Copper Metal Roofs: Pros & Cons, Installation Cost, Standing Seams and More

When you want something very high quality installed on your roof, copper is a great material to consider for a bunch of different reasons. It’s been used as a material for thousands of years and many different purposes. It’s definitely not the cheapest roofing material to go with, but it’s definitely one that will make your home stand out and make all your neighbors jealous.

If you’re ready to pay what it takes to have it installed, you’ll basically get a material that is like nothing else you’ve tried. We’ll also take a look at other metal roofing materials you could be considering, and see how they compare.

Beautiful copper roof

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Pros and Cons of Copper Roofing

Construction materials have a long way in the last couple of decades, and even in the last decade. Unlike with shingles, when you install a copper roof, you’re not going to be getting a type of roof that starts curling simply because it’s exposed to the harsh elements which is what the weather is.

Wood and other more vulnerable materials will start seeing roofing leaks rather quickly if not properly maintained, but even when the suggested maintenance is done to them, they’ll eventually start deteriorating, and once they do, you no longer have the beautifully looking roof that you once used to have. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of copper roofing that you should know about.

Pros

  • Durability – one of copper’s main advantages is that it is incredibly durable even when exposed to harsh weather elements. Proper maintenance is required with any type of material, but also here the material will fare significantly better than some of its competitors.
  • A protective patina – other materials will start deteriorating over time, while copper becomes even more durable over time as it creates the green, brown and black patina will simply help keep it better protected. The patina it develops creates a barrier that keeps the underlying material protected against the weather.
  • Competitively priced when looking over the long term – you might have to pay more right now to have it installed, but in the grand scheme of things, when you see all your friends replacing their roofs in 15 years, you’ll be happy you went with the more durable option that at that point starts looking very competitively priced.
  • Light – concrete tiles or slate are other materials that will weigh a lot more than copper, and it also creates certain requirements for the support of the whole house. When you start installing heavier materials, it means that roof trusses, rafters and the overall framing needs to be able to carry additional weight, and not all homes were built with that in mind. As a consequence, you won’t need to be spending the same amount on different construction materials, and this money could go towards a slightly more expensive roof.
  • Fire-proof – do you live in an area that is very dry, where the risk of fire is significant? Perhaps fore fires are common there. By installing copper, you’re helping protect your home from the danger of fire. With its heat threshold, your roof basically won’t even get damaged even if exposed to significant heat. That is not to say that the other materials on your home offer the same amount of protection.
  • Positive consequences on other materials – with the lower weight of this roof, you will also be seeing that other materials may deteriorate slower as a consequence too, yet additionally off-setting the higher initial cost of this option.
  • Less expansion and contraction than other roofing materials – when there are changes in the weather outside, this will affect construction materials that will expand and contract accordingly and this creates certain challenges for materials. Imagine what happens to nails used to position a board when that board expands and contracts. Eventually they will be likely to loosen.
  • Flexible – its availability when it comes to different styles of installation makes it a very flexible material that can be used and will look great on all different sort of buildings.
  • Doesn’t rust – metal is commonly known for the fact that it may rust, but copper doesn’t.
  • Good installation will make it last longer 
  • Sustainable – some materials will include all sorts of nasty glues and other things with very high levels of VOCs, and if those make it inside your home, the air quality will be significantly worsened as a consequence too. There’s a reason why people applying Polyurethane to wooden floors are wearing masks – that’s because they’d otherwise be exposed to high levels of VOCs.
  • Salt water will no longer be an issue – other types of roofs of will be severely affected when they’re being installed in environments with a lot of salt in the air, but since it doesn’t rust, copper is perhaps your best solution to go with in those circumstances. Although it does change color when exposed to salt water, it won’t cause it to deteriorate, simply develop a protective patina.
  • Recyclable – although it will last as long as it will, you can take the materials afterwards and recycle them. That includes everything from the gutters to the flashing, assuming they’re all made from copper.
  • Basically maintenance-free – you can choose to clean your roof if you want to but it’s generally not even necessary. It may help keep the roof looking fresh, but you won’t see deterioration the same way you would with other materials when they aren’t maintained.
  • You won’t need to worry about fungus and bacteria – other types of materials can develop fungus over time, but given the antimicrobial properties that copper naturally possesses, that won’t be the case with copper. Since they don’t develop either rot or mold, you’ll find that they’re also a lot easier to clean as a consequence, and rain water is usually sufficient to do the trick, whereas other types of material might require that you even bring out a power washer to clean them.
  • Great wind-resistance – shingles and other materials with a lot of seams may end up having trouble when there’s a lot of wind, but that’s just yet another reason why you should choose this material for your project.
  • Great earthquake-resistance – if there’s an earthquake, guess what is still going to stand strong afterwards. That’s right, your copper roof!
  • It’s beautiful – these roofs are elegant when compared to any other type of material, and when you have a structure, whether it’s commercial or residential, that should stand out, it’s an amazing material. When you’re really trying to improve the curb appeal of your home, this is a great, long-lasting material to go with.
  • Curb appeal improves the value of your home – with its many benefits, even if you’re considering selling the house at a later point, you will see the benefits from installing this roof, since it significantly helps increase the resale value.
  • Its ability to reflect the sun – rather than absorbing the energy from the sun, it reflects it which in turn helps keep your energy bill down as a consequence.

