Metal Roof vs. Shingles: An In Depth Comparison

Wondering If Metal Roofing Or Shingles Are Better? Then Check Out Our In Depth Guide Comparing Metal Roofs To Asphalt Shingles So You Can Choose Confidently.


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Comparing Metal To Shingles

Around 80% of homes in the United States have asphalt shingles, making them the most popular roofing material. However, the past couple of years have seen a surge in popularity in metal roofing among homeowners. Today, metal roofing accounts for 8% of the spending on new construction and 13% of the re-roofing market, so you can see that these two are some of the most popular types of residential and commercial roofing materials to date.

So, if you’re building a new home or are faced with the possibility of roof replacement, you’re probably weighing the two options. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, with asphalt shingles being renowned for their low costs and metal roofs for their immense durability.
standing seam metal roofing on a commercial building
asphalt roofing shingles on a home

Key Differences

The biggest and most obvious difference between metal roofs and shingles is the material they are made out of.
Composition Of Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are composed of a ceramic granular upper surface and a smooth asphalt layering over fiberglass. They are typically manufactured as sheets, stacks, or rolls, which are nailed onto wooden frames during installation. On a sloped roof, the pieces are layered and staggered upwards.

Composition Of Metal Roofs

Metal roofs are manufactured from different types of metal such as steel, aluminum, zinc and copper with the most popular material being steel. Usually these metal panels come in large flat sheets with a few longitudinal patterns. There are multiple types to choose from.

Corrugated Metal Roofing

Corrugated metal roofs can be designed from steel, tin, aluminum, and composite materials. They are the cheaper metal roofing option and usually feature a pattern of repeating longitudinal spaces that look like symmetrical waves. During installation, the corrugated metal is attached to the roof’s frame using nails or screws.

Standing Seam Metal Roofing

Standing seam metal roofs are generally more expensive to manufacture and install than their corrugated counterparts. However, they are also stronger and much more durable due to the interlocking seams and fasteners that hold the metal to the roof’s frame.

Stone Coated Steel

If you are looking for a tile roof but don’t have the reinforced structure to support it, stone coated steel metal roofing is an excellent option. It looks like tile and comes in many different styles so you can find an option that perfectly suits your home, without the extra costs that come with a tile roof.

There are also multiple other options such as metal shingles, metal slate, metal shake and more so you can get the exact look you want. However, standing seam roofing is one of the best and most popular metal roofing options currently available on the market.

Which Is The Better Option?

Metal roofing and asphalt shingles feature some key differences in their appearance, cost, durability, and maintenance, among other factors. Thus, the better option for your home will largely depend on your priorities.

Metal Roof vs. Shingles: Appearance

Your choice of roof plays a crucial role in how attractive or not your house becomes. Fortunately, there isn’t much of a dilemma in this regard. Both metal roofs and shingles have evolved a long way from their traditional looks. Today, both roofing materials have finish options to suit every housing style.

Shingles that resemble slate, tiles, and wood shakes are being manufactured every day. Whether you have a Victorian home that needs scalloped edges or a Mediterranean home that would be greatly complemented with a terra cotta look, you can always find asphalt shingle roofs that fit your style.

On the other hand, metal roofing – aluminum, copper, zinc, tin, and galvanized metals- is available in a wide spectrum of colors and finishes. If you’re worried about your home looking like an out-of-place barn, there are metal roofing options that are designed to mimic slate, shingles, and shakes.

There is no clear winner when it comes to appearance, as it’s pretty clear that you can find the aesthetics you want from either one of the roofing options. Therefore, appearance shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing between metal roofs and shingles.

Winner: None

Metal Roof vs. Shingles: Lifespan

The expected lifespan of a roof is a crucial consideration when choosing the roofing material of your home. Generally, the more durable your roof, the better, since it allows you to avoid expensive roof fixes and replacements during your stay in the house. Limiting how often you need to replace your roof is obviously a better financial choice, so let’s find out what the better roofing material is.

In this regard, metal roofs are more durable than asphalt shingles. They are non-absorptive, i.e., don’t allow water to enter, and can quite easily withstand most of what mother nature throws at them. Although strong hail storms can dent the roofing material, they are pretty resistant to storms and strong winds.

Metal roofing also features slotted screw holes that allow for thermal expansion and contraction of the metal with temperature changes. Thus, metal can last anywhere between 50 to 70 years under normal usage and feature warranties of 30 to 50 years.

Asphalt shingles have a shorter lifespan due to various weaknesses in their design. For instance, they are made from absorbent material. So, during winter, the freezing and thawing of water within the shingles break down the roofing material.

