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Introducing the Metal Roof: Shingles are now Obsolete

dallas_burbsIf you’re in the United States and you look out your window in a typical neighborhood, you will notice asphalt shingle roofs as far as the eye can see.  There are a few regional differences, like clay tile roofs in California and Florida and flat roofs in the adobe-style houses of Santa Fe. But overall the Almighty Shingle dominates the marketplace. And this is a shame, because it is a pretty wasteful roofing material that causes a lot of unnecessary cost and headaches.

Flying in to Sydney a few years ago, I noticed that their suburbs looked completely different than ours. Every single roof was an attractive geometric expanse of detailed steel panels, often in bold colors. The Australians told me that these metal roofs save them a lot of energy, and last forever as well.

So during the short life of my house building company, I was pleased that the architect recommended I use metal roofs for the same reasons: They look cool, they can last a lifetime, and they keep out summer heat much better than shingles.

The only problem is that in my area, the costs were spectacular. I paid about $13,000 to have a local company install standing seam metal roofing on each of the two houses my company built, in contrast to the $4,000 that other builders were forking over for shingles on houses of similar size. I wondered about the price, but did not have time to find a better solution.

For my current house rebuilding project, the relaxed schedule and budget allows us to go All Experimental, All The Time. A welded steel load frame. A huge amount of high-solar-gain glass. Radiant heat. Spray foam insulation. And perhaps most exciting for me, installing my very own standing seam metal roof for the first time.

I have just finished installation of the bulk of this roof and put it through rainstorm test, and the whole experience has been a great one. So in case you ever want to consider such a roof for one of your own future homes, here’s a quick primer on why and how to do it.

Benefits of a Metal Roof

EMHE-MetalSales-Web-PS

Here’s a house much fancier than mine, showing off its metal roof (image credit: Metal Sales Inc)

General Awesomeness and Durability: The biggest reason to choose metal is that it looks great and lasts forever. On top of that, it is more resistant to wind, fire, snow, hail, and rain. You actually get a discount on your annual insurance premiums in many areas if you have a metal instead of shingle roof.

Even in shingle-dominated areas, you’ll often see higher-end houses popping up with metal roofing. Once you do it, you’re done thinking about roofing forever. If you buy a house with a metal roof, these benefits pass on to you. This means the style has excellent resale value.

But note that all metal is not created equal. The rusty corrugated stuff that you see on old barns and chicken coops is in a different category than the architectural standing seam panels we use today. While even a corrugated steel roof can work well, the modern stuff is better in almost every way.

Weight and Environmental Impact: your typical 2000 square foot shingle roof weighs 5400 pounds and contains over 200 gallons of sticky black crude oil, soaked into its fiberglass mat and covered with ground stones. After only 15-25 years, all of this will need to be torn off, trucked away, and replaced with another layer of oil.

In contrast, a metal roof of equivalent size weighs only half as much (meaning you can design with lighter structural members), and requires less than half the fossil fuels to produce. On top of that, new steel is made from 50-100% recycled steel these days and is fully recyclable at the end of its life, which will be 200-300% longer than the life of shingles.

 Lower Air Conditioning Bills: Shingles reflect only 5-25% of the solar heat striking your roof. Steel can reflect 20-60% of it, depending on color. This keeps your attic (and in turn your house) much cooler, and also reduces the urban heat island effect and smog formation. In areas like Dallas and Houston where there is too much heat and too little fresh air, shingle roofs still dominate and the average cooling bill for a single house is over $1200 per year. Imagine the effect of a widespread switch to light colored metal roofs in areas like these.

But What Does All This Cost?

All this is much less expensive than I thought (in other words, I got ripped off when building those other houses back in the day). Shingle roofs cost at least $1.50 per square foot for the materials, and $1.50 for the installation. Metal is only a bit higher at roughly $2.20 per square foot, and from my own experience the installation takes about the same amount of work and skill level. So the overall installed cost should be only 25-35% higher if you hire it out, and you can build your own metal roof for less than you would pay a very competitive company to shingle it.

How to Get your Own Metal Roof

Although I installed my own (with the help of a few friends), you don’t have to do this to get the benefits. Understanding the components involved, and how easy the stuff is to install, will give you ammunition in selecting your own roofing company.