Cons

  • Noise – being a metal material, this is not the most noise-absorbing material you can go with, and you might therefore want to think of different possibilities to lower the nuisance from noise if you choose to go with this material. Sound-absorbing materials that can be used in combination with it therefore include solid sheathing and plywood.
  • The initial installation cost – if your out-of-pocket cost is a big concern, then there are other materials you can go with instead.

The pros clearly outweigh the cons when you want something that will set your house apart from the rest.

How Long Does a Copper Roof Last?

It’s one of the materials that has been used for roofs the longest, in part because it can last as long as it does. While there are churches and other buildings that have had copper installed on them, and they’ll last for centuries before they need to be replaced, you can usually expect them to last around 100 years. Not too bad, right?

In fact, when you ask contractors, they unanimously say that you shouldn’t be expecting the roof to last less than 75 years, which is significantly longer than alternatives such as asphalt shingles or wooden shingles that may often need to be replaced after as little as 15-20 years because can’t take the beating from the weather anymore.

When you see how it simply outlasts other types of materials with absolutely no comparison, you’ll also better be able to justify its higher price tag too. In fact, these roofs are sometimes even advertised as the last roof you’ll ever need.

My Copper Roof is Changing Color, What is Going on?

Pod Blacha Palace

The change in color of a copper roof is completely normal, and it doesn’t mean that anything bad is happening to your roof, nor does it mean that it is no longer providing the protection that your home deserves.

In wet and shaded conditions, other types of metal such as iron will start developing rust that causes deterioration. Instead of doing that, copper’s chemical change causes it to develop a protective coat, and the process that it takes will take it through a range of different colors such as brown, black and eventually make it turn green. While it will look different, it actually helps protect the metal underneath so that corrosion doesn’t happen.

When the roof has turned green, that is when it’s done developing the patina and that it is now ready to stand the test of time. There are different factors that will influence how long the process takes. The process of aging copper and turning it green will depend on factors such as the humidity it is exposed to. If you’re located in a climate that is very humid, you will start seeing it change color sooner. Are you in a very dry area, then the opposite is the case. The amount of pollution in the air and acidity of the rain will also all interact with the material and help turn it green faster.

The Availability of Copper Roofs in Different Styles

Since copper roofs come available in a range of different styles, and the consequence is that you get a type of material that can look great no matter what architectural style you’re hoping to make or currently have. The designer and corresponding contractor can create exactly the look you desire. It’s being installed on everything including statues, commercial roofs, and everything in between. You’re not even forced to use copper for the whole roof, but you can simply integrate it partially into the design. The only issue with that is when you’ll see that those other materials start deteriorating faster than the copper, and you’ll be disappointed you didn’t just go with copper for the entire project to start off with.

