Standing Seam vs Exposed Fastener: Is Standing Seam Better?

Although standing seam and exposed fastener are both metal roofs that serve the same purpose, they differ in many ways. The main difference is how the panels attach to the roof deck.

Exposed fastener panels are attached to the deck using screws that go through the face of the metal. On the other hand, standing seam metal panels don't have exposed fasteners. Instead, the adjoining panels are joined at the seam and attached to the deck using concealed fasteners.

Each system has its benefits and drawbacks. But when choosing between the two, you have to consider factors such as longevity, cost, maintenance, and type of application. In this article, we compare both options to help you make an informed choice.

What is an Exposed Fastener Metal Roof?

exposed fastener metal roofing

Exposed fastener metal roofs, also known as screw-down metal roofs, are fastened using screws that go through the face of the metal. The edges of adjoining panels overlap before the fastener is driven through both layers and into the deck. Unlike in standing seam, the heads of the screws are visible hence the name "exposed fastener."

Advantages of Exposed Fastener Roofs

Screw-down roofs have several benefits compared to standing seam roofs. They include:

Low Cost

Exposed fastener roofs are less expensive compared to standing seam roofs. That's because the metal panels are wider with a thinner gauge. Furthermore, lower-quality paint systems are used for coating.

The installation process also costs less. For one, you don't have to buy more accessories such as clips. Moreover, no mechanical or hand seaming is required, so the process is not as labor-intensive. In fact, the installation can be a DIY project.

More Contractors Available

Exposed fastener roofs are easier to install compared to standing seam metal roofs. Therefore, there are many contractors with the skills and tools required to do the job.

Disadvantages of Fastener Metal Roofs

Fastener metal roofs have several drawbacks due to the method of installation and the nature of materials used. They include;

Water Leaking

Exposed fastener metal roofs require installers to drill holes through the panels for the screws. The possibility of making mistakes during installation is high since they need to install hundreds, if not thousands, of screws. Moreover, it is only a matter of time before the rubber gasket degrades due to exposure to UV. That exposes the roof to a myriad of issues, the chief one being water leaking. Water can cause untold damage within a short amount of time.

However, fastener issues are bound to arise no matter how error-free the installation process is. Inevitably, the metal roof will expand and contract due to temperature fluctuations. Since the system allows no room for expansion and contraction, the fasteners will back out eventually, thus leading to leaks.

Requires Regular Maintenance

An exposed fastener roof requires more frequent maintenance owing to the fastener issues outlined above. That means you will have to call a contractor every five to ten years to replace the fasteners before they cause irreversible damage. In most cases, you will not even realize there is a problem until you see the leakage.

No Warranties

The majority of companies will not offer weather-tight warranties on exposed fastener roofs. Naturally, nobody is willing to take the risk on a roof with hundreds of holes.

Requires Steep-Slope Roofing

When there is a high risk of your roof leaking, you don’t want to allow any water pooling. Therefore, exposed fastener systems generally don’t have low slopes. 3/12 is the minimum industry standard.

Less Aesthetically Pleasing

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. However, most people would agree that having exposed fasteners makes screw-down roofs less appealing. The exposed screws give them a bumpier look.

What Kind of Buildings are Suited for Exposed Fasteners Roofs?

A screw-down metal roof is made from low-grade metal. That makes it the most economical choice of metal roofing and, therefore, one of the most common. You will often find it installed in agricultural structures, garages, porches, and other non-residential buildings. But they can also be a budget-friendly option for residential and commercial applications.

What is a Standing Seam Metal Roof?

standing seam metal roofs

Standing seam metal roofs consist of flat panels with vertical legs (ribs) that you attach to the roof deck using concealed fasteners and clips. Adjoining panels in this system join by either snapping together or through mechanical/hand seaming.

Benefits of Standing Seam Metal Roofs

There are several reasons why the standing seam metal roof is considered a higher quality system. They include:


Standing seam metal roofs don't expose their fasteners to the elements. That means they will not wear and tear over time. Moreover, the system does not allow installers to make holes through the panels like in exposed fastener systems, thus protecting your structure. As a result, these roofs can last up to 50 years if properly installed and maintained.

Mounting Platform

A standing seam metal roof acts as a mounting platform. It enables you to mount items such as solar panels, swamp coolers, and retention systems without having to make holes on the panel's surface.

Allows Room for Expansion and Contraction

This system allows room for the metal panels to expand and contract as temperature changes. When you don't restrict thermal movement, your roof will not experience problems such as fastener withdrawal, oil canning, and increased noise, among others.

Warranties Available

Unlike screw-down roofs, manufacturers of standing seam metal roofs have confidence in their products. They will offer weather-tight warranties in case unfavorable weather leads to leaks and failure. So, you can rest assured your roof will serve you for a long time to come.

Modern, Sleek Looks

The absence of visible fasteners, the straight lines, and the multiple color options combine to give standing seam metal roofs their modern, sleek look. It is no wonder they are a popular option for architectural applications.

Energy Efficiency

Standing seam metal roof panels often incorporate reflective paint pigments and emissive metals. They are, therefore, good at reflecting UV radiation and emitting heat. Installing these cool roofs can significantly lower your cooling bills.

Disadvantages of Standing Seam Metal Roofs

A standing seam metal roof is not always the best option. It also has several disadvantages compared to exposed fastener systems.

High Costs

The cost of installing a standing seam roof is relatively higher compared to other roofing styles. First, the cost of materials is high since they have a thicker gauge. Furthermore, the installation is a labor-intensive process that requires specialized skills.

Lack of Qualified Contractors

Installing these types of metal roofs requires a unique skill set that most contractors don’t possess. Therefore, you will struggle to find a contractor with the relevant skills, experience, and tools required to do the job right.

Tough to Repair or Replace

If one section of the roof gets damaged, repairing it can be a tedious process. That is because you have to separate the affected panels from the rest of the panels. The process can be time-consuming, especially with mechanically seamed panels.

Exposed Fastener vs Standing Seam, Which one Should I Choose?

Are you torn between a standing seam and an exposed fastener roof? Your choice will depend on your budget. Exposed fastener roofs are cheaper to buy and install, but they require regular maintenance and may not last as long.

If you are willing to spend more, then a standing seam metal roof is the best choice for your roof. Apart from lasting longer, it comes with added benefits such as energy efficiency, impressive looks, and warranty availability.

The following table sums up their differences.


Standing Seam

Exposed Fastener


Expensive to buy and install

Cheaper to buy and install


Does not require regular maintenance

Requires regular maintenance


Has a modern, sleek look

Has a more traditional look


Has more warranty options

No warranties available


Requires highly intensive labor

Not as labor-intensive

Energy efficiency

Good at reflecting UV and emitting heat

Not energy efficient

Final Word

Standing seam and exposed fastener roofs have their pros and cons, but the choice you make will depend on your needs and personal preferences. If you are looking for a budget-conscious option for your garage, porch, or barn, an exposed fastener roof will get the job done.

However, it may not be the best choice for residential or commercial projects, especially when longevity is a point of concern. If you can afford it, a standing seam metal roof is the better choice.

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