Looking at the Value of Metal Roofing

Last week during our METALCONLive! event, we learned from leading authority on metal roofing recover, Charlie Smith, the number one reason to recover a roof with metal is for its longevity. According to Rob Haddock with S-5!, “A metal roof has three to five to six times the longevity of conventional asphalt shingles.”

While metal roofs have made significant gains in recent years, the industry still fights a perception that the value of metal roofing is less than other roofing materials, especially in the residential market. In his recent article in Metal Architecture, Editorial Director Paul Deffenbaugh takes a look on how to quantify the “return-on-investment (ROI)” for metal roofing.

The article cites, “Currently, a metal roof replacing the existing roofing material returned 61.2% percent of the cost within two years. For an asphalt roof replacement, the return is slightly higher (65.9%) but the cost is significantly lower. There is no data available for the return on investment of a metal roof on a commercial project. For commercial real estate investors, building owners, appraisers, municipalities, appraisers, school boards, insurers and others interested in property values, there is nowhere they can turn to identify the intrinsic value of a metal roof.”

Chuck Howard, PE, president of Metal Roofing Consultants, Cary, N.C., and another industry expert says, “One of the problems we have in our industry is that value of the metal roof is not clearly defined while the value of flat roofs and shingle roofs are. It’s going to be X amount of dollars per foot. You tell people, ‘a flat roof will be $6 per square foot and a metal roof will be $12 per square foot,’ and they say they can’t afford metal.” Howard goes on to explain that sometimes the metal roof is designed to work on a structure that will work with any roof and is consequently overdesigned for a metal roof. Once you get a customer past the “cost” conversation, the payoff– the ROI — for metal roofing comes in the maintenance and durability of the product.

To increase awareness of the longevity of metal roofing, Haddock pushed for a survey to document the real service life of a metal roof. Sponsored by the Metal Construction Association and the ZAC Association, the survey analyzed low-slope, unpainted 55 percent Al-Zn coated steel standing seam roofing in a wide range of environments across the U.S. The research concluded that the expected service life of such a roof constructed today can be expected to be in excess of 60 years. That value, the researchers argue, equals the assumed service life of the building, as described by USGBC’s LEED v4 rating program. Haddock suspects if metal roofing were to warrant roofs to the same service life standard, the warranties would likely run to 60 years.

To help customers overcome the cost objections to metal roofs, Howard developed a spreadsheet that compares the anticipated costs of a metal roof to a typical flat roof including anticipated maintenance. His analysis includes initial costs that show metal roofing coming in at about 30 percent higher but at the 20-year mark, the total cost for a metal roof would be 22 percent less than a flat roof. At 40 years, it would be 60 percent less. And at 60 years, it would be 68 percent less. Over the 60 year life span of the building, the 20-year flat roofs need to be replaced three times and have considerably higher maintenance costs.

The durability of a metal roof provides a significantly better return on investment than a typical flat roof over the predictable service life of a building. Durability and maintenance are key elements positively affecting the ROI for metal roofs. Research from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) suggests that investments in maintenance and making sure the building doesn’t deteriorate over time improves the return on investment. 

“A metal roof, if properly installed, requires no maintenance,” says Haddock. When we were doing the study, we got up on roofs that were 30 years old and nobody had ever been up there.”

While the value of a metal roof may not be apparent at the start, it is fair to say the ROI presents itself later based on the longevity and ease of maintenance.

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