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Steel vs Aluminum: Which Metal Roof is Right for You?

Choosing between steel and aluminum for your new roof often comes down to a simple question: Where is your house?

Metal roofs in general offer a number of advantages over asphalt shingles, tile and wood shake. They’re more durable and better able to stand up to high winds, wind-driven rain, extreme temperatures, fire, mildew and termites. Properly installed, a metal roof should last for the life of the house.

But depending on your location, one material may suit your needs better than the other, according to Jared Pearce, technical services manager for Gulf Coast Supply.

“When picking your roof, think about why you’re buying a metal roof in the first place,” he says. “A steel panel is stronger structurally but will not stand up as well as aluminum in a saltwater environment.”

Here are some of the features that homeowners should think about when considering steel and aluminum roofs.

What to Know About Steel Roofs

Steel roofs, often referred to as “forever roofs,” are sturdy, safe and, because they are 100% recyclable, environmentally friendly. Common for older buildings in Europe, steel roofing panels are becoming increasingly popular in North America.

Many steel roofing products come with 40- to 50-year “lifetime” warranties and often last far beyond a half-century. Factors to consider when looking at steel roofs include:

  • Durability/gauge – The lower the number, the more durable the metal. Roofing panels range from 22 (thickest) to 29 gauge.
  • Energy efficiency via solar reflectivity – Higher reflectivity means less heat infiltration into the home.
  • Aesthetics – Steel can be painted or designed to complement the home.
  • Heat conduction – A Galvalume (also known as Mill Finish) finish provides additional protection from UV radiation.

Steel roofs offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Value – Although initial installation costs may be higher than for other types of roofing, steel lasts longer and reduces energy costs by reflecting radiant heat away from the house.
  • Versatility – Steel is customizable and can mimic the look of wood, tile, slate or shingles.
  • Fast installation – Steel roofs are lightweight and can be installed quickly, even over an existing roof. Some, including Gulf Coast’s GulfLok™ panels, have clipless, snap-and-lock installation systems.
  • Moss and fungus resistance – Steel is completely impervious to algae and fungus that can shorten the lifespan of asphalt or wood shingles.
  • Animal-proof – Steel is not hospitable to termites or other wildlife that may take refuge in roofs, such as raccoons and rats.
  • Fire resistance – Steel roofs come with a Class-A fire rating.

Steel does not, however, do well in a saltwater environment. Over time, moisture from the ocean oxidizes the iron component in steel, creating ferric oxide, or rust. Manufacturers fight rust by coating the roofing panels with either zinc or Galvalume, an alloy of aluminum and zinc, to form a protective barrier.

Gulf Coast goes a step further, using an ultra-fade-resistant PVDF premium paint finish on products such as GulfLok™, GulfSeam™, VersaLoc™ and MegaLoc™.

The Basics of Aluminum Roofs

Like steel, aluminum is known for its durability, longevity, fast installation, energy efficiency and protection against fire and pests. It’s also lighter and more versatile than steel. Aluminum naturally resists oxidation and rust, which makes it ideal for coastal environments. Special coatings can add even more protection.

Other benefits of aluminum include:

  • Malleability – Aluminum is more flexible than steel and can be configured into complex designs, such as Gulf Coast’s Great American Shake™, which offers the look of shake shingles in a longer-lasting, more protective product.
  • Fire resistance – Aluminum alone is not Class-A rated but can achieve that designation with the addition of a fire barrier.
  • Heat conduction – Aluminum is quick to cool after heating up. GulfPBR™ and 5V Crimp, in particular, are designed for Southern climates.

Steel and aluminum are both excellent products for residential roofing. Homeowners should consider the qualities of both metals — and take their home’s location into account — before making a decision.

The Gulf Coast Supply Solution

Ready to invest in a metal roof? Check out Gulf Coast Supply’s ProofMyRoof™ Color Visualizer, which lets users experiment with various styles and colors. For more information about metal roofs, visit Gulf Coast Supply online at GulfCoastSupply.com or call 888.393.0335.

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