If you're looking for a lightweight metal roof material that won't rust in harsh weather conditions, aluminum might be the material for you. Aluminum is one of the top choices for roofing and has superior performance compared to steel. And it's more cost affordable than copper or zinc, which also don't rust.
What do you need to know before choosing an aluminum metal for your roofing needs? There's plenty, so keep reading to get educated.
Table of Contents
- What is Aluminum Roofing?
- Advantages of Aluminum Roofing
- How Long Does Aluminum Roof Last?
- Aluminum Roof Cost
- Types of Aluminum Roofing
- Is an Aluminum Roof Cheaper Than Asphalt Shingles?
What is Aluminum Roofing?
Aluminum is a durable metal material highly resistant to corrosion (rusting) compared to other metals like zinc or copper.
After production, aluminum roofing has a mill finish - a natural appearance. Over time and exposure to oxygen, the surface develops a coating of stable aluminum oxide, which prevents the aluminum from additional corrosion.
This oxidation film is so thin it's less than a few millionths of an inch thick and colorless (clear). But it also prevents the aluminum surface from changing in appearance as it ages. The thickness of aluminum ranges from .023 to .040.
Other types of metal like steel receive an A606 Weathering process to replicate the natural way that aluminum protects itself.
Advantages of Aluminum Roofing
Aluminum is one of the lightest materials, making it perfect for many roofs that can't handle an excessive weight load on the structure. The strength-to-weight ratio of aluminum is also superior to other metals.
This lighter weight of 5 pounds per square foot or 40 pounds per roofing square (100 square feet) also gives an additional advantage. In addition, you can install an aluminum roof directly over the top of old asphalt shingles, saving you money to tear off the old materials before installing the new roof.
Aluminum also has excellent heat reflectance. Bare metal can reflect 98% of radiant heat initially and 85% to 95% reflectance after weathering. The ability to reflect and release absorbed heat keeps the interior temperatures lower, reducing air conditioning during summer.
You can also have a roof that absorbs heat in the winter to reduce the need for using your heater to keep temperatures comfortable. To get this feature, the underside of the aluminum roof should be unpainted so it can reflect radiant heat into the building.
Aluminum roofs are 100% recyclable once they are taken off the roof. And most aluminum roofs have at least 25% up to 95% recycled content. Another way that aluminum roofs can be good for the earth is to give a suitable surface for solar panels or rainwater collection.
And because you can install asphalt shingles directly over an old existing roof, there's less waste going into landfills. Given that over 20 billion pounds of removed asphalt shingles fill US landfills each year, you're doing your part to help the planet.
Superior Wind Resistance
Aluminum roofs also have excellent wind resistance, making this material excellent for areas with high wind threats, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. An aluminum metal roof has a wind rating of up to 140 miles per hour.
Aluminum roofs can also help you save money on heating and cooling bills due to the material's reflectivity, rejecting solar heat from the sun's rays rather than absorbing the heat. The heat that gets absorbed by a roof can filter down into the house. By rejecting this heat, you can see energy savings of up to 25% during hot summer months.
Aluminum is also more malleable, meaning it can bend or shape into different configurations. So if your roof has a complex shape, aluminum might be a better material. However, for simple roof profiles, a heavy gauge aluminum would be preferable.
Disadvantages of Aluminum Roofing
The biggest downside of aluminum roofs is the expense. You can expect to spend between $120 and $900 per roofing square (100 square feet - 1 square foot equals 12" x 12"). In addition, the costs of labor for installing an aluminum roof are also higher due to specialized equipment and training.
Easy to Getting Dents
Although metal roofs are durable enough to last for decades, they are vulnerable to getting dents from large hail storms and falling storm debris, like falling branches. This vulnerability is due to aluminum being a softer type of metal.
May Cause Higher Energy Costs in Winter
Another downside of aluminum roofs is that it pushes away most solar heat rather than absorbing it because the surface is so reflective. While this is great during the summer, it can cause your heating system to work overtime in cold winter months to keep the interior comfortable.
Although bare metal has superior reflectivity, both when new and after years of weathering, the downside is that the metal will lose its shiny silver/gray color over time. While some people may not mind the washed-out, spotty look, it will be a downside for many. But you can overcome this by choosing a resin paint coat instead of leaving the metal bare.