Understand the Terminology

Here’s the 3-D Sketchup model of my house, viewed from above. I have labeled the various parts, because you’ll need to know those when ordering a roof of your own or hiring a contractor.

parts_of_a_roof

Find a Supplier

Metal roofing components are extremely simple: Sheets of galvanized steel get rolled through a shaping machine, cut to length, and optionally painted. Some roofing companies buy their own shaping machines so they can buy rolls of plain galvanized steel and crank the stuff out right on the job site. But there are also manufacturing companies that do it. I went with Metal Sales Inca nationwide company that makes all sorts of exterior metal panels and sells through Home Depot’s special order department as well as other retailers.

Get a Quote

At the core of this learning experiment is just figuring out what to order. After much distillation, all I needed was a few different components in sufficient quantity:

  • Gutters (aka “box gutters”) to catch the water as it flows off each of my eaves
  • Valley Flashing, which is just a big slightly-bent strip of metal to put into each valley to catch water
  • Offset Flashing, to create a little hook along each eave and valley (you’ll see what this is for in a minute)
  • Metal Panels, to cover the whole roof
  • A panel hemming tool, to fold the downward end of each metal panel and hook it under the offset flashing
  • Z-closure Flashing, a little filler piece to fit into spaces and keep bugs out.
  • Rake Flashings, to cover each side edge of the roof
  • Peak Flashing, to cover the upward slope and give the whole thing a finished look.
  • Assorted screws, rivets, rubbery tape stuff, and clear silicone roofing caulk.

Let’s take a look at my quote from MSI, so you can see the details in action. Note that my 1500 square foot house has a 2100 square foot roof, because of the large overhangs.
bhc_quote-1I got this quote from a local building supply store called Budget Home Center – they sell MSI stuff at the same price at Home Depot, but the staff is far more knowledgeable and responsive. Even so, I ended up with a few unneeded parts: the “standard cleat” and “eave flashing” are not needed for my job. The total cost, including complimentary delivery right to my front yard, was about $4500 if you avoid ordering the unnecessary stuff. Not bad for a $13,000 roof!

How to Install your Metal Roof

Here I am doing the most time-consuming task: screwing down every panel, every 24". The line of screws is then hidden by the overlapping seam of the next panel, which locks in.

Here I am doing the most time-consuming task: screwing down every panel, every 24″. The line of screws is then hidden by the overlapping seam of the next panel, which locks into place beautifully.

In a nutshell, you screw and rivet down all the pieces from eave to peak, in the same order I listed them above. I won’t get into all the details, because they are covered well in this YouTube video from Metal Sales Inc itself. But suffice it to say that installation was a breeze. I have done quite a few shingle roofs in the past, and this operation was faster, tidier, and less tiring than shingling.

In the end, it will take us about 60 person-hours to do the whole thing, which should come in under $2000 if you figure labor at $30 per hour, or under $1.00 per square foot for my relatively simple roof. Add in a bit more complexity for the typical roof and some profit margin for your roofing company, and I would still think that installation cost should not be much higher than shingles.

Alternatively, if you figure that I saved $9,000 over hiring my previous metal roofing company, My friends and I “earned” $150 per hour for doing this pleasant and educational work. If you are a roofing contractor yourself, I’d recommend adding metal roofing to your portfolio. The lack of competition will provide better margins and a surplus of customers.

Here's the view looking upslope at my finished roof. I built in a chimney flashing to accomodate the future woodstove.

Here’s the view looking upslope at my finished roof. I built in a chimney flashing to accomodate the future woodstove.

And if you’re a current or future homeowner, I can’t rave enough about the huge step forward you can take once you learn about this superior alternative to shingles.

 

  • Syed March 25, 2014, 12:41 pm

    This is awesome. I enjoy reading about new innovations that make living in a house cheaper with less maintenance. It will be interesting to see if metal roofing will be an option for new construction in the next few years.

  • Marcia March 25, 2014, 12:51 pm

    Wow this is pretty awesome. We are going to need a new roof in the next few years. We know we want to add solar when that happens. I think this would be great to replace our shingles.

  • R. Dobbs March 25, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Why did you not go with the modern? Dow Powerhouse Solar shingles.

    http://www.dowpowerhouse.com/

  • Gary March 25, 2014, 1:10 pm

    Something that’s often missed with figuring up those ‘earnings’ through sweat equity, in this case $150/hr. If I have to earn that $150 to pay someone else to do it for me, I have to earn well over $200 to have that $150 after paying my taxes. And just how many hours of my time does that take? Having skills and labor to put into one’s house can be a powerful economic equalizer….

