Roofing Materials - Asphalt Versus Metal

Roofing materials.

The roof is your first defense against the elements, and if the roof is leaking or giving you problems, the whole home suffers. Roofs should last a long time if installed properly. It should be installed with superior quality materials and should be handled by a licensed and skilled contractor.

But, what are the best materials for the job? An asphalt roof is easy to install, but does it make the most sense in the long run? Metal roofs are more expensive, but do you get what you pay for? Here are the differences between metal and asphalt roofs, some advantages, and disadvantages.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are the most popular type of roofing material. Take a look at asphalt shingles as compared to metal:

  • Greater color range
  • Easier to install
  • Has the best life cycle cost
  • A proven material for steep slope roofs
  • Much easier to work with
  • Installation can be completed in one day by a professional crew
  • Do not expand and contract in temperature extremes
  • Can be installed directly over the roof deck
  • Can be laid three installations deep
  • Will never rust or bend
  • Offered in a variety of sizes

Installation of asphalt shingles is an easy process, as long as the workman follows a few simple guidelines, and insures that the fit is right. Workmen do not need to be highly trained or skilled to install this type of roof. Simple tools are used to install, with a utility knife used to cut the shingles on site. Care should be taken to install flashings properly, and the roofer should follow the guidelines for installing this roof for the locale in which you live. Single roofs are used for 70 percent of homes in the United States. (For more on asphalt roofing check out "Protecting and Maintaining Asphalt Roofing Systems From Algae and Moss Growth.")

Metal Roofs

Metal roofs have for many years been out of the price range of many homeowners. Today, the metal roof is more affordable, and technology has advanced so that a metal roof can appear the same as a roof finished in asphalt. Here's a look at the advantages of a metal roof.

  • Extreme longevity
  • Comes in many colors and patterns
  • No longer needs to be soldered on installation
  • Works better against leakage than an asphalt roof
  • Metal roofing is recyclable
  • Saves the homeowner money on insurance
  • Fireproof
  • Saves on roof maintenance
  • Excellent insulators, saving money on utilities
  • Long term warranties

Comparing the Two

When it comes to longevity, a metal roof can't be beat. Most metal roofs are guaranteed by the manufacturer for 30 to 50 years. They will easily last the lifetime of the home. They add value to a home, making a metal roof a good investment in terms of saleability. There are homes on record that had metal shingles installed in the early 1900s, and are still in good condition today. Asphalt shingles, on the other hand, last on the average 17 years. Compared to a metal roof, they are much easier and cheaper to install. Technology in the industry has come a long way to improving the longevity of asphalt shingles, with the fiberglass shingle considered to be the best.

Comparing the two, we see that a metal roof is probably the best roofing material. For one thing, asphalt shingles are not recyclable. According to the National Association of Homebuilders Research Center, 20 billion pounds of asphalt shingles are dumped into U.S. landfills every year. To put that in perspective, if you filled a 40,000 pound truck with the shingles and dumped them into landfills, each truck placed end to end would reach from New York to California and back, and then as far as Chicago. On the other hand, 56 percent of metal roofing can be recycled. Because the metal roof lasts for so long, there is not a need to tear them off and cause more pollution to the planet. Warranties on metal roof surpass the longevity of an asphalt roof.

Dollar for dollar, then, means a metal roof is the best choice of the two. You must consider cost into the equation, and here is where the asphalt shingle roof outshines the metal one. In terms of longevity, better protection against leaks, and maintenance, a metal roof is still the best bet. Many people will shy away from installing a metal roof due to cost, but if you want something that never needs replacement, and adds value and protection to your home, then a metal roof is the way to go.