What type of metal roofing is best for commercial or residential?

Types of Metal Roofing Materials – Pros & Cons

With too many choices available, determining which metal roof is suitable for your home or building can be difficult. From traditional copper to cutting-edge steel, each style of metal roofing material has distinct advantages. Let’s look at the various forms of metal roofing materials and their advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Tin — Before World War II, steel was often used. This term is no longer widely used. 
  2. Zinc — Very long-lasting, corrosion-resistant, and with the lowest melting point
  3. Steel — There are three types of steel: galvanized, galvalume, and weathering steel. 
  4. Copper — Very long-lasting, incredibly soft, and with a low melting point
  5. Aluminum — Long-lasting, salt-water corrosion-resistant

Metal roofing is sometimes referred to as the “Cadillac of Roofing.” Depending on how you feel about the particular manufacturer, this analogy might not be flattering. A metal roof refers to a category of goods rather than a single product. The word itself does not specify whether you refer to a steel roof, an aluminum roof, a zinc roof, or a copper roof. Given metal roofing’s reputation for handling a wide variety of specifications and design choices, a better analogy may be that metal roofing is the “Sport Utility Vehicle of Roofing.”

This article will discuss the variations in metal roofing material choices and the benefits and drawbacks of each material, profile, and source.

Types of Metal Roofing Materials

When you hear the word “metal roof,” you probably think of a steel roof, but the expression refers to a much broader range of materials. The choice of material would be an essential first step in determining how to go, depending on the location and climate. While an aluminum roof is an excellent choice for avoiding corrosion in salty, coastal areas, its longevity factor can be significantly lower than other materials. Steel, copper, and zinc wire roofing materials all have advantages and disadvantages.

Copper Roofing – Pros & Cons

Copper is an exceptionally long-lasting product that can survive for well over 200 years under perfect conditions. Copper roofs are also 100 percent recyclable, making them excellent green roof choices.

Copper is an incredibly soft metal, making it one of the softest forms of metal roofing. However, with new construction procedures, all-metal roofing now advises adequate substrates and insulation that reduce noise from rain or hail at the same amount. Since copper roofing is thinner, it can be quickly destroyed in hail-prone areas. In addition, since copper is a lighter metal, hailstones can quickly dent it. Although this reduces the cosmetic appeal, it works better than a softer alloy, which can puncture rather than merely dent the roof with a big enough hailstone.

Another disadvantage of copper is its tendency to expand and contract with temperature changes. While it may manage this with the right panel or shingle, it must be carefully considered when selecting this metal.

Aluminum Roofing – Pros & Cons

In coastal climates, aluminum metal roofs are often recommended. This is due mainly to aluminum’s higher resistance to salt corrosion than most metal roofing materials. While many people believe that an aluminum roof is impervious to corrosion, the truth is that it is a highly active metal that responds almost instantly to ambient conditions.

Aluminum roofs are often used with a painted coating because their natural patina is not aesthetically pleasing.

Aluminum, like copper, has a cost disadvantage. Although it can have improved corrosion resistance, it is also more costly than equivalent alternatives that use aluminum as a coating. As a material, the price of an aluminum roof varies depending on the industry. However, this metal’s price is usually in the middle of that of steel and copper. In addition, aluminum is often found in much thinner thicknesses than steel due to its lower cost. 

Although aluminum has a better strength-to-weight ratio than steel, the cost factor often results in too small panels for their surroundings, which can cause damage to the roofing material in areas with high winds, hail, or other environmental pressures. Therefore, identifying the environmental stresses that your aluminum roof would face is critical in selecting the right design.

Zinc Roofing – Pros & Cons Zinc Roofing – Pros & Cons

Zinc is an excellent metal that can use its patina to repair scratches over time while remaining solid for over 100 years. In addition, zinc’s natural properties make it a popular choice for commercial ventures because of its ability to be easily moulded and manipulated into incredible shapes. Although the chalking of zinc over time is not a desirable feature of the metal, it can be cleaned and managed to some degree.

Zinc has a lower melting point than most roofing metals. Because of its lower melting point, producing zinc for use as a construction material needs up to a quarter of the energy used to produce steel or copper. Zinc is also 100 percent recyclable and widely available in most local markets, making it a highly green commodity instead of copper or steel.

