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Metal shingles are steel or aluminum roofing material made to resemble traditional asphalt or wood shingles. They can be manufactured in panels or as individual shingles. The panel variety is usually 4 feet (1.2 m) long and can be installed over an existing roof. Though they might look similar, metal roofing shingles are quite different from other types of roofing shingles.
Steel or aluminum shingles can be made to look like wood shakes, tile or slate through the way in which they are formed and painted. Some metal shingles are textured and have multiple paint layers to make the shingles look more dimensional. They also might bear a stone texture to make the shingles resemble a more natural material.
Metal shingles also have a special topcoat to help reflect the sun's rays. This helps keep the roof, and thus the home, cooler. Homeowners could see a savings of as much as 40 percent in cooling costs. This natural cooling system is touted as one of the main benefits of installing a metal roof.
Another benefit of metal roofing is that it lasts longer than wood or asphalt shingles. Most manufacturers guarantee metal shingles for about 50 years, though some consider that a conservative estimate. By contrast, asphalt shingled roofs are expected to last about 17 years.
Metal shingles also are considered to have several safety features. Steel shingles are fireproof, which provides peace of mind for a homeowner and can result in lower insurance premiums. They also are able to withstand high winds better than asphalt shingles. Metal shingles also weigh less. At about one-seventh the weight of asphalt shingles, metal shingles put less weight and strain on a house's structure.
Installing a metal roof is different from installing an asphalt or wood roof. Some metal shingle manufacturers and distributors require roofing contractors take classes to learn how to install their specific product. This accreditation requirement combined with the specialized manufacturing techniques used to make metal shingles resemble traditional shingles contribute to the major downfall of installing a metal roof: the cost. Metal roofs usually cost about 30 percent more than an asphalt roof. This leaves the homeowners to decide whether the initial cost of a metal roof is worth its return on longevity and safety as well as a reduction in cooling costs.