Major differences between metal roofing and asphalt shingles
In general, metal roofs cost more in initial construction (and significantly more so in certain cases) but also tend to require less maintenance. Shingle roof construction remains the most common, likely because it remains most economical.
What Are Asphalt Shingles?
Shingles typically come in sheets, stacks or rolls and are mostly uniform in design and composition—ceramic granular upper surface and smooth asphalt layering over a fiberglass base. Shingles are typically nailed onto wooden-framed roofing structures, layered and staggered upward from the lowest point on a sloped roof.
Because the materials in the shingles are inexpensive and the cost of manufacturing them is low, shingles tend to be the most economical option for roof construction and replacement. They’re also the simplest to install and won’t require any special skill or instruction to apply properly; any contractor will know exactly how to work with them.
What Is Metal Roofing?
Metal roofing comes in large flat sheets and is folded longitudinally in a few different pattern categories including corrugated metals and flat seam metal roofing. Flat seam metal roofing can be more expensive to make and install, but its interlocking seam design is among the best options available.
The design features seams that interlock and fasteners that hold the smooth metal surface to the roof frame beneath, giving these roofs strength and durability while requiring minimal maintenance.
Nearby in material but a decade or two behind in design are corrugated steel, aluminum, tin and composite metals, which can be purchased from many lumber retailers across the country. Corrugated metals are also folded longitudinally in a pattern of repeating spacing and are generally attached to the underlying roof structure with nails or screws fitted with rubber washers to serve as gaskets at the attachment points.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- High longevity—Typically metal roofs last longer than their counterparts of any other construction material.
- Low maintenance
- Chic and popular (for now)
- Possible energy savings
- Higher cost of installation
- Installation is more challenging
- Heavier—could pose a complication with respect to the building’s load-bearing capacity
- Cheap to make, cheap to get, cheap to install
- Ubiquitous, available, comparably constructed and priced
- Easy to work with
- Relatively durable
- Low snow retention
- Susceptible to damage in extreme weather
- No energy savings
Which Roofing Material Is Best?
What roofing material is right for a home depends on a host of factors, including cost, maintenance requirements, lifespan, climate, environment and more.
Maintenance and Care
Caring for a metal roof is often less of a hassle than caring for an asphalt roof, but much of it depends on the slope or angle of the roof and whether or not the work is done by a competent roofing expert or by a layperson.
You should always at least have a consultation with a professional, however, it is possible to maintain a metal roof without help from one. Metal roofing may be more difficult to patch due to the nature of what works with metal requires, and depending on climate and the type of metal roofing used, corrosion and other damage may occur if an inferior product is used. Usually, though, a metal roof requires less maintenance than one with an asphalt shingle.
Asphalt shingles are cheap and easy to maintain, but usually require more maintenance than a metal roof. Shingles can slip, disintegrate and with enough wear from the elements, fall off. Sliding in and nailing down replacements is easy enough, though we always recommend consulting a professional roofer for safety reasons.
40 to 70 years—Lifespan of any material will depend on the condition to which it is exposed, but under normal use, a metal roof can be expected to last more than half a century. Most estimates come in between 40 and 70 years, but as materials continue to improve, the lifespan of newer metal roofs is expected to go up, not down.
40 to 50 years—Shingle roofs tend to deteriorate slightly faster than their metal roof counterparts. Weather, specifically precipitation and wind, can wear asphalt shingles faster, especially if they’ve first had a chance to age in the sun. But as with anything, regular maintenance can help extend the life of your home or project, and replacing shingles and patching roof holes can make all the difference.
Metal roofing generally costs a bit more per square foot than asphalt shingle alternatives, sometimes by a magnitude of two or three. Metal roofing typically costs between $8 and $16 per square foot, according to estimates taken from early spring of 2021. Material cost fluctuations will have a greater impact on the cost of metal roofing, too.
Asphalt shingles generally cost between one third and one half of what their metal roofing counterparts cost. Typically, a home builder could expect to pay between $2 and $6 per square foot for asphalt shingle roof construction, and generally, shingle costs are not as susceptible to material cost fluctuations as metal options would be.
Because of the weight and size of metal roofing panels, the installation of this material can be tricky, to say the least. A professional contractor should be consulted and probably hired for a job like this, but any DIYers would be well served to hire an extra set of hands to help out. Most metal roofing systems made today have an interlocking edge system, so attention to details and review of instructions prior to starting the project is highly advised, too.
Installation is where asphalt shingles really win out over pricier metal roofing options, in part because of the cost and challenge involved in getting metal roofing into place. Shingles couldn’t be easier to install, and any roofing contractor or builder will know exactly what to do when working with this material.
Water, Heat and Environment
In general, metal roofing is said to be cooler in warm climates, due to the fact that the metal will reflect most of the sunlight and heat that beats down on the top of a structure. Be wary, though—the same effect can make homes built in colder climates a bit more expensive to heat.
Homeowners with metal roofs tend to report fewer issues with accumulated snow and precipitation (as compared to homeowners with shingle roofs). The environmental impact of manufacturing metal roof products is comparable to the same measurements on the production of asphalt shingles.
Asphalt shingled homes tend to be warmer overall, costing their owners a bit more in the summer and in warmer climates when it comes to keeping the structure cool, but saving homeowners in colder climates on their heating costs.
Between metal and shingle options, shingled roofs tend to deal with more issues related to accumulated snow and precipitation. There is little to no difference in the environmental impacts caused by manufacturing roofing products out of metal versus asphalt shingle materials.
Homes with metal roofs tend to sell for slightly higher values, likely because of the longevity of the material and its popularity in recent years.
Homes with roofs made of asphalt shingles tend to sell for slightly less than their metal-roofed comparison points, but the age and maintenance quality of a shingle-roofed home will have a greater impact on the home’s resale value than the material choice in most cases.