Top 10 Surprising Standing Seam Metal Roof Facts You MUST Know!

If you are one the savvy homeowners considering a new standing seam roof as an alternative to shingles, then read on to learn the top 10 things you MUST know about standing seam metal roofs before ultimately making a buying decision.

  1. Standing Seam is the Most Expensive Metal Roof System
  2. Types of Standing Seam: Architectural and Structural
  3. Batten Seam, Curved Panels, Insulated Metal Panels
  4. Snap-Lock vs. Field Locked Standing Seam
  5. Standing Seam Panels Expand and Contract
  6. Oil Canning and How to Prevent it
  7. Metals and Alloys
  8. Paint Finishes and Colors: Avoiding Peeling Paint
  9. Standing Seam Cost vs. Asphalt
  10. Standing Seam for Solar Panels

1. Most Popular and Expensive Type of Metal Roofing


Standing seam is one of the most popular types of metal roofing for homes and commercial applications thanks to its superior durability, longevity, and energy efficiency. It’s available in many different profiles, metals and alloys, and features a wide variety of standard and premium Cool Roof colors.

Of all the available metal roof profiles, standing seam is by far the most expensive system due to the amount of material (the actual metal content) used in the sheet metal panels and relative installation complexity, especially on more complex roof styles with various angles, dormers, skylights, valleys, etc.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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2. Types of Standing Seam: Architectural and Structural


There are two main types of standing seam panels: residential or architectural and commercial or structural. Architectural standing seam panels designed for home roofs aren’t nearly as strong and rigid as the structural standing seam panels designed for commercial applications.

Residential standing seam panels use thinner gauge sheet metal, cost less, and typically require a solid substrate or deck sheathing such as wood boards or plywood.

Structural standing seam panels are more rigid and can be used in commercial applications with no solid roof deck sheathing, thus eliminating the extra expense associated with installing the underlying roof deck. In other words, structural panels are strong and rigid enough to serve as part of the roof structure.

3. Batten Seam, Curved Seam, Insulated Metal Panels


Batten seam are the type of standing seam panels that don’t require a solid substrate but rather they can be installed over wood battens, which makes them sort of like the structural standing seam panels.

One advantage of batten seam vs. traditional architectural standing seam is that batten seam installation method naturally creates air pockets between the roof deck and the metal panels. The air pockets can provide an additional layer of insulation and help facilitate air circulation.

Curved standing seam panels are designed for curved shapes on both residential and commercial roofs. These panels are typically made to order at a custom sheet metal fabrication shop with access to a specialty Radius Machine that can curve the metal sheets based on the specs provided by the architect. Pre-curved and prefabricated panels can also be shipped from a factory by the manufacturer.

Insulated metal panels are standing seam panels that have a layer of insulation specifically designed for the shape of the panels. These panels are more costly and more energy efficient than traditional panels. Insulated metal roof and wall panels are typically used in commercial projects, but they could also be used in larger residential developments, whether it be new construction or retrofit applications.

4. Snap-Lock vs. Field Locked Standing Seam


All standing seam panels have a locking mechanism that creates the raised seam. The locking mechanism can be either snap-lock, where the lock is activated when the two panels are snapped together, or it can be a field-lock that requires special tools to adjoin and lock the two panels in place in-field.

Snap-lock standing seam panels typically cost more per panel in terms of material costs but are easier and less costly to install than field-lock panels that require special tools and more knowledgeable installer. Field-locked standing seam panels are typically more durable and overall, more costly than snap-lock metal panels.

5. Standing Seam Panels Expand and Contract


Sheet metal panels will expand a contract with temperature changes, which requires that the installers take into account the thermal movement of the panels and allow for this movement due to the expansion and contraction of the metal.

The greater the length of the panels the more movement there can be due to temperature changes and the resulting expansion and contraction of the metal.

6. Oil Canning Effect and How to Prevent it


Oil canning is a common cosmetic effect of metal panels canning or bulging, often due to expansion and contraction of the sheet metal panels. Oil canning is more frequent in wider standing seam panels. It can be quite unsightly and appear out-of-place on an otherwise great-looking metal roof.

Fortunately, oil canning is mostly a cosmetic annoyance, not a faulty installation or any sort of defect with the panels, but it can detract from the curb appeal of the roof.

The easiest way to prevent oil canning is to use a mid-panel rib stiffening technique that provides additional strength and rigidity to the metal panels. It requires more metal and costs more but is probably well worth the money if you want to avoid the unsightly oil-canning effects.

7. Metals and Alloys: Aluminum, Steel, Zinc, Copper, and More

Metal roofs are available in a wide variety of metals and alloys like steel, aluminum, zinc, copper, titanium, terne aka tin, and stainless steel.

Steel is one of the most widely used metals for residential metal roofing. Typically, as a homeowner, you have a choice of two types of coated steel panels: G-90 galvanized steel (zinc coated steel) and Galvalume (zinc and aluminum coating).

If you live near the coast or have a beach house you want to outfit with a metal roof, then we recommend going with Galvalume steel as it will provide far better performance in the salt spray environment thanks to the combination of zinc and aluminum.

One advantage of G-90 galvanized steel is that it costs slightly less than Galvalume. Galvanized steel is also self-healing thanks to the zinc coating, meaning that when panels are cut or inadvertently scratched, any cuts or scratches will self-heal.

Learn more about the pros and cons of galvanized and Galvalume coated steel here: https://www.roofingcalc.com/galvalume-vs-galvanized-steel-roofing/

Aluminum panels are a step up from steel, as aluminum will provide an even better protection against corrosion. It’s more expensive than steel, but the difference in price between the two is not all that significant when you take the actual installation costs into account.