    • CTY March 26, 2014, 4:40 pm

      Cannot agree more with the value of sweat equity. Over the years we have done all of our home, car & appliance repair/maintenance ourselves with a very few exceptions. Within our network of friends just one other couple does the same. The group as a whole is very frugal; but only we and the other couple are aspire to be Mustachian. Wanna guess which 2 couples are FI?

  • Lee Moore March 25, 2014, 1:35 pm

    Sold. This article couldn’t have come at a better time. Currently in the market for a new roof for my house, in an effort to sell in about a year after I’m through with school. Was gonna go the shingle route, mostly because I’ve got experience installing it. After reading what you had to say I think that I can tackle this myself. It should add tons of value to my home thus making it easier to sell. Thanks again.

  • KendallF March 25, 2014, 2:12 pm

    In our area the materials cost, at least, is nearly a wash. I put 5v “mill” finish” (galvanized and clear coated, silver) metal on my renovation project last year for ~$80/square. Total cost of materials for the roof including valley metal, screws, dry in paper, etc. was about $2k. The silver is Energy Star rated.

    Pictures link in this thread:

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/real-estate-and-landlording/first-limited-renovation/

    I should add that it took me one weekend to tear off the old roof (with the help of my 18 yr old daughter) and another weekend to put the new roof on, with my brother’s help.

    I get constant compliments on the roof now; I’m about to do our other house.

  • eric darwin March 25, 2014, 2:13 pm

    I live in downtown Ottawa: hot summers, lots of snow in winter. My 1902 3-storey house is expensive to reshingle due to labour costs. In doing my research, I shied away from any metal having recycled content, granules-glued-on-top to look like shingles, or small panels that clip together to mimic shingles or slate. I ended up with London Eco Roof, out of London Ontario, which is apparently now the largest residential roofer in North America. Other companies quoted me $31,000 to do a metal roof, which they proposed to install directly on the roof deck (which I didn’t like, as moisture condenses on the underside of the metal, and the addition of a ventilation space helps reduce summer heat gain ( I have a major western exposure). So I paid $12,000 installed, for a third floor roof including two dormer roofs and their sides, seven skylights, a vent stack, an apron roof at the back of the house, and a front porch, parts of which were two stories and had its own apron roofs. There was more finishing details than roof ! This is from virgin steel, includes underlay, strapping, etc. There are no seams from ridge vent to eaves. I have some pic on my blog http://www.westsideaction dot com slash installing-a-metal-roof. BTW, my insurance actually went up, because the “more expensive” roof costs more to replace than shingles. With a well insulated ceiling of R50 there is no roof noise except when the snow slides off. We do not hear rain. We put snow guards on the areas where snow sliding off might be a hazard. ALWAYS put a snow guard uphill from any vent stacks so sliding snow doesn’t rip off your plumbing vent. If the original builder had put on a metal roof in 1902 we would probably still have it, instead of the reroofing that occured in 1929 (cover cedar shakes with shingles), 1950, 1993, etc. The key thought in roof repairs if you are planning to live there for a while, is the total cost of ownership, ie materials, labour, replacement cycle, repairability.

    • Jake Flasson March 26, 2014, 8:52 am

      I also have gotten a roof from London Eco-Roof. It’s nice to see a company that manufactures, sells, and installs their own roof. I received some quotes from some other guys around Kitchener and found them to be quite poor in price and quality. Up here in Canada it seems to me that the strapped install is better to get rid of all that moisture and also help with the air flow, it was one of the deciding reasons to choose their system. Anyone who’s even slightly considering an asphalt roof up here is insane!

  • Kevin March 25, 2014, 2:24 pm

    I think you are underestimating shingles. I recently had 50 year GAF shingles installed that are rated for 150 mph winds.

    I literally have a 50 year warranty from GAF that covers material failure. It was less than $800 to “upgrade.”

    • soren March 25, 2014, 7:29 pm

      As a builder, I have found that, generally, manufacturer’s long term “warrantees” are pretty much a worthless joke. In fact, in the majority of cases I have been involved with, the manufacturer really stands behind their product only if it’s pretty clear that you are an active player in their world, and that they will be harmed if you stop buying their products. For example, a major siding manufacturer totally blew me off on a color fade issue until I informed them that I was spending $40-50K a year on their products. At that point, $6K worth of new siding showed up pretty promptly, and at no cost. Removal, installation and disposal costs for the existing, defective siding? Right out of my pocket, the manufacturer, at best, covers giving you a replacement product at no cost, what you do with it is your problem.

