The decision to install a residential metal roof can be a great way to improve the value of your home and pick up some cost savings along the way. Homeowners can save up to 40% on their energy bills, get insurance discounts of as much as 30% (mostly because metal roofs can withstand extremely high winds, up to 140 mph), and even pick up some tax credits since metal is considered an environmentally-friendly roofing material. In some cases, these cost savings will more than pay for the roof over a full lifetime of use.
As a rule of thumb, you can calculate the cost of metal roofing by taking into account the total size of your home and then applying a number of scaling factors to account for things such as a particularly complex roof design or the use of premium materials.
In the U.S. market, for example, the average home has 1,700 square feet of roofing, and the basic cost to install a metal roof can range from $2 per square foot to as high as $15. In the most recent U.S. housing study available, the average price of a metal roof installation ranged from $4,353 to $9,877. However, the highest was $14,489, so there is obviously some variability.
Below, we’ll work through some of the factors that can impact the cost of a metal roof installation.
Factor #1: DIY or contractor?
Installing a metal roof is not a simple project, even for experienced homeowners. But it is possible since you can purchase metal for the job at a major hardware or home improvement store. As a general rule, each “square” of metal is 100 square feet. But it’s not just a matter of calculating the total size of your roof in square feet and then purchasing the corresponding amount of metal.
You also need to take into account any potential shipping costs (if you prefer to have the metal sheets delivered to your home), as well as any waste involved in the project. Depending on the complexity of the project, this waste can range from 5% to 20%. In other words, if you have a relatively simple roof, you might only need to purchase an additional 5% of metal. But if your roof is very complex - if it contains many details, such as drip edges, gable edges, ridge caps, valleys or pipe flashings - you might need to err on the side of caution and pick up an additional 20% in metal.
After buying the metal, however, many homeowners decide to hand the job over to a contractor. An average labor cost in the U.S. for a reasonably experienced contractor would be $3,000 for a full metal roof installation. Or, you could choose to hire a contractor outright. There are numerous website available that will help you find a contractor, as will your local home improvement store.
Generally speaking, a metal roof contractor will charge between $3 per square foot to as much as $15, but this includes the cost of the labor and the cost of the metal. As part of a typical metal roof contractor job, a professional will give your roof new plywood sheathing, as well as remove and dispose of your previous roofing.
Factor #2: Will you insulate the roof?
Insulating a metal roof may sound like an unnecessary or extra expense, but most homeowners advise having new insulation added to the metal roof. That’s because the sound of strong winds passing over the surface of the metal or the pounding of rain on a metal roof can be very distracting to some homeowners. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.
For that reason, some metal roofing already contains a layer of soundproofing material. Usually, this soundproofing is inserted between two layers of metal to help mute any outside sounds. Before working with a contractor, be sure to ask whether the metal roof already contains any insulation. You may be able to save on the costs if there is already some element of insulation included.
Factor #3: Will you upgrade to premium materials?
A generation ago, when most people thought of metal roofs, they were really thinking about a tin roof which was popular at the time. In fact, there is even a famous play from 1955 - “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams - that popularized the concept for mainstream audiences. But there are plenty of alternatives to aluminum or tin, with the primary choice being steel.
The new “designer steel” comes in various shapes and forms, including corrugated, painted, flat and zinc-plated. You can also choose to install steel “shingles” that look exactly like regular asphalt shingles. However, this designer steel can double the price of the roof, so be careful. The costs can become particularly high if the roof is complex in shape. You can think of this as the extra cost of bending and molding the steel around corners and edges.
Also, keep in mind that the price of steel is subject to market fluctuations. Thus, if commodity quotes for steel are soaring in the financial markets, that means you’ll inevitably pay more for the same roof than if prices were stable or falling. Having an idea of current trends in the steel market can help you to become a smarter consumer, as well as help you estimate whether it’s worth upgrading to new premium materials.
Factor #4: Will you include waterproofing or sealant?
Generally speaking, metal roofs are much more resistant to wear and tear than asphalt roofs. They last, for example, four times longer than asphalt roofs and cost less to maintain over a full lifetime. That means you don’t have to fix or repair your roof every year or after every big storm. They can withstand winds up to 140 mph and are legendary for holding up under tough storms when asphalt roofs simply can’t.
Yet, it’s still worth considering whether and how you want to add any additional waterproofing or sealant. The primary reason to include a new roof sealant with your metal roof is because it can help to prevent future water leaks. However, roof sealant can cost anywhere from $850 to $1,000 extra.
You can also include a waterproof membrane for the roof, which will protect against moisture. In some geographic regions, this waterproof membrane is actually required by the local building codes. But it’s not inexpensive - expect to pay up to $61 per square foot for a watertight membrane layer, adding to your metal roof costs.
Factor #5: How complex or unique is your roof?
The final factor to take into account for metal roof costs is the complexity of your roof. In a best-case scenario, of course, your roof will be completely flat and it will be a relatively simple job to add a metal roof. As a rule of thumb, metal will always be cheaper to install if it can be installed flat in traditional sizes or shapes. Any deviation from that plan – i.e. steel sheets in squares - does add to the cost.
One factor to take into account, for example, is the pitch of the roof and how the slope varies. The “pitch” simply refers to how much of a rise there is in the roof. One typical pitch is a 6-inch rise in height every 12 inches. But it’s just as possible that you have a particularly peaked roof, which will make the installation a bit more costly.
In addition, are there any angles to your roof? Many angles, ridges and edges will also bump up the cost of the roof and how you install it. In addition, the presence of these angles, ridges and edges pushes up your “waste factor,” which means buying significantly more metal sheeting for the roof than you first expected. Again, it’s a matter of shaping the metal to the exact size and specifications of your roof.
Over time, of course, the price of metal roofing is well worth the initial investment. As noted above, they can help reduce energy bills, lower insurance costs and require less maintenance over a full lifecycle. In some cases, they can be installed directly over an existing asphalt roof, which makes the installation even simpler - and that may mean that you don’t need additional insulation or weatherproofing. That will make the cost even more affordable.
In general, residential homeowners view metal roof installation costs as a future investment. And, like any investment, it’s possible to measure the ROI (return on investment) in terms of the benefits and cost reductions that occur later in the lifecycle of your home. If you’re thinking of selling your home in the future, a properly installed metal roof can be a very attractive feature for prospective new homeowners, especially those who want homes constructed from environmentally-friendly materials.