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Metal Roofing Lifespan: Significantly Longer Than You May Think

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A metal roof has significantly grown in popularity due to its durability and longevity. For many roof installations, it is a great option. When clients are considering installing a new metal roofing system, they will likely have many questions. The prevailing question “How long will a metal roof last?” is essential for contractors to understand. Clients will want to go into a roof installation fully informed and convinced that the project is worth their investment. Here, we will dive into the benefits of a metal roof and why it is a great investment for your roofing project.

Lifetime 

A metal roof is one of the best investments a property owner can make. Metal roofs are extremely durable and do not need to be replaced often. General contractors can assure their clients that they will get a return on their investment by choosing a metal roof. Their long-lasting reliability makes it one of the most popular roofing options. Knowing the pros and cons of each metal roofing profile can help you advise your clients on which roof would work best for them. However, if a metal roof is not properly installed or maintained, it may need to be replaced prematurely. 

As a general contractor, knowing what the average lifespan of a metal roof is, and the factors that affect their longevity is essential to advising clients. On average, a new metal roofing system should last around 50 years. This is more than double the traditional asphalt roofing system. The metal panels have elements, like a Class A fire rating and resistance to mold and mildew, that give it such a long lifespan. Traditional roofing systems like asphalt shingles are weaker and could experience significant damage from elements that metal roofs protect against.  

Factors That Affect Longevity 

Though a metal roof will last significantly longer than traditional asphalt, it will experience wear and tear that could damage the roof over time. Knowing what elements will negatively impact the new metal roof can help contractors know how to advise their clients. Here, we will look at the different factors that can affect a metal roof’s longevity. 

Weather 

Though a metal roof holds up well during every type of weather, some conditions can be harsher and slowly wear down the roofing system. Northern states will see heavy snowfall while southern states may be affected by hurricane conditions. While weather elements can affect a metal roof, one that is installed properly is designed to withstand extreme weather elements. 

Roof Color 

The color of the roof will likely fade over time, but some metal roof colors are more prone to fading than others. A darker roof will absorb more heat while a lighter roof will reflect heat. The lighter roof will maintain a lower temperature indoors. 

Sun Exposure 

UV radiation will wear down the roof over time. If part of the roof is in the shade while the other side has direct exposure to sunlight, the roof will deteriorate at different rates. Nature can have a large impact on the metal roof’s lifespan, so it is imperative for general contractors to evaluate the environment when advising clients. 

Roof Pitch 

Roof pitch is important for the contractor to consider and plan around during the installation process.  International Building Code specifies that a roof with a raised rib metal panel is to have a minimum of a 3/12 pitch unless there is a lap sealant.  Experienced roofers will tell you that roofs less steep than this will also shed water,  but problem points will be transition flashings, headwall flashings, and water siphoning back around the bottom edge of the panel instead of running off into the gutters.  Ice damming and melting snow also creates an issue on low slope roofs. 

Installation 

A metal roof is extremely durable, but it will not last if it is installed improperly. As the general contractor, you should do the very best you can to ensure the roof will have a long lifespan. Having the right materials, double-checking your work, and making sure the roof will work properly without seeing any damage should be a priority for any contractor. As always, make sure you inspect the roof throughout every phase of the installation process to ensure you catch any mistakes early on. 

Maintenance 

While metal roofs are known for their long lifespan, to get the most out of the roof, you must maintain it. Maintenance will differ for each type of metal roof and a regular maintenance schedule will help the roof last for as long as possible. 

Surface maintenance may be an inconvenience, but it is important for the clients to complete once a year to maintain the roof’s longevity. Cleaning off dirt, mildew, and other elements can extend the life of the roof.  Surface cleaning is mostly cosmetic  except for  gutters and valleys.  Debris, such as leaves, pine straw, or maple seeds  in gutters and valleys have serious implications.  

Standing Seam

As you know, standing seam metal roofs are designed to naturally expand and contract with temperature changes. This factor allows the roof to not need much maintenance. However, panels will likely always outlast the other elements. Special areas such as EPDM pipe flashing around penetrations will require occasional inspections. Ensuring that these features are still functioning properly, and do not need to be replaced, will prevent the roof from causing any damage. If inspections are not conducted, unknown damage or worn flashing can cause leaks. Additionally, cleaning is an important part of maintenance, though it is not required. Debris can stain and scratch the metal roof panels and hurt their curb appeal. Cleaning the roof annually can leave it looking nice for years to come. 

Screw Down 

Unlike standing seam metal roofs, screw down roofs do not have slots or clips to naturally expand and contract. On a sunny day with sporadic cumulus cloud floating overhead, you can hear creaking, popping sounds as the roof heats and cools in alternating sun and shade.  While not common, it is possible over time, that the screw holes can be elongated to where the washer no longer seals.   It is also possible that the rubber washer degrades with age; the washers are not steel after all. If they do leak, the screws can be individually replaced with a thicker diameter replacement screw. If they are left unchecked, they can weaken their hold and could be torn off during a strong storm. But to be fair, many screw replacement cases are a result of an improper install initially, or not sufficient material to screw into.  Like a standing seam metal roof, screw down roofs will also require annual inspections and cleaning to maintain their durability and functionality. 

Maximize the Lifespan of Your Metal Roofing

After diving into the benefits of a metal roof, you should be prepared to answer any questions your client may ask and have a deep understanding of what affects a metal roof’s lifespan. Metal roofing systems greatly outlast traditional asphalt shingles, but they are not invincible. Proper installation and maintenance are required to get the most out of a metal roofing system.  

If you want to reduce costs and increase productivity on your next project, download our free Builder Materials Checklist for Contractors. Having the right materials will ensure your next project is off to a great start.

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