How Long Does a Metal Roof Last: All Metal Roofing Compared

A majority of landmark and historical buildings such as churches and government offices often have metal roofs. That is because metal roofs withstand the test of time and can outlive several generations. But there are many types of metal roofs, and each one varies in composition and life expectancy. So how long do metal roofs last?

Metal roofs have a life expectancy of between 50-70 years and are highly versatile. In metals such as copper, the durability stretches to more than 200 years. Pure metals are coated with metal elements to form alloys to make them last longer.

Metal is a good material for roofing because it is tough and is resistant to corrosion, fire, and perennial damage.

Let’s explore metal roofs further. Here’s everything I learned about metal roofs from decades of being a home inspector.

4 Different Types Of Metal Roofs (Detailed)

Metal roofs date back to the 18th Century but became more popular in the 19th Century. Over the years, metal roofs have undergone an intense industrial revolution.

Today, metal roofs offer various metal alloys crafted to bring out attractive styles and colors and customized into different sizes to meet customer needs.

Metal in its form is flexible and can be conformed to take any shape you desire. This ability is known as malleability.

The first metal sheets to gracing the market were corrugated as a means of strengthening the roofing sheets.

Most metal roofing sheets today are fabricated to mimic other designs of roofing materials.

Some of the forms that metal roofing materials are styled into today are:

  • Standing-seam metal roofs
  • Metal shake roofs
  • Metal tile roofs
  • Metal-slated roofs

The standing seam roofs are a water-tight method where a roofing material is profiled with occasional bumps or ridges that run down the roof. It is a design where metal roofs are constructed to help guide the rainwater to deter water and ice from pooling and leaking into the house.

Examples of seam metal roofs are V-ribs, Bead ribs, Striated, and Pencil ribs. The problem with seams is that it magnifies the amount of noise the metal roof makes when it’s raining.

The Metal Shakes Roof, tiled metal roof, and metal slated roofs inspire other forms and designs of roofing materials such as wood shakes, asphalt shingles, and slate.

Any metal can be transformed into any roofing profile mainly for protective reasons or aesthetics.  

The different types of metal roofing sheets are:

  1. Copper
  2. Steel
  3. Aluminum
  4. Zinc

The unique thing about metal roofs is that they bear almost the same characteristics and just minor differences here and there to differentiate them.

The differences are what make a metal roof stand out from the rest. These characteristics are durability, weight, eco-friendliness, resistance, longevity, strength, and malleability.

Type of Metal RoofLife Expectancy
Copper200+ years
Steel40+ years
Aluminum50+ years
Zinc100+ years

1. Copper Metal Roofs

The copper alloy is a red-brown colored metal. Copper is famous for its qualities such as;

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  • High durable and longevity
  • Light in weight
  • High corrosion resistance
  • Low maintenance
  • Lighting protection
  • Low conductor of heat
  • High malleability

Durability & Longevity

Durability is the ability for metal normal wear and tear plus the pressure brought about by the weather.

When metal is strong, it will last longer, and copper is known to be one of the most durable roofing materials available. Copper roofing presents value for money and will last for 150+ years. 

That is incredible.

That is why, among the ancient buildings that are admired for their architectural designs, these buildings bear copper metal roofs. 

And in cases where these buildings’ fabrics might have been repaired or renovated, their roofs have hardly been touched, and they remain as durable as ever.

When copper metal ages, what started as a red/orange-brown color seamlessly transforms into a greenish-bluish hue, and when it has fully served its purpose, copper is recycled. 

Light Weight

When a roofing material is light, it influences the thickness of other complementing roofing materials and ultimately minimizes the cost of installation.

You will have spent less on the overall cost of roofing materials, and your home’s fabric will enjoy a light load experience.

High Corrosion Resistance

Copper, in its natural form, is not susceptible to corrosion. Copper is naturally coated in a red-brown protective film that remains intact all its life, and if it does get destroyed, it naturally recreates itself.

Low Maintenance

Because of their high durability and longevity, copper roofs require very little maintenance. They are resistant to violent winds, snow, and other destructive weather elements, including rot and molding.

Low maintenance means the high upfront price you paid during the construction of the building services the roof for many years to come. 

It is why copper roofs are respected by architects and highly coveted by homeowners.

Lightning Protection

Reportedly, lightning kills more people than all other natural disasters combined. It is because of the material used in their living and working.

When lightning strikes a building, it’s because it was the highest point in the vicinity and possessed elements that help ground lightning to the ground.

Copper and all-metal roofs, in general, are not grounding, and the fear of lightning attached to them is false.

Low Conductor Of Heat

Most metal alloys are classified as electricity and heat conductors. For copper, the opposite reigns. It is an additional quality because, during hot seasons, the thermal expansion remains relatively low.

High Malleability

Because of its ability to conform and take different shapes, copper roofing sheets have been constructed and fabricated into different styles, e.g., seam, shake, shingles, and tiles.

Copper roofing is customized into panels with standard widths with notable seams, while others run continuously in long pieces of sheets covering the roof’s peak to the edge of the eaves.

2. Steel Metal Roofs

Steel is a form of iron and carbon. In roofing, there are two steel roofing products available:

  1. Stainless steel
  2. Galvanized steel

Stainless Steel 

It is one of the metals that provides roofing solutions because of chromium elements in steel. Chromium is one of the hardest and strongest metals known to man.

The qualities of stainless steel are as follows;

  1. Steel poses tensile strength.
  2. They are durable.
  3. They have an attractive shiny appearance which reflects off unnecessary light and keeps the home condition.
  4. They have a high resistance to both fire and corrosion.
  5. Low maintenance.

Galvanized Iron Sheets

These are steel metal roofs coated with iron to protect the metal from rusting. The process involves dipping the metal in a bath of hot molten iron.