      Shingle manufacturers are the some of the worst. IKO supplied shingles for thousands of roofs in my region, for a large builder that was very loyal to their products. When their defective products started to fail in less than a decade, they told this high volume customer to piss off, no compensation, forget about what the warranty paperwork says, we don’t care. GAF is no better. I did a few roofs with their builder grade “20 year” shingles in the early 90s. Dark colored, south facing slopes were failing, with large cracks in the base material, in 6-7 years. IF I could of wrangled new shingles out of these clowns, I would of been allowed to purchase them at a “pro-rated” discount, and it would of covered less than 20% of the repair costs. Since it was a shit product to begin with, there was little logic in doing battle with them for partial compensation, only to receive a discount on a defective product.

      I have a few roofing subs that do very well when filing claims against roofing manufacturers. They stay very loyal to one brand, and one of my guys installs 10,000 + squares of asphalt shingles a year. When this guy has a problem, they tell him to order replacement stock and send the bill for everything. OTOH, in my humble experience, my guess would be that, as a homeowner, trying to file a claim, for a forty or fifty year old roof, well……. good luck with that.

  • John March 25, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Keep in mind that your lower air conditioning bills will be offset by increased heating costs in the winter. Reflecting away more solar heat is only desirable in the summer, while in the winter you’d prefer to capture it. Roofs that capture most of the incoming solar radiation, such as black shingles, are actually preferable in terms of house heating/cooling in most northern climates.

    An easy way to look at the relative importance of the two is comparing the heating and cooling degree days in an area. I think Boulder in general requires quite a bit more heating than cooling?

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 25, 2014, 5:10 pm

      I would disagree, because of the way the sun moves through the seasons. In winter, it is relatively sideways here at 40 degrees latitude, meaning it mostly strikes the South wall (and very little hits my North-facing roof at all). So the South wall is filled with high solar gain windows, which let in loads of light and heat all winter, where it will be trapped by thermal mass and great insulation.

      In summer, the sun climbs up so it is almost right overhead. Virtually none hits the windows, but about 150,000 watts of solar energy blasts down upon my roof during the long, long summer days, which these days are in the 90-100F range pretty regularly. You want that shit reflected away as much as possible during that season!

      • John March 25, 2014, 6:55 pm

        That’s a very good point about the angle of the sun during each season and the angle of your roof! I suspect you’re right and it’s a net benefit for your house. Another way that good house design contributes to lower energy usage.

        It’s definitely a larger concern for more conventionally designed homes.

  • Sealance07 March 25, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Love your work MM and look forward to reading your posts.
    As an aside, metal roof technology has been in common use in Australia for well over 100 years. As far as I know no one here has contemplated the use of such a flimsy and toxic ‘ technology’ as asphalt shingles in that period!
    And guess what…. We’ve been catching drinking water and storing it off the same roofs for just as long a period… Without need of fancy ‘rainwater harvesting’ terminology, self-help guides or ‘engineers’. We don’t even have a fancy ‘turn of phrase’ for it. We just do it, and have done it for a long time. Common sense!

  • colodude March 25, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Your roof lines are so slick that you save a lot on labor, regardless of roofing material–and a LOT of time, too. I’ll bet you weren’t ripped off on that first house. You have one three foot valley and a chimney–what was on that other house? Gables, square footage, pitch of roof, I’ll bet you got your money’s worth. Good article!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 25, 2014, 5:03 pm

      No, the other house was equally simple: 3 smaller-sized shed roofs, no valleys at all. I think the metal roof installer’s market around here is just underserved (and thus mega-profitable for those who do it). I got other quotes for that house that were even higher.

  • Billy Rogers March 25, 2014, 7:03 pm

    Have you checked out earthships:-) they have a lot of great ideas built into them. I really like the grey water usage.

  • ErinMT March 25, 2014, 9:07 pm

    I’ve heard your cell phone reception can be lessened in a house with a metal roof. Any truth to that?

    • becky March 27, 2014, 6:45 pm

      We planned to put metal on our new build last year (I like the look and the original price quote was the same as shingles) but the cell phone reception thing is one reason we changed our minds. The other reason is the builder had originally quoted us a price for a cheaper grade; once we researched it a bit and realized we wanted standing seam the price went up quite a bit! And then someone who has built metal buildings for many years advised us that any metal will fade over time; since we wanted a dark colored roof he advised us to go with shingles and that’s what we ended up doing. If we lived in a hot climate maybe we would’ve thought more about spending the extra $$ for standing seam metal.

