Metal roofs – Worth a Look? Green Enough?

Asphalt shingles have been the choice of most people for residential roof covering here in the Midwest for many years.  The popularity of asphalt shingles is due, in large part, to the relatively low initial cost.  As a Green product asphalt shingles do not fare well:

  • Production of shingles is not environmentally friendly
  • Shingles are heavy, so there are additional costs for shipping and for roof framing
  • Since shingles are a petroleum product, they don’t qualify as sustainable
  • Although asphalt shingles can be recycled, a sizable percentage end up in land fills
  • Asphalt shingles have an average life span of about 17 years – not a sustainable characteristic, nor particularly cost effective either

If you have an upcoming remodeling project or are building a new home, perhaps you should consider some alternative roofing materials.  Some choices and their Green resumes:

  • Slate
  1. Very expensive material and labor – experienced labor may be hard to find
  2. Heavy, so more costly framing and transport
  3. Lasts 100’s of years, although the fasteners may last only 100 years.  High marks for sustainability
  4. Slate is highly recyclable
  5. Comparatively low environment impact from manufacturing
  6. Can be very green if available locally to your project
  7. Non-leaching so water collection is viable
  • Clay or concrete tile
  1. Both are heavy and require more substantial framing
  2. Both are non-leaching, so good for water collection
  3. There are significant environmental costs for the production of cement tile
  4. Clay tile production can be environmentally friendly if made by hand
  • Metal – steel, aluminum, copper, etc.
  1. Metal roofs qualify as sustainable due to their 50 year or more lifespan
  2. Light weight so framing and shipping costs can be less
  3. There is some debate whether water runoff from copper and galvanized roofs is safe for the environment
  4. Metal roofs are highly recyclable and also contain high percentages of recycled material. Aluminum in particular is easy to and very energy efficient to recycle

There are additional reasons to consider a metal beyond the Green benefits.  Metal roofs are fire-resistant, so they may qualify for discounts on Homeowner’s Insurance.  Metal roof systems can provide the look of shingles, shakes, tile, slate as well as the traditional looks of metal such as standing seam.

The initial cost of installing a metal roof may be high compared to a conventional shingled roof, but over the life of the roof the costs even out.  Metal roofs can be installed over 1 or 2 layers of shingles, which can save the cost of shingle tear-off in a remodeling application.

Some types of metal roofs can be noisy during rain or hail storms.  Some finishes are subject to peeling, fading, chalking, chipping or scratching.  Metal roofs can be slippery, so caution must be taken when undertaking maintenance projects than entail walking on the roof.  The slipperiness of metal roofs can be advantage as it prevents ice dams from forming during the winter

Metal roofing is a Green solution you should consider for your new home build or remodel.  For more information visit The Metal Roofing Alliance


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