Steel vs Aluminum Roofing – Which is the Best?
It has often been debated whether aluminum or steel roofing is best suited for residential use. Of course you can choose either, and in most cases it all depends on the homeowner’s preference as to which type of metal roofing is best suited for them.
Both have all the benefits of metal roofing and will similarly protect your home, but there are a few differences between the two that could make a difference in certain markets.
Those differences and similarities are explained below;
Cost is often considered as the major factor when comparing the two metals. However, this difference is often misunderstood and exaggerated.
While aluminum is perhaps as much as three times the cost of steel per pound, it is also about one-third the weight.
So, if you take two metal roof systems that can be produced from the same thicknesses of steel and aluminum, the cost of the two products will not be all that different.
Both steel and aluminum are available in many product designs, from corrugated products like you might see on an agricultural building, to various shingle, shake, slate, and tile profiles, to higher end architectural standing seams.
Being a bit softer that steel, aluminum is more easily formed and thus is available in some of the most detailed shake and slate facsimile roofing materials.
Aluminum’s malleability also may make it more adaptable to unusual roof designs and configurations. You can see a few examples here https://legacyusa.com/
When comparing the same thicknesses of metal, steel is stronger than aluminum. On the other hand, aluminum is more malleable and can be less likely to split under impact.
Often, to compensate for the extra strength of steel, the aluminum used in roofing will be thicker than steel in the same profile of roofing.
This has an impact on price, as explained in the above paragraph.
The added strength of steel, however, does not always bring significant advantages over aluminum.
In most cases, a storm or windblown debris that damages an aluminum system will damage steel as well.
Additionally, to even be sold in the marketplace, both aluminum and steel systems must meet the same testing and performance criteria in order to meet building code requirements.
This includes uplift tests for wind resistance as well as impact resistance tests.
When many homeowners think of steel roofing, they associate it with old, rusted barn roofs and understandably believe aluminum is the better option because it does not rust.
This fact is true, but one must remember that protective metallic coatings such as galvanized and galvalume have been developed for steel, to help protect it from rust.
Today’s steel roofs are made from steel which incorporates these anti-corrosive alloyed coatings. The thickness of these coatings may vary based upon the quality level of the roofing. If a metal roof is properly maintained, rust will not cause a problem whether it’s steel or aluminum.
With the revolutionary PVDF coatings offered in much of the metal roofing industry, the original finish will look beautiful and protect your roof for over forty years.
Depending on your climate and environment, you will at some point begin to consider a new coat of paint for your roof due to fading, and when the roof is steel, to prevent rust.
If you perform this periodic maintenance, your roof will function well past your lifetime, whether steel or aluminum.
Due to the presence of salt water, there is a high level of salt in the air in coastal areas of the country. It is in these regions that I strongly suggest homeowners use aluminum roofing systems for their homes.
In fact, aluminum is often the only “common sense” choice of all roofing materials in these areas.
The salty air is corrosive to steel and can leave homeowners with a failed investment. Most manufacturers of steel roofing will have limitations for how close their products should be installed to a salt coastline.
If you live in a coastal area, aluminum is the choice for ultimate protection and durability.
Tile roofing weight over 15 pounds per square foot. Any metal roofing system has a significant advantage over competing products due to its low weight and the reduced strain in puts on the structure of your home.
Most steel roofs weigh from 0.8 to 1.3 pounds per square foot of roofing surface, and aluminum weighs about half that.
When compared to asphalt that weighs 2.75 to 4.25 pounds per square foot, slate that weighs as much as twelve pounds, and tile that weighs as much as fifteen pounds or even more, metal is much better for the overall health of your home.
The weight of those other products on your home year after year can cause incredible strain and damage to your home’s frame and structure.
The low weight of any metal is much better for your home, and the difference in weight between aluminum and steel is marginal enough that either is an adequate solution.
After these similarities and circumstances are explained to the homeowner, they usually see that both aluminum and steel will make great roofs for them, and they base their decision on other factors.
Common factors that weigh heavily in their decisions include the aesthetics of the products they are considering, as well as competency and experience of the contractor that would install the products.
My advice is that proper installation is critical regardless of what product they choose.
Additionally, a metal roof is a long term investment. Homeowners want to choose a product which will enhance their home’s beauty today and well into the future.