also prevent corrosion and cracking. If your metal roof does experience wear, you can always repaint it instead of doing a full replacement, which may even increase your home’s resale value.

2. Environmental Sustainability

Traditional asphalt shingles are petroleum products that require fossil fuels to manufacture. They also require more frequent replacement. If you want to avoid sending your asphalt to the landfill, you may be able to install a light metal roof over your existing roof covering. However, most roofing pros advise against overlaying a roof because it can cover up structural issues without fixing the problem. 

In contrast, metal roofs are considered the most sustainable roofing material available. They are made using a minimum of 25% recycled materials and are also 100% recyclable.

Steel roofing, for example, can be recycled repeatedly without loss of strength. A metal roof is an ideal base for other sustainable initiatives as well, including rooftop solar panels and rainwater collection.

3. Energy Efficiency

Metal roofs tend to cost more than traditional asphalt shingles, but you’ll likely recoup those costs thanks to savings on the cost of cooling your home. This is because metal roofing is coated to reflect radiant heat instead of absorbing it, minimizing heat gain and reducing energy costs as much as 40% in warmer climates, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance.

Meanwhile, in colder climates, metal roofing can be just as effective at insulation as a traditional asphalt roof.

4. Style Options

When choosing your metal roof, you can select from either metal sheets or a shingle look. Shingles can be designed to resemble wood shakes, slate or clay tiles, or any other material.

The wide range of available materials in an even wider array of colors, shapes, and finishes give metal roofs much more style potential for residential applications than asphalt shingles. You’ll find more than 100 color options. Commonly used metal roofing materials like steel and aluminum are designed to hold paint finishes well.

5. Curb Appeal

If you want to make investments in the long-term value of your home, a metal roof will definitely boost the curb appeal. Potential homebuyers will be drawn to the low-maintenance and durability that a metal roof provides. 

The beauty of a metal roof is also key to its value. Not only does metal provide a modern look, but it can also easily be repainted to suit any homebuyer’s tastes.

Drawbacks of Metal Roofing

For all their benefits, metal roofs are not without their downsides. Here are a few things to consider before purchasing a metal roof.

1. Cost

One reason many homeowners hesitate to switch from asphalt is the cost of metal roofing. Pricing varies by region, but on average you can expect to pay between $8 and $15 per square foot, or $800 to $1,500 per square, for a full metal roof, which is significantly more than the cost of an asphalt shingle roof, which ranges from $3.50 to $9 per square foot.

With higher labor and material costs, you’ll always pay more upfront for a metal roof. You’re paying for quality, however, since a longer lifespan means you’ll save on replacement costs in the long run.

2. Denting

Metal roofing is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, from heavy snow and ice to powerful gusts of wind. However, some are still susceptible to large hail or falling branches. Some metal shingles cannot even be walked on without causing damage.

If you want to avoid these pitfalls, choose a stronger metal product that is guaranteed dent-free. For example, aluminum and copper are on the softer side and are more prone to damage than steel. If you install a Class 5 or higher product, your insurance company will likely offer you a discount on your premium, which can save you money in the short term. Pro tip: This discount may come with a waiver that says any damage incurred is cosmetic and not covered. If you get large enough hail, it will dent the roof, and you may not have insurance coverage.

3. Noise

This one is subjective, as some people enjoy the sound of rain falling on a metal roof. If you are not one of those people, you can always invest in extra layers of sheathing or insulation, which help to minimize any sounds heard from inside your home.

Should You Choose a Metal or Shingle Roof?

If you’re caught between metal and asphalt shingle roofing for your next roof replacement project, consider whether you’re comfortable with the higher upfront cost of metal roofing. The long-term savings don’t make sense for every homeowner, especially if you don’t plan on remaining in your home for many years. Homeowners on a tight budget may prefer shingles.

You should also consider the environmental impact of your decision. Many homeowners are prioritizing the use of recycled or recyclable materials over disposable ones. If that idea resonates with you, then metal roofing is the way to go.

Style is another factor. You may be restricted from certain roofing types if you are part of a homeowners’ association (HOA). Additionally, you may prefer the traditional look of asphalt shingles over the more modern metal roofing trend.

No matter which type of roof you choose, an experienced roofing contractor can make a difference. Both metal and asphalt materials will provide you with protection from weather and fire, but if installed improperly they may not function how you’d expect.

Metal Roof Installation

Worker working on roof structure
Photo: visoot / Adobe Stock

If you opt for a metal roof for your home, you’ll want to hire a local roofing contractor with experience installing metal roofing. Some homeowners may have the tools and experience necessary for DIY metal roof installation, but it’s an involved process that requires specific knowledge and a skilled team. Faulty installations can lead to performance issues such as leaks and poor insulation, and your roof may not end up looking how you want.

When selecting a roofing contractor, consider the following:

  • Is the contractor fully licensed and insured?

  • Can they provide examples of other metal roofing projects they’ve completed?

  • Do they have any references?

  • Are there any reviews online that you can read for insight?

A roofing contractor with specific experience in metal roofing should also be able to help you select the best metal roofing material and style for your home and budget.

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