by Donna Boyle Schwartz and Bob Vila
Rain on a tin roof proves so soothing that it can be found on white noise machines and meditation apps alike, but that’s not the only reason (nor one of the top!) for its popularity among today’s homeowners. Growing numbers of people are installing metal roofs in both new construction and roof replacement projects. In fact, McGraw-Hill Construction and Analytics estimates that 750,000 U.S. homeowners chose metal roofing for their residences as of 2015. That number indicates an 11 percent share of the roofing market—second choice only to asphalt shingles.
Curious why this construction material has won over so many homeowners? At the top of the list of metal roofing “pros,” the material’s long lifespan is why most homeowners make the switch in either a re-roofing or new construction. Indeed, that recent McGraw-Hill survey found that 26 percent of homeowners cited longevity as their primary reason for investing in metal and another 22 percent said they were swayed by its strength. A properly installed metal roof typically will last as long as the house, with an expected lifespan of 40 to 70 years and, often, a 30- to 50-year manufacturer’s warranty to boot. (By contrast, traditional asphalt roofing typically lasts 12 to 20 years.) Thanks to the material’s unique durability, you can count on it to withstand the elements—including gusts of wind up to 140 miles per hour—and not corrode nor crack thanks to rust-proof coatings.
Traditional asphalt shingles are a petroleum product and, as such, increase dependency on fossil fuels. Plus, they require replacement every 15 to 20 years, which means that nearly 20 billion pounds of old asphalt shingles are sent to U.S. landfills every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Metal roofs are energy-efficient. Money spent on the installation of a metal roof can be recouped from the savings in monthly cooling and heating costs thanks to this type of roof’s reflective properties. Metal roofs reflect solar radiant heat instead of absorbing it, which—year-round, but especially during the long days of summer—can reduce cooling costs by as much as 25 percent, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance. Furthermore, some metal roofing comes coated with special reflective pigments to minimize heat gain, keeping occupants comfortable without having to crank up the air conditioner.
Today’s metal roofs are a far cry from the corrugated tin barns of the bucolic past—indeed, now you can choose from tin, zinc, aluminum, copper, or galvanized steel, in a dizzying array of colors, finishes, and even shapes! Their variety surpasses that of the much more conventional asphalt shingle. While asphalt might offer 15 to 20 color choices, modern metal roofing comes in more than 100 different colors, including standard, premium, and custom hues. Steel and aluminum, the two most common metals used in residential roofing, are both designed to hold paint finishes well.
Seven out of 10 homeowners living under metal roofs designed theirs with the traditional vertical ribbed panels or “standing seam” construction, but metal roofing is not short on style options, either. Fans of more traditional profiles can opt for a metal shingle manufactured to resemble wood shakes, slate or clay tiles, or any other number of designs instead. The metal doesn’t have to stand out like a sore thumb to do its job; rather, it can mimic nearly any look using multiple-layer factory finishes that ensure that the appearance is not only beautiful but long-lasting and durable.
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