How Long Does Aluminum Roof Last?
The most significant selling feature is the aluminum roof lifespan. An aluminum roof is often called a lifetime roof due to its extended lifespan of 40 to 70 years. And an advanced feature of aluminum roofs is the comprehensive manufacturer's warranty of 30 to 50 years.
Aluminum Roof Cost
Aluminum is a more expensive material, especially compared to the cheapest roofing - asphalt shingles. For example, it can cost 35% more for aluminum versus a steel roof. Factors affecting the roof material price include location, roof complexity, and difficulty of install, and material type.
Material costs per sq ft
Installation costs per sq ft
Material/Installation costs per sq ft
$2 to $4
$4 to $6
$6 to $10
Standing Seam Aluminum
$4 to $6
$6 to $8
$10 to $14
Aluminum shingles can cost $3.15 a square foot, equating to between $15,000 to $28,000 for total installation.
Types of Aluminum Roofing
Due to aluminum's softness, you can find multiple styles of roofing. The most known type is a style called the standing seam. Most people automatically associate metal roofing with this style, which provides a distinctive contemporary look.
Standing Seam Aluminum Roofing
Residential homes look best with standing seam panels around 12" in width. However, wider panels may cause your house to look more commercial. Installation of standing seam panels requires the use of clips or through-fasteners - a fastening flange ran along the panel's length which secures the fasteners and then covered by the next panel - which are less frequently used.
Corrugated Aluminum Roofing
Corrugated metal is another popular choice for aluminum roofing. This design consists of folding the metal to form grooves and ridges for a wavy roof surface. These rooflines have more strength in a smaller surface area, giving you better protection and lightweight.
Since aluminum is rust-resistant, you don't have to add a protective coating to your roof. But it will hold paint colors very well, allowing you to choose from a wide range of colors. Some brands can offer over 100 colors, including custom shades.
Modular Aluminum Roofing
Modular metal panels come in four distinct types that replicate traditional, timeless roofing styles, with all the benefits of metal. These designs can interlock on all four sides due to downturned/upturned top, bottom, and side flanges. But the exact installation varies by manufacturer.
- Aluminum Metal Shakes
These metal panels resemble natural hand-split cedar shakes with a unique design and look. You can find multiple sizes, with the most common being 2' x 1' or 4 'x 1', with widths ranging from 24" up to 60". Metal shakes have a higher profile than metal shingles, giving your roof more texture and dimension and making it easier to apply over old roofing.
- Aluminum Shingle
Aluminum metal shingles are .019" to .024" thick, so they have a lower profile than metal shakes, with a look of dimensional asphalt shingles with a 10" or 12" exposure. These modular panels secure to the roof using clips or, less commonly, a nailing flange.
- Aluminum Tile
Aluminum metal tiles resemble natural materials and come in various designs and colors, including a Mediterranean barrel tile design or an S-Serpentine style. This type uses thorough-fastened exposed fasteners or a batten grid that allows the metal sheet to stretch from the roof’s eave to the ridge.
- Aluminum Slate
The final type of modular panel is metal slate, which looks like natural material, but is 30% to 50% cheaper. These metal pieces are also lighter in weight and come in interesting patterns like scalloped, flat, or diamond shapes.
Is an Aluminum Roof Cheaper Than Asphalt Shingles?
There is no question that asphalt shingles are much cheaper to install compared to aluminum roofing. Asphalt shingles tend to run between $100 and $200 a roofing square, depending on brand and type (three kinds - 3-tab, architectural, or designer). In comparison, you'll pay between $325 to $575 for an aluminum type.
But this cheaper upfront cost isn't much of a bargain when you consider the lifespan of these shingles, which is typically between 10 and 30 years. So you'll end up having to replace your roof two to three times in the same lifespan as one metal roof.
So, the cheaper cost of asphalt shingles isn't as affordable when you multiply it by two or three. Not to mention any repair costs you may incur. On the other hand, aluminum roofs are durable and less likely to need repairs during their lifetime (the extended warranty may cover the issue if it does need repairs).
As we've shown, aluminum is a fantastic choice of metal roof for your home. This material has a ton of benefits, although it does also have a few downsides. With the wide availability of styles, colors, and sizes, not to mention being lightweight and non-corrosive, aluminum roofing can work for any home, location, and architectural style.