  • TMan March 26, 2014, 7:02 am

    Upgraded my roof to metal four years ago after a hailstorm ruined my shingle roof and two skylights. With the replacement money from insurance, it only cost me about $3000 out of pocket total (including my deductible).

    Saving to my utility bill in Austin TX => 50% in the summer Air Conditioning months (May to September). Now, my house is not very energy efficient – plugging those leaks one by one as I have the opportunity – but the whole house felt cooler _immediately_ as I no longer had a superheated bubble of air in the attic right above my head. So that 50% savings translated to a three year payoff of the out of pocket costs to get the metal “upgrade”.

    To comment of others’ questions:
    * Insurance premiums went up about $80 per year as the replacement cost of metal is higher than shingles.
    * Noise during rain or hail is minimal because building code here allows the metal to be installed right on top of the old shingles. So I’m using the tar and paper as a sound barrier.
    * Hail is a fairly regular spring occurrence in my area, so I’m also ‘saving’ the amount of my deductible over the coming years as I will never have to worry about hail damage to this roof. Shingles usually only last about 5-8 years in my neighborhood.

  • PeterK2003 March 26, 2014, 7:56 am

    What goes under the metal roof? It looks like you have polystyrene foam board under it. I am assuming plywood under that?

    Thanks,
    Peter

  • a guy March 26, 2014, 8:21 am

    My parents replaced their crappy shingle roof with a copper roof that has a slighly ridiculous 100 year warranty… of course, it’s a solid brick house that’s already a hundred years old so it will probably last that long unlike the 70s-era no-shortcut-too-shoddy house I live in.

  • Cashew March 26, 2014, 8:47 am

    Any knowledge about how easy/hard it is to retrofit a chimney opening onto a metal roof for which it was not originally contemplated? I’m looking into a bathroom vent fan for my future home, which already has a metal roof.

  • Jennifer March 26, 2014, 9:02 am

    I’ve often wondered why these roofs couldn’t be coated with some sort of heat-sensitive paint that shifts color depending on the temperature. For us in Indiana, the roof would get darker in winter and help us retain solar heat and would get lighter and reflect more heat in summer. OK, big brainers – go invent it!

  • Eminef March 26, 2014, 9:22 am

    Great post as always.
    But where’s the safety Mr. MM? I don’t see any safety harness to protect you from falling when you are doing the roofwork or was it above your buget ?

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 26, 2014, 10:10 pm

      • BCR March 27, 2014, 7:14 am

        “There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality.” Seneca-the-younger.

      • Rick April 6, 2014, 4:16 pm

        I’d have to agree. I’m an ironworker, and OSHA is all over commercial construction. I do some of the most dangerous work in construction and personally I loathe the harness.

        In nearly 15 years of being in the trade I’ve only come close to falling twice. And each time it has been the fault of the “safety” devices.

        The first time was taking a small 4′ or 5′ leap over a gap in the roof deck and the retractable locked up on me halfway over the gap. Luckily I was able to get my tip toes on the other side, and a coworker who was following me was able to catch me as I started to fall back.

        The second time was tripping on someone elses safety line.

        Additionally, a few years back I was at a site where a guy fell off the roof with harness and steel retractable. The metal roof deck cut that retractable line like it was nothing. Needless to say a 24′ fall made for a very bad first day for the fellow.

  • Jesse K March 26, 2014, 9:26 am

    When we looked into a metal roof we discovered that a major portion of the cost is the number of cuts that have to be made to fit the metal panels on the roof. The super-simple Mr. Mustachian complex is probably even faster and easier to do in metal that in asphalt shingles.

    Unfortunately my house is aggregation of many different expansions over 50 years, so it has 6 different rooflines (I think), some of which cut-outs in them, so the estimates for metal roofing were incredibly high compared to shingles.

  • Nathan March 26, 2014, 10:31 am

    Do you have to paint the newer metal roofs? If so how often?

    Thanks!

    • Rosemary March 27, 2014, 5:43 am

      Nope, I mentioned above, that my parents’ have lived in their home for over 35 years, it wasn’t new then and they have never had to repaint. I can’t see any difference between it and a year or two old one – other than the unfashionable colour. Roofs in Aus are usually colourbond steel, which is either powder coated or galvanised – they aren’t painted post-factory.

