Metal roofing offers a great variety of styles, materials, and colors. This guide focuses on color selection. — The item that every home owner can easily relate to.
Styles relate to the shape of the metal when installed on a roof, such as standing seam, corrugated panels, or tiles. Practically speaking, color considerations don’t matter to the style, though some styles will present slightly different colors and paint finishes.
Materials correlate with the type of metal, also called “substrate.” The popular choices for homes today are steel, aluminum, and copper. For the most part, we stick to steel and aluminum as the likely choice for most readers.
Our attention is on color. We’ll cover available options, general information on color, smart factors for selecting color and wrap up with some technical information dealing with the manufacturing of paint for metal roofs as it matters to the consumer (you).
Color choice may seem like a subjective decision, but our Guide presents (10) considerations that really shouldn’t be overlooked. There is an art and science that comes into play. Our goal is to make sure you are well versed in the considerations as well as related information.
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Surprisingly, many people think of metal roofs as having limited color options. Perhaps they think the color matches the type of metal. Silver for steel, tin and aluminum; reddish-brown for copper; dark gray for lead. As if those are the extent of the color options. With aluminum and steel, the options are a bit more than these few options. Actually, strike that. The options are limitless! The correct answer to: what are the available color options for a metal roof? All of them. All colors, hues and tints.
Instead of selecting among a few options, the homeowner actually has limitless options to choose from. In some ways, that may seem more daunting. The rest of the article will help simplify things. Well, at least until we get to the technical information.
Examples of Metal Shingle Colors
Typical Color Samples from a vendor
Contractors or metal roof vendors are highly likely to keep a limited amount of colors in stock. These are a mixture of popular choices as well as colors deemed best for metal roofs by manufacturers. If for any reason, none of their options appeal to you, there is always the possibility to order a custom-made color. Obviously, this would come with an additional cost as the contractor or vendor has to purchase it as a unique item rather than something they can buy in bulk.
Not so surprisingly, consumers tend to go with the colors that are in stock. These tend to vary from vendor to vendor. The hue changes slightly so as to provide a unique offering. Some colors may be nearly identical between two vendors, but have a different name. All part of the marketing and positioning of vendors in the marketplace. What you are unlikely to find from the specialty vendors (who stock metal roofing material specifically), is standard, or pure colors. Notice in the sample chart (above) there is no yellow, nor a bright green. While blue and red are present, the options in this set aren’t bright. Vendors tend to go with muted tones. The reason: brighter / flashier colors are ones that tend to fade fairly quickly. As, color choice is mostly subjective, there is no reason to think of any color as off limits. Just understand that the pros understand color at a level that the average person may not be aware of.
General Info Regarding Colors For Residential Metal Roofing
Think of this section as the precursor to the more technical considerations. We do our best to not overwhelm you with the finer nuances that deal with understanding color for metal roofs, though some of this will help before getting to our Guide (next section).
Copper is a choice of both material and color that is an exception to some general rules for color consideration. Homeowners who choose copper know the look they want. They also know it will fade to an entirely different color; going from its original reddish-brown hue to what is known as patina green. While all colors on a roof will eventually fade, none undergo the drastic change that comes from copper as the metal oxidizes with the air and changes appearance so significantly, over a 20 year period.
Most to all other modern metal roofs have color applied in a factory setting. These colors will inevitably fade to a different hue of the same color. How fast, and how much depends on factors that are noted in the last section of this article. The reality of color selection is that the color choice is only part of the decision that is being made. But again, it is the one that most people can relate to, and is the focus for this article.
Colors added to metal in a factory, will “bake the colors onto the materials.” In the technical section, we’ll provide more detail on how this all works. Another way color is applied to metal is by a contractor or even homeowner painting the metal roof after it has been installed. This is so atypical in today’s marketplace it is perhaps better left unsaid, except for the fact that at some point a roof’s color is going to fade and need a new coat. All things considered, metal roofs are a top notch choice as a roofing material, but a plausible drawback is that the color coating is going to last less time than the metal itself. Some would say that’s a good thing.
A few things to keep in mind with color for metal roofs are:
paint color consists of three properties:
pigment – think color/hue
resin – forms the desired appearance of the surface
solvent – the liquid part of paint, mostly evaporates as paint dries
fading – which we’ve already mentioned a number of times. Fading relates to pigment and how it changes based on elements interacting with it (namely sun and moisture).
chalking – is the whitish appearance a metal roof may obtain over a period of time. This relates to resin and the chemical breakdown of that material.
pure colors will fade faster than muted tones
type of materials in the paint determine how long the paint will last before it fades or chalks. The range is as little as 3 years (unusual, but happens) and as much as 40 years (what some warranties provide).
lighter colors will reflect heat, darker colors will absorb heat. With metal roofs, the material itself is a heat reflector.