Here are the most popular styles that the material is available in:

  • Shingles – their relatively low cost makes them a popular option among homeowners, although still comparatively expensive. Shingles, no matter what type, are installed individually and by hand. Since copper is softer than other types of material, a contractor should be specialized in this installation to ensure that no damage arises as a consequence.
  • Panels – copper sheets are usually made in standard measurements and are installed by a pro. To avoid having the seams cause problems, they’re crimped, brazed or welded when installed. When they’re crimped you’ll get what is called a standing seam copper roofing.
  • Continuous – when you have something custom in mind, and budget isn’t much of a concern you can get a continuous copper roof that has been made especially according to your wishes and desires. You can get a roof that comes without joints or seams, which are traditionally the most vulnerable places, although you install this material when you want to leave an impression, and not because you want to save money on the installation.

Cost of Copper Roof Installation

When it comes to installing copper roofs, there is no set formula for how much it  will cost since more so than with any other type of material, your cost will depend on your individual choices. We can, however, provide you with some of the reported costs that home owners have been quoted  (psst remember how it’s free to get quotes from contractors on our site!)

What you need to know is that you will generally be spending no less than $4 per square foot for the material, going as high as $15, and then you need to get it installed too. To have an average copper roof installed, the overall cost will often end up around $30,000 or so, but you will get something really beautiful for it. The easiest way to get accurate quotes is by asking actual contractors.

Factors That Affect Roof Installation Cost

It’s important to consider the different  factors that will actually affect the installation cost.

  • The style – some styles are a lot cheaper to install than others, and you can easily lower the cost simply by making sure that you’re not choosing too advanced a style.
  • Your location – it’s not always easy to find pros that properly know how to make this type of roof, and it could also be that you’re located in a part of the country where it’s simply difficult to actually gain access to the material, which will increase the cost.
  • The size of the project – since the cost of material is traditionally sold by the square foot, more square feet of material will add up to a higher material, and therefore associated labor cost, too.

Because of its significant cost, a lot of people end up using the material simply for accents, flashing and parts of their project rather than the whole thing because of its protective properties.

How to Accurately Evaluate the Roofing Cost

While it might be tempting to simply look at the numbers at the bottom of the quote you’re getting from the roofing contractors and saying that that’s the final cost, the reality is that there are more factors that go into play than simply those things.

One thing you need to consider, that we already touched upon, is the durability of the roof. When you’re installing something that will only last you 20 years versus a material that will last 100, the difference in durability should be acknowledged. If you or your kids need to replace the roof in 20 years, will the cost per year of installation actually still end up being lower? When you start looking at what the cost is versus how many years it will be helping keep your home safe, you start making a more fair comparison.

Additionally, you need to think about the level of maintenance required since that needs to accurately be factored in also. With a roof made of copper, there will basically be no maintenance. However, wood siding requires either painting every 5-7 years or staining every 2-3 years. Now imagine what a wooden roof would cost in maintenance since it’s even more exposed to the direct effect than siding is. Once you start factoring in the need for maintenance, wood doesn’t necessarily look as economical anymore as it used to. Cedar siding and roofing is beautiful but very tiring for a homeowner that doesn’t appreciate doing maintenance around the home.

The Importance of Proper Installation

Roofing materials are only ever as good as they’re installed, and this material is no exception. You’re already spending a lot of money on the material, now make sure that it’s properly installed also. Metal roofing contractors will be the best people for you to team up with in order to ensure it’s done properly.

