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metal roofs

What You Need to Know About Metal Roofs

By Frank JossiRise Writer
Sep 24, 2019

Roofs help define the character of a home. For decades asphalt shingles have dominated the rooftops of most single-family homes in the United States because they offer various colors that fit most common architectural styles. They also cost less than tiles or other roofing materials.

Table of Contents

  1. Are Metal Roofs Popular?
  2. How Many Roofs Are Metal?
  3. Are Metal Roofs Durable?
  4. How Long Do Metal Roofs Last For?
  5. Are Metal Roofs Environmentally Friendly?
  6. Can Metal Roofs Reduce Home Energy Costs?
  7. Can You Get Ice Dams With a Metal Roof?
  8. Do Metal Roofs Require Maintenance?
  9. Can You Install Solar Panels on a Metal Roof?
  10. Can a Metal Roof Be Installed on Top of Asphalt Shingles?
  11. How Much Do Metal Roofs Cost?
  12. Are Metal Roofs Noisy?
  13. Do Metal Roofs Rust?
  14. Manufacturers and Installation

Are Metal Roofs Popular?

Metal roofs have become a viable option for homeowners interested in a more sustainable option that lasts longer and wards off the impact of harsh weather. Manufacturers have also moved well beyond metal roofs that look like metal roofs and have expanded into a variety of styles to fit any home's design.

Traditionally, you would see steel roofs on pole barns, modern homes, and rural retreats. Now, they are moving on the tops of city and suburban homes, said Dave Austad, owner of Austad Construction in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Metal Roofing Alliance points out they can now be used on nearly every major American architectural style, including Craftsman, Contemporary, Colonial, Tudor, Spanish Mission, Greek Revival, and Victorian.

How Many Roofs Are Metal?

Metal roofs represent around 16 percent of all installations annually. Metal comes in various designs, among them shingle, shake, or roman styles.

metal roof universal seam
Photo Credit: Classic Metal Roofing Systems

There's also, of course, universal seam, a metal roof that looks like a metal roof with a smooth surface between raised seams.  

"Many people don't realize that metal roofs come in a huge variety of styles, materials, and designs, and more colors than any other type of roofing material," said Darcie Meihoff, spokeswoman for the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA). Nor do they realize, she added, that roofs' curb appeal can be nearly as important as facades since they take up a significant portion of the home's exterior square footage.

classic metal roofing
Photo Credit: Metal Roofing Alliance

That's not to say many homeowners do not want a metal roof that looks like a metal roof, and one with striking color to go with it, said Julie Quarve, general manager of Quarve Contracting of Minneapolis. Her steel roof customer base is "about 50-50, with some people wanting a roof that screams metal roof" and others that are preferring a conservative approach.

Are Metal Roofs Durable?

Metal has definite performance benefits over roofs made of other materials, including the ability to withstand hail. Steel roofs have a Class 4 resistance hail rating, the highest in the housing industry. Insurance rates may also be lower because of that rating.

How Long Do Metal Roofs Last For?

Most homeowners will probably not live in their homes long enough to outlast a metal roof. According to an article on State Farm's website, they will last for 40 to 70 years, on average, compared to 12 to 20 years. Some metal roofs, depending on the model, can withstand winds of 140 miles per hour. Quarve called durability "the number one reason" more and more homeowners are opting for steel roofs.  

It's possible 100-year-old metal roofs on historic homes, a rare occurrence in a state with fiercely cold winters and occasionally deadly hot summers. "These roofs last a lifetime," he said.

Are Metal Roofs Environmentally Friendly?

Metal roofs are safer and friendlier to our environment. They will not spark up if hit by lightning or wildfire. The roofs reflect radiant solar heat, reducing cooling costs by anywhere from 10 to 25 percent.

Metal roofs are generally composed of 25 to 95 percent recycled content and can be entirely recycled at the end of their useful lives.

Shingle roofs, in contrast, may have some recycled content used in their production. But most have none. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, without a recycling waste stream, shingles end up in landfills, where 11 billion tons of them are deposited annually. Although asphalt shingles can be recycled for road pavement, that market remains small.

red metal roof
Photo Credit: Metal Roofing Alliance

Can Metal Roofs Reduce Home Energy Costs?

