8 Ways to Maintain a Metal Roof

a red metal roof with a blue sky in background

There’s nothing quite like the sound of summer rain hitting a metal roof. Metal roofs are durable, energy-efficient, and low-maintenance, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require some TLC now and then. There are eight ways you can maintain your metal roof to make it last longer. 

What is Metal Roofing?

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According to experts, metal roofing is the second most preferred roofing material in the U.S., and its popularity continues to rise. Metal roofing is a broad category covering a range of materials and styles

Metals like aluminum, zinc, tin, and galvanized steel are cost-effective and low-maintenance options, while copper offers a unique appearance for a high-end metal roof. 

There are two dominant types of metal roofs – standing seam and stamped metal roofing. 

Standing Seam Metal Roofing Systems

Standing seam roofing systems are extremely easy to install, comprising an underlayment with large, vertical metal roofing panels joined by interlocking seams. The concealed fastener system allows for increased durability and a seamless aesthetic.    

Stamped Metal Shingle Roofing

Stamped metal shingle roofing comprises small modular panels stamped to mimic the aesthetics of classic roofing materials like asphalt shingles, wood shakes, clay tiles, and slate. Each panel features a four-way interlocking system for staggered installation matching traditional shingles. 

Stamped metal shingle roofing is often pre-painted with a protective coating. Steel and aluminum are the most commonly used metals and are premium residential metal shingles. 

What Causes Damage to a Metal Roof?

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Your roof protects you from harsh weather, but long-term exposure takes a toll on the longevity of your roof’s materials, and roof damage comes at it from all sides, including: 

  • High winds
  • Sunlight
  • Saltwater corrosion
  • Rain, snow, hail, or ice
  • Tree branches and organic debris buildup
  • Poor installation
  • Inadequate space for thermal expansion causes oil canning
  • Dissimilar metals and materials
  • Inconsistent maintenance
  • Improper ventilation

Metal Roof Maintenance in 8 Steps

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Routine maintenance begins with a roof inspection and an understanding of roof safety. If you aren’t comfortable climbing a ladder, leave the work to a professional roof services company. Additional roof maintenance tips include trimming tree branches, monitoring corrosion, and more. 

1. Inspect Your Roof

Regular inspections and proper maintenance can save you money long-term, and professional roofing contractors recommend performing biannual roof inspections in the spring and fall when the weather is mild

The obvious culprits that lay damage to your roof are wind and rain, but remember, tree branches and saltwater also wreak havoc on your metal roofing. Be sure to inspect your metal for scuffs, scratches, fading, and flaking. 

It is always a good idea to have a roofing professional inspect your roof, especially as it gets older, to prevent potential problems. A professional roof inspection costs just $215, a lot less than costly repairs or a complete roof replacement due to neglect. 

2. Clean Your Roof

Whether we want to admit it, every outdoor item needs regular cleaning to extend its lifespan, and our roofs are no different. Annual cleaning removes dirt, mildew, and debris from the surface of your roof that can degrade the paint and substrate, leading to rust, corrosion, or leaks

Washing your metal roof doesn’t require any special equipment or detergents, and is a relatively simple process. 

  • Mix a quarter cup of mild detergent like dish soap or car washing soap into a bucket of water. 
  • Gently wipe the surface of your roof with the solution using a microfiber cloth, soft-bristle brush, or a sponge. 
  • Rinse your roof with a light-pressure spray from your garden hose. 

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether it is safe to use a pressure washer on metal roofing materials. However, when in doubt, do without. Most experts agree that while you can use a pressure washer to make quick work of roof cleaning, it is best not to because it can lead to dents and scratches.  

Additionally, metal roofs require care when walking on the surface. A professional cleaning company can handle cleaning your metal roof to avoid damage. 

3. Clear Gutters and Downspouts

Leaves, sticks, and debris can become trapped in your gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters can fill with water, and the excess moisture can corrode your metal roof and invite unwanted pests. 

Gutters collect water and direct it away from your house. Clogged gutters lead to more than just puddles. Metal roofs shed water from ice and snow and then dry out. Clogged gutters keep the edges of your metal roof from drying out, leading to rust and corrosion. A professional roofing contractor can clean your gutter if you don’t feel comfortable on a ladder.

If you would rather not have bugs and debris washing up your gutters and downspouts, maintain your pipes by clearing them out in the spring and fall. Ensure all gutters, downspouts, and soffits are firmly attached and leveled. Many homeowners invest in gutter guards to keep their systems free of debris and plant matter year-round. 

4. Trim Tree Branches and Remove Debris

Nearby branches can leave unsightly scuffs and scratches in your metal roof, making it vulnerable to leaks. Keep branches trimmed and away from your roof and the sides of your home. 

While nature-related debris is more prevalent in some areas than others, homeowners should plan to clear debris from the surface of their roofs biannually. Removing debris keeps your gutters working smoothly and protects the paint on your metal roof, ensuring its longevity.  

Remove organic debris with a leaf blower. Blow air down your roof to move the debris to the ground. A professional tree trimming company also can make quick work of hazardous tree branches.

5. Check Panel Seams

Panels and seams are the principal components in the construction of a metal roof. Always check for loose or separating panel seams during your routine inspection. Water easily fills the gaps in separated panel seams, eventually leaking into your home and causing major repair problems.   

6. Monitor for Corrosion

Roofing components around your HVAC system and ventilation areas are prone to corrosion. Chemicals, steam, and heat released from your system degrade the protective coating on your metal roof, leading to corrosion and eventual leaks.

During your biannual inspection, watch for areas of rust or corrosion caused by materials and metals different from the composition of your roof coming into contact with your roof’s surface. Additionally, check your attic roof vents to ensure they are free of insulation, insect hives, and rodent nests and ensure stored items are not blocking vent access. 

7. Check Sealants

Flashing keeps your roof watertight, comprising thin strips of metal running along the edges and joints of your metal roof. Flashing also covers the areas surrounding penetrations like pipes, vents, chimneys, and skylights. 

Designed to divert water, flashing can rust, crack, lift, or separate. It is also the weakest point of your roof. During your biannual inspection, be sure to caulk any gaps in your flashing with a waterproof sealant. 

8. Fix Fasteners

Most homeowners opt for hidden fastener metal roofing for its sleek curb appeal. However, exposed fastener metal roofing is a budget-friendly option. All metal roofs contain fasteners, rivets, and screws. 

Attachment hardware can loosen over time, especially in areas prone to severe weather. Fasteners are engineered to withstand years of wear and tear, however, it is always a good idea to inspect for missing or loose screws, especially if you have an exposed fastener metal roof.  

Why Is It Important to Maintain a Metal Roof?

Roof damage sneaks up on the best of us, and it is easy to ignore our roof until it is leaking. Roof replacement is costly. Luckily, maintaining your metal roof is inexpensive, relatively easy, and ensures your warranty remains in good standing.