With nearly every copper roofing post we publish - and there have been a few - we spend some time exalting this material for its fabulousness. It's hard to do otherwise - for thousands of years, its beauty has crowned some of the most distinctive residences and public buildings in the world. But it's not just good looking. Copper roofing is equally renowned for its longevity. While it won’t last forever - though which roofing material will? - there are copper roofs in the USA that have been performing since the 18th century (have a look at this impressive example). This longevity is thanks to its incredible durability. Another notable feature about copper roofing is its famed patina. As a copper roof ages, it reacts with moisture in the air and develops its calling card - a patina as individual as can be. Add it all up, and you have a roof with tremendous appeal, making it one of the more expensive roofing materials you could select.
Many people want to look like they have a copper roof, but don't want to pay the price for that look and appearance. I must asked every single week if we have "something that looks like copper, but for less money." The answer is always the same - "It depends on what copper look you're trying to replicate." Since copper is a natural and reactive metal, it is constantly changing its appearance once it's exposed to weather. Like a sparkly new penny when first installed, it quickly loses its shine and over the years will take on shades of brown, gray and black before turning various shades of green.
Other metals that "look like copper" are invariably painted steel or aluminum, with a paint color that someone thought looked like one of the stages of copper patina. Either brown, gray, green or some mix of these is the usual color intended to resemble real copper. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to meet someone who thinks any of these actually look like real copper (except maybe some of the paint manufacturers who are so proud of their artistic interpretations), but they do offer one indisputable advantage over copper: they’re a whole lot less money. If price is your first priority - or you just don’t have the budget for the real thing - then a painted steel or aluminium might just be the roofing metal for you.
Once you’re clear that no imitation actually looks like copper to anyone who looks for more than five seconds, then the only choice left is buying the real thing. While the market price changes due to the fact that copper prices are somewhat volatile (it’s a valuable metal and is used in many other industrial applications as well as for architectural products), it’s always much more valuable than the steel or aluminum regularly used for ordinary metal roofing. For superior performance, appearance and eco-friendliness, you should expect to pay three or four times as much as the more pedestrian choices. I can tell you from the consensus of responses to the photos on my website: the real thing is worth every penny.
Deciding that you’re ready for the real thing means there aren’t a lot of mistakes you can make on the material side, with only a couple of exceptions. Don’t have it installed by an amateur, and don’t select the cheapest version. The cheapest versions are made by using a very thin amount of copper (usually 12 ounce as choosing copper that’s too thin means it might tear in high snow or high wind events). Select 16-ounce copper or heavier and you’ll have the most appropriate copper for a roofing application. Finally, don’t skimp on the installation labor. Make sure you’re using an installer who has some bonafide sheet metal and waterproofing experience. Nothing makes less sense that selecting something as special as copper, and then “saving” a few dollars by risking a poor installation.