Quality metal roofs with proper coatings can emit as much as 85% of solar heat gain. Research indicates that homeowners can save up to 40% on annual energy costs with a quality metal roof and good installation practices. That savings can go even higher in hotter climates.

snow metal roof
Photo Credit: Summit Ice Melt Systems

Can You Get Ice Dams With a Metal Roof?

In northern climates, perhaps the most significant advantage of metal roofs is reducing or eliminating roof ice dams in northern climates. Ice dams can cause thousands of damage because they are added to an existing surface. A metal roof creates a ventilated space underneath that stops ice dams from forming. Snow melts more uniformly. Some metal roofs have granulated surfaces that do not allow ice dams to form, he added.

While ice dam issues can dissipate with metal roofs, though they can sometimes present snow management challenges. Snow can cascade down smooth metal roofs, adding additional shoveling or snow blowing to homeowners' workload, she said.

Do Metal Roofs Require Maintenance?

Metal roofs require no maintenance, making them an ideal option for cabin owners. Despite being mounted above the original surface, metal roofs are strong enough to support contractors or homeowners who need access to their roofs, she added.

solar metal roof
Photo Credit: Metal Roof Systems Inc.

Can You Install Solar Panels on a Metal Roof?

Metal roofs create an excellent platform for solar panels. Solar systems can often be installed on metal roofs using a simple attachment and clip solution. And, it does not require drilling holes in the roofing material, Meihoff said. The roofs will last longer than the panels, which have an average lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

Can a Metal Roof Be Installed on Top of Asphalt Shingles?

Installation of metal roofs is best done by a trained professional. Some installers will position the new metal roof above the existing asphalt shingles. A vented area between the old and new roof helps eliminate the potential for moisture buildup, mold, and rotting among the asphalt shingles. The preferred method is to remove the old shingles because they tend to break apart over the years. If the asphalt roof is kept in place, the environmental benefit of hauling nothing to a landfill is a bonus.

How Much Do Metal Roofs Cost?

Metal costs roughly twice double a traditional shingle roof. The Metal Roof Alliance puts the price at $800 to $1,500 per square, depending on the type of metal roof. That's comparable to slate and shake roofs, about twice to three times as much as an asphalt roof and a bit more than tile. The alliance has put together a helpful comparison chart that looks at each roof type's cost, warranty, lifespan, maintenance, aesthetic, and environmental attributes.

Are Metal Roofs Noisy?

A few other disadvantages include noisiness in hailstorms, though homeowners can dampen that by adding insulation—which also adds to the cost. Panels can loosen due to expansion and contraction, an issue solvable by hiring experienced contractors.

Do Metal Roofs Rust?

Some roofs can rust in certain climates due to hail damage or inferior metal in their construction.  An experienced roofing installer should be consulted to ensure the roofing materials are appropriate for their intended use and properly installed.

Manufacturers and Installation

Metro Roof Products

Metro Roof Products is a leading vendor of integrated steel roofing. The company offers MetroShake, a universal style of the roof; the MetroShingle, their "green" product composed of recycled steel; stone-coated MetroTiles for traditional homes; and MetroRoman, the red Mission-style tiling.

Kassell & Irons

Ohio-based Kassel & Irons highlights that its roofs are American-made. They contain 35 percent recycled content, weigh one-third less than other materials, and carry a lifetime warranty. The company sells four types of roofs: steel shingles, shake shingles, universal seam, and premium seam.

EDCO Products

EDCO Products, based in the Twin Cities, is another national leader. The company offers a product line of metal roofs and the option of adding trim, soffits, fascia, siding, gutters, and downspouts.

With its numerous advantages, sustainability credentials, and ability to adapt to different architectural styles, she believes metal roofs are "where the market is going."

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-25T01:15:46+0000
Frank Jossi

Article by:

Frank Jossi

Based in St. Paul, Frank Jossi is a journalist, editor and content strategist. He covers clean energy in Minnesota for Midwest Energy News and writes frequently for Finance & Commerce. His work has appeared in more than 70 local, national and international publications.