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Is Metal Roofing Superior to Other Roof Materials?

Posted by Conway Kang, Guest Contributor

Feb 3, 2015 6:59:00 AM

Metal Roof Lifespan Green Builder

Yes and No. Metal has an excellent track record, and great recyclability, but it's not the only durability play.

In the U.S., if you want to find out the real scoop on a building product, you often have to look outside the industry, which is notoriously weak on self-assessment and R&D. But homeowner insurance companies know where the biggest risks are in homes. So they look long and hard at roofs.

Example, here's State Farm insurance on metal roofs:

Advantages of Metal Roofs

  • Longevity. Metal roofs can last 40 to 70 years, depending on the material. Traditional asphalt roofing materials have an estimated life expectancy of roughly 12 to 20 years.
  • Durability. Some metal roofs can sustain wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour, will not corrode or crack, and may be impact-resistant (depending on which metal you choose). In addition, metal roofs don't need the periodic costly maintenance that other roofing materials often require. However, they should be inspected periodically to make sure no repairs are required.
  • Safety. Metal roofs will not spark and ignite into flames during a wildfire or lightning strike.
  • Energy efficiency. Metal roofs reflect solar radiant heat, which can reduce cooling costs by 10% to 25%.
  • Environmentally friendly. Metal roofs not only have 25% to 95% recycled content, depending on the material used, but are also 100% recyclable at the end of their life as a roof. In contrast, most shingle tear-off waste ends up as part of the building-related waste stream – up to 20 billion pounds per year.

Disadvantages of Metal Roofs

Despite their many advantages, metal roofs have some potential drawbacks

  • Affordability. Metal roofs can be as much as two or three times more expensive than other roofing materials. While the life of a metal roof is much longer, investing in a metal roof only makes sense if you plan to stay in your home long enough to enjoy the cost benefits.
  • Noisiness. Metal roofs can be noisy, especially during a heavy rain or hailstorm. Adding more insulation during installation usually solves this problem, but that may increase costs.
  • Expansion and contraction. Metal roofing materials that are attached as large panels tend to expand and contract. If they are not properly installed with fasteners that allow the metal to "breathe," the panels may loosen.
  • Inconsistency of color match. If a repair is required or a home extension is added years later, it may be difficult to find an exact match to the existing metal.
  • Performance. If water accumulates anywhere on the roof because of poor-quality installation or repair, it can eventually cause serious damage. Low-grade metals may also be thinner and less durable. Some metals rust in certain climates or dent more easily than others during hailstorms or installation. (SOURCE)

Advantages of Metal Roofs

Metal roofs offer many benefits, including:

  • Longevity. Metal roofs can last 40 to 70 years, depending on the material. Traditional asphalt roofing materials have an estimated life expectancy of roughly 12 to 20 years.
  • Durability. Some metal roofs can sustain wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour, will not corrode or crack, and may be impact-resistant (depending on which metal you choose). In addition, metal roofs don't need the periodic costly maintenance that other roofing materials often require. However, they should be inspected periodically to make sure no repairs are required.
  • Safety. Metal roofs will not spark and ignite into flames during a wildfire or lightning strike.
  • Energy efficiency. Metal roofs reflect solar radiant heat, which can reduce cooling costs by 10% to 25%.
  • Environmentally friendly. Metal roofs not only have 25% to 95% recycled content, depending on the material used, but are also 100% recyclable at the end of their life as a roof. In contrast, most shingle tear-off waste ends up as part of the building-related waste stream – up to 20 billion pounds per year.

Disadvantages of Metal Roofs

Despite their many advantages, metal roofs have some potential drawbacks

  • Affordability. Metal roofs can be as much as two or three times more expensive than other roofing materials. While the life of a metal roof is much longer, investing in a metal roof only makes sense if you plan to stay in your home long enough to enjoy the cost benefits.
  • Noisiness. Metal roofs can be noisy, especially during a heavy rain or hailstorm. Adding more insulation during installation usually solves this problem, but that may increase costs.
  • Expansion and contraction. Metal roofing materials that are attached as large panels tend to expand and contract. If they are not properly installed with fasteners that allow the metal to "breathe," the panels may loosen.
  • Inconsistency of color match. If a repair is required or a home extension is added years later, it may be difficult to find an exact match to the existing metal.
  • Performance. If water accumulates anywhere on the roof because of poor-quality installation or repair, it can eventually cause serious damage. Low-grade metals may also be thinner and less durable. Some metals rust in certain climates or dent more easily than others during hailstorms or installation.
- See more at: https://learningcenter.statefarm.com/residence/maintenance/the-pros-and-cons-of-metal-roofs/#sthash.xXfVfffK.dpuf

Durability Contenders

As we mentioned above, however, metal roofing has some solid competition, notable slate and clay/cementitious tiles. These types of systems tend to require an especially sturdy, well engineered roof. They add a lot of weight. But like metal, they have good fire resistance and slate, especially has an almost limitless potential lifespan. The reality is that a well-installed metal roof is unlikely to cause either the homeowner or the buyer any buyer's remorse. It's a superior product that has a long track record of success.

EDITOR'S NOTE. Although we agree with this offer that metal can be an excellent roofing choice, one major consideration not covered in this article is the percent of recycled content in the product. A metal roofing that is "recyclable" may be a greenwash product that uses virgin metals at extremely high environmental cost. One that is made from 85% recycled aluminum, however, has a much more reasonable environmental footprint, and is a top notch choice. -Matt Power, Editor in Chief.


2016 Homeowners Handbook Green Builder


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