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Pros and Cons of Different Metal Roofing Materials

Jul 28, 2021

Although materials like tin are no longer used, several metal roofing materials exist in the modern day. Most commonly, these materials are steel, aluminum, copper, and zinc. Each one of these materials offers its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

If you’re currently considering replacing your existing roof with a metal one, then it is important to understand the difference between these materials, prior to installation. So, here’s a quick rundown of those pros and cons, as well as what you can expect out of each type of metal roof.

The Pros of Steel Roofing

Steel is the least expensive type of metal roofing, and is what most people are typically referring to when they talk about “metal roofs.” Steel roofing is low maintenance. Once it’s been installed, you aren’t going to need to worry about much additional maintenance, or the costs associated with that sort of upkeep.

Just make sure that you’re washing your steel roof on an annual basis, as well as having it inspected about just as frequently—simply as a precaution. Also have your steel roof inspected after any major weather events. Other than that, as well as clearing away debris from your roof, there’s hardly any maintenance involved in steel roofs. Highly resistant to both fire and rot, steel roofs are known for their durability and long lifespan. All in all, the material is an especially cost-effective option.

The Cons of Steel Roofing

Steel roofs have lower resistance to corrosion, compared to other types of metal roofs. Even still, steel is a more corrosion-resistant material than most other roofing types. However, when compared to aluminum, copper, and zinc, steel falls in last place.

Additionally, steel roofing is heavier than either copper or aluminum roofing. As a result, there will be a slightly higher amount of stress on your structure. Although, even with steel’s additional weight, it’s still lighter than most non-metal roofing materials.

Steel also has the shortest lifespan out of the four kinds of metal roofs, with an average range of around forty to sixty years. Yet, again, this is longer than most other materials available to homeowners.

The Pros of Aluminum Roofing

Aluminum roofing is especially resistant to corrosion—you aren’t going to need to worry about rust. If you reside in an area with heavy rainfall, for instance, aluminum roofing could be the metal roofing option most suited to you. Coastal climates can also benefit from aluminum roofing, as sea salt spray isn’t going to damage the aluminum substrate.

Further, aluminum roofing is very lightweight, even by the standards of metal roofing. In fact, it’s the lightest roofing material out there, at around 5 pounds per square foot. This means that it will put much less stress on the structure of your home. Aluminum is also quite malleable, allowing it to be configured onto a variety of different profiles with ease.

The Cons of Aluminum Roofing

Compared to materials like steel, aluminum roofing is more prone to denting. It’s a softer kind of metal, and is more likely to be affected by hail, as well as falling branches and other debris. Thicker aluminum options are available to offer more resistance to damage, but they will also cost you more money.

As a whole, aluminum roofing features less variety, in terms of customization and color options. It’s also less widely available, in general, and is a more difficult material to get a hold of. As another consequence, it’s pricier than some other types of metal roofing.

The Pros of Copper Roofing

In general, copper roofing comes with a wide variety of benefits, over other roofing materials. A big factor in why many individuals choose copper roofing is its appearance. Copper is an especially striking and attractive roofing material and has a unique look, compared to other metal roofs.

Copper roofing is also one of the longest lasting roofing materials out there. Your copper roof is likely to last around 60 to 100 years, or even more, in some cases. In addition, copper roofing is lightweight, resistant to corrosion, and simple to install.

The Cons of Copper Roofing

Unfortunately, if you’re searching for a new roof on a budget, copper roofing probably isn’t the material for you. Of all metal roofing materials available to homeowners, copper is easily one of the most expensive. In fact, much of the time, copper won’t even be used for entire roofs—instead, it will be used solely for accents.

With copper roofing, there is also the risk of denting. Copper is a softer type of metal and can thus be damaged by hail or falling debris. This damage will also decrease the aesthetic appeal of the copper, which is one of the primary reasons people have it installed. The thicker the copper you use, the more resistant it will be to denting, but the more you are going to pay for this already pricey material. Copper roofing also has a lower availability, compared to other metal roofing materials.

The Pros of Zinc Roofing

Zinc is another type of metal roof with a highly attractive appearance, even with minimal customization. Once your zinc roof is exposed to carbon dioxide and moisture, a protective layer of zinc carbonate will begin to form. This process will then lead to a striking blue/gray patina.

This patina can also help to keep your zinc roof from rusting or corroding. If you live near a coastline, zinc is an especially appealing roofing material, since it won’t be negatively affected by moisture in the air.

Plus, zinc roofs have a lifespan of around 80 to 100 years.

The Cons of Zinc Roofing

In the same vein as copper roofs, zinc roofing is expensive and not a favorable option if you’re on a budget. Also, once a zinc roof patinas, it’s at an increased risk of chalking, which is typically considered to be an unattractive feature.

Lastly, zinc roofing panels have a very poor availability, with few suppliers offering them. So, if you do opt for zinc roofing, it’s not that simple to get your hands on the desired materials.

Choose the Right Metal Roof for Your Home

If you’re interested in installing a metal roof, make sure you’re doing the necessary research first. Not all metal roofs are the same, and some will likely be far more suited to you than others. Try to carefully review both the pros and the cons of each type of metal roofing material, before making your final decision. Also, even once you’ve made up your mind on material, always hire an experienced professional roofer for installation—that way, you’ll truly have the metal roof of your dreams.

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