Metal Roof vs Shingles: Distinguishing Price, Durability, and Style

Buildings with different types of roofing - metal roof vs shingles

Whether you’re having a house built or need to replace the roof on the one you’re living in, you’ll need to decide on which material to buy. Although the most traditional roofing material is asphalt, many homeowners are opting for metal roof vs. shingles. If you need a new roof, find out which option is best for your budget and house.

Selecting Roofing Material


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Several types of materials are available for residential roofs, including metal and asphalt shingles. Wood shingles, clay tiles, shake shingles, and even a green roof are some of the choices you can make. However, of the options, most homeowners choose between metal roofing and asphalt shingles.

Metal roofing for houses has come a long way since the days of industrial-looking corrugated tin or steel. It comes in a variety of metals, including:

  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Stainless Steel

Aluminum Roofing

If you live on the east or west coast and have a metal roof, more than likely it’s aluminum if you live near the ocean. Unlike some of the other metals, aluminum roofing doesn’t require special treatment to make it corrosion resistant, and it is resistant to salt.

The way the metal protects itself is by reacting to the atmospheric conditions, specifically the oxygen in the environment. Exposure to oxygen creates a layer of aluminum oxide that helps to seal the inside layers of the metal against corrosion. Since the patina it gets over time isn't considered pleasing to look at, so paint covers most aluminum panels or shingles.

The cost of aluminum fluctuates with the market, so sometimes it may be more expensive to buy than other types of metal roofing. Its price is often between that of steel and copper, and it is sold in thinner thicknesses than steel.

Steel Roofing


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Steel, which is an alloy containing iron and other elements, has a long history in commercial construction. Now, this metal has uses in residential construction, including roofing. It’s one of the most recycled metals on the planet, so most of it today is recycled, not new. Steel is also the least expensive roofing out of all the metals.

Steel roofing comes in three types:

  • Galvanized Steel: It has a layer of zinc to protect the inner layer of steel from corrosion
  • Galvalume Steel: Along with zinc, galvalume steel also has aluminum to protect the material from corrosion. The aluminum offers better surface protection for the roof.
  • Weathering Steel: Steel panels are meant to corrode purposely, so it has a patina similar to aluminum, but the weathering process takes much longer than aluminum.

Steel roofing can also imitate more expensive metals like copper and zinc, though it’s more durable and affordable. Since it’s very easy to find and is recyclable, it’s a green solution for replacing the roof of a house.

Copper Roofing

Copper is a malleable metal that has been used for roofing for centuries. It’s environmentally friendly because copper roofs can last more than 200 years. Many well-known buildings around the world have copper roofs, such as the Rotunda in Baltimore, Berlin Cathedral in Germany, and Belvedere Palace in Vienna.

It has several advantages over metals like steel. Copper roofs don’t corrode or rust, so it never needs replacing or repainting. It’s durable so that it can withstand harsh weather, including snow, hail, and extreme heat. As with most metal roofing options, it’s recyclable too.

Since it’s a soft metal, it is one of the quietest materials, but with modern building techniques,  it eliminates most metal roofing noise. Also, softer metal roofs withstand harsh weather better because it gives when hail hits it. Stiffer metals can puncture if large, heavy debris hits it.

Zinc Roofing

Malleable zinc also makes good roofing material and can last for over 100 years if installed correctly. However, like cooper, it’s an expensive roofing material and needs expert installation. Otherwise, hail and high winds can damage it.

If a zinc roof is left unpainted, the material will develop a blue/grey patina. However, in areas with moisture in the air, it will cause chalk to build-up on zinc roofs or objects. It’s also fully recyclable and available almost anywhere, so it’s one of the greenest materials in construction.

Stainless Steel Roofing

Stainless steel is very strong and durable, lasting for several decades when it’s correctly installed. It is also corrosion and rust resistant due to special coatings on it, so homeowners don’t need to worry about repainting it.

Like with most metal roofs, zinc roofing is available in panels or shingles. However, the downside to using zinc is its expense. It’s one of the more expensive options to use in home construction. This type of roof is usually under warranty for 20 to 50 years.

Asphalt Shingles

While homeowners can choose from several options for metal roofing materials, asphalt shingles come in two types, fiberglass or organic shingles. The main difference between the two styles is their make-up. Fiberglass roofing has a fiberglass core with an asphalt layer, but the organic shingles use heavy felt beneath the shingles.

Asphalt isn’t as environmentally friendly as a metal roof vs. shingles as it’s petroleum-based and uses a lot of energy in the production process. However, due to its lower cost, asphalt shingles are still widely used today to repair or replace roofs on most homes. They have a coating that makes them waterproof, and they hold up well under harsh weather conditions, including heat.

Roofing Durability

Roof Durability

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Metal roofing materials generally hold up very well in most climates. They are usually coated to make the panels or tiles corrosion and rust resistant, and painting them white can help them reflect heat instead of absorbing it. While some metals will dent when hit with hail, harder metals can sometimes puncture when hit with large hailstones or large tree branches.

Lifespans of Roofing Materials

A metal roof typically lasts three to seven times longer than asphalt shingles. Aluminum or steel roofing can last 50 years or more, barring damage from storms or falling tree limbs. Copper and Zinc can last 100 years or more. However, the warranties are not for that long, unless they are transferable to new homeowners.

Asphalt shingles don’t come close to lasting as long as metal roofing. Most brands only last 12 to 17 years before the roof will need replacing. However, many homeowners will leave the roof on for much longer, unless it has storm damage or other wear. 