Copper Strips for Algae and Moss Control on Roofs

We already mentioned how the material has a bunch of advantageous anti-bacterial properties, and it’s even so much that a common practice is to use copper roof flashing to keep moss and algae away. Since it has a tendency to grow on bark, wood, soil and rocks when given the right conditions, it will need to be kept away from other types of roofing materials somehow. When you have one of those materials, and it’s humid without too much sun, you have the perfect conditions for these things to start growing.

That’s where copper strips come in handy because of its anti-bacterial properties since it is very effective at keeping moss away.

CopperCat

With the image above, you can see the benefits from installing copper strips, since it’s so effective at making sure undesired algae is kept away. The product is called Copper Cat, and as the rain water runs over the material, some of the advantages properties will be further carried down the roof. Using this method you might not entirely be removing algae, but you will at least be very much limiting how much of it will grow when you install this small addition along with other materials.

In areas that have a hard time drying, moss can become a serious problem that will eventually start causing damage to your roof. The moss helps keep the surface wet and leaks can start appearing too. This is a necessary addition if you do not choose to go with a full copper metal roof. It’s important to mention that if this addition is being retrofitted, it should be done on a clean roof first and that it also preferably should be installed by pros to ensure it’s done both properly and safely.

The strips are also installed as high up as possible, since they only protect the roof that is underneath it. You can usually expect a strip of material to protect 14 feet of roof below it, and if your roof is especially big, it could be worth it to also install the strips in the middle of the roof to make sure that the bottom is protected too.

While you can achieve the same results by using zinc, they won’t be nearly as effective.

Don’t Want to Have Your Copper Roof Turn Green From its Patina?

Copper roof

While the roof will traditionally turn green over time, there are ways to keep this from happening if you want to keep it looking as shiny as it was the day it was installed. The look of copper is very distinctive and that beautiful red color does not stay so for long by itself. You can apply coatings such as Everbrite, which keeps the coloring effects of weathering at bay. The good news is that you can even take a roof that already has developed this protective coat and restore the beautiful look.

Maintenance and Cleaning

If you’re fine with your roof developing this patina, you can honestly just leave it as is and the rain water will be enough to keep it clean. With the anti-bacterial properties, whatever would otherwise be able to grow on the roof simply will not, which is why we claimed previously that it’s practically maintenance-free. Other types, on the other hand, will require a yearly roof cleaning to keep things looking both beautiful and avoiding the devastating effects that moss can otherwise have.

If you do choose to clean your roof, you should make sure that the runoff doesn’t end up affecting the plants you have planted below it, which may prove difficult. Restoring the natural shine isn’t difficult if you clean it the right way, and then applying the protective coat afterwards will keep it so.

Natural Cleaning and Chemical Cleaning Solutions

All you need to do in order to get a natural cleaning solution is to mix 3 ingredients: 1 cup salt and white vinegar and 3 cups of lemon juice. The mix should be stirred until everything is dissolved and properly mixed. Start at the top of the roof with the solution and go downward.

A chemical solution on the other hand is Brasso. Use it according to the manufacturer’s specifications to restore the shine.

The issue is that you might very well end up damaging your roof if the process isn’t done properly, and our recommendation is therefore to not do it yourself, or at least consult with a pro in the process so that you don’t damage the finish. What you should know is that if you have a desire to keep your roof looking the same way as when it was installed, this will require periodic coating every few years. Copper roofs will keep providing protection for your home even if it isn’t coated, and many homeowners love that green color too that it will end up developing.

Did You Know the Statue of Liberty is Made of Copper?

Yes, that’s true. Something as iconic as the statue of liberty is in fact made of copper, and that’s why it has its distinctive green color. The amazing thing is that even if it has been so obviously exposed to the elements such as wind and rain, the damaging effects it has incurred have been so minimal. In fact, the more than 100 years of exposure to the elements has caused less than 0.005 inch of wear on the iconic statue, which is impressive for something that draws that many tourists.

We feel like if it’s sufficiently strong to withstand all of that, we’re also comfortable recommending copper for your roof!

New roof being installed