  • Hope March 26, 2014, 10:34 am

    We bought a house with a metal roof in 2004 that had been built in 1995. Although we love this house, we’ve had to virtually replace every element of the infrastructure (which is another story) EXCEPT the metal roof. We did have a guy climb it (with ladder hooks) and replace a few loose screws as well as the decayed rubber gaskets around two vents. And we’ve replaced some of the closure strips along the edge. Other than that, it’s pain free, it sloughs snow like a champ, and we LOVE the sound of the rain.

  • phred March 26, 2014, 11:14 am

    Many roofs in South Florida seem to be lengthwise strips of concrete covered with a very glossy white paint. I never had any problems with this type of roof; houses didn’t collapse because of the weight. Roof seemed impervious to everything – including my walking all over it when younger

  • Gene Matocha March 26, 2014, 1:07 pm

    One point about the cost difference between shingles and metal roofs. We built a home in Colorado a couple of years ago and discussed roofing options with the builder. The cost difference between metal and shingles was only about 20%. I remarked that I had thought metal was much more expensive, and the builder told me they were at one time, but in recent years shingles have risen in cost considerably – to the point of making metal very competitive. Why? Asphalt is an OIL product.

  • partgypsy March 26, 2014, 2:20 pm

    In our town, other than farmhouses, some of the most expensive houses in our area (which has old houses) have metal roofing, most likely replaced during an expensive reno, and I also think they look great. We actually need to replace our roof, pretty much anytime. Our only reservation is when I got some quotes metal roofs were about 3x the price if not more (15K versus 5K). Second we keep revisting the idea of putting a small dormer off the back of the attic. If we decide against it and install a metal roof on, it would be difficult/expensive to change our minds.

  • Kevin March 26, 2014, 8:11 pm

    While there are a number of benefits to metal roofing there are some downfalls. The single largest being maintenance. First, metal expands and contracts and this will cause the screws to come loose. It is more pronounced in colder climates. Second, if you have multiple peaks and valleys, ice damns are common (at least in Canada) and will cause the roof to leak.

    This is all from experience, and I come from a very pro metal roofing family that used to sell the stuff.

  • JohnGS March 27, 2014, 8:35 am

    Great post! I didn’t see any mention of the ability to paint a metal roof. It’s a great way to preserve a roof for 100s of years and change the color. I did this on a restoration/addition project. It looks brand new now with no mismatched fading and the color is current. Just make sure to prep the surface and use the good paint intended for metal roofs.

  • Greg March 27, 2014, 8:52 am

    MMM, I just noticed you’re using housewrap as roofing underlayment. Is this really a good idea?

    I know Tyvek says not to use their product as a roofing underlayment for safety and other reasons. It’s quite slippery.

    There are some great synthetic underlayments out there.

  • misterfancypantz March 27, 2014, 9:50 am

    MMM… live in the northeast and have an H-Shaped ranch, we are in need of a new roof in the next few years (hopefully a few more left in the current one, fingers crossed) and this is all very interesting, never even considered metal.

    We have a 2nd layer ashpalt shingle roof and this will be our 1st replacement and hopefully our only one, our roof is quite large the slope rise:run is 5:12, we have 8 valleys. Being in the northeast we have to deal with snow load and ice damns, so we have been looking into various de-icing solutions, everything from things as simple as Home Depot heating cables all the way to HotEdge commericial solutions as well as radiant roof systems, leaning more towards the under roof radiant heat, more costly then HD of course, less then HotEdge but most efficient and not visable so most aestically pleasing.

    I had never thought of a metal roof before as there are not that prevelent in our area, so I am sure the cost would be a bit higher and due to the roofs complexity it will be a bit more so. Also we would probalby have to use one of those ceramic solutions that give the appearnace of shingles (which is fine, even if it adds to the price slightly, HOA etc..).

    We would also like to integrate some form of solar solution if possible at some point, we will not be eligible for any type of subsidies as we won’t get enough exposure to meet the requirements in our state due to trees that will block the sun during parts of the year. The trees are not on our property not that I would remove them simply to get solar credits anyway.

    Anyway my question in the northeast with equal exposure in all directions due to the house/roof shape and the snow loads and the desire for a de-icing solution is a metal roof practical, advisable recommended etc…

    Any thoughts or suggestions…

    Thanks in advance!!

