Metal Roofing vs. Asphalt Shingles – Forbes Advisor

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When building a home for the first time or renovating an existing home, the materials chosen for the project will have a major impact on the look, feel and cost of a home, not just in direct construction costs. , but also in the maintenance and energy costs in the longer term.

In general, metal roofs are more expensive in initial construction costs (and significantly more in certain cases), but also require less maintenance. Shingles roof construction remains the most common, probably because it remains the most economical.

NOTE: In the first half of 2021, there will be an unprecedented labor shortage as a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. In combination with this, the demand for materials and construction work has increased enormously. As a result, material prices may be higher than those listed in this article and lead times may be longer than normal for both labor and materials.

Key Differences

What are asphalt shingles?

Shingles usually come in sheets, stacks or rolls and are usually uniform in design and composition: ceramic granular top surface and smooth asphalt layers over a fiberglass base. Shingles are usually nailed to timber-framed roof structures, layered and staggered upward from the lowest point on a pitched roof.

Because the materials in the shingles are inexpensive and production costs are low, shingles are usually the most economical option for roof construction and replacement. They are also the easiest to install and require no special skill or instruction to apply correctly; every contractor knows exactly how to work with it.

What is metal roofing?

Metal roofing comes in large flat sheets and is folded lengthwise in a few different pattern categories, including corrugated sheet and metal roofing with flat seams. Flat seam metal roofing can be more expensive to make and install, but the interlocking seam design is one of the best options available.

The design features interlocking seams and fasteners that hold the smooth metal surface to the roof frame below, giving these roofs strength and durability while requiring minimal maintenance.

Close in material but a decade or two behind in design are corrugated iron, aluminum, tin and composite metals, which can be purchased from many lumber merchants across the country. Corrugated metals are also folded lengthwise in a pattern of repeating distances and are generally attached to the underlying roof structure with nails or screws fitted with rubber washers to act as gaskets at the attachment points.

Pros and cons

Metal roofing


  • Longevity: Metal roofs typically last longer than their counterparts of any other construction material.
  • Low maintenance
  • Chic and popular (for now)
  • Potential energy savings


  • Higher installation costs
  • Installation is more challenging
  • Heavier—may be a complication with regard to the load-bearing capacity of the building

Asphalt Shingles


  • Cheap to make, cheap to get, cheap to install
  • Ubiquitous, available, comparably built and priced
  • Easy to work with
  • Relatively durable


  • Little snow retention
  • Susceptible to damage in extreme weather
  • No energy saving

Which roofing material is best?

Which roofing material is right for a home depends on many factors, including cost, maintenance requirements, longevity, climate, environment and more.

Maintenance and care

Metal roofing

Caring for a metal roof is often less of a hassle than caring for an asphalt roof, but much depends on the slope or angle of the roof and whether or not the work is done by a competent roofer or a layperson.

You should always at least consult with a professional, but it is possible to maintain a metal roof without the help of one. Metal roofing can be more difficult to repair due to the nature of what metal is needed, and depending on the climate and type of metal roofing used, corrosion and other damage can occur if an inferior product is used. However, usually a metal roof requires less maintenance than an asphalt shingle roof.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles are inexpensive and easy to maintain, but usually require more maintenance than a metal roof. Shingles can slip, disintegrate and fall off with enough wear from the elements. Sliding in and nailing down replacements is easy enough, although we always recommend consulting a professional roofer for safety reasons.


Metal roofing

40 to 70 years—The life of any material depends on the condition it is exposed to, but under normal use, a metal roof can be expected to last more than half a century. Most estimates are between 40 and 70 years, but as materials continue to improve, the life of newer metal roofs is expected to go up, not down.

Asphalt Shingles

40 to 50 years – shingle roofs tend to deteriorate slightly faster than their metal roof counterparts. Weather, especially precipitation and wind, can wear asphalt shingles faster, especially if they’ve had a chance to age in the sun first. But as with anything, regular maintenance can help extend the life of your home or project, and replacing shingles and repairing roof holes can make all the difference.


Metal roofing

Metal roofing generally costs a little more per square foot than asphalt shingle alternatives, sometimes in sizes two or three. Metal roofing typically costs between $8 and $16 per square foot, according to estimates from early spring 2021. Fluctuations in material costs will also have a greater impact on the cost of metal roofing.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles generally cost between a third and half of what their metal roofing counterparts cost. Typically, a homebuilder can expect to pay between $2 and $6 per square foot for asphalt shingle construction, and in general, the cost of shingle is not as sensitive to material cost fluctuations as metal options would be.


Metal roofing

Due to the weight and size of metal roof panels, the installation of this material can be tricky to say the least. A professional contractor should be consulted and probably hired for a job like this, but DIYers would do well to hire an extra pair of hands to help. Most metal roofing systems made today have an interlocking edging system, so attention to detail and going through instructions prior to starting the project is also highly recommended.

Asphalt Shingles

Installation is where asphalt shingles really win over more expensive metal roofing options, in part because of the cost and challenge associated with getting metal roofing in place. Shingles couldn’t be easier to install, and any roofer or contractor knows exactly what to do when working with this material.

Water, heat and environment

Metal roofing

In general, metal roofing is said to be cooler in hot climates, due to the fact that the metal reflects most of the sunlight and the heat that falls on the top of a structure. Be wary, though: The same effect can make homes built in colder climates a bit more expensive to heat.

Homeowners with metal roofs tend to report fewer problems with accumulated snow and precipitation (compared to homeowners with shingle roofs). The environmental impact of manufacturing metal roofing products is comparable to the same measurements in the production of asphalt shingles.

Asphalt Shingles

Homes with asphalt shingles tend to be warmer, costing their owners a bit more in the summer and in warmer climates when it comes to keeping the structure cool, but homeowners in colder climates save on heating bills.

Between metal and shingle options, shingle roofs tend to solve more problems associated with accumulated snow and precipitation. There is little to no difference in the environmental impacts caused by manufacturing roofing products from metal versus asphalt shingle materials.

Trade-in value

Metal roofing

Houses with metal roofs tend to sell for slightly higher values, probably due to the longevity of the material and its popularity in recent years.

Asphalt Shingles

Homes with roofs made from asphalt shingles tend to sell for slightly less than their metal roof comparisons, but the age and quality of maintenance of a shingled home will in most cases have a greater impact on the home’s resale value than its price. choice of material .


Terra Cotta Tiles/Shingles

Homes built in warm climates sometimes benefit from ceramic tile or shingles roofing, which can help reflect and dissipate heat with their increased surface area.

Green roof construction

While there are significant design complications involved, homes that can support a roof made up of soil in which grasses and small plants can grow are often able to achieve significant energy efficiency in all seasons, and the roofs themselves often experience nearly no maintenance costs apart from the maintenance of the structure that supports them.

Bottom Line

If you have the money to invest in your home, the cosmetic and practical improvements of a metal roof are probably worth it. Asphalt shingles are more common and finding roofers willing to repair an asphalt shingle roof immediately is fairly easy. Both roofing materials have worked and have been working for decades.

NOTE: A low-quality metal roof will not perform as well as a high-quality shingle roof, so for those looking for the best bang for their buck, a quality shingle roof will probably fit into any home.

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