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Metal Roofing vs. Synthetic Roofing

Trevor Underwood • July 20, 2020

Metal Roofing vs. Synthetic Roofing


The 1989 Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule launched the synthetic roofing market as manufacturers scrambled to fill the void in a sector where cancer-causing asbestos was common in nearly every petroleum-based (asphalt) roofing product. 

Since then, new synthetic roofing materials appear every year, each promising to disrupt the roofing materials industry with a “groundbreaking” new combination of rubber, fiberglass, cement, and/or polymer plastics.

Many experienced roofing professionals prefer to steer clear of synthetic roofing until they’ve seen for themselves that the roof can endure for at least 10 years. Unfortunately, 10 years is the typical limit on warranties for synthetic roofing products. The performance bar for synthetics is set pretty low, and many synthetic roofing manufacturers have gone out of business long before their product warranties expired.

Fiber-Cement Composite Roofing Problems

Seasoned roofing professionals are all too familiar with the “imitation slate” roofing problems of the 1990s when many “rush-to-market” fiber-cement composite roofs began delaminating and crumbling. Frustrated homeowners had to participate in class action lawsuits that dragged out for years before getting any compensation.

“Coming up with alternatives for traditional shingle materials has proved a steep and slippery slope for a surprising number of manufacturers. Class-action lawsuits have showered down as so-called “lifetime” roofing products with names like Hardishake, Maxishake, and Permatek have prematurely failed.” --Home Improvement advisor Joe Povey at BobVila.com

Plastic Polymer Synthetic Roofing Issues

Plastic polymer roofing products attempt to replicate the textures of clay tile or cedar shakes with plastic. The main problem with plastic roofing materials is that maintaining color throughout the entire roof is nearly impossible. Another major drawback is that plastic polymers have an incredibly low insulation value and increase heating and cooling expenses dramatically. 

Polymers also have environmental issues and only break down into smaller pieces rather than biodegrading. Aged plastic roofing pieces in landfills are prone to soaking up the hazardous chemical DDT, known to cause cancer. Polymers in landfills will continue to leak these toxins into the soil for centuries.

Finally, there is a major pricing issue since polymer-based tiles, shakes, and shingles cost just as much or more than the materials they’re intended to replace. Plastic roof installations are time-consuming and many rely on expensive special fasteners. Worse, synthetic roofing products are still in the “emerging technology” stage with limited “boutique market” sales volume, so you’ll be paying more for the product to cover sky-high startup costs. 

Rubber Shingle Shortcomings

An ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) certified home inspector reported problems with a rubber shingle roof just 8 years after installation. Recycled rubber may score a few environmental points, but rubber-based shingles and shakes are unlikely to play a major role in the residential roofing sector until reported issues are resolved including:

  • Moisture trapped by rubber compounds contributes to the same fish mouthing, curling, and warping problems as the asphalt shingles they are intended to replace.
  • Discoloration in large areas of the roof.
  • Lack of an interlocking system to prevent wind uplift causes the need for ongoing replacement of lost panels.
  • “Memory” characteristics of rubber that cause curling in storage or during installation.
  • Odor complaints from roofing materials derived from recycled tires.
  • Chemical runoff hazards could have a negative environmental impact that nullifies any sustainability advantage of using recycled rubber.

Synthetic Roofing Has a Long Way to Go

Synthetic roofing materials have a long way to go before they can be considered viable roofing solutions. They simply can’t compete with DECRA Metal Roofing’s more than 60 years of proven performance and continuous advancements in quality.

Since 1957, DECRA’s stone-coated steel roofing profiles have been at the top of every roofing comparison category and DECRA is the only metal roofing manufacturer to submit for rigorous independent lab testing to ensure that all products meet or exceed industry standards established by:

  • the American Plywood Association
  • the American Society for Testing and Materials International
  • the Canadian General Standards Board.

All DECRA roofing products have passed the test of time and are backed by the industry’s most comprehensive Lifetime Limited Warranty

Contact a DECRA advisor today to join more than 1 million home and business owners who have chosen DECRA to protect their home for a lifetime.