Clichés work because they’re true. Like, “you get what you pay for.” When it comes to a metal roof vs. shingles, that cliché is as true as it gets. Being metal roofing pros, we’re used to the sticker-shocked reaction metal roofing prices may receive, but then our customers hear about 50-year warranties and the potential insurance savings and energy conservation, and how safe metal roofs are in storms and against wildfires. Because, yes, you get what you pay for.

Metal Roof vs. Shingles – What Influences the Price?

Metal roof vs. shingles

Influences on the Overall Cost of a New Roof (Metal or Asphalt Shingle):

To start, there are a number of influences that will affect metal roofing materials and traditional asphalt shingles equally relative to base material cost. Those items don’t really effect the metal roof vs. shingles debate too much, and those are:

  1. Geographic Location: For starters, the state you’re in may cost more than another state and this is due to things like shipping, state taxes, material costs, fees, and so on. City dwellers pay more for installation as there may be more permits, parking costs, storage and other fees to take into consideration. Labor costs, though, is what dramatically varies place to place – installing a roof in San Francisco will have far more labor incurred than in Cedar Rapids or Louisville.
  2. Roof Design: The complexity of roof design increases price because it requires more labor and potentially has more waste, too, because of angles and cuts. Roof design even affects things like how easily the contractor gets up on the roof, hoisting the material up, where they can work, how easily they can do their job, and on it goes.
  3. Stripping and Disposal: Roofs have a limit to the weight they can handle, and some materials are restricted as to what surfaces they can go over. You may need to strip the old roof, and then it needs to be disposed of, and the dumping will have its fees too. But if your home is on the young side and there’s only one roof surface up there, it’s conceivable that the new roof can be installed right over the existing roof, which can save some money too.
  4. Labor: This is the X-factor in pricing a job, because it’s so different in every situation – risk factor, complexity, parking, getting materials in place, weather – and each criterion impacts price. The type of installation, like on a batten-mounted system, can even make labor pricier than the materials (but the good news is, batten mounts are uncommon for residential homes). As mentioned above under “geography,” labor costs vary tremendously depending where you are. That roofer in Cedar Rapids makes between $24,600 to $49,800 salary per annum, according to ZipRecruiter, versus the San Francisco roofer who earns between $31,600 and $66,700 – and it’s the customer who pays the difference.

Influences on the Cost of a Metal Roof:

  1. Panel Type: A few factors here influence pricing but the big two are whether panels are overlapping or interlocking, and if they’re interlocking, whether they interlock on all four sides or not. With more folds and cuts, the designing and production of interlocking panels is more expensive, and they take up more room in shipping, hence their higher prices. But they look great and are frequently higher-quality metal, too, for a longer life on your roof.
  2. Substrate: Closely related to the panel type (above). What type of metal is probably the biggest cost influence next to roof size and labor, because different metals have different life expectancies. Aluminum and galvanized steel are the big players in residential roofing because their cost versus value is high and they provide great return on the investment. Other products that perform exceptionally well are copper, zinc, and stainless steel, but they’re cost-prohibitive for the average home and tend to be used more rarely.
  3. Underlayment Choice: Overlooking this is a big mistake because underlayment is integral to the well-being of the metal cladding and everything that’s underneath the roof. This is the critical water and element barrier, and the better quality your investment here, the more security you’ll have – but also less noise from rain and hail, and more energy conservation. You get what you pay for.
  4. Coating or Finish: It’s easy to get caught up in how much curb appeal a roofing product may have, but the finish is far more than just another pretty face. Polyester-based finishes are budget-friendly but they don’t have the longevity of the more expensive PVDF formulas that are well-loved by roofing pros for their fade resistance, their adhesion and their long lifespans.

Why is Labor More for Metal Roof vs. Shingles?

Asphalt shingles need good installation too, of course, but it’s much simpler and faster to do than a metal roof – lay ‘em down, bang them in. The nailed-on aspect of asphalt is a budget-saver. Metal, on the other hand, is more precise, requires accurate measures, takes some special tools, and tends to require more industrial know-how – especially in regions where hurricanes and wildfires may exist.

A metal roof can literally take two to three times more work to install than asphalt, and that’s why it’s more costly on the install. Add in more dormers, skylights, funky angles, and other complexities, and the price goes higher still.

More is Less: Materials

Home size influences pricing for metal roofs too, because the smaller your home is, the more you might pay per square foot for the job overall. The larger the job, the lower the material price tends to drop per square foot, especially for standing seam metal roofs.

Average Pricing for Metal Roof vs. Asphalt Shingle

Let’s say you’ve got a roof of 2,300 square feet that needs to be finished, since that’s the median size home in the United States (based on new construction between 2000 and 2019). Prices below are for materials only and do not include include installation costs due to the geographical fluctuation of that cost.