Zinc is a premium metal that can be used in some of the harshest environments on earth including heavy salt spray marine environments. With a proper installation, a zinc standing seam roof can last well over 70-100 years and will probably get replaced due to aesthetics rather than failing outright.

Copper is the gold of metal roofing. It looks like gold and costs more than any other metal used in roofing. Copper is known for its beautiful patina and superior longevity that can span 100s of years. Due to its high cost, copper is rarely used for roofing on the entire roof. However, copper can often be used for roof accents, bay windows, valleys, and chimney flashing.

Tin or Terne is typically steel coated with terne (TCS – Terne Coated Steel). It costs slightly more than Galvalume steel and is designed to mimic the look of the traditional tin roofs from way back.

Titanium is a premium metal that is mostly used in high end governmental and commercial projects. Due to its high cost, it’s rarely (if ever) used in residential roofing applications (and only on custom homes).

Homeowners wanting a premium metal roof will often opt for zinc due to its lower cost and wider availability of available standing seam profiles.

Stainless Steel is a premium metal alloy that is mostly used in high-end commercial projects. Residential use is not common due to prohibitively high cost. This is another area, where zinc roofing gets to shine, as it sits in the “sweet spot” for relative affordability and ultra-premium performance.

8. Paint Finishes and Colors: Avoiding Peeling Paint


There are mainly two kinds of paint finishes for painted standing seam metal roofs: premium and basic. Premium quality paint finishes include PVDF resin coatings like Kynar 500 or Hylar 5000. Kynar 500 coating comes with a 30-year warranty for paint finish protection. — This additional layer of protection from Kynar 500 paint finish, is what enables steel and aluminum standing seam roofs to achieve longevity exceeding 50 years.

Many standard and premium colors used on standing seam metal panels finished with Kynar 500 paint are often rated by the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC) as CoolRoof rated colors because they can reflect solar radiant heat, delivering energy savings to you, the homeowners. CRRC meet the stringent Los Angeles County CA Title 24 Building Code requirements.

Not every project merits a high-end standing seam metal roof with Kynar 500 paint finish. For low-priority projects, there are less-costly standing seam panels coated with the “cheaper” polyester paint finish.

Peeling paint on standing seam panels

Steel standing seam panels finished with polyester paint will not achieve the 50-year longevity mark, as the paint finish will peel off in about 10-15 years, exposing steel and reducing the overall longevity of the panels.

9. Standing Seam Cost vs. Asphalt


Standing seam is a premium roofing option that costs approximately two to three times more than composition shingles. The overall difference in cost depends on the actual project difficult and scope, the type of metal panels being used, etc.

Expect to pay between $10.50 and $16.50 per square foot for a premium standing seam metal roof vs. $4.00 to $7.50+ for architectural composition shingles roof.

Estimated Roof Costs (1,700 sq.ft.)
Asphalt Shingles
Metal Roofing
Flat Roof
$7,500
$14,500
$8,225
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The difference in cost between the two systems is not just due to the higher cost of sheet metal panels, but also due the higher installation costs (professional labor cost).

The difference is akin to a highly trained and certified mechanic working on your car’s engine or brakes (for standing seam) vs. an oil change laborer changing your oil and filter (for asphalt shingles that can be installed by untrained laborers).

Standing seam panels generally take longer to install, especially on architecturally complex roofs with multiple dormers and valleys. Standing seam metal roofs can only be installed by specially trained and experienced installers, which means the system has much higher input costs for both, the cost of materials (sheet metal panels) and installation.

However, a quality standing seam roof is considered a lifetime roofing system designed to last for 50 years vs. compared to the typical lifespan of 20 to 25 years for asphalt.

That said, while the initial upfront cost of standing seam is significantly higher than shingles, the overall lifecycle cost of standing seam metal roof can actually end up being lower than shingles, if you take the ongoing need to re-roof with asphalt shingles into account.

Another point to consider is that premium metal roofs like standing seam can deliver superior energy efficiency and hence savings on home cooling costs during peak cooling season in the summer months.

There is hardly any maintenance ever needed for standing seam metal roofs, which is not something that can be said for asphalt shingles, especially after major storms/hurricanes and hailstorms.

The curb appeal and property value appreciation are two more lasting benefits in favor of standing seam.

10. Standing Seam for Solar Panels

A premium color standing seam metal roof with solar panels

As you know, congress has recently extended the federal solar investment tax credit rebate to homeowners who want to install a solar power system.

Most PV solar power systems today are comprised of photovoltaic solar panel arrays that get mounted on the rooftops of homes and buildings.

The solar panel installation process entails drilling holes directly in the roof surface, and then relying on silicone caulk to protect the roof from leaks in the future. As you can probably imagine, drilling holes in the asphalt shingle roof can compromise the integrity of the roofing system. It can also potentially void the shingle manufacturer’s warranty.

Going solar is one are where standing seam metal roofs can truly shine because there is no need to drill any holes in the roof when installing solar panels. The solar panels can be attached directly to the raised seams of standing seam panels with the help of S-5 mounting brackets.

With the help of S-5 brackets, standing seam panels can also provide an ideal platform for mounting solar thermal panels for both passive and active solar hot water systems.

No holes in the roof means that you can have a piece of mind that your roof will not develop leaks down the road due to silicone caulk drying out.

Another point of consideration for homeowners going the solar route is the weight of solar panels. Solar panels are heavy and so are asphalt shingles. For example, CertainTeed Landmark Premium shingles designed to deliver superior durability and longevity can weigh over 300 pounds per square (100 square feet of the roof surface). That’s a lot of weight for the roof frame to support when you take into account the added weight of solar panels.

Standing seam metal panels are lightweight compared to asphalt, which is an important point to consider for the overall structural integrity of the roof (and its frame) when designing a solar panel system that will last the full length of its intended lifespan of 25-30 years.


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