  • Gili March 27, 2014, 11:36 am

    My parents (in Israel) recently switched to a similar type of roof, however apparently their metal sections are each doubled, with 7.5cm of polystyrene insulation between them. It looks a bit like the roof of a warehouse, but solves their problem: a huge tree by the house was shedding leaves and flowers seasonally, blocking the gutters and rotting on the clay shingles. Their roof now has no gutters – the rain just flows downhill and directly off the roof. It doesn’t seem like the cats are going to be able to climb up and down the roof anymore though…

  • Kathy March 27, 2014, 11:37 am

    I can testify that shingle roofs are the norm where I live. My mom had a metal roof on her old house which was there when she and my dad bought it 60 years ago. Not sure what kind of metal it was but she had to have it painted every 4-5 years with some special metallic paint. Otherwise, no maintenance was required.

  • FrugalFatherofFive March 27, 2014, 1:18 pm

    Nice article!

    Very non-consumerist… What ever will the fly-by-night shingle roof companies who profiteer off wind/hail damage do with themselves??

    Great stuff!!

  • amy March 27, 2014, 5:32 pm

    we recently had to repair our shingle roof due to a large tree falling on (and through) it. we are surrounded by very large, old trees (mostly neighbors so we cannot take them down) and I know it is a matter of time before another one falls on us.

    how do the metal roofs take that kind of beating? and if you need to repair, must you replace the entire roof or can you replace only damaged areas?

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 27, 2014, 5:36 pm

      You can definitely do spot repairs on metal roofs, just as with shingles. The metal is pretty thin, so it wouldn’t be much more tree-proof than shingles. The only way to really armor up against trees might be to add a top layer of 3/4″ plywood on top of your existing 1/2″ stuff, next time you re-roof. That would withstand heavier branches, although you’d have to have a reinforced concrete or thick steel roof in order to be completely bomb-proof.

  • Venturing March 27, 2014, 8:58 pm

    New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has huts in some very extreme alpine environments, these are all built with a metal roof. I’ve never seen any sort of ‘snow guard’ on them either. The higher your snow load the steeper you build the roof to ensure that the snow doesn’t sit on the roof (you won’t get avalanches if there’s minimal build up). Ensuring the snow doesn’t sit also means that you don’t need the supporting structure to be as strong.

    The lightness of a metal roof and the large size of the interconnected components also makes a metal roof safer in an earthquake. Where I live we have few shingle rooves but a number of commercial buildings have been pulled down recently because the weight of the shingle relative to the strength of the building meant that they were deemed an earthquake hazard.

  • Rick Mayor March 28, 2014, 6:19 am

    Hey, just saw the article on you (and Mr Extreme) on the Next Avenue blogsite – very cool. I have been following you for several months now and really like your outlook on life (and your lifestyle). Wish I had been introduced to something like this 20 years ago!

    Thanks for your great website (and all your great ideas),
    Rick

  • John March 28, 2014, 8:46 am

    I wouldn’t have said they’re outdated, they still have great uses, mine have lasted forever!

  • mark March 28, 2014, 11:48 am

    MMM needs to stop reading my mind. Nearly everything he’s doing on his house I’ve been planning to do to mine!

  • Erin March 28, 2014, 12:18 pm

    FYI: an Architectural standing seam metal roof is actually an adder for aesthetic quality. Try looking into Structural standing seam metal roofs, and you should find a strong cost benefit.

  • Annie March 28, 2014, 1:14 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! After surviving a deadly earthquake and thousands of aftershocks here in NZ, I can tell you that the knowledge I now have an iron roof as opposed to a tile one is incredibly reassuring. The sound of the tiles shuddering and rattling like dice in a tumbler during aftershocks was terrifying.

  • Doug March 28, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Having just returned from Australia (yes, I’m a bad ass retired mustachian) I saw a lot of ceramic and steel roofs and NOT ONE roof with asphalt shingles. In fact I don’t ever recall seeing any in Europe either. What’s with us and these wasteful (because of their short life span) asphalt shingles? It must be one of those “we’ve always done this way” excuses without giving any thought to better ways to do things.

  • Jonathan Marin March 28, 2014, 7:31 pm

    Nobody has mentioned this feature yet, but I used to have a squirrel problem with the house I am living in. They would jump from the oak tree and find ways in through the roof or vents.

