A potential customer contacted us this week as he prices out metal roofing and "premium" asphalt composition shingles. He mentioned that he's running into some obstacles as he searches for a qualified installer because many of them admit that metal roofing isn't their specialty. We're not surprised.
Here's the thinking of the average roofer: roof contractors love comp shingles because they’re so quick and easy to install - not because they last a long time. If I were a roofer and had a choice between installing a comp shingle and a metal shingle, I’d recommend the comp every time because it saves my most important resource: time!
As a roof contractor, I'd want to get in and out of a job as quickly and efficiently as possible, and I'd want my client to choose a material that is easy for my crew and me to install. Anything that interferes with these priorities (like an unusual metal roof, for example!) is something I would do my utmost to warn my client against. It would not matter to me that the fancy metal roof he was eyeing might last twice as long - really, I'd only care about my profitability on his job. I also know comp roofing details like the back of my hand, because I install the material almost every week. Why would I want to learn a new material where my crew might get a detail wrong? I’m the one the owner will call if there’s a problem, so it doesn’t matter how great this new material might be - I don’t really want to be bothered and if the owner is going to ask my opinion, then it’s really no contest.
Comp shingles certainly have their place as a roof material, no doubt. They are remarkably low-tech and offer great value when you want to waterproof a large area for the least amount of dollars. That’s why they’re so popular. And since the average homeowner occupies a residence for less than ten years, the actual lifespan of the material is of little practical importance.
Roofers only really care about the next five years or so, because that's the length of their workmanship warranty. After that, it’s the manufacturer’s warranty that’s exposed - until the house is sold. Case in point - eyeball these “Presidential” shingles (considered to be the best comp roof available) for an idea of who well these products last after 20 years of exposure.
You will quickly see that talk of “50 Years” or “Lifetime” warranties leave some very challenging questions unanswered. I’ve written on the topic of disposable roofs and comp vs metal roofs before, and we have a free download that goes into even more detail.
But I’m not the only one in the industry who has observed the reality of asphalt shingles in the real world.
In a nutshell - you’re going to spend roughly double on a metal roof compared to a comp roof, and the extra money will only return value in terms of longevity after 15-20 years. In the short term, you’ll certainly have something entirely unique, lightweight, fire and wind resistant, and environmentally friendly.