(877) 463-3272

What Is Metal Roofing?

Trevor Underwood • August 17, 2020

What Is Metal Roofing?


There was a time not so long ago when words like "elegant" and "sophisticated" rarely appeared in the same sentence as "metal roofing". For most of the 20th Century, and to some extent even to this day, when metal roofing is the topic of discussion images of bland but durable haze gray or bare metal panels come to mind. As we'll see shortly, DECRA is redefining the answers to the FAQ: "What is metal roofing?"

The term "metal roofing" still conjures up utilitarian impressions of tool sheds with rust-streaked galvanized roofs, rustic barns with weathered tin roofs, military-grade Quonset huts with corrugated metal shells, and brick and mortar industrial operations with clusters of buildings capped with heavy-duty steel. As a commercial investment, durability, strength, longevity, and low maintenance characteristics made metal roofing very cost-effective, but aesthetics hardly factored into the all-important ROI equation. The dominant "return on investment" factors which made metal roofing the material of choice for so many commercial/industrial buildings can now be applied for high-value residential projects as well thanks to DECRA's innovative development of stone-coated metal roofing products, which introduced sophistication and style to the metal roofing sector.

The History of Metal Roofing: A Legacy of Innovation

For the past century, only the most innovative residential designs incorporated the numerous benefits of metal roofing. As the popularity of low-cost asphalt shingles increased the legacy of metal roof innovation (which was established as far back as the colonial period) was lost. According to the U.S. Department of Interior's Technical Preservation Services brief, the rise of metal roofing in the U.S. " is principally a 19th-century phenomenon", but lead and copper roofs were used for Rosewell, one of "the grandest mansions" in 18th Century Virginia. Revolutionary War financier and innovator Robert Morris introduced sheet iron produced at his own Trenton, New Jersey rolling mill for the roof on his Philadelphia mansion in 1794.

Thomas Jefferson was an early advocate of tin-plate roofing which he used on Monticello. The tin-plated material was one of the first roofing metals able to address architectural style elements. Tin-plated shingles were laid in a classic herringbone "piazza" pattern on the roof of Philadelphia's Arch Street Meetinghouse in 1804. In 1829 the technique for corrugating iron sheets was patented in England, an important innovation which bolstered strength and allowed for an increased span over a lighter framework. The "weight over structure" factor is still one of the many reasons why astute architects and home-builders choose DECRA stone-coated metal roofing products to this day.

By 1837, galvanizing with zinc was protecting base metals from rust and corrosion, and galvanized corrugated iron roofs were popular for train sheds, factories, and post offices. For high-value estate homes and mansions, the proliferation of rolling mills made tin-plate iron available and embossed tin-plate shingles soared in popularity throughout the country for much of the 19th century.

When the only alternatives for roofing in the 18th and 19th century were less resilient clay, tile, slate, and wood, the benefits of metal roofing were obvious. Naturally, metal was used only on the most stately and sophisticated homes until the advent of the asphalt shingle. As we'll see, the old adage "What goes around comes around" certainly applies to the architectural renaissance of metal roofing in the 21st century where it has again become the sophisticated choice for homes where nothing but the best will do.

Beyond Conventional Metal Roofs

As beneficial as conventional large panel metal roofs proved to be, there was definitely room for improvement. Galvanic corrosion can be a problem when different metals are used and come in contact with each other. Care must be taken with fasteners to ensure that the panels can breathe to avoid warping as moisture and temperatures vary. Excessive snow slide might require additional snow guards. Rainfall on a flat panel metal roof could be extremely noisy, especially when it's installed directly over living areas.

The proprietary DECRA stone-coating technique combines the best aesthetic properties of architectural shingles and the durability and strength of conventional metal roofing to become the gold standard for roofing quality in the residential sector.

The Benefits of DECRA Stone-Coated Metal Roofing

Longevity: Metal roofs are the informed consumer's choice for homes intended to last for decades. As reported by the Metal Roof Alliance, when the initial cost of a metal roof is spread over a 60-year span it costs roughly 1/3 of the expense for asphalt shingle roofs which must be replaced periodically every 10-12 years even in mild sunny climates. Asphalt shingle roofs must be continuously maintained or replaced in regions where the roof is exposed to seasonal temperature extremes, wet/dry compression, mold, storm debris or hail impact.

Lightweight: Extreme weight means that asphalt shingle roofs are limited to just 2 layers. After that, a complete, labor-intensive tear off and costly waste disposal process are required before any new roofing can be installed. DECRA's stone-coated steel weighs in at a feathery 1.4 to 1.6 pounds per square foot with an average total roof weight ranging from 3,700 to 4,500 pounds. The ultra-lightweight characteristic of DECRA roofs can eliminate the need for a complete tear-off in many cases.

Wind Rating: Steel strength and DECRA's proprietary interlocking technique combine to give DECRA roofs an unsurpassed wind uplift rating, with a wind warranty of 120mph. Conventional architectural shingles are typically warrantied to 60-110 mph, and even fiber cement products are limited to 75mph. Clay tile and wood shakes aren't covered for wind damage at all.

Stone-Coated Architectural Styles: Standing seam, large panel metal roofs are fine for commercial buildings, but they don't provide the sophisticated styles required to enhance the aesthetic themes of any home. Stone-coating provides all of the style versatility for designs ranging from the rustic American look to classic Mediterranean villas.

Impact Resistance: Attractive yet durable stone-coating over steel increases impact resistance so significantly that the DECRA UL 2218, Class 4 Impact Resistance rating qualifies for insurance discounts in many states. DECRA Tile provides a superior alternative for homes with easily cracked clay tile roofs in areas prone to hail or storm debris impact.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability: With homeowners reporting energy savings of 20% and more after installation, metal roofing is quickly gaining traction as an energy efficient material and as a leading green building product. DECRA stone-coated steel products contain 25-30% recycled material with a lifespan 2-3 times longer than other roofing products.

DECRA Metal Roofing Products: Made in the U.S.

DECRA is the original stone-coated steel roofing product made right here in the U.S. While our overseas imitators are many, they are all still racing to match the gold standard of elegant roofing established by DECRA. No imitation can match the strength of DECRA's stone-coated steel, and we back our products with the industry's best warranty.

With fully stocked distribution locations across the U.S., you can rely on DECRA's operational excellence as well as our impeccable product quality standards to provide a strong, durable roof without compromising the elegance and sophistication of your home. When you're ready for nothing less than the best metal roof in the industry you're ready for DECRA so please don't hesitate to contact us.