Metal Roofing vs Asphalt Shingles

Metal Roofing is one of the greenest building materials available on the market – it’s typically produced using as much as 90% recycled metal, and reflects up to 95% solar heat, thus reducing cooling costs. A properly installed metal roof can easily last a lifetime (50 years or more), and should not require any remedial repairs or maintenance. A metal roof also offers superior protection for your home, against rain, snow, and ice-dams, withstands hurricane-speed winds and makes your home look just awesome.

Asphalt roofing shingles on the other hand, are made with oil by-products, last an average of 15 years, and when they reach the end of life, you have to dispose of them into a landfill, which creates millions of tons of non-degradable waste every year. Asphalt shingles also absorb solar heat, and make your air-conditioner run on double time, and increase your energy bill.

Image of Standing seam metal roof

Benefits of metal roofing vs asphalt shingles:

As mentioned, metal roof will outlast asphalt shingles roof by at least 3 times, and can be fully recycled, if it is ever removed. Each metal roof will reduce landfill waste by an average of 4-6+ tons over its life span. That is 8000-12000+ lbs of oil-based waste, that will not go into the ground, for every new metal roof installed.

Here is the math:

One square of asphalt shingles weights roughly 250 lb. A typical ranch house roof is about 16 squares – that is 2 tons, or 4000 lbs. Excluding the roof tear-off during an installation of a metal roof, you would be installing and removing two more asphalt roofs over a lifespan of a typical metal roof – that is at least 8000 lbs. of roofing shingles that has to be disposed of, since you won’t leave it in your backyard.

Energy efficiency of a metal roof:

Typical metal roof reflects about 75-80% of solar heat, and can go to as high as 90% reflectivity. These cool metal roofs will reduce your energy (cooling) bill by 30-50%, saving you money and reducing CO2 and other green house gas emissions.

So why is it that as many as 90-95% of all new roof installations on residential homes, are done with asphalt shingles?

Main reason for such a huge difference in total installations of asphalt roofing shingles vs. metal roofs, is the cost of metal roofing. Metal roofing prices for an installed roof, are on average 2-3 times higher then asphalt shingles. There are several reasons for this.

  • Metal roofing materials cost anywhere from 2-4 times more then asphalt shingles, even after the recent roofing shingles price increase, that took place in 2011.
  • Installation of a metal roof in most cases requires complete removal of old roofing material, which increases the cost
  • There are very few trained and experienced metal roofing installers, compared to roofers who install asphalt shingles day in and day out.
  • Metal roof installation is rather complicated compared to that of asphalt shingles, and takes much longer to complete. For example, a 4-men crew can tear off and install a 12-15 squares asphalt shingles roof in one day. For a metal roof, it will take about 3 days
  • Metal roof installers get paid more, for their work, and it’s not easy to find qualified installers. Training a metal roofing installer takes time and is expensive.
  • Metal roofing contractors need to market their services. Competition is stiff, as they need to compete against much less expensive asphalt shingles, and this marketing / job acquisition cost is added to the price of a metal roof.
  • Most metal roofing contractors offer very long labor warranties, and thus need high profit margins to stay in business, and uphold their warranties.

Note: Word of mouth marketing does not really work for metal roofing contractors. Even if people who see your new metal roof and really like it, can rarely afford it, thus chances are they won’t be calling you. Therefore, metal roofing contractors need to rely on other marketing ways.

What can be done to increase widespread adoption of metal roofing?

Just like with solar panels, wind, geothermal and other green and renewable energy tech, it all comes down to prices. Prices go down as competition increases – thus we need more competition in the metal roofing market. More competition both in manufacturing base and installation / contractors count.

Although there are many sheet metal fabricators and manufacturers ( of metal roofs already, they are mostly small companies, and cannot meet the demand, if it goes up by even 50-75%. That would be a relatively small increase, compared to the total number of roof installations each year. Also, right now there are exclusive territories for some contractors, who install certain types of metal roofing, and other limitations set forth by the manufacturers, as well as very high material prices.

On the contractors side – some roofers may try to install a metal roof, but are likely to end up doing a bad job, without proper training, and never touch a metal roof again. Most others stay away from metal roofing all together, as they do not feel confident in their installation abilities, and do not want to deal with expensive repairs.

However with some training, which metal roof manufacturers provide free of charge, it is possible to learn proper techniques and be able to install. With this free training there will be more and more roofers who install metal roofing, popping up everywhere.

image of Metal Roofing Shingles

Another “good” thing is that oil prices WILL BE rising, which will make cost of asphalt shingles go up even more, thus making a metal roof look more and more attractive / competitive. This will also increase the use of fuel efficient cars, renewable energy and green building materials.

So the question and a call to you – the reader – what will your next roof be? Mine is a metal roof (red roof in the photo above).


To keep up with the latest residential Metal Roofing ideas, Follow Aleksandr Biyevetskiy on Google Plus

8 thoughts on “Metal Roofing vs Asphalt Shingles”

  1. Great article! As a metal roof supplier, this is a debate we hear over and over. And while there is really no comparison between metal roofing and asphalt shingles when it comes to looks, performance, energy-efficiency and green factor, you’re dead on about the price difference. That’s way we tell potential customers that if price is their sole consideration, metal probably isn’t for them.

  2. The metal roofs are nice and they will last a long time but that up front cost is still a shock for a lot of home owners. If there was a way that the cost could be subsidized would be nice

  3. The metal roof will last a long time if done correctly Steve as mentioned at the beginning of the post. I do not think may people are aware of the benefits as not aware it will actually benefit them in the long run. Thats my take on the two options.

Comments are closed.