Publications by New England Metal Roof

Top Metal Roofing Systems Compared Side by Side

As a professional metal roofing contractor, I often get a lot of questions about many different types of metal roofing systems and whether or not they would work in certain situations, of which the most mentioned problem is preventing ice dams. Interestingly, here in southern New England (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut), we have a rather unique situation in regards to residential metal roofs. On one side, metal roofing is not very wide spread here and therefore most people are unaware of these excellent and permanent roofs. However, because of our close proximity to New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, many homeowners who consider a longer lasting roof than asphalt shingles, usually mention a metal roof that they’ve seen while “driving through New Hampshire”.

Standing Seam metal roof

Standing Seam metal roof

Because of this often-skewed perspective, most people that are aware of metal roofing, think that New Hampshire style vertical panels (standing seam) are the only type of metal roofs in existence, or are the best kind because that is what they’ve seen.

Despite this fairly prevalent belief about standing seam being “the only” or “the best” metal roofing system, this is just not true. I will mention that although standing seam metal roofs are very good, and time proven systems, they do, in fact, have a few negative aspects to them, which make them “not the best” for me personally. You can read my complete overview of why standing seam is an inferior metal roofing system at the end of this article.

Comparing different types of metal roofing systems:

Getting back to people’s general knowledge about metal roofing – there are many other metal roofing systems out there, which in some or most aspects are just as good or better than standing seam roofs. In this guide I am going to introduce you to some other popular systems, and compare the basic of product quality, system design, ease of installation, and price. Just to let you know, an ease of installation and system pricing are very inter-dependent, thus the more difficult it is to install a roofing system, the more you will have to pay for it.

So without further adieu, let me introduce our main contender (first one is standing seam, against which I will compare other metal roofs) – Interlocking Shingles. I will omit talking about other systems such as Metal Shakes, because they are very similar to metal shingles, and stone-coated steel roofs, because besides the good looks and the highly advertised strength of steel, and while they do work – they are rather poorly designed (my personal opinion as an installer).

Steel and aluminum interlocking shingles:

Installation of interlocking metal shingles

Interlocking metal shingle are just that – they have locks or hooks on all four sides. These locks hold the shingles together, preventing water and ice form penetrating the roof, while clips and nails hold the roof down to the deck. As an installer with over 10 years of experience, I can definitively say that an interlocking metal shingles roof is by far the most versatile residential metal roofing system in existence. It can be easily adjusted to and work with just about any normal roof penetration during the installation. The system can be easily installed on hips, valleys, side and end-walls. Flashing a skylight or a chimney with metal shingles system is a breeze, if not pleasure (Read the last section of this article, about flashing skylights with standing seam metal panels).

Most metal shingle systems that I know of, are VERY well designed, with some very durable 3/4″ locks on all sides, easy install sidewall and gable flashing, T-valleys, all with built-in water run-off channels that make the installation of metal shingle roofs fast, with an overall outstanding roof quality.

Steel metal roof - skylight flashing

Metal shingles installation:

The pros & cons of Standing Seam:

First, the good: In many situations standing seam will be an excellent system that will last for decades, protecting your home or business from rain, snow, high winds, ice dams, etc. If your roof is simple gable, you can also expect a relatively reasonable price for your roof. If you have a walkable roof, the price may decrease a bit more.

The bad: If your roof gets complicated, you can expect to pay a lot for a standing seam roof, and even more for very steep roofs. The main reason for this is the way that a standing seam roof is designed and installed. Because of the vertical panel design, there is no way to put up any kind of roof brackets, so moving on such roof becomes extremely difficult and dangerous. While on a steep gable roof an installer can use a special hook ladder, thrown over the ridge, and move it left or right and he needs, working in valleys or even worse, on hip roofs, borders impossible, without a boom lift, except for roofs with low slope (3-4 in 12).

Another major limitation of standing seam is the inherited design flaws; The ribs on the panels make it a very difficult system to install, when it comes to any kind of flashing detail. For example it it is a wall flashing, the panel must be cut, making sure the cut is straight. Then a lip has to be bent up, and only then the panel can be attached to the roof. But this is not all. Now it is time for the Z-bar to be installed, and often then a side-wall or head-wall flashing. Mind you all of this must be done while the installer is on the roof, with all kinds of tools, and trying not to fall off the roof.

Metal roof side-wall z-bar flashing - Wayland, MA

While all of the above is doable, and is done on regular basis, there is on type of flashing detail for which there isn’t a single good way to do it. I’m talking about chimneys and sky-lights. There are different ways to flash them, but all are reliant on caulking to make the watertight. The problem in in the back pan of every sky-light of chimney flashing (unless chimney has a cricket) and connection between back-pan and z-bar/sidewall flashing on the sides of the sky-light or a chimney.