If they use shingles instead of rolled asphalt roofing, then the shingles with damage on them can be replaced instead of a whole section or roof. In addition, shingles can be layered, usually up to five or six times depending on the municipality. 

Beyond that, the entire roof will need replacing because the integrity of the roof could suffer due to the weight of the shingles.  

Metal Roof Warranties

Warranties for metal roofing can far outlive most people, depending on the type of metal. The warranties for metal roofs depends on the manufacturer, but for some shingles like aluminum, they may have products with 20, 25, and 30-year warranties. Other companies will offer lifetime warranties on metal roofing, with several limitations on the coverage.

With some metal materials having lifespans of 50 to well over 100 years, many manufacturers provide transferable warranties on their products. The homeowner can make sure that the warranty gets passed on to the new owner of the house, and they will have it for the remainder of the warranty period.

Asphalt Shingle Warranties

Asphalt roofing

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Due to asphalt having a much shorter lifespan, the warranties are much shorter as well. Many manufacturers offer 15-year warranties, while others may offer warranties for 30-years. The longevity of the warranty depends on the location of the house.

Since asphalt can pool water and is susceptible to algae growing on it in wet environments, the warranty in those regions are usually shorter. 

Heat can also quickly age asphalt roofing, so in states like Nevada, Arizona, and southern areas of California, those warranties will typically be 15-years as well. However, in some areas of the country, many companies will offer 30-year warranties on their products.

Roofing Costs

roofing cost

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A significant factor in the type of roofing a homeowner chooses is the cost. Although it shouldn't be the determining factor in selecting roofing material, the reality is that a homeowner's budget often decides for them. Even if their insurance company is covering the cost of replacing the roof due to storm damage, metal roofing is cost-prohibitive for many people.

The cost of roofing a home doesn’t just comprise of the materials alone, but it also includes installation and labor costs. Metal roofing requires the installation of plywood or oriented strand board, OSB, underneath metal panels or shingles. The wood gives installers something to attach the metal too, and it dampens the noise of rain or hail falling on the roof. 

Asphalt Shingles Cost

Roofing companies will usually quote the cost of installation, labor, and materials together when they fill out estimates for roofing houses. Installing asphalt shingles costs on average $80 to $100 per square, although, in some areas of the country, they could run up to $160 a square.

A square is 100 square feet, so if the roof measures 2000 sq. ft., then installers will need 20 squares of shingles for the roof. At $90 per square, the cost for the material will be $1,800. Adding in other materials, like underlayment and roofing sealant, plus installation, roofing the house will cost approximately $4,800..

Metal Shingles Cost

The cost of metal shingles is much more than asphalt, plus they require expert installers to roof a home correctly. The average cost for metal roofing is $10 per square foot installed on an average-sized house. However, some metals may cost much more, and some less than that price.

Aluminum Roofing

On average, aluminum shingles or panels are $3.75 to $5.50 a square foot, which makes them $375 to $550.00 a square (remember a square measure 100 square feet). The costs for installation begins at $9 square feet, so a square would cost $900 per square to install.

With the example above, the roof was 2,000 sq. ft., which is 20 squares, so the cost of using aluminum on the roof would be approximately $25,500 to $28,000. At $375 per square, 20 squares of aluminum roofing are $7,500, plus 20 squares to install it at $900 per square is $18,000. At $500 per square, 20 squares is $10,000 plus $18,000 for installation.

Steel Roofing

The price for steel shingles or panels is less than aluminum, which is $4.00 to $4.50 a square foot. A square of aluminum roofing would then be $40 to $45. Installation averages $10 sq. ft. or $1,000 per square.

We already know we need 20 squares for the roof so that the aluminum roofing would be $800 to $900. Then adding installation at $20,000, the roof is going to cost $20,800 to $20,900. There may be some pricing variation between the three forms of steel roofing, but it isn’t significant.

Copper Roofing

copper roof

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Some metals, like Copper, are more expensive than both steel and aluminum. It is a premium metal that averages $9 to $15 square foot, so that a square would be between $900 to $1,500. For a roof requiring 20 squares of material, the cost would be $18,000 to $30.000.

The installation of copper can be significant because panels require soldering to copper pans. An average cost for installation is $500 to $2.411 per square, which would make it $10,000 to $46,000 depending on the roof’s pitch, size, and its slope for a roof with 20 squares.

Zinc Roofing

The cost of zinc roofing material and installation is about 20 to 30 percent lower than copper, so that would make it $7.20 to $12 square foot, at 20 percent lower. For a square, the cost would be $720 to $1,200 per square. For the above example, all the material for the roof would cost $14,400 to $24,000.

If the installation is also 20 percent lower, the cost would be $400 to $482.20 per square, with 20 squares installation runs between $8,000 to $9,644, also depending on the roof size, slope, and pitch.

Stainless Steel Roofing

Stainless steel is going to be less expensive than copper or zinc roofing materials. The average price per square foot is between $6 and $8, so per square, it's $600 to $800. For the 20 squares, the material would cost $12,000 to $16,000. The installation costs average $6 to $12 square foot, with the complete installation averaging $12,000 to $24,000.

Although metal roofing materials are much more expensive than asphalt, they last longer, they help lower energy costs, and each of these five metal options is fully recyclable, while asphalt shingles have petroleum in them. 

If you plan on having your house for several years, or decades, you may want to consider paying the higher price for metal roof vs. shingles for a more durable, eye-catching roof.


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