What Is A Zinc Roof? (Pros, Cons, & Alternatives)
When you think of a type of roof, zinc probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind if you live in the United States. While 70% of Europe’s residential roofs are made of zinc, it’s not nearly as popular in the US. As roofing manufacturers in the US, we at Western States Metal Roofing keep a close eye on architectural design trends.
While we specialize in metal roofing and do not sell zinc panels, we have seen that there is a growing awareness of zinc’s many benefits that’s making it slowly become more recognizable in the US for roofing and wall panels.
Besides being striking in appearance, zinc panels can last for nearly a century. But while it does last longer than almost all other material types, it is also more expensive.
In this article, we will discuss:
- The Advantages of a Zinc Roof
- The Disadvantages of a Zinc Roof
- An Alternative Roofing Product Made To Look Like Zinc
Zinc Roof Advantages
There are many reasons why installing a zinc roof is a great idea, especially if you are a consumer that value’s quality. Zinc is a long lasting, sustainable material that does not require much attention after installation.
Zinc Roof Lifespan
Zinc is fire resistant, insect-proof, and a fungistat, meaning it prohibits the reproduction of mold, mildew and fungus.
Zinc Roof Patina
Similar to Copper, zinc goes through an oxidation process known as patina. A protective layer is formed on the zinc’s surface that protects from rust and weathering. If the surface is scratched, the patina will reform itself so the blemishes will no longer exist.
Highly Desirable Appearance
Zinc is regarded as being one of the most attractive roofing finishes. Part of this is also due to the patina process, where the roof will actually change color. Zinc starts out as a dark gray or almost black, and then changes over time to a light gray or blue color once it goes through the patination process.
Zinc Roofs Are Low Maintenance
Once you put on a Zinc roofing or wall system, there isn’t much else you need to do. Since the patina constantly renews itself, there is no need for aesthetic repairs. As long as the zinc panels are properly installed, there should be very little to no maintenance required.
Zinc Roofs Are Eco-Friendly
If you’re looking for a product that is environmentally friendly, look no further. Zinc is 100% recyclable and can be reused over and over again. It also uses less fuel to be created compared to other popular roofing products such as asphalt shingles.
Disadvantages Of A Zinc Roof
Zinc Roof Cost
If you’re only familiar with the cost of more commonly used roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles, prepare for some sticker shock. Zinc can run anywhere from $5 to $8 per square foot just in materials cost, $10 to $20 per square foot installed. The only roofing material that is more expensive than zinc is copper.
The Variables With Patina
Some people want zinc specifically for its patina appearance.While zinc will eventually patina, there is no definite timeline on when it will happen. It can be as quick as 2 years or take up to 30 years.
The length of time zinc takes to patina depends mostly on the climate, as the color change occurs more rapidly in damp and humid climates. Also, there is no guarantee on exactly what color it will become after the change and there might be some tonal variations throughout the zinc.
Zinc Roof Problems From Poor Installation
Just like with any other kind of roof, a zinc roof needs to be properly installed to avoid problems in the future. When the backside of the panels are left exposed to water repeatedly, corrosion can occur. Moisture can get trapped between the roof and the roofing deck if a non-breathable synthetic underlayment is used during installation. This ultimately results in mold and leaks.
It is always recommended to hire a licensed, experienced professional to avoid potential installation mistakes. Ask them if they installed a zinc roof.
If you’re getting ready to hire a roofing contractor, we suggest you first read:
Alternatives To Zinc Roofing
If you’ve been discouraged by the price of a Zinc roof, or aren’t sure you even want your roof to change color, there is another option.
Metal roofing panels that are painted to look like Zinc have similar benefits to Zinc and are more economical.
Metal Panels Have A Consistent Appearance
The panels are painted in colors that represent the various stages of Zinc: before, during, and after patination. By going this route, you are choosing the color you want your roof to be (painted panels do not change color) and do not have to worry about the finish not being consistent throughout.
Metal Is More Affordable Than Zinc Roof Panels
There is no question that metals panels cost less than Zinc panels. However, the amount of savings depends on which type of metal panel you choose. If you go with a more affordable metal panel, such as corrugated, you could save as much as 50% compared to Zinc.
Shared Advantages Of A Zinc Roof And Metal Roof
Since Zinc is technically a type of metal, the painted panels share similar qualities to Zinc panels.
Just like Zinc, metal panels are:
- Fire resistant
- Low Maintenance
- Long Lasting
While a metal roof does not have quite as long of a life expectancy as a Zinc roof (80- 100 years or more), it does provide value when it comes to longevity. A metal roof can last anywhere from 40-60 years with little maintenance, and will also include a warranty.
When To Use An Alternative To Zinc Roofing
Zinc is an excellent roofing choice for those with a larger budget that are looking for a product that will never have to be replaced.
If your budget isn’t as large and you don’t need something with quite the same longevity as zinc, then a metal roof that looks like zinc could be a better cost saving alternative.