I’ve included a link to one of the “best” ways to install such flashing detail, which for one, is very complicated, and I still would not use it. The problem is that there is no better way. Please review the sky-light / chimney flashing detail produced by ATAS. You may also read this thread on ContractorTalk regarding skylights in standing seam: http://www.contractortalk.com/f15/skylight-metal-roofing-60324/

So in a nutshell, standing seam is great when you have an easy roof. As soon as your roof gets complicated, you want to stay away from standing seam. If you still choose to use it, expect of of the following: A contractor you hire (I just don’t see a home owner installing a complicated standing seam roof) will charge a lot for a good installation. If you do get a “deal”, you can pretty much expect a somewhat frustrated contractor who is likely to be cutting every possible corner. If you hire an eager contractor, chances are it’s the their first complicated standing seam metal roof and you will probably get a mediocre quality at best, if the contractor actually manages to finish the roof. Some just stop in the middle of the installation and never come back to it, leaving you with a roof half-done.

Corrugated steel vs. standing seam:

Many people confuse standing seam with corrugated steel roof. Former one is an all concealed fasteners system, while the latter is an all exposed fasteners system. Also, corrugated steel roofs are usually (but not always) made of cheaper thin gauge (29 GA usually) steel painted with acrylic paint instead of 24 or 26 GA Galvalume or G-90 galvanized steel painted with Kynar 500 baked on coating consisting of 7 total layers of primer and paint. Kynar is actually a De-facto  industry standard, when it comes to metal roof paints. Corrugated roofs are those that you can often see with rust spots all over and have a short life expectancy with high potential for leaks

Conclusion

Basically, unless you are absolutely in love with the looks of standing seam roofs, I strongly recommend getting an interlocking shingles metal roof – be it steel or aluminum. Price wise, you will get the same (if not better) performance for about 30-40% less money. You will also have a happy contractor, which is important for you in the first place, especially if your roof is rather complicated. You contractor won’t “hate” his life while working on your roof, and you will get a better installation quality (which is the most important part). In one sentence – you get a better product for less money – can’t beat that!

6 thoughts on “Top Metal Roofing Systems Compared Side by Side

  1. Howard Poxon

    ICE DAM prevention. I had a seamed steel roof installed on my house last Fall. The house is in a North south plain on a hill where the hill is higher than the roof top. Consequently when the winter eastern sun goes across the sky a portion of the roof in the afternoon is blocked from the sun. A 4 inch ice block forms in the area. When it let go this spring it took the gutter with it. I saved the exterior coils I had in place from my prior asphalt roof but the clips are no good for the metal roof. Do you provide, or know of, a clip, which doesn’t penetrate the seams that will allow me to reinstall the heat coils, thank you?

  2. Roofing Wizard Post author

    Hello Howard,

    Try s-5 standing seam clips – they are not exactly made for what you intend to use them for, but will work. It’s strange that the snow won’t slide off the roof, but most likely it is because of the lack of sun light.

    You may also try snow guards – they will keep the snow / ice from sliding off, until it melts. s-5 clips will do the same thing, but snow guards won’t need the use of electricity to run the heating cables all winter long.

    Good luck.

  3. Joe

    I was wondering how Titanium and stainless steel metal roofing systems used for commercial projects compare to more typical metal roofs in terms of price and performance?

  4. Bill Hubbell Post author

    Aleksandr Biyevetskiy, I read your post. I respect your opinion; however there is Standing Seam, and Then There is The Over 20 Types of Standing Seam Profiles that Englert offers. Then there is Hydrostatic Standing Seam. Approximately 30 Profiles and the Broadest Color Spectrum.

    Couple that with some H16 Wall Panels, and some S11 soffit Panels and you have more than a Roof. You have a Modern Architectural Building. A class that Metal Shingles will never be found on. Personally I cannot compare them. Just as I cannot Decra or Metro Tiles to being a Tile Roof. They are a knock off made out of metal.

    Now there are lots of Shingles that are not asphalt that I favor over Metro, Decra, or any Metal Shingle. Like DaVinci’s with their 135 MPH wind rating ASTM Extreme Impact Resistant and UL Class A Fire Rated, in many states allowing for a Home Owners Insurance Premium Reduction.

    I used to compare Roofs a lot. For Consumers in Research Mode trying to weigh the Pro’s and Cons of Different Types there may be some value transferred; however I prefer to start from Scratch with any Assembly that is not already Specified, and even then I have broken a lot of SPEC’s wide Open, and in the times I have succeeded it was a more environmentally friendly, better performing, and less expensive assembly; however those situations are victories for the Environment and The Tax Payer that often has no idea the School District now has more money to apply to other resources.