This last point actually is a great time to mention Cool Roofs. This type of roof is gaining in popularity because of its energy efficiency. It is ideal for warmer climates, but not necessarily limited to particular regions. Though with the idea that darker roofs retain heat, that may be preferable in climates with colder months. Asphalt (shingle) roofs will trap heat, which helps explain part of the reason for their popularity. Whereas metal, typically reflects heat. With Cool Roofs, it both reflects heat and re-emits heat based on certain pigments used in the coating. So a term known as “emissivity” is used with regards to Cool Metal Roofs to measure the roof’s ability to shed absorbed heat.
But enough on the technical stuff. We’ll come back to that later. Now onto the main purpose for this article.
Color Selection Guide
Before we get going, we wish to emphasize that there is no inherently best color for a roof. Nor are we about to tell you the color options you should choose. Our guide is a list of considerations. Factors to hopefully help you make smart decisions in selecting color. Without further adieu, here are the 10 C’s for Color Selection:
Coordinating color with the rest of the house – this is an artistic factor. It can be as simple as matching roof color with say predominant color of bricks on the sides of the home, or with window trim, doors, etc. The art comes into play because a home with say all white siding, would possibly look awkward with a white roof as well. So, another C consideration is to find the right balance of contrast between your roof and the rest of the house. Here is an online color selection tool by Englert Inc. to help get a sense of how a roof’s color could be coordinated with the rest of your home. Include friends and family in your decision process to get their input. Who knows, perhaps a good friend has the knowledge on color coordination that you may not.
Curb Appeal – relates to how the home appears when viewed from the street. It takes into account nearby structures, which in residential areas means your nearest neighbors’ homes. Curb appeal asks questions like – does the home (and roof) stand out too much and look out of place? Or does it look bland and not really distinguished from anything around it? No right answers here, just what you as homeowner want. What are you going for? To blend in, or to stand out? Neutral colors for a roof, such as tan, white and gray tend to blend well with neighboring homes. Darker colored roofs are generally considered bold, yet also make homes appear smaller. Curb appeal allows you to use the illusion that color provides in a way that you want. To make the statement you wish to make with your home.
Complementing color with the environment – this is also an art and depends on a bit on the Curb Appeal factor, or what is it that is seen as near your roof? Is it trees? If so, keep in mind that trees tend to change color. Is it blue sky, which of course can change colors and gets dark at night. Think of this consideration as part 2 of coordinating colors. Make sure you don’t overlook what all you will inevitably be bringing the roof’s color together.
Climate – can be a factor in determining colors. This tends to vary by regions. Colder climates generally have darker roofs while warmer climates tend to have lighter colored roofs. Chances are a contractor will suggest color options that are typical to your region.
Conformity – this somewhat combines curb appeal and the climate factor. Conformity relates to how roofs in your extended neighborhood tend to appear. Then the decision of blending in with the neighborhood or the non-conformist approach to be unique. Again, no right choices here, though it is helpful to remember that neighbors tend to respect homes that achieve great color contrast without being overly bold. Give your neighbors something to talk about with you, rather than something they might talk about behind your back. Or just make the color statement you wish to make.
Cost – can’t forget this factor. If the colored roof is in stock from your vendor, then cost will likely be the same for all those that they readily provide samples for. But if you desire a custom color, then plan on the price going up. If it is a truly unique color, they’ll make it, but it could be a significant cost increase as they’ll possibly only make that color one time, for you and only you.
Capacity – read as function (but function doesn’t start with a C). Capacity relates to what the roof is intended to do, if anything. Do you, the homeowner, desire the roof to reflect sunlight, absorb it, or even re-emit it, as a Cool Roof does? (Hey there’s a C concept!) Capacity is likely a secondary concern for most consumers, but is an item of consideration because whatever color is selected the function will be intrinsic to the color.
Color Favoring – This has to be on the list as obvious way in which people do select color. It’s not the ideal approach, but is a possible criteria for color selection. If you’ve always favored a particular color over another, chances are you’ll want that in a roof. If the factors above this are all being considered, hopefully your favorite color is not the sole determination for selecting your roof’s color. Then again, it may be.
Careful Attention – Winding things up now. While careful attention is inherent to all the above items (except for #8), this is an item that needs extra emphasis. If you look at enough samples and enough hue variations, it is easy to lose focus on what is at stake in the decision. Color of a metal roof can easily be a decision you will live with for a generation, or most of your adult life. Careful attention means looking at color samples in more than one light. Not just indoors under fluorescent lighting, but outdoors under sunlight. Even outdoors in darkness. Or outdoors in the shade. Color of a roof will change with elements that have everything to do with when it is perceived.
