You want to buy a roof only once. A metal roof can last 50 years or more so you have to get it right the first time. Here is where learning from other people’s mistakes can keep you safe, sane, and in business.
Some mistakes are quite common; metal roof manufacturers, installers, and sellers see and hear about them all the time. So we put together a list for you to look over before going out metal roof shopping.
Assuming all metal roofs are alike
Metal roof panels come in a wide variety of metal types, thicknesses, finishes, profiles, and shapes. The environment and the use of the building underneath your roof will be determining factors in the appropriate material, pitch, and shape.
The differences in materials and environment all impact the performance and lifespan of your roof. You want metal because you know it’s durable but be prepared to pay for the appropriate item for your use.
Assuming all roofers can install metal roofing
Most roofers and contractors claim to be able to handle any material, but the truth is that composite shingle is the most common roofing material in use. It is much less likely they have the same level of experience installing a metal roof system.
Ask for references and find out the following before engaging someone. Ask the roofing contractor:
- How long have you been in business?
- Is this your only business?
- Are you under legal action?
- Are you a member of a roofing industry or steel building organization?
- What guarantee do you offer for your work?
- Do you work directly with the manufacturer or are you a dealer or broker?
- Can I see some of your completed projects?
If you don’t like the answers, look for someone else.
Having the right contractor and crew on the job will save you money on labor, and you won't need to correct mistakes. Since a metal roof system installs faster than a traditional roof, doesn't it make sense to take advantage of that fact by hiring people who know what they're doing?
Buying the wrong roof for your needs
You wouldn't wear shorts in at the North Pole, and you wouldn't wear a parka in the desert. Your steel roof needs to be right for your needs.
For example, if you live in an area that receives heavy snow, some roof designs are poor choices because they don't shed snow and ice properly and the roof is damaged. Metal roofs can be installed in areas near saltwater, but you need to be sure they have the appropriate type of metal and finish to withstand the corrosive impact. Otherwise, your roof fails prematurely.
Keep in mind the weather, the wind, weight of snow and ice, and the environment. If you need energy savings, be sure to get a roof that accommodates insulation and has a reflective surface.
Buying based on price Instead of total cost
When you purchase something that has a lot of parts, needs expert installation, and requires special delivery, you need to determine the total cost of the job, not just the cost of the metal roofing system. Labor, transportation, taxes, and permitting are all added to the cost of materials or kits.
Besides, you get what you pay for, right? A less expensive option may be available but why is it cheaper than the others? Cheaper metal can mean thinner metal, lower resistance to corrosion, poor finish, or a weak profile.
You will need to replace the roof much sooner than you planned if you buy just because it’s cheap.
Buying without consulting a specialist
Just as not every roofer can install a metal roof, salespeople are not all experts in selling you the right roof for your needs. In some instances, a sales rep is pushing a particular product that may not be the best choice for you. If near the end of the spiel, you start hearing about potential discounts or that the last one kit available is on the dock, put on the brakes.
Impulse purchases are often regretted purchases down the road.
You’ve heard it time and again: Measure twice, cut once. Estimators puzzle through confusing plans from the architect, measure wrong, or, most commonly, forget to include part of the roof. If the estimator is working from existing drawings, all drawings must be reviewed because the same details are not included from one set to the next.
Sometimes, to make up for potential errors, an estimator may order more supplies than are needed, which wastes money and materials. Other times, kits may have missing accessories or items can be broken in transit or during installation. You waste time leaving the site to replace them.
Planning for penetrations is another area where labor costs and appropriate materials may be shorted. Each penetration (skylights, attic fans) requires additional labor and materials to install, trim, and place flashing around the opening. The more penetrations there are, the longer it takes to complete the project.
Estimating the roof pitch incorrectly
If you estimate a lower pitch than the actual pitch of a roof, the panel lengths will be incorrect. If the panels are too short, you can’t do too much about it. They won’t stretch. If the panels are too long, you will spend additional time cutting them and wind up with waste material to haul off.
Steeply pitched metal roofs increase your labor costs. Workers move more slowly and carefully. Also, they must work around safety lines. The job takes more time than it would for a lower pitched roof.
Poor instructions or communication
Estimators spend a lot of time determining the most efficient way to fit material to the roof. Unfortunately, the instructions to the crew don't reflect those plans accurately and the workers use a different method. Errors and material waste are introduced into a carefully budgeted job.
Other areas where communication is crucial is between the contractor and the municipality. Permits and inspections need to be obtained at the right time, so the project is completed on time.
We hope this list of common mistakes is useful when you are ready to buy and install a metal roof. Buy the best roof you can afford without going over budget, make sure instructions are clear, and hire the right people to do the job.