By Craig A. Shutt
With wildfires, hurricanes, hail and other extreme conditions affecting housing across the country, more homeowners are becoming aware of the potential advantages of metal roofing. Manufacturers are encouraging this interest by introducing a wider range of style options to fit more home designs.
Contractors, too, can benefit from metal roofing. It allows them to offer clients the look of wood shakes, for example, even in wildfire-prone areas of California.
Metal roofs are definitely gaining popularity, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance, which was formed in 1999 to educate both homeowners and contractors about the benefits of the material. The association focuses on the reroofing market, which has the most potential for using metal roofing, explains Bill Hippard, MRA president.
In 1999, the material's market share for the reroofing market came to about 4 percent. Last year, it totaled 8 percent—a large increase, albeit on a small base. "There is more awareness among both homeowners and roofers about the key benefits offered by metal roofing," Hippard says.
Tough and versatile
Those benefits include fire and hail resistance, plus strong performance under hurricane conditions, including meeting the very strict code for Dade County, Fla. Metal roofing also is lightweight, weighing one-third as much as asphalt shingles and about 1/20 the weight of clay or tile, Hippard says. That means that homeowners who are reroofing their homes, especially during an addition or other remodeling work, can create the look of heavier materials on their roofs without worrying about needing added support.
There are many options available for creating a new appearance, Hippard notes. "Originally, metal roofing companies offered only vertical, roll-formed panels, which don't really fit well into suburban neighborhoods. But today, there are products that resemble shingles, tile, slate, cedar shakes and any other product." It's even possible to have the panels painted or treated to give the metal an aged appearance, so the "shakes" fit with the age of the home.
The styles and popularity of metal roofing vary regionally. The Southeast, with its high winds, and the West, with its more rustic home designs, are highest in market penetration. The Southeast uses the most metal roofing, with about 14 percent of the market. The Northeast has about 8 percent market share, while the Midwest lags behind.
Pricey—or is it?
Metal roofing must not only surmount a lack of awareness among both homeowners and roofers, but it also has to overcome an initial price differential between its products and asphalt shingles—about two and a half to three times more than asphalt. The 50-year-plus lifetime of metal roofing can create a more equitable lifecycle cost, avoiding replacement for a couple of generations, but few homeowners are considering their home's maintenance costs 50 years into the future.
However, Hippard sees the cost differential reducing in coming years for several reasons:
"Lifecycle costs are a hard sell, but we expect that to be less critical to the sale because comparative prices are coming down," Hippard says. "But once the homeowner is interested and sees the other benefits and style options, lifecycle costs make it an easier decision."
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