Caveat – one last item to consider is that a metal roof can change color at any time. You could have it repainted to an entirely new hue, should you not be satisfied with the one you started with. You can’t readily do this with other roofing material. With metal it is an option. How soon you paint another color, if at all, is up to you. Just nice to realize this is an option when it comes to the color choice of a metal roof.
Manufacturing Paint Finish For Metal Roofs – Further Technical Points
The color is just one coat which is applied during factory application of paint to a metal roof. From a technical perspective, color is rather incidental. To a homeowner, it is very important as it matters to aesthetic quality of the home. Plus, it’s just easy to relate to. Because we wish for you to be as informed as possible, we are providing a bit more information regarding paint manufacturing and what goes into the process for baking colors onto metal roofs.
Metal roof manufacturers engage in a multi-step process to apply coats of paint to the metal surface. The process is very quick, allowing 500 square feet to be coated, or finished, in about a minute. They usually apply two coats, making the finish more durable. This enables them to provide a warranty with confidence, for how long the paint will last before it fades or chalks.
The metal (aluminum or steel) begins as flat sheets that are coiled on huge rollers. The sheets are fed into a large machine that uncoils the roll on one end and finishes by re-coiling the finished metal (coated with paint and other materials) at the other end of the line.
The first step is to clean the metal of all debris, oils and anything else that is possibly on the surface. Then the sheet goes to pre-treatment. This is a critical step. Pre-treatment chemically alters the metallic surface. Pre-treatment tends to have brand names like ‘galvanizing’ or galvalume. Primarily pre-treatment is coating the metal with a zinc phosphate material. Not only does this make it easier to add other coats of material to the metal, but provides what is known as a ’sacrificial layer’ to the metal. This is the layer that will handle any possible corrosion after the paint has started to wear or fade. The actual metal is protected via pre-treatment, and the zinc provides ability to observe corrosion or rusting of the metal roof, without it necessarily impacting the actual metal itself.
After pre-treatment a primer coat is added. Usually this is a polyester or acrylic material. Primer adds a layer of protection to make the metal roof even more resistant to ultraviolet light. Sunlight is arguably the number one factor when it comes to fading of a metal roof.
Pre-treatment makes it so the primer has something to stick to, and primer makes it so the paint has a layer to stick to more easily. The top coat(s) are the paint, or finish. Factories usually go with 2 layers of paint, but some may go with 3 to 5 total layers depending on the desired finish.
Pigment (color-related) material has variations that are organic and inorganic. To achieve certain colors, organic and inorganic pigments are blended together. Ceramic pigments are nowadays an industry standard, to produce a higher quality of paint. As a general rule, paint manufacturers tend to mix organic pigments with less expensive resins (see next paragraph) and ceramic pigments are blended with premium resins, though this is not a mandate in the industry.
Resin material is perhaps the bigger concern for a consumer as they will have direct relation to how long a warranty for the paint finish can be reasonably guaranteed. A fair guarantee for premium paints is 25 years. Fading could occur before that, but the overall consistency of the finish will remain strong during the full 25 years.
Polyester is a typical resin material that at one time fell out of favor, but now has premium versions available. Not really a high end resin material, but as you can imagine chemists in the industry are routinely seeking different combinations to find even more durable bonding agents, than what already exists.
Silicone polyesters are similar to Teflon material, and provide an extra gloss finish to a paint coat. They are also significantly more durable than traditional polyester material, but the gloss will fade before the paint does. Because of the more elegant finish to the finish and the superiority over traditional polyester resins, some of the manufacturers of this type paint base will boast warranties of 40 or even 50 years. The reality is closer to 25 years, but 35 is certainly possible.
PVDF is the state-of-the-art resin, and has been for a good 50 years running. This is a fluoropolymer material that is generally marketed as Kynar 500 or Hylar 5000. There are other brand names for it, but those are the most well known. Essentially, the base material must be at least 70% of the resin to be considered PVDF and then has a range of up to 30% which can be other chemicals to provide for a different finish or more durability. The Kynar and Hylar variations are the most popular chemical blends. PVDF is not known as a high gloss coating, but is known to have a ‘metallic finish.’
Additional coatings can be applied to form patterns on paint such as granules or other designs. These are customized options and tend to be atypical, but are options that several metal roofing vendors will offer.
We covered a lot of ground here. Hopefully you are better informed about color options for metal roofing. Careful attention to Color Coordination along with Climate and Capacity considerations are the items we would emphasize as top considerations for selecting a metal roof’s color. But now you have a fairly good idea on how metal color panels are manufactured along with additional considerations for selecting material. Remember, there is no limit to the color options available. While cost is an obvious factor for any home improvement decision, it is not really a main consideration for color selection of a roof. Thanks for checking out our Guide and here’s hoping your selection process comes through with flying colors! 🙂
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