Steel is the most common material used in metal roofing--it's also one of the most affordable. Aluminum roofs are much more expensive, but may also be more durable in certain applications. Copper is the most expensive option for metal roofs, and it's chosen primarily for its rich color and visual appeal. Tin roofs may be used on outbuildings such as barns and sheds. This material is the least expensive and least durable material used to create metal roofing.
Metal roofing can be used on both steep- and low-sloped roof structures. Smooth or embossed panels are installed using an interlocking technique that creates a standing seam design. Some metal roofs are formed into shingles, shakes or tiles to mimic the look of wood or clay roofing. The metal can be pressed with wood grain or other patterns to give it an authentic appearance.
While metal roofing in general offers many benefits to homeowners, each type of metal roof material also has its own distinct advantages. Steel is among the most durable types of roofing, and is resistant to dents caused by wind, sharp impacts or hail. Aluminum is highly resistant to rust and corrosion, and is often the best roofing choice in coastal areas. Copper, tin and aluminum are usually left unfinished and require little maintenance to maintain their appearance.
Each of these materials also has some drawbacks that should be considered. Steel may rust or corrode, and should not be used near saltwater or very wet areas. Aluminum is a relatively soft metal and tends to dent easily. Copper interacts with oxygen in the air to form a greenish coating known as "patina." While some buyers may like this effect, others consider it a disadvantage. Steel requires repainting every few years to maintain its appearance.
When choosing between different types of metal roofing, consider the desired appearance as well as the style of your home. Visual appeal is particularly important when parts of the roof are visible from inside the home or from the exterior. It also helps to consider the cost of the roof compared to its lifespan and maintenance requirements. Finally consider the local climate, including wind levels, rain and snow.