    Well, that all stopped with the metal roof. I think they tried jumping on it and just slid off :)

  • Lemuel March 29, 2014, 10:27 am

    American building techniques often look “strange” to us Spaniards and other Europeans. Being the USA a country with frequent storms, tornadoes, fires, etc., we can’t quite understand why you build most of your houses with wood and those roofs. When we see the after-tornado/storm images on TV, we think, “what were they thinking when they built those houses?”.
    I’ve read somewhere that there are tax related reasons for that, and also a strong wood industry.
    Here we use mostly concrete, bricks and stone. And tiles or slate for roofs. All materials that usually last more than a lifetime and are energy saving. And they don’t burn easily.

  • Darren April 3, 2014, 9:01 pm

    If I’m not going to live in the house for long or I’m building to sell, I will not put high-end products in/on the house unless the neighborhood is high-end. Even if it saves energy, I will not do it. ROI in a normal run-of-the-mill neighborhood is just not there. This website is more about ROI than green building, true?

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 5, 2014, 10:16 pm

      It’s the other way around: first priority is doing the right thing for yourself and your fellow humans, the convenient side-effect is that you accidentally get much richer doing it, often in unexpected ways.

      When I sell my current house, I’m leaving almost $1000 in recessed-fixture LED light bulbs installed.. to fool the next owners into using much less energy even if they don’t realize it. Given a surplus of money, someone else saving energy is exactly as good as me saving energy.

  • Bart April 4, 2014, 7:52 am

    Similar to the metal roofs not being used much in the US, neither are tankless (tank is inside the wall) toilets. A little pricey, has to be ordered, but very water effecient and take up much less space, especially in small bathrooms. I installed one as part of our bathroom re-do last year and we love it. You should look into it as part of your grand experiment…..!

  • Subversive April 8, 2014, 11:59 am

    We’re going to need a new roof in the next couple of years, so this article is well timed and very interesting. We live in Canada, Calgary area to be exact. Our roof faces east/west, so based on our cold climate, would we still want to consider a dark coloured roof, or would the lack of winter sun on the roof mean that a light colour would make more sense?

  • Mariah April 10, 2014, 7:22 pm

    Didn’t make it through all the comments, but in case it hasn’t been mentioned, there is another HUGE advantage of metal roofs: the ability to harvest rainwater.

    Asphalt roofs leach toxins into water so you can’t use that water to irrigate your garden (you might get away with it for ornamental plants, but you definitely don’t want to use it to irrigate edible plants such as vegetables). But metal roofs allow you to harvest water that you can use to water your garden.

    And if you ever have to rely on it for drinking water, with an appropriate filter you can make it potable. The main potential source of contamination would be bird droppings, but there are filters that will deal with that, or you could even just boil the water first. But the contaminants from asphalt shingles are more noxious and not so easily dealt with.

  • Oelsen April 17, 2014, 4:16 am

    Yes, clay tiles need maintenance too, but as there are roofs around here being older than some (US) states, I really think the impact is way less compared to metal or heavy oil. The tiles my family replaced partially where 70 years old.

  • L April 21, 2014, 6:42 pm

    Just wondering why no one mentions a slate roof. That’s what we had growing up. We had to get those thingies to keep the snow from crashing down and breaking all the foundation bushes (we had front and back porches so no one was in danger of being killed by the snow falling directly on them). And we did have to replace a few pieces of slate eventually. But otherwise, no other maintenance for the 37 years the family owned the house. I know slate is expensive, but does it have issues?

  • Alex April 22, 2014, 10:55 am

    Hello, MM! I have been enjoying your blog for some time after being introduced by my sister, and am very thankful that I found it at this stage in life (a high-school student) so that I can have an intelligent plan from the beginning. As I was researching a paper for school, I came across a book about green building that you might enjoy: “Greening our Built Environment” by Gregory Kats. Thanks for the blog, and keep it up! We really do appreciate it.

  • Maggie April 24, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I loooove our metal roof. We used corrugated metal for both the siding and the roof – even on the garage. The sound of the rain and hail is awesome and not too loud. We did hear lots of snow sliding off our roof from time to time this winter in Chicago. We did have trouble with cell phone signals, especially since the whole house is wrapped in metal, but after installing a booster, it’s fine. I even convinced my brother-in-law in Indiana to get a metal roof for his house. He ended up paying $5700 for a new metal roof, compared to estimates of $6700 and $7200 for a shingle roof. I’m addicted to corrugated metal now. I especially like the garden planter we made with leftover siding.

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