The most significant disadvantages of zinc are the chalking effect and the price. Zinc is not inexpensive. Zinc is often compared to copper. Zinc, like copper, requires professional installation to use its benefits as a construction material fully.

If left unpainted, zinc, like most bare metals, can patina into a blue/grey look. This also leaves a chalk stain along with places where water runs, which many people find unappealing. Zinc is also a very soft metal that can be easily destroyed by hail or strong winds depending on the panel or shingle design.

Steel Roofing – Pros & Cons

ThisThisteel is a metal alloy composed of iron and other elements. Steel roofing has long been one of the most traditional materials used on a commercial construction site and is more frequently integrated into residential builds. While the original steel production can be an energy-intensive process compared to a metal such as zinc, the metal alloy’s recyclability and affordability ensure that most of the steel we use today is produced from recycled material rather than raw. Steel, in particular, is the most recycled material on the planet, making it a significantly renewable building material to work with.

Steel is also the least costly metal as compared to other metals. Though still a luxury, Steel is often valued significantly cheaper than aluminum, zinc, or copper. Steel is, therefore, both more economical and more widely available than the other metals on this page.

Steel roofs are classified into three types: galvanized, galvalume, and weathering steel.

  • Galvanized steel is made by coating an inner layer of steel with zinc to shield it from corrosion. This coating helps to prolong the life of a steel panel and delay the corrosion process. Galvanized steel is the most common type of steel roofing material.
  • Galvalume Steel is similar to galvanized steel, but instead of a mostly zinc coating, Galvalume uses a mixture of aluminum and zinc. In specific settings, aluminum is more resistant to rust than galvanized steel, and it also has a thinner, cleaner spangle with a more uniform look. Galvalume has more excellent surface resistance than galvanized due to its aluminum properties, but it is susceptible to cracks or cut edges.
  • Weathering steel is a type of steel developed for use in heavy steel industries such as bridge-building. An exterior layer of steel is purposely rusted to shield the inner layer of steel. Weathering steel roofing, in essence, functions similarly to aluminum in the patina process, but unlike aluminum, this process takes longer. It is important to note that Weathering Steel rusts on purpose and is not intended to be a structural alternative for steel roofing.

Steel roofing has come a long way in the last 50 years, and we can now use it to imitate copper, zinc, and other more costly metal roofing materials. This is accomplished by paint systems that provide a painted solution that mimics the natural patina of a Copper, Zinc, or Weathered Steel look. These technologies are often backed by lengthy guarantees and are suitable for remodels, restorations, and new construction.

Steel’s main advantage over the other commodities on this list is its flexibility and low cost. As a result, steel has become the preferred option for both industrial and construction developments due to the higher costs of other metals, and this pattern seems to be continuing in the future.

Tin Roofing – Pros & Cons

Tin Roofing is a common item among enthusiasts in the United States and Canada. Metal roofing, concrete roofing, and galvanized steel are also terms that are used interchangeably. Tin, in particular, is a scarce and underutilized metal for roofing. Tin, like copper and zinc, is an ingredient. 

When aluminum replaced tin as the standard for cans, so did its use as a DIY building material. However, when you hear the term “tin roof,” you usually refer to galvanized steel or aluminum.

Conclusion

Although each type of metal roofing material has benefits, in the end, the cost is always the deciding factor. Copper is the most aesthetically pleasing of the metals, but it is also the most costly. Zinc is the most environmentally friendly commodity due to its low melting point, but it is still the most costly. Aluminum roofs are a better option in coastal areas because they are less costly than copper or zinc. Steel is the most widely used material, making it less costly and economical as a metal roofing choice for homes and commercial buildings. Tin had its day, but it is often most commonly associated with galvanized steel when roofing.

Any of these metals has advantages and disadvantages. The best metal to use for roofing is determined by the installer you use, the site of your construction, and the stresses and strains it would be subjected to. Please hire professional roofing contractors with expertise in metal roofing and the exact metal you want to use for your next job.

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-Will strengthen the existing roof
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