Metal Roofing

You’re looking at anywhere from $2 per square foot of economy metal roofing up to as much as $4 per square foot for standing seam. Pricing based on June, 2021 prices on Multipurpose metal panel and 16″ Standing Seam Minor Rib material and include warranty, delivery, underlayment and trim.  

For a 2,300-square-foot metal roof, the materials cost could be between $5,212 and $9,402.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingle roofs, on the other hand, run about $1 – $2.50 per square foot of material.

For a 2,300-square-foot asphalt shingle roof, the materials cost could be between $2,300 to $5,750.

Metal Roof vs Shingle Cost Conclusion:

The answer is, based on the 2,300 square foot home in the United States, that initial cost for a metal roof is approximately $2,900 to $3,652 more than asphalt shingle roofing for the material.  However…

Asphalt Shingles are Cheaper Up Front, but Metal is a Better Long Term Value

Remember the cliché we started with?  “You get what you pay for.”   Here’s where that comes in…

Life Expectancy

Say you get the high end of asphalt roofing, the pricey product with “50-year life expectancy” – you’re looking at around $6,000 for that same 2,300-square-foot roof material. But asphalt, unlike metal, degrades as it ages. The marketers may say it’ll last 50 years, but its efficacy against fire and wind, even rainstorms, will decline dramatically with each decade. Asphalt is a 20- to 30-year roof in most BEST cases, whatever the marketing materials may say – and the home’s resale value in year 25 will reflect that, even on “50-year” asphalt shingles.  If you go to sell your home that has a 20-year old asphalt shingle roof, it’s a good bet that the buyer will ask for that to be replaced or at least a discount on the asking price of your home.

Metal, though, has been proven to last decades – and newer innovations have made metal roofs tougher than ever. A 50-year metal roof will indeed last 50 years if well-cared for (and, in fact, is expected to exceed 60 years!). 60 years is a long time to not have to worry about roof replacement.

Metal Roofing Aesthetics

If you want that traditional asphalt shingle or architectural shingle look, there are metal shingle options available that are great options.  Many of these options can be HOA approved as well.  Metal shingles offer the same cost and quality options as do metal panels.

Metal: More Than Just a Roof

For homeowners undecided on metal versus asphalt, consider these questions:

  • Do you need superior energy conservation –heat to stay in during the winter and out during the summer? The energy efficiency of metal roofs are proven to save more on energy bills  than any other roof, and they can save you 25% on energy costs versus asphalt. If you’re in a warmer climate with fewer winter woes, metal roofs can save 40% on energy costs in the summer! Add that savings up over 25 or 50 years, see how that affects your cost comparison.
  • Do you live in a wildfire region? During 2018’s Carr Fire in California, a metal-roofed home with fire break and other smart planning was the only home left standing when more than 1500 structures went up in flames. FEMA and other agencies recommend metal roofs for regions with wildfire seasons. (Note: Metal roofs work, but must be properly installed with great attention to eaves and soffits and other points of vulnerability.)
  • Do you get a heavy snow? Metal roofs are famous for their ability to shed snow and retain heat in cold zones.
  • Do you live in an area with high winds or hurricanes? No roofing product withstands winds better than metal, period. The most expensive architectural shingles, installed with six-inch nails might stand up to a standing seam metal roof, but that’ll cost around the same as a metal roof.
  • Do you suffer regular hail? Shingles are surprisingly susceptible to hail damage, especially if you’re looking at the budget-friendly 3-tab style, which are noted for getting significant damage from quarter-size hail before the roof is even eight years old. Metal roofs, on the other hand, take a beating from hail without even flinching. Cosmetically, it may get a few dings on lower-gauge metal, but the dings will seldom, if ever, damage the metal roof’s ability to protect you from the elements.

So, Should You Get a Metal Roof or Asphalt Shingle?

Only you know if it’s a great choice for your housing style or your region, but we think there’s a case for metal roofs in nearly every town in North America.

If you’re planning on selling your home in the next five to 10 years, you’ll make up to 6% more on resale value with a metal roof versus an asphalt roof. Granted, if you’re in a windstorm or wildfire region, your roof needs to stay intact that long for that to compute, but having a metal roof is a great step in that direction.

But all we can say about metal roofs and their cost effectiveness is that you really do get what you pay for. With pro installation, a high-quality metal roof is conceivably expected to last over 60 years (and just a “good” metal roof should get you 35-40 years!) That’s 35 to 60 years of reduced energy costs, potential energy savings, and low maintenance. You can bet that adds up, too.

So, the question is, really, when do you want to save money? Now, or for decades to come?

Pro Tip: If negotiating a contract on the roofing job, be sure to look at any clauses regarding leftover materials. Many contractors will include language stipulating that any leftover materials are theirs to do what they want with. If you can properly store the excess, it may be worth it to you to negotiate to keep some of the excess for future projects or for damage that could incur from a tree limb falling, etc.