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What Materials Are Metal Roofs Made Of? Everything You Need To KnowPosted on 07/8/2021

Having a strong roof over your head is one of the most important things for your home or business. The problems that can result from a “bad” roof can really add up. When you need a new roof or are considering what type of roof you should have installed for your new home, you have a lot of options. One type of roofing that is becoming more and more popular is metal roofing.

There are a lot of good reasons to consider a metal roof for your home or business. Metal roofs typically last a long time and offer tremendous protection from the elements. They are also a green roofing solution as they can be recycled, and some metal roofing is even composed of already recycled materials.

There is a lot to metal roofing, including the materials used to make the roof. So, what are metal roofs made of? It all comes down to what type of metal or metals are used. There is a lot of variety and differences among the types of metal used for roofing today. The types of metal used for roofing primarily include:

  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Tin

What Types of Metal Roof Material Are Most Common?

With the exception of tin, which is seldom used today and mainly just another way of referencing steel roofing, each of the previously mentioned metals is common in roofing. Steel and aluminum lead the way as the most common metal roof materials. You’ll see why as we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each type of metal roof. There are many pros and cons of various metal roofing materials, ranging from price to strength, durability, and aesthetics. Choosing the right metal roof material for your home or business comes down to a combination of factors with price likely leading the way.

How Is a Metal Roof Made?

The metal comprising roofing material has to be heated and precisely shaped into the components of the roof, whether they take the form of shingles, sheets, or ornamental elements of the roof.

The process of heating and forming the metal roofing factors into how eco-friendly and available each type of metal roof is. Softer metals like zinc and copper have lower melting points than other materials like steel, so they require less energy to be made. This makes a metal like zinc a very green roofing product. From its formation at a lower temperature requiring less energy to its long life and recyclability, zinc is a favorite material for those looking for a smaller carbon footprint.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Metal Roof Materials?

The benefits and drawbacks of each type of metal roofing go beyond how each is made. Some materials are better for specific locations, while others are just plain better for your bank account. We’ll break down each type so you can get an idea of which material might be best for you.

Aluminum

There are several benefits of aluminum for roofing. It has a high strength-to-weight ratio, so you tend to need less of it, which makes it a good material if the weight of your metal roof is a concern. Aluminum also has a tremendous ability to stand up to corrosion. The outer layer quickly reacts with the oxygen in the air and forms a protective layer that keeps the inner layers from corroding. Aluminum is highly recommended for coastal areas for its ability to stand up to corrosive salt air.

The downside of aluminum comes down to cost. It is a relatively expensive metal, and the pricing can fluctuate heavily depending on the market. One of the great advantages of aluminum can also bring a negative. Its high strength-to-weight ratio combined with its cost means that some manufacturers tend to use thinner aluminum roofing than they do with other metals, so it can be more susceptible to high winds.

Copper

Copper roofing is one of the most desirable metal roof materials. It has a classic and distinctive look, lasts a very long time, and, like zinc, is also a green roofing choice. Another benefit of copper is that it’s relatively lightweight. Unlike other metals, copper can also be soldered, making various joints and flashings possible.

The primary drawback to copper roofing is the cost. Copper is expensive, and in areas experiencing building booms, it is even more expensive. One of its pros, that distinctive look that comes from its patina, is not preferred by all. Copper also expands and contracts with changes in the outside temperature, so it has to be installed correctly to avoid gaps and other problems.

Zinc

Back to zinc. It is a popular material and very interesting metal. On top of being environmentally friendly, zinc also has the unique distinction of being self-healing. Its outer layer offers strong protection against corrosion, and if that layer gets damaged, it actually corrects that damage over time. Zinc lasts a long time, and if properly installed, it requires very little maintenance.

Like copper, zinc is very expensive. This is a major drawback of the material. Since zinc does such a great job of repelling the elements, it also requires more ventilation to prevent corrosion or failure underneath the roofing.

Steel

Steel is also a popular roofing material with a long list of benefits. When you talk about steel roofing, there are three different types.

  • Galvanized steel incorporates a layer of zinc to protect the inner layer of steel from corrosion.
  • Galvalume steel is similar to galvanized steel but uses both zinc and aluminum for added protection.
  • Weathering steel is similar to aluminum in that its outer layer intentionally corrodes to offer protection for the inner layer. It’s primarily used in accents and not as a primary roofing material due to its corrosive nature.

There are many benefits of steel roofing. It is a durable material that stands up well. It is also more affordable than zinc and copper. And since steel is typically made of already recycled materials, it is considered a green building material. Steel is also very strong and stands up well to hail without easily denting as softer metals like copper and zinc tend to do.

Steel roofing can be heavier than other metals, so structural strength could be an issue for some buildings. Steel roofing can also fade over time, which can be an aesthetic drawback.

Stainless Steel

The addition of chromium gives stainless steel its distinctive high-end look. Stainless steel is very durable and can stand up to the harshest weather conditions. It won’t expand and contract like other metals, so it offers reliable protection. Stainless steel can also come in a variety of finishes to match different building styles.

All of these benefits of stainless steel come with a price—literally. It is right up there with copper and zinc as one of the most expensive metal roof materials, which is its main drawback. Like other steel roofing, stainless steel is also relatively heavy.

Making a Choice About Your Metal Roof Materials

When choosing the metal roof material for your home or business, the primary considerations come down to cost, durability, eco-friendliness, weight, and appearance. Each material offers a mix of pros and cons to consider. Overall, steel roofing tends to offer the best balance of pros and cons, but you have to make sure your roof can handle the weight, and you have to be willing to sacrifice some of the aesthetic benefits that come with materials like copper and zinc.

Aside from being metals, all of these materials have one thing in common. To get the most from your metal roof, you need it to be installed correctly by an experienced roofing professional. To learn more about metal roofing and our skilled services, contact DMG Exteriors today.

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