Galvanized steel is the most used version of still, and they are applied on frameworks of large buildings, balconies, staircases, public furniture, and ladders.

3. Aluminum Metal Roofs

Aluminum is silvery-white in color and very light in weight. As it is mined in abundance, aluminum is equally applied in a wide range compared to other metal roofs.

Qualities of Aluminum

  • Safety
  • Malleable
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Eco-friendly
  • Strong
  • Lightweight

Compared to steel, aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion; even salty seawater can’t break aluminum. It is also lighter than steel yet stronger. 

It comes in handy where high humidity is concerned as the quality of weighing less helps it store very little heat and lose it quickly.

Finally, because it is firm, loud banging sounds as the rain hits the roof’s surface are not witnessed as much because the sound is muffled; therefore, it limits it from penetrating through the roof. 

4. Zinc Roofing

Zinc, as compared to other metals, is expensive and can last more than 100 years. When processing zinc, the amount of energy needed is lesser than that of other metals. We call this a lower melting point.

Among the qualities of zinc is the ability to conform to amazing shapes and designs; hence it presents to the market a wide range of aesthetic profiles to choose from.

When the 100+ years of a zinc roof stay in place, it is torn off and goes directly to the recycling industry, where it is brandished anew.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Metal Roof?

Metal roofs are highly advantaged; from their ability to last 40 years and beyond to their natural resistance to fire and corrosion, metal roofs are the best in terms of roofing solutions.

But it would be false to say that metal roofs are not without disadvantages, but luckily, the disadvantages do not outweigh their advantages.

  1. The high cost of metal roofs
  2. Thermal expansion
  3. Noisy
  4. Low quality

The High Cost Of Metal Roofs

They say cheap is expensive, but the quality is also expensive. But while the quality of the metal is expensive upfront, it stays put for so long and asks for very little to keep it in shape.

On the other hand, cheap is expensive because the price a cheaper roofing solution goes for gives you a sigh of relief but will surprisingly demand too much maintenance you will wish you had not purchased it in the first place.

Metal roofs, be it steel, copper, aluminum, zinc, or tin, cost up to three times the price of other roofing materials. It makes it a perfect personal investment, especially for a house you mean to stay in for the long run and probably raise your kids in.

Thermal Expansion

Metals typically conduct heat. When temperatures heat the sky, metal roofs tend to expand and contract back when the temperatures normalize.

The danger of having a roofing material expand and contract is that the hole around the roofing nails stretches wide when the metal expands. It becomes a problem as the roof may start to leak.

Noisy

When the rain pounds, the noise from the roof will depend on the amount of rain hitting the roof, it could be soothing to some people and noisy to others.

But the noisy metal roof made when it rains could easily be solved by installing thicker decking and insulation to silenced the sound completely.

Low Quality

The quality of the metal roofs depends on the gauge of the metal sheet. Some are graded low such that over five years, the metal has rusted and dented courtesy of the rain.

Such thin gauges have poor qualities. As such, you cannot install on residential roofs as they age fast. It is therefore important to invest in quality metal gauges for your home.

Is A Metal Roof Worth It?

A metal roof is worth the high prices they come in. Their buying prices are the only thing that keeps most people from investing in them.

But if you think about it, you will be compensated over the years as you will spend very little or forget about maintenance altogether, unlike buying a cheaper roofing product and end up spending money year in year out in terms of repairs and maintenance.

Aside from durability, there are other characteristics of metal roof that will confirm to you that you made a good investment:

  1. Longevity
  2. Eco-friendly
  3. Malleable 

Longevity

When a roofing material can withstand damage, its ability to last longer is guaranteed. The estimated amount of years metals are deemed to last between 40-200 years.

It is an interesting and attractive quality for a roofing material as roof replacement is not a fun fact activity. No one appreciates spending more on something that did not yield many results.

Eco-Friendly

Metal is a natural product, which means that it has no chemicals that could harm the ecosystem. 

And after many years of use and the metal is ready to be discarded. It is not disposed of like other roofing materials but is recycled for reuse instead. It is a good thing as recycling cares for the environment.

Malleable

Who would surely not appreciate a product that comes in different forms and gives you a choice to choose what pleases you.

The beauty of metal roofing sheets is that metal is a flexible material that bends or contorts to whatever shape you instruct it.

Does Metal Roof Increase Home Value?

Metal roofs increase your home value. But to get a maximum benefit out of it, it is better to install a metal roof on the house you plan on inhabiting for a long time.

According to a survey, most people are still hung onto the asphalt roofing material as the choice for new home roofing and roof replacement.

But asphalt only lasts between 20-50 years, while metal roofs are beyond 100 years.

When a home is up for sale, an inspection is done, which quantifies the quality of the building at large.

Roofs that are new or appear new win the day because they guarantee the newness of a home where a buyer is assured that they will not be dealing with repairs anytime soon.

Metal roofs are considered premium roofing materials because of their durability and longevity.

For this reason, metal is listed to have a 60% chance of improving your home value. And as much as they may not have a new look, they may still outlast a brand new roof made out of a different material.

Final Thought

As discussed earlier, metal roofs are highly versatile and have a life expectancy of between 50-70years. 

No matter the qualities metal roofs are characterized with, they can leak if installed correctly.

It is essential to involve an experienced roofer who understands how the metal roofs work and flow to deliver an excellent job. 

Metal is expensive, and nailing it on the groove instead of the ridge is too much damage to an otherwise excellent roofing solution.

Sources:

State Farm – Metal Roof Pros and Cons

10 Things To Know About Metal Roofing

6 Notable Features of Standing Seam Metal Roofs

The Top-to-Bottom on the Metal Roof Trend: Value-Booster or Just Another Roof?

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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