    There is no question that Metal Roofs, installed by disciplined roofers, following SPEC’s that have stood the Test of Time. I think that when Selecting a Roof there are so many Variables that must be accounted for.

    Here are Just a Few:

    How Long Is The Business Plan?
    What type of Business or Home is it?
    Is sustainability a priority?
    Might they be looking at adding a Photo Voltaic Array?
    How much traffic is expected?
    Do they Plan To Maintain It?
    Do they prefer to a Certain Assembly?
    What are the Climatic Conditions?
    Given the Options of: Good, Better, and Best What may be their 1st Choice?
    How Important is a Total System Warranty?
    How much does Value Engineering Matter?
    All Important Considerations

    As the Great Jim Whitten, once said when we were talking about Roofing Assemblies, and he asked me, “What is your Favorite?” I quickly Spat out, “a Hybrid Assembly with a 465MPH Wind Rating, UL Class A, and up to 30 Year NDL”.

    He replied, “Ah everyone loves a Cadillac; however not everyone has Cadillac Money”. That one sentence had so much Wisdom, and I will never forget it.

    Metal. Roofs are in that same Class, you can go for all the Bells and Whistles, or you can Value Engineer. So long as you practice Roofing Discipline the best assembly is the One that Comes with an Executed Contract. Right?

    Too many Roofers get dazzled by Reps that are not Even Roofers. Just as too many Roofers often only Promote what they are Credentialed In. As they have yet to make it to Tier 1 across the Board. Where there is no assembly they Cannot Install.

    True Metal Roofing, Wall Panels, Soffit Panels, Eave, Rake, Trim, Gutters, and accessories are almost an Art Form in those that can get from A to Z, and make anything work. The Men who look at a building and when they make their cut sheet / materials list, and the materials arrive, or are formed on site at the end there is almost no waste. That’s Metal Installation at its Finest.

    When all boots are field mitered. Any off sets due to structural issues mean only a few extra minutes, a piece of paper, a pencil, and a on the spot solution. When the Architect cited SMACNA Protocol and had more violations than you can count, The Metal Roofer told the Builder, “If you do this it’s going to Oil Can like Crazy”, and The Metal Roofer is calling it right. That is Metal Roofing; however Roofing In General is 17 Primary Assemblies, and when it Comes to Roofing Discipline, There is no Gray Area.

    As for metal, there are far too many Assemblies, and too many Variables for me to ever not ask the Questions Above, and start from Scratch whenever Possible. That is my humble Opinion
    Respectfully,

    Bill

  5. Roofing Wizard Post author

    Great comment +Bill Hubbell,

    I found your response interesting and quite educational!

    I do agree that Metro and Decra tiles are a sort of a knock off compared to real tiles. Not too bash their products, but it’s just that I am not a big fan of exposed fastener systems.

    I view metal shingles with four way interlocking design and concealed fasteners in a far more positive light, though. For instance, consider steel shingles roofing system manufactured by Tamko Metal Works, the ones we often install at New England Metal Roof (http://www.NewEnglandMetalRoof.com) or aluminum shingles by Aluminum Shingle Company that also feature a 4 way interlocking design and concealed fasteners. – We install both systems depending on clients’ preferences and budget.

    I am a big fan of standing seam, especially because of the possibility of an easy integration with PV solar power panels, with the help of S-5 bracketing system, or PV thin-film laminates: http://www.metalroof.us/solar-metal-roofing-guide/

    With that being said, for value minded homeowners looking for an energy efficient metal roof, I will usually recommend a metal shingles roof that we can offer a lifetime warranty on. A metal shingles roof will often cost 20% to 30% less than a standing seam roof.

    Yes, indeed there are many types of standing seam roofs, but for most residential metal roofing projects we use a snap-lock standing seam metal roofing profile: http://www.newenglandmetalroof.com/standing-seam/

    In fact, we have even used standing seam as metal wall panels for one of our clients: http://www.newenglandmetalroof.com/blog/how-to-install-metal-wall-panels.php

    And yes, you are right in saying that a true craftsman will have very little waste with a well planned metal roofing installation:

    I will have to look more into the DaVinci shingles.

    Once again, thank you for leaving a thoughtful comment.

    Respectfully,

    ~Alex

  6. Brad Caldwell

    Nice post! Standing seam can look very clean and neat, but the metal shingles look nice also. I didn’t realize that metal shingles might be easier to install, or easier to address roof penetrations.

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