Metal going over top

For practical and aesthetic reasons, more homeowners are deciding that roofs of aluminum, steel, tin and copper fit best.

October 17, 2004|By Patricia V. Rivera | Patricia V. Rivera,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jeanie Stambaugh wasn't sure, at first, what to think about the aging green, tin roof that capped her early 20th-century Cockeysville bungalow.

As the paint on the low-slung roof with wide-overhanging eaves started to wear and rust showed up, she and her husband, Michael, considered ripping out the metal and replacing it with asphalt shingles.

Then they started to see more homes with that look reminiscent of rural early America that metal roofs can sometimes evoke.

"We decided to stay with metal, but we selected a barn-red color to better contrast with our yellow house," said Stambaugh, vice president of a Timonium interior design company.

Two months after the project's completion, she is pleased with the outcome. "The metal fits better with its character," Stambaugh said.

Owners of new and old homes are rapidly taking to roofs made of aluminum, steel, tin and copper.

The appeal includes greater wind resistance and higher sun reflectivity, not to mention that metal roofs change the look of a structure.

But metal roofs have a downside, some think, during cold weather when snow and ice accumulation can cause dangerous movement on a structure.

Sales of residential metal roofs have more than doubled during the past five years, according to the Metal Roofing Alliance in Belfair, Wash.

The National Roofing Contractors Association reported that metal roofs accounted for about 25.5 percent of total sales of new construction in 2002, compared with 4.2 percent in 1996. About 15.6 percent of re-roofing jobs in 2002 involved metal, up from 3.2 percent in 1996.

Today's options little resemble the affordable but rugged galvanized tin roofs that have topped country homes, barns and industrial buildings since the late 1700s. In the old days, silver was the consumer's only choice of colors. Metal roofs now come in all shades and styles and resemble the look of other roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, cedar shakes, clay tiles or slate.

"Metal roofs got a black eye from the old, rusty barn roofs that people still see around," said Paul Cummings III, a Baltimore business owner. who replaced part of the asphalt roof on his Finksburg home with custom-designed curved bronze. "The difference with the material now is like comparing a Model T and a Lexus."

"The metal roof comes over the front door," Cummings said. "We wanted to change the rooflines, and architecturally this set it off."

The fancy new amenities come with an equally fancy price tag. Metal roofs these days cost about two to three times more than asphalt roofs.

Homeowners can expect to pay $5 to $7 a square foot for metal compared with $2 to $3 a square foot for asphalt shingle, said Gary Cearfoss, owner of Steel Building Specialists in Baltimore.

Custom projects can run higher. Cummings and his wife, Bennett, paid $4,500 for the bronze section that is about 8-feet-deep-by-15-feet-wide.

The Stambaughs paid the same to replace their entire roof.

Metal roofs also come with a big advantage: They last 50 years or longer while asphalt roofs typically need repair after 15 to 20 years. Stambaugh said the roof on her bungalow had never been replaced. Much to her surprise, she found minimal water damage in the structure.

The roofs also are energy-efficient, an important consideration at a time when heating fuel costs are at all-time highs. A study commissioned by the Florida Power & Light Co. found that light-colored metal roofs offered the greatest savings.

In fact, consumers with white, galvanized metal roofs on a 1,770-square-foot home saved about 23 percent annually in cooling costs, compared with a dark-gray shingle roof on the same home. In California, utility companies offered rebates this year to customers whose homes had metal roofs as part of a "Cool Savings with Cool Roofs Program."

More studies are being conducted to determine greater benefits of metal roofs in colder temperatures. One deterrent, some say, is the dangerous snow and ice movement.

"You definitely need snow rails or guard or the snow will slide right off the roof," said J. Patrick Fick, vice president of the Fick Bros. roofing and remodeling company in Baltimore.

As the sun warms the metal roof panels, the snow and ice detach from the roof and slide. The avalanche can tear loose gutters and downspouts in addition to injuring people. Snow guards or rails are considered essential in cold-weather areas. Fick said they're relatively easy to install.

Cearfoss, of Steel Building Specialists, said most of his customers have opted for metal for aesthetic reasons.

"The architects include the metal roofs so that the home stands out," he said. "It's becoming a more popular upscale alternative."

He said people interested in metal roofs tend to have older-style homes, and they're trying to re-create a look; or they have contemporary homes that they want to make distinctive. .

More homeowners who have metal roofs also are opting to keep them, said Miriam Cunningham, president of Roof Menders Inc. in Conshohocken, Pa. She has many clients in the Baltimore area, particularly in historic districts.

"There's a real push to restore metal roofs in older homes," she said. Her company preserves the old roof panels using acrylic and mesh.

Even people with asphalt roofs are finding it easier to cover the asphalt with metal rather than tear it all out.

Metal roofs can be a little noisier during a rainstorms, although many of the new styles feature thicker insulation. They're typically installed over a solid sheet of plywood or oriented strand board.

But there are those who like the echo of the pitter-patter of raindrops. Stambaugh said she would have missed the lulling sounds had she chosen another material.

"That's part of the old look and feel of the home," she said.

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