Everything About Zinc Roof – Costs, Pros and Cons

Zinc roofing is one of the best metal roof materials, falling short only to copper. Zinc and copper share similarities, like extended lifespan, superior performance, and they both form a patina. However, zinc has the unique ability to self-heal, something copper does not. So what else can zinc do? 

Zinc is Slowly Becoming Popular As a Roofing Material.

Zinc is a non-ferrous (doesn't contain iron) naturally occurring metal guaranteed not to rust or corrode, making this material a popular choice for high-end construction and upscale remodels. Zinc is also commonly used for historic renovations.

More people in the US use steel or aluminum metals. Hybrids like Galvalume (aluminum and zinc coating over steel) or G-90 galvanized steel are also popular. But zinc is slowly becoming used more frequently as people realize all the great things it can do. 

Zinc has an impressive lifespan without using any protective coating, unlike steel. It can also survive harsh weather conditions and extreme marine climates without becoming damaged, making it a perfect material for coastal homes and marine environments.

Zinc Roofing Has Various Selection of Choices.

After zinc is mined, the raw material goes through a process to form it into flat sheets that come in a rolled (coiled) form. 

In its natural form, zinc has a shiny metal surface. However, over time, this surface dulls into a patina. Zinc also comes in a wide range of finishes and colors using pigments, giving you a vast selection of choices for any roof you dream up. 

Pre-patinated products give the zinc a smooth, matte finish rather than the surface being shiny. If you want your zinc roof to have texture, different manufacturing processes can give the metal ripples, grooves, or fish scales. 

In terms of designs, the most common style of zinc roofing is a standing seam roof. Other types of roofing include metal shingles or tiles. The malleability and flexibility of zinc allow it to mold into unconventional shapes, making it suitable for roofing or cladding.

Zinc Roofing Advantages

There are numerous benefits to choosing a zinc roof for your home's protection. First of all, zinc is non-corrosive, which means it won't rust and is impervious to weather. 

Zinc Roofs are Second Only to Copper Roofs For Longevity.

Zinc has an impressive lifespan of 80 to 100 years, far beyond any other metal roofing, except copper, which has the longest longevity. 

Same As the Copper, Zinc Roof Goes Through the Patina Process.

As a zinc roof experiences exposure to the elements, it builds up a protective coating known as a patina. This coating spreads over any scratches or blemishes that form, helping the roof repair itself. The patina also turns zinc into a lovely light gray to blue from its original dark gray to shiny black color. 

Zinc Roofs Have Low Maintenance Requirements.

Zinc is low maintenance, requiring little to no repairs, cleanings, or replacement pieces for the material's lifespan. So long as your roof has the proper installation, there should be no concerns about the performance and durability of your roof.

Zinc Roofs are Eco-friendly.

Zinc is fully recyclable. Once the zinc panels come off your roof, they can be reused repeatedly for other things, like galvanized metal roofs. The manufacturing process also requires less fuel than other materials like asphalt shingles.

Zinc Roofs Can Prevent Mildew.

Zinc prevents mildew, mold, and fungus growth on the surface. This ability keeps your roof clean and free of maintenance. But zinc is also great for the earth since water runoff from other materials that contain fungicides can kill vegetation. Plus, the water that runs off a zinc roof is clean, meaning it's safe for rainwater collection.

Zinc Roof has a Highly Durability.

Zinc is a highly durable material due to its ability to repair scratches and damages. Its ability to resist weather and marine conditions also increases zinc's durability. Zinc can also protect your home from:

  • Ice dams
  • Snowstorms
  • Rainstorms (and leaks)
  • Hurricane winds
  • Fire
  • Significant impacts, including hail
  • Extreme heat and UV damage
  • Insects, fungus, or rot
  • Warping, cracking, chipping, or splitting

Zinc Roofing Disadvantages

Zinc is One of the Most Expensive Roofing Materials.

A significant downside of zinc is the higher cost for materials and installation. All metal roofs run higher than materials like asphalt, but zinc is one of the more expensive products, being two to four times higher than other metals. The only metal roofing that costs more than zinc is copper, which can cost up to 10% more. 

The Final Look of the Zinc Roof Is Unpredictable.

The time it takes a zinc roof to develop its protective coating varies and depends on multiple factors. Your roof can patina in two to thirty years, largely depending on your location's climate. Unfortunately, there's no way of predicting the final look your roof will have, as some areas might patina sooner, leaving you with tonal variations in the zinc.

Corrosion is possible if installed incorrectly.

If zinc gets installed improperly, any portions of the panels repeatedly exposed to water can corrode (rust). And if the wrong non breathable synthetic underlayment gets used, moisture can trap underneath the panels, leading to leaks and mold growth.

