How Hurricanes and Wildfires Drive Demand for Metal Roofing and Why?

Demand for metal roofing is rising because there is compelling evidence it offers better protection from hurricane winds, hail storm strikes, and airborne embers from wildfires landing on the roofs of homes and commercial buildings.

A standing seam metal roof on the house surrounded by dense forest trees

That theory has been tested in 2017 as the hurricane season has been among the worst in recorded history and wildfires in the West destroyed more than 8,400 structures in California alone and damaged countless more.

Related: How to Deal with Roof and Home Damage from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

About the forest fire season, Chris Wilcox of the National Interagency Fire Center said, “This one has been a longer season. It really hasn’t stopped since the fall of 2016”.

Eagle Creek wildfire burns as golfers play at the Beacon Rock Golf Course in North Bonneville, Washington. REUTERS/Kristi McCluer

Let’s review the advantages of metal roofing using fire and wind data that supports the rise in demand.

Metal Roofing vs. Fire Flames

Max A. Moritz, fire ecologist at UC-Berkeley, when discussing fire prevention says, “The most effective thing to consider is the roof.” Metal roofing has a Class A fire rating, the highest available. Roofing given this rating must withstand flames up to four hours and resist tests using 15 cycles of gas flame turned on and off.

While other materials including fiberglass mat composite asphalt shingles have a Class A rating, nobody in the industry suggests asphalt roofing materials offer the same level of protection against fire driven by wind.

The FEMA paper states, “Some roofing materials, including asphalt shingles… are often less resistant to fires than others. When wildfires spread to homes or businesses, it is often because burning branches, leaves, and other debris buoyed by the heated air and carried by the wind fall on roofs. If the roof of your property is covered with wood or asphalt shingles, you should consider replacing them with fire-resistant materials such as standing-seam metal roofing.”

When finished with PVDF-applied Kynar coating, standing-seam metal roofing meets the American Society for Testing and Materials ASTM-84 building materials test Zero Flame Spread Index and Zero Smoke Developed Index, tests most other roofing materials cannot meet.

Metal Roofing vs. Wind

Is metal roofing better in wind too? The distinction isn’t as great for one important reason: To be a better choice in high-wind areas, metal roofing must be properly installed. Therefore, there is more “human error” involved in metal roof failure. When properly installed, there is evidence that it is a superior choice to asphalt shingles, wood shakes and tiles of various materials.

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In its paper on Metal Roof Systems in High-Wind Regions, FEMA addresses recommended practices for installing residential and commercial metal roofing where wind gusts of 90+ MPH are possible.

Specifically, according to FEMA, “Damage investigations have revealed that some metal roofing systems have sufficient strength to resist extremely high winds, while other systems have blown off during winds that were well below design wind speeds.”

The paper refers to buildings with metal roofing that remained in place during the 170-MPH winds of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The key, according to FEMA, is to follow manufacturer’s installation instructions and to calculate wind loads using the Applied Technology Council’s ASCE 7 Windspeed test for determining the best method to install metal roofing.

Anecdotally, Huffington Post reported after Hurricane Irma in September 2017 that, “Stringent building codes in Key West, FL helped the city, with new buildings having minimal damage because they featured metal instead of shingle roofs.” It’s not just protection against the wind uplift that is important. Once a roof is compromised, the underlying structure is exposed to hurricane rains that make homes and buildings a total loss in many cases.

Growing Demand for Metal Roofing

Do the statistics show a relationship between metal’s performance in natural disasters, people’s perspectives and a rise in demand for metal roofing? It appears that protection against fire and wind are among the reasons for the industry’s growth.

Freedonia Marketing Group reported in October 2017 that demand for metal roofing in residential and commercial building construction is projected to grow by 2 percent per year through at least 2021. While that might seem a modest gain annually, it projects to 10 percent in five years.

If the trend continues as expected, the gains will be multiplied over 10, 15, 20 years and beyond. One reason for the gains, according to the report, was that, “the heaviness and durability of metal roofing products make them highly resistant to the damaging effects of hurricanes and severe storms.”

An independent study conducted by Dodge Data Analytics on behalf of the MRA shows that metal roofing grabbed a 14 percent market share in residential applications, up 75 percent from 2014 when it stood at just 8 percent.

Between 2015 and 2016, the total demand for metal roofing increased from 17.7 million squares to 19.4 million squares. Metal roofing is second only to asphalt shingle roofing in the remodeling market.

Dodge Data Analytics study reviewed a variety of metal roofing products, including: vertical ribbed panels, metal shingles and shakes, copper and zinc.  The study examined metal roofing activity across nine U.S. Census regions.

Key findings include:

  • The metal roofing market share in the remodeling market has increased in six of the nine Census regions, with gains ranging between 2 to 9 points.  The Pacific, East South Central and Mid Atlantic regions show advances in metal roofing greater than 6 points.
  • The region with the largest market share is the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) with 30% of homes being re-roofed with metal.
  • In the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New England) data reveals that metal roofing increased 3 points to 12% market share.
  • The East North Central region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin), data shows metal roofing increasing 4 points to 13% market share.
  • Asphalt had a 64% market share in 2015 and it is now just 59% in 2016.
  • Twenty-nine percent of homeowners reported that they selected metal roofing because it was attractive, while 20% reported metal roofing to be a good investment that added value to their homes.  Longevity (18%) and strength and protection (17%) were also attributes cited for choosing metal.
  • Standing seam metal roofing is most popular in the East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) at 96%.  In the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington), and the Mountain region (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming), shingle shake tile is the most popular metal roof choice for homes.

In the Roofing Contractor 2017 State of the Industry Report sponsored by roofing giant GAF, 62 percent of all roofing contractors indicated their metal roofing sales have been higher in 2017.

Should Your Next Roof Be Metal?

Metal is the obvious choice where wildfires threaten. It also makes sense where high wind speeds are possible from tropical storms, hurricanes and straight-line winds. However, be sure to choose an experienced metal roofing contractor that will follow installation instructions carefully.

If you’re looking for more reasons to consider metal, it’s a 30-50 to 100-year roof instead of the typical 15-25 years lifespan offered by asphalt.

Metal roofing is energy efficient, with its environmental pedigree improved because it is fully recyclable, too.

At RoofingCalc.com, we’re not pushing for metal vs. asphalt, but we do want the homeowners to be aware of its benefits for comparison to other roofing materials. For more information on metal roofing, see our detail guide here: https://www.roofingcalc.com/metal-roofing-buying-guide/


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