Top off your home with a durable and stylish roofing material.

By Tracy Maruschak Ruff 

Metal roofing materials have topped log homes for decades with durable results. It looks good, protects against the elements and is energy-efficient, cost-effective and easy to install. Though often viewed as an expensive roofing option, metal can actually save you money in the long run.

Many log-home owners select metal roofing for its protection against extreme conditions such as snow, wind, heat and fire. “Any location where there is danger of burning embers or any place with severe weather are ideal locations for metal roofing,” says Tom Black, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance.

Metal sheds snow quickly, protecting the structural integrity of the roof and eliminating ice damming at the eaves so the water can’t collect and melt into the home. “Homeowners also pick metal panels for homes that endure a lot of snow,” Tom says, “because the snow will slide off and get the weight off the roof.”

In higher altitudes, or where a log home’s roof is not protected from the sun, light-colored metal roofs reflect UV rays away from the home’s interior. Since metal retains less heat than wood, asphalt shingles or tiles, attics remain cooler. Also, for homes in high-wind areas, metal roof systems have passed uplift tests that simulate winds exceeding 110 miles per hour. These tests are especially important for log homes located in hurricane- or tornado-prone areas.

According to Tom, the most popular types of metal used for residential roofing are galvanized steel and aluminum, although copper, zinc and combinations of materials are available.

Vertical panels are one of the most popular metal styles for roofs. “Vertical panels have straight lines from the ridge to the eave and are usually painted with a long-lasting, baked-on finish,” Tom says. Panels come in a variety of profiles that usually connect with clips or screws.

Another popular style, metal shakes resemble the look of wood shakes. Other styles imitate the look of wood shingles, slate and clay tiles. This creates more selection for log-home owners who build homes where local homeowner associations mandate metal roofs.

Weight is also a concern when selecting a roofing product. On average, steel weighs about 50 percent less than asphalt and 75 percent less than concrete tile, fiber cement shakes and slate. Most metal roofing products range in weight from 80 to 140 pounds per square (a 10-by-10-foot section), while asphalt weighs 250 to 300 pounds per square and tile weighs 650 to 1,000 pounds per square. One of the lightest metals, aluminum shingles are about 40 to 60 pounds per square.

Specialized paint systems protect metal roofs against corrosion, fading and other environmental effects. Many metal roofs are treated with galvanized coatings made from pure zinc. Another coating option, Galvalume, developed by Bethlehem Steel Corporation, is a zinc-aluminum alloy combining the long-term durability of aluminum and the protective characteristics of zinc. These finishes offer a wide range of finish colors, like forest green, that help the home blend in with its surroundings. Brighter colors accent the shape of the roof, like slate blue. To give metal the look of asphalt, granular coatings are applied using an application of ceramic granules in an acrylic coating. For homeowners who like the look of copper, but find the high cost prohibitive, advancements in paint systems include paints that mimic the patina of both new and aged copper.

If installed properly, metal roofs need little maintenance. The folks at Bethlehem Steel suggest the following maintenance: At least once a year, check panels, rain gutters and downspouts to ensure they are clear and allow free drainage of rainwater from the roof. Valley gutters and grates should be cleaned as well. Remove accumulations of leaves, branches and other debris at ridge caps and in corners. Check the condition of auxiliary equipment such as air-conditioner supports, drains and housings. Any exposed metal that can rust or has rusted should be painted. Remove any trash that can clog drains or cause silt buildup.

Along with the benefit of easy maintenance, studies show that the average metal roof lasts two to three times longer than an asphalt or wood-shingle roof. According to the Metal Roof Alliance, metal roofs last for 50 years or more and, in many cases, will last as long as the structures they cover. For even more peace of mind, many companies offer product warranties that typically range up to 50 years.

Metal products also cut down on waste. Steel and aluminum roofing products contain a high content of recycled material and can be recycled. For reroofing purposes, metal roofing reduces waste because it can be installed on top of existing roof materials, such as asphalt.

Although metal roofing products initially can cost more, the average yearly cost of a metal roof, when properly installed and maintained, is usually less than other types of roof covering .