Heads up! Are you looking for a roofing material guaranteed not to rust? The only choice is copper. The patina copper gets from weather exposure is a protective coating that prevents 100% of rust.

White Rust May Appear.

When zinc goes through the patina process, it forms a layer of zinc hydroxy carbonate. But if water filters to the underside of the zinc, where it can't dry out, it forms zinc hydroxide. 

This porous component does not protect the material but instead eats the zinc, building a thicker layer of zinc hydroxide, which turns into white corrosion - white rust.

Zinc Can Have High Galvanic Corrosion When Exposed To A Dissimilar Metal.

When two metals with high electrical potential come in contact with water, it can cause corrosion. If metals like copper, non-galvanized, or unprotected iron come into contact with zinc, there is the potential for significant galvanic corrosion. Even if the zinc is far away from the material, damage can occur if water runoff from those materials comes in contact with the zinc.

Zinc has a lower galvanic reaction when combined with galvanized steel or aluminum. If it's unavoidable to use non-galvanized metal or copper, the zinc should have a coating of plastisol to prevent the potential of galvanic corrosion. 

Zinc Roofing Costs

Zinc is a pricier metal for roofing material, costing between $4.50 and $8.50 a square foot. That can equate to a range of $450 and $850 a roofing square (100 square feet). The type of material will also affect the final cost. 

  • Standing Seam - $6 to $8.50
  • Tiles or shingles - $4.50 to $6.50

There will also be the additional costs of other necessary materials, including flashing, the proper fasteners, underlayment, and more. These extra materials add up to an average of $1 a square foot ($100 a square).

Zinc isn't a DIY job, so you'll also need to factor in professional installation costs. An average range is between $5.50 and $9.50 a square foot ($550 to $950 a roofing square). Of course, your location and your roof's complexity will affect the final cost. 

Your total installation costs can cost between $12 and $18 a square foot ($1,200 to $1,800 a square), including materials and labor. 

Multiple factors can affect the final cost of installing a zinc roof on your home. Things to consider when estimating your roof costs include:

  • Roof size
  • Roof slope

Zinc Lifespan

Given zinc's unique healing properties and imperviousness to weather, insects, fungus, and other types of damage, it has a long lifespan, much longer than other materials, except copper. 

The average lifespan of zinc is between 80 to 100 years, although numerous cases in which zinc roofing lasts far beyond the hundred-year mark. 

If you choose to install a zinc roof on your home, you'll be worry-free for decades to come, which makes zinc the perfect lifetime roof. Although the high cost of zinc means you get a higher ROI during resale.

You can see an ROI (return of investment) of 86%, whereas you can see an ROI of up to 95% if you live on the East coast. 

Zinc vs. Other Metals

Zinc is one of the top metals for roofing, only surpassed by copper in performance, pricing, and longevity. Both metals have multiple similarities, including forming a patina that transforms the look of the metal. But copper cannot self-heal, as zinc can.

Both zinc and copper can experience galvanic corrosion when exposed to incompatible metals. This feature is crucial to consider when picking fasteners and flashing for installation. 

Zinc has a higher price tag compared to most other metals besides copper. But aluminum is another superb material for roofing that forms a protective coating of oxide to improve durability. However, this oxidized layer is not a patina like zinc or copper. In terms of pricing, aluminum is much cheaper than zinc or copper but more expensive than steel. 

Steel roofing has better resistance to impacts due to being a harder metal than zinc, whose softer surface can experience dents and scratches. Steel is also more affordable and comes in a range of colors. In addition, this material gets a metallic coating on the top and bottom to prevent rust - galvanized (100% zinc) or Galvalume - (zinc and aluminum). 

You can also run into issues when trying to find professional roofers who have the experience to install zinc roofing. In contrast, the less complicated installation of steel and aluminum makes it easier and less expensive to find experienced installers.

 Zinc, copper, aluminum, and steel are all recyclable, making them excellent for the environment. In addition, neither steel nor zinc loses material degradation during recycling.

Regarding coastal locations, with the risk of saltwater spray, steel is not a recommended choice, as the metallic coating can separate from the steel, leading to corrosion. However, Galvalume steel can be up to three times stronger against rust and saltwater than galvanized steel. In addition, aluminum, copper, and zinc all hold up well to coastal environments.

Zinc, copper, and aluminum have more malleability, allowing them to form into complex shapes for odd rooflines. Steel is not as easy to bend into shape. 

Final Verdict

Out of all metal roofing choices, zinc remains one of the top picks due to its extended lifespan, performance, and look - not to mention its excellent self-healing properties. Although zinc is one of the priciest metals, this lifetime material will give your roof decades of protection and unmatched curb appeal.

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