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Remodeling 101: Standing Seam Metal Roofs

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified May 30, 2014 01:11 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified May 29, 2014

When we surveyed members of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory for their favored roofing material, they readily responded. Did the recommendations vary: NO. Were we surprised: YES. Hands down, the go-to roofing material was standing seam metal. Here's the low-down on their choice. Above: A standing seam zinc roof on Tiina Laakonen and Jon Rosen's Hamptons compound featured in the Remodelista book ; architects Tim Furzer and Nandini Bagchee worked closely with the Tiina and Jon on the design. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista. What is Standing Seam Metal? Standing seam metal roofs are made of metal panels that extend from the top of the roof to the eaves. Each panel has a high lip or rib running up each side. The ribs overlap and fit together, concealing the fasteners and creating raised seams (thus, the name) that are visible from top to bottom. Standing seam metal roofs are not new. On the contrary, this style of metal roofing was used as early as the mid 1700s, and became more common in the mid 1800s thanks to the increased availability of copper. Today, the most common metals used are steel, aluminum, and copper (the most expensive).  The Benefits: Standing seam metal roofs are energy efficient, and reduce home energy costs especially in hot climates. Sustainable: most metal roofing contains a significant amount of recycled content, and metal roofs are 100-percent recyclable. Long lasting and durable (not to mention fire and wind resistant). While the upfront cost may be higher than composite shingles, metal roofing lasts upwards of three times longer (and maybe more). Most carry a 30- to 50-year warranty. Lightweight, reducing load-bearing structural costs. Metal roofs can often be installed directly over an existing roof, eliminating removal and disposal expenses and waste.  Metal roofs look trim and tidy, and are equally suited to barn-style, modern and traditional structures.  Above: At a cabin in Hansville, Washington,  Rohleder Borges Architecture  used a simple, gutterless, galvanized standing seam metal roof. The rainwater drips down to a bed of river rock below, providing storm water infiltration. Image by Cynthia Grabau Photography. Here's what the architects had to say: "Metal roofs are always a great, low-maintenance high-aesthetic option," says architect Andrew Borges. "We love metal for its crisp aesthetic and long-lasting functionality. Metal roofing has been around for quite some time and hasn’t really changed much in its application. The under layers have gotten more advanced, but in the end the metal itself is there for the ages—and recyclable when it has reached the end of its useful life."     Above: A historic Dutch colonial house in Ghent, New York, has an antique standing seam metal roof in black. Architect  James Dixon  matched the roofing material on the lower addition that his firm designed. "Our favorite standing seam metal roofs are galvanized aluminum and (when budget allows) copper," says architect  James Dixon . "Not only do these look great, but they're extremely durable. Many of the old barns throughout the Northeast have these roofs, and when I redid my 18th century farmhouse, it was my top choice. Because of its durability, metal roofs make a great green choice. Shake roofs are lovely, but the material available today only lasts about ten years or so, compared to thirty-plus for metal."   Above: Metal roofing can be partnered with existing shake or composite roofs. Here, a porch with a galvanized aluminum standing seam metal roof stands below a shingled roof. James Dixon notes that standing seam metal are a great choice for porches, which often have flatter pitches: "the snow just slides right off."  Above: Todd Hansen of  Albertsson & Hansen  in Minneapolis uses a variety of materials for roofing, including Galvalume or Bonderized standing seam metal roofing, as shown in this cabin on Cable Lake in Wisconsin. The firm also uses asphalt and metal in combination, applying the metal to the low pitched area. In areas where heat is a consideration, like California's wine country, seamed metal roofing is the first choice for architect  Amy Alper . Metal roofing reflects sunlight, preventing the roof from absorbing heat into the house, and, as a result, less energy is required to cool the indoor space.    Above:  Lake Flato Architects  of San Antonio often use standing seam metal roofs (as pictured in this Pine Ridge cabin) because they're long lasting, require little maintenance, and are available in a wide range of material options: in addition to the familiar steel, aluminum, and copper, these include weathered steel and zinc. Image by Paul Hester.     Above: This Austin hillside house by Lake Flato Architects features a standing seam metal roof made with paint grip steel. Image by Aaron Leitz. "Since we often work in mild climates, we love the look of uncoated paint-grip steel," says Rebecca Bruce, an architect with Lake Flato . "Paint grip is steel that has been dipped in a phosphate bath to make it ready for painting, and thus the name. It has a great matte finish that is similar to weathered zinc, but it is much less costly." Above: Seattle architects  Suyama Peterson Deguchi  topped this San Juan Island retreat with a vaulted zinc standing seam roof shell. Image by Paul Warchol. Ric Peterson of  Suyama Peterson Deguchi  chooses zinc roofs whenever possible. "Zinc is possibly a lifetime solution if detailed and installed correctly. Not a housing fashion, zinc stands the test of time and is great aesthetically," he says. Los Angeles architect John Dutton agrees: "The king of roofs for us is Rheinzinc . A nice thing about the metal roof is you can do an integrated gutter." Are you an urban dweller in search of a green roof? See Christine's recent Hardscaping 101: Green Roofs on Gardenista, as well as  Favorite Summery Green Roofs in the City .  Fixing up your place? Have a look at all our Remodeling 101 posts. 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