There was a time when steel roofing was found only on high-end, architect-designed homes. That’s no longer true. Steel roofing is increasingly found in conventional houses, thanks to increasing availability and improved manufacturing processes. A growing number of people are installing steel roofs in both new construction and roof replacement projects. According to industry statistics, the market share for steel roofing has been increasing at a rate of roughly 3 percent each year over the past few years. Currently, about 15 percent of all roofing installations use steel roofing materials.
Whether you’re putting a roof on a new home, or your existing roof requires a total makeover, there are many materials available. But no matter what roof style you have, steel roofs can be an attractive option because of their longevity, minimal maintenance, and energy efficiency. Just make sure that you check with your local building department for any code requirements.
Curious why steel roofs have won over so many homeowners? Take a look at some of the pros and cons below.
Durable and long-lasting
The material’s long lifespan is why most homeowners make the switch in either a re-roofing or new construction. A properly installed steel roof typically will last as long as the house with an expected lifespan of 40 to 70 years and, often, accompanied by a 30 to 50 year manufacturer’s warranty. 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, 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.
Steel roofs, on the other hand, are considered a more sustainable alternative for a number of reasons. For starters, they consist of at least 25 percent recycled materials and are 100 percent recyclable themselves. Steel roofing also provides an ideal platform for homeowners who want to embark various eco-conscious initiatives, including solar panels and systems for harvesting rainwater.
Resistant to Fire and Insect Damage
One of the principal reasons steel roofing has exploded in popularity is that it is virtually fireproof. With the dangers of wildfire on the rise, steel roofing has become the roofing material of choice in many parts of the country. Furthermore:
- Insects such as termites can never eat steel roofing
- Since it conducts heat quickly from the sun, snow slides off more quickly than with conventional roofing
Can Work on Roofs with Low Slopes
It’s often believed that steel roofing is suitable only for roofs with a steep slope, but standing-seam steel roofing can work fine on gently pitched roofs. This type of roofing is installed in large sheets with seams that are raised and sealed tightly together to resist water. While some slope is necessary to ensure water run-off, most homes can accept steel roofing.
In some re-roofing projects, a steel roof is so light — roughly one-third the weight of asphalt — that it can be installed directly over the top asphalt shingles without overburdening the roof’s structural support, providing that local building codes allow it. While shingle removal is the preferred route, tear-off is messy and raises the cost of the job.
Money spent on the installation of a steel roof can be recuperated from the savings in monthly cooling and heating costs thanks to this type of roof’s reflective properties. Steel roofs reflect solar radiant heat instead of absorbing it, which can reduce cooling costs by as much as 25 percent. Furthermore, some steel roofing comes coated with special reflective pigments to minimize heat gain, keeping occupants comfortable without having to crank up the air conditioner.
Today’s steel roofs are a far cry from the corrugated tin barns of the past. Their variety surpasses that of the much more conventional asphalt shingle. While asphalt might offer 15 to 20 color choices, modern steel roofing comes in more than 100 different colors, including standard, premium, and custom hues. Steel and aluminum, the two most common steels used in residential roofing, are both designed to hold paint finishes well.
The most common steel roofs are the traditional vertical ribbed panels or “standing seam” construction. That being said, steel roofing is not short on style options either. Fans of more traditional profiles can opt for a steel shingle manufactured to resemble wood shakes, slate or clay tiles, or any other number of designs instead. The steel doesn’t have to stand out like a sore thumb to do its job. 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.
The many years of service that a steel roof promises come at a high cost. This material can run from $120 to $900 per 100 square feet according to Home Advisor’s Guide to Roofing Costs.
Though this range is comparable to the costs of other premium roofing products, higher-end steel roofs cost as much as 3.5% to 10% more than asphalt shingled roofs. Then, not only do materials come with high price tags, but the installation labour is also more expensive than what you’d pay for other types of roofing because of the specialized training, knowledge, tools, and equipment it entails.
Can be Noisy
Roofs can be very noisy, particularly if you live in an area where you will be subject to acorns or hailstones dropping on the roof. Even a heavy rainstorm can be extremely loud, and those that are sensitive to noises may not want to invest in this roof type.
Expansion and contraction of panels
Steel will move over time, and if the wrong type of fasteners are used in a standing seam roof, the panels may become loose, which can lead to leaks. Getting a roofer that can accommodate this problem may add to the final cost of the roof.
Will I attract lightning during a thunderstorm?
No. The reason that steel roofs do not attract lighting is simple: lighting seeks a path to ground, which is why trees, telephone poles, and other such structures tend to attract lightning. Steel roofs are isolated structural components, with no direct path to ground inherent in their design. Hence, there is no scientific reason for lighting to strike a steel roof any more often than it strikes an asphalt shingle roof.
DIYers have been known to install and repair steel roofing, but it is generally not advised. Steel roofing is generally available only through select retailers, and the techniques for installation and repair are specialized skills. If you opt for steel roofing, we recommend that you hire a professional roofer who is experienced in installing steel roofs.