Constant thermal cycling in areas that experience sudden temperature fluctuations also reduces the lifespan of asphalt shingles.

Similarly, damp conditions can lead to algae and fungal growth on the shingles. The roots of the fungi penetrate deep into the shingles, weakening them and creating cracks. Strong winds and storms and the resulting falling branches are also quite likely to cause significant damage to shingle roofing.

As such, the average lifespan of shingle roofs, depending on the climate, is 25 to 30 years. In addition, they usually come with a warranty of 15 to 30 years.

Winner: Metal Roofing

Metal Roof vs. Shingles: Maintenance

Regular maintenance is a good way to ensure the longevity of your roof. However, it’s not exactly fun, and thus, the less and cheaper the roof maintenance you have to do, the better.

Asphalt shingles are cheap and easy to maintain but typically require a lot of regular maintenance. This is because they easily slip and disintegrate in certain weather conditions. They are also more likely to grow moss and fungi during the wet season, which should be cleaned when possible.

Another issue arises from their installation, which involves using metal flashings, adhesives, and sealants. These sealants and adhesives tend to deteriorate over time and thus need to be replaced regularly. Thus you may find yourself on the roof (since shingles are quite easy to DIY) or hiring a professional roofer every now and then to deal with these issues.

On the other hand, metal needs less care than asphalt roofs since they are less prone to damage. However, in the case that some maintenance work needs to be done, it’s usually costly. You’ll also need to hire a professional since the complicated nature of metal roof installation doesn’t leave much room for DIY.

Overall though, metal roofs are better than asphalt shingles when it comes to maintenance. Due to their high durability, you may never have to repair/maintain your metal roof throughout your stay in the home, allowing you to avoid the hassle and high costs that come with those.

Winner: Metal Roofing

Metal Roof vs. Shingles: Heat And Environment

Contrary to popular belief, metal roofing is the cooler option in warm climates. This is because metal roofs have coatings on them that reflect much of the sunlight and solar radiation away from the house, making the home cooler. However, during winter, the effect has the opposite effect since some of the much-needed sunlight and heat is being reflected away from the home.

On the other hand, asphalt shingles absorb and transfer much of the sun’s heat to the attic. Thus, homes with shingles are generally warmer than those with metal roofing.

Metal roofing is also a pretty environmentally friendly option. The durability of metal roofs means that the amount of debris that ends up in landfills each year is relatively low. Also, most metal roofing material is recyclable, especially aluminum, due to its high scrap value. Thus, the amount of waste that makes it to the environment is minimal.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about shingle roofs; 11 million tonnes of shingles end up in landfills every year. This is because recycling asphalt shingles is extremely costly and, thus, not industry practice. In addition, asphalt shingles are made from oil products, contributing to the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

However, the environmental impact of manufacturing metal roofs and asphalt shingles is more or less the same.

Winner: Metal Roofing

Metal Roof vs. Shingles: Cost

The cost is perhaps the most important consideration you’ll have to make before buying a metal roof or shingle. In that case, metal roofing is more expensive to buy and install than shingles.

Metal roofing is twice as expensive as asphalt shingles (even thrice depending on the quality you’re after), so you may be tempted to pick asphalt roofing as the clear winner here. However, it’s not that much of a straightforward comparison. You also have to include lifecycle costs, including the expected maintenance costs of the roof during its life expectancy.

So, the formula for cost is something like this: Cost of roofing = Total initial roof cost + lifecycle costs.

Once you’ve factored in these costs, something interesting happens; the cost of shingles surpasses that of metal roof. For instance, let’s compare the cost of installing a 3 Tab Asphalt Shingle with a lifespan of 15-20 years to that of installing an Exposed Fastener Metal Roof with a lifespan of 40-50 years.

Let’s say the initial cost of purchasing and installing the asphalt roofing shingles on a small home is $6,000. Throughout its 15 year lifecycle, the roof will sustain some damage that will cost the homeowner a total of $4,000 to repair. At the end of its 15-year lifecycle, you would have thus, spent a total of $10,000 on your roof.

Still less than the $13,000 you’ll spend on an Exposed Fastener Metal Roof for a small house, right? But remember, the lifespan of the metal roof is 40 years, more than two times that of asphalt shingles. Thus, to be fair, we have to calculate the cost of shingles throughout a period equal to the lifespan of the metal roofing.

So, one metal roof’s lifespan = 40 years = 2+ asphalt shingle lifespans. The total cost of asphalt shingles will thus be $10,000 x 2 or more, which equals $20,000+ in roofing costs.

