Metal Roofing Materials: Aluminum, Steel, Copper – Shingles, Tiles, Standing Seam

Metal is an environmentally friendly material that is typically very durable and long lasting. Metal roofs can protect a building against the worst of weather, and they can even help to prevent ice from forming on the roof or around the eaves.

Metal panels or tiles are often made from recycled materials, and when they do come to an end of their service life, they can generally be recycled again. A metal roof can be an attractive and financially savvy exterior remodeling upgrade to your home.

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Metal roofing can be a good choice for many buildings, because of its longevity, durability and energy efficiency, but selecting a new roof is not as simple as deciding to just opt for metal. Cool metal roofing comes in a wide range of different types of metal, and profiles.

Depending upon which materials and style you choose can have significant consequences, particularly on the cost of your roof. Aluminum and steel are the two of most common types of metal used in roofing, but other metals such as stainless steel, copper, zinc and titanium can also be installed on high-end homes.

Galvanized vs. Galvalume Steel

Steel is the most common and least expensive metal. It can be an excellent choice for roofing, because it is very strong and durable.

Galvanized steel has a fair level of protection against the natural elements so that it will not rust under normal environmental conditions. Two methods are used to galvanize steel. G-90 steel has been hot dip galvanized with a coating of zinc.

Galvalume is an alternative coating that offers a higher level of protection, which is composed of a blend of aluminum and zinc. Both coatings can prevent corrosion and rust very effectively, and can usually enable properly-installed steel roofs to last for upwards of 50 years.

G-90 Steel in a Nutshell

G-90 steel is created by dipping sheets or coils of steel in liquid zinc, so that a protective layer of 0.9 ounces or more of zinc is formed. This layer can prevent the steel from becoming corroded or oxidized, which creates what is generally known as rust. G-90 steel is very well protected, even when it is cut or scratched.

Galvalume steel is a better option for roofs that are exposed to a somewhat salty area such as the marine environment. Although G-90 steel provides excellent protection against the elements, which is also enhanced by a cool Kynar 500 coat paint finish, it is not as effectively protected against the corroding properties of salty air as galvalume steel.

Steel is not ideal for Marine Environments due to higher concentration of salt in the air:

Even Galvalume steel cannot completely prevent salty air from eroding it eventually, but it is able to protect it more effectively than G-90 steel. However, if steel roof is excessively exposed to areas with high concentration of salt in the air, such as in the marine environments, then steel can become oxidized and subjected to rusting. Therefore it is not recommended to use steel roofing in the marine environments.


Aluminum is another common material used in metal roofing, although it is not used as often as steel, largely due to its higher cost. Many contractors prefer to use steel roofing because it is cheaper, so it can be more difficult to find someone who will install aluminum roofing.

Aluminum is naturally resistant to corrosion and rusting. It can therefore be a good choice for roofing in areas that are exposed to salty air. Aluminum is also much lighter than steel, so it can be much easier to handle and install.

Aluminum may not be suitable for panels measuring 35 feet or longer.

Aluminum is generally not as structurally strong as steel. While this is usually not a problem, it can become an issue if you need panels of 35 feet or longer, when it may be necessary to use a stronger metal, or higher gauge material such as steel.

In terms of longevity, aluminum roofs will generally last longer than steel ones, and they will not corrode, even when install in close proximity to the coastal area. Another argument in favor of using aluminum is that the difference in the cost of the materials is almost negligible between the two.


Copper is a roofing alternative that can be attractive to many homeowners, because copper can be such a beautiful material. However, it usually tends to be used more for decorative details rather copper-shingles-roof-on-a-large-house than for the whole roof, mainly because it is very expensive. Copper can also be used to roof a small section, such as a roof of a bay window to provide an attractive trim, or for flashing on an asphalt shingle, or slate roof.

But, just because copper roofing is expensive, it does not mean that it cannot be used to roof over the entire roof. In fact there are some homeowners who choose the pay extra for the beauty and style that copper can add to their homes.

Copper Pans

Copper can be formed into standard size copper shingles when manufactured, or job-ordered in copper roofing panels that are pre-cut and pre-formed at a sheet metal shop. Copper roofing panels can also be crafted on site by experienced craftsmen. It can be an almost magical experience to watch these artists shaping copper by bending, stretching and crimping together the panels.

Copper Shingles and Tiles


Copper is sometimes made into stamped copper tiles, or shingles for roofing, in which case it can be installed in a similar way to aluminum or steel shingles.


Copper roofing may be coated with lead in order to prevent it from changing color due to natural patination as it is getting oxidized. However, copper is also popular when it is used in its pure or naked form, in which case it will develop a green patina over several years of oxidization. — Many people consider this very attractive.

A copper roof can last for hundreds of years, although there is a very minor concern that they may be subject to some damage from acid rains, which could reduce their lifetime.

Systems Overview:

Standing seam metal roof

Most people who start thinking about buying a metal roof only have a very limited idea of what is available. It is common for people to erroneously assume that standing seam is the only kind of metal roofing available. — This is one of the most popular types of roofing.

Standing seam panels are installed in vertical panels that are locked together and held down using hidden fasteners that are concealed from the observer. Sometimes the definition of standing seam roofing is used very loosely, and applied to other similar-looking types of roof.

Corrugated Metal

corrugated steel roof

A variety of different metal roofs composed of vertical ribs and U shaped panels are also available as less costly options for homeowners and businesses. These roofs usually have exposed fasteners, and tend not to be fitted particularly attractively around elements such as chimneys and skylights.

The trim details are usually fixed using tape or adhesives, while the metal that is being used tends to be a lighter gauge, G-60 steel coated with cheaper, acrylic paint. — Roofs like these can begin to corrode within just ten to fifteen years. — This means that corrugated steel panels are generally only used on temporary structures, farm buildings and outbuildings rather than on residential homes.

corrugated metal sheets

However, there is usually an exception to every rule; you can actually get U or R shaped corrugated steel panels made from G-90 steel, and coated with Kynar 500 equivalent paint. — This would be a more suitable option for residential applications, available to homeowners at a fraction of the cost of standing seam.

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