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How Are Metal Roofs Made?

Aug 05, 2022

How are metal roofs made, and how are they installed on homes? The answer to these questions can be complex considering the intricate details and precision needed to successfully create and install a high-quality roof. The manufacturing process requires skilled engineering, metalworking, and patience to perfect.

What Metals Are Used?

There is a selection of different metals that are the most used for roofing. However, the type of metal roof that is chosen for a home is usually based on location and environment. Each metal has distinct properties that make it better suited for specific scenarios compared to others, so the selection of material is the important first step in the creation of a metal roof.

Here are the five most commonly used metals for roofs:
  • This iron alloy is arguably the most used metal in buildings today. It can be recycled very easily, making it widely available for general use and a strong eco-friendly option for a roof. With a variety of options for steel, such as galvalume, galvanized, and weathering, it is extremely versatile and can be used in a range of different climates.
  • This metal is very malleable and is very popular in commercial projects thanks to its ability to form and hold unique shapes. Zinc is naturally weather resistant, so you can get away without painting it. However, if it isn’t painted, it will have the natural blue-gray color that you see on roofs in cities like Paris. Be sure you like this color if you decide to go with zinc for your roofing. Zinc can also be very expensive, so be prepared for a substantial price tag with this option.
  • One of the softest metals available is copper, and it has been used as a roofing material for hundreds of years. Copper has an extremely long lifespan, upwards of 200 years in some cases, and is very quiet. While its softness can be an upside, it can be a disadvantage too. Copper can easily be dented and damaged by hailstorms, and it is susceptible to changes in temperature where it expands and contracts. Copper roofing is also the most expensive material to use.
  • This metal is best used in areas with a significant risk of corrosion, such as homes that are located near the coast. Salt and acidic rain can eat away at metals, and aluminum doesn’t rust, making it the top choice for homes that face these factors. Aluminum is lightweight and soft, so this material doesn’t hold up as well to severe weather events like hailstorms as other metal options do.
  • This material used to be a mix between lead and tin, but in modern times the lead has been replaced with stainless steel. Terne can resist some of the worst weather conditions, and it is very long lasting. Tin and terne roofs are less common today than they were in the past, but they are still available.
How Is the Roof Shaped?

Each metal roof starts as a metal coil, which is then adjusted to the optimal thickness based on project specifications. It is then fed through a roll former to create the necessary patterns. A roll former is a highly specialized machine that can create designs that require precise measurements and level of detail. The roof is then sectioned off into pieces, otherwise known as panels. These panels are then created in different sizes, which can be packed up and shipped off to different job sites for installation.

What Does the Installation Process Look Like?

The installation process can be a complicated one that requires the right skills and materials to successfully complete. It is a multi-step process that should not be attempted by someone without proper training or the right tools. Here is a brief overview of what the process looks like:

  1. Measure your roof. The professional roofers will start the process by measuring your roof. Exact measurements are needed to determine how much material will be required to cover the roof.
  2. Remove old roofing material and make any necessary repairs. When installing a roof, it should be a clean install that doesn’t reuse any old parts. Depending on how long the previous roof was used for, there may be underlying damage to the structure that supports the roof that needs to be fixed before installation can begin.
  3. Install a protective layer. Otherwise known as the underlayment, this is a protective barrier that helps to prevent any unwanted materials or substances from getting trapped between the roof and the structure.
  4. Install the edging. This is putting the specially cut pieces on for the border of your roof, these pieces will typically be long, thin metal sheets.
  5. Attach metal panels. During this step, the roofing professionals will install the metal roof panels.
  6. Fasten ridge caps and flashing. These are installed to protect the small gaps that are created after the panels have been placed where different sections meet — usually along diagonals and along the top of the roof.

Remember that this is a simplified explanation of what a typical installation process looks like, and there are a lot more factors that can go into installing a metal roof. Unexpected delays, such as weather events and supply shortages, also can happen. This process, if done correctly, will take time to ensure everything is precise and meets project guidelines. Once completed, however, there should be little or no need to revisit this process considering the long lifespan and durability of metal roofs.

Talk to a Professional

If you have any questions or concerns about how a metal roof is made, the installation process, or what the timetables usually look like, you should talk to a trained professional. There is too much at stake for you to attempt a massive project like this without consulting an experienced expert and exploring all of your options. You could easily lose a substantial amount of time and money if a roof installation goes wrong, so working with a professional can help to prevent this.

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