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The Pros and Cons of Metal Roofs


Steel Roofs Cost More than Composition Shingles but Offer Storm and Fire Resistance

© 2011 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A steel metal roof for durability; photo © 2011 KSmith Media, LLC



Metal roofs have been around for a long time but most people still think of them as a commercial roofing system rather than residential. Some of them really look commercial (see photo above).

Luckily, that is no longer the case. There are many styles available today and in many cases it’s hard to tell the difference between metal and high-end composition shingles. In short, there’s something for everyone, from the sleek commercial look, to the cedar shake shingle look. There are pros and cons to going metal. Let’s look at the pros first.

Benefits of a Metal Roof

  • A Wide Range of Options — As mentioned above, you are no longer constrained to the “playground slide” look of yesteryear. Select from almost any color and style. Get the look of architectural asphalt shingles, slate, cedar shakes, and more. I still haven’t seen the palm frond bohio look though. Pity; that would go over big in the former Panama Canal Zone.

  • Minimum Maintenance — Generally speaking, they require less than maintenance on a composition shingle roof. At most, you will need to clean it off once or twice a year.

  • Durability — Like synthetic vs traditional motor oil, the cost is higher, but so is the length of service. You can expect a metal roof to last 50 years or so. If you plan on staying in your home over the long haul, this is an important consideration. Fiberglass shingles typically only last 10 — 30 years, regardless of what the guarantee says.

  • Homeowners Insurance Savings — Many insurance companies will give you a policy discount, especially in areas of the country that experience hurricanes, high wind, and hail. You get a break for being a lower risk. This can help offset the higher purchasing cost.

  • Saving on Utility Bills — Since metal is more reflective, it performs kind of like a radiant barrier. Lighter colors are even more reflective. Also, metal doesn’t have the thermal mass that fiberglass asphalt does, so when the sun goes down, there is little stored heat to continue transference into your attic space.

  • Weather and Fire Resistance — We talked about storm superiority above, but it is obvious that metal has a much higher burn point than asphalt, a petroleum derivative. Just another reason why your insurance agent will like you.

  • A Green, Sustainable Alternative — There are at least two factors at play here. First, when your metal roof is past its prime it can be recycled. (They’ll probably still be doing that 50 years from now.) Secondly, it will ease the burden on land fills that asphalt shingles impose.

    To put this in perspective, Bill McDaniel, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Environmental Services LLC, said ’Millions of tons of asphalt roofing shingles are sent to landfills every year, wasting valuable resources such as asphalt and aggregate.”

    While some effort is going into recycling this material, it is still far from mainstream.

Common Objections to Metal Roofs

Are there reasons not to go metal? Certainly. Here are a few of them.

  • Cost vs Return on Sale — If you don’t plan to stay in your current home for a long time this is a consideration. There is no way to predict what your return on investment will be when you put your home on the market.

  • Extended Installation Time = Higher Labor Cost — Unlike traditional shingles that are hand-nailed or (God-forbid) stapled down, metal relies on proprietary interlocking systems.

    Although this adds to the strength of the roof, it takes longer to install and the roofing contractor most likely shoulders the added expense of special training for his crews.

  • Objections from Homeowner Associations — HAs have been given a bad rap, and in most cases it’s well justified. The rules are usually quite draconian and the boards usually have their share of busybodies with a thirst for power. As Shrek said, “He’s compensating.”

    You might not be able to go with the lower cost commercial roofing if you are operating on a tight budget but still want the long-term benefits.

So is a metal roof right for you? Only you can decide, in view of the above considerations. In many situations it can be a great option. If you do go metal, remember to consult with your homeowners insurance agent and adjust your policy to reflect your higher home equity.

Remember that your coverage reflects the replacement value of your home, not what the board appraises it at.

Do you have personal experience with a metal roof installation? Share it with our readers in the comment section below.

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© 2011 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.