On the other hand, most homeowners with metal roofing never have to get their metal roof repaired throughout its 40-year lifespan. So, the total costs remain at $13,000, which is almost half that of asphalt shingles. And even if you do incur repair and maintenance costs, the odds that they will amount to the extra $12,000 are quite low.

Thus, in the long run, the total costs of installing metal roofing are less than those of asphalt shingles, especially if you plan on staying in your home for 30+ years. But what if you plan on selling your home in the next 10-15 years? Well, don’t be quick to opt for asphalt shingles yet, as it’s pretty much a tight race with metal roofing.

Resale Value

The cost-saving benefits illustrated above don’t seem to make much sense if you’re planning to sell your home in the next decade or so. You won’t be around to reap the benefits of your investment, so why spend $13,000 when you can spend $6,000 for the same function?

Again, it’s not that simple. Rather, it depends on the type of buyer you’ll be getting. Savvy home buyers take everything into consideration before making an offer. And if your roof is in good condition and, most importantly, promises to remain so for the next couple of decades, they may be willing to pay a higher price for the home.

Let’s put this into better perspective; imagine a home with an asphalt roof with 5-7 years of usable life left and one with a metal roof with 30 years of usable life left. Which home is more likely to fetch a higher price in the market? The latter one, of course because the new homeowner will have less maintenance costs to pay for with a longer lasting roof installed.

Winner: Metal Roofing

Energy Savings

The United States Energy Administration estimates that the average electric bill is $115 per month ($1,380 per year) for residential homes. However, depending on your location, you can save as much as 40% off these bills with metal roofing. This is because metal reflects the heat away from the attic, helping keep your home cool in warmer climates. Thus, you will be able to spend less on cooling your home.

However, this reflectivity doesn’t have the same effect in colder climates. Since there is less natural heat seeping into your attic and warming your home, you now have to spend more on artificial heating. Thus, there is little to no energy savings for metal roofing in areas with cold climates.

On the other hand, shingles tend to absorb solar radiation and transfer the extra heat to the attic. This is a good thing in cold climates since you won’t have to turn on your heater that often, saving you energy costs. However, that extra heat is a big disadvantage in warm climates, and thus, you’ll have to rely more on artificial cooling to keep your home temperatures at an acceptable level. This, in turn, drives your energy costs higher.

Winner: All factors considered- total initial roof cost, maintenance, energy savings, and lifespan- metal roofing is superior to asphalt shingles.

However, note that $13,000 is just an estimate; it may cost more or less to fit your home with a metal roof. The following will influence how much you have to part with to have your home fitted with a brand new metal roof;

  • The type of roof: Metal roofs come in different styles, shapes, and thicknesses. These can be made from aluminum, copper, corrugated metal, steel, tin, or zinc. The most expensive of these materials is copper and the cheapest being corrugated metal panels.

Generally, there are two types of metal roofing based on style: concealed fastener and exposed fastener. The former is the more expensive option, going for $10 to $16, while the latter costs $7 to $12 per square foot.

  • Aesthetics: Metal roofing is available in a wide range of finishes that resemble slate, shake, tiles, and even shingles. So, if you want an aesthetically pleasing design, you should be prepared to part with a little more money than you would’ve if you’d gone for the traditional metal roofing design.
  • Installation costs: Roofing contractors charge different roof installation costs depending on the location, complexity of the roof, and the project’s location. Thus, what people pay for metal roof installation in a town 30 km away may be more or less than what you pay in your town. Warranties, safety costs and other factors can also play a part in the total costs.

The Top Benefits Of Metal Roofing Over Shingles

Generally, metal roofing has the following benefits over asphalt shingles;

  • It’s more durable and can last for 50 to 70 years.
  • It’s cheaper in the long run.
  • It increases the value of your home in case you want to sell.
  • It saves energy bills in hot/warm climates.

The Benefits Of Asphalt Shingles Over Metal Roofing

  • They’re cheaper to purchase and install.
  • They’re easier to maintain.
  • They save energy bills in cool/cold climates.

Need Someone To Roof/Re-roof Your Property?

Whether you pick asphalt shingles or metal roofing for your home, Maxx Roof LLC is here to meet all of your installation needs. We are a Denver roofing company that has been providing expert roofing solutions to the Denver metro area for years. Our technicians are highly trained, friendly, and professional in their conduct; just the kind of people you want to work with in your home. Call today for a free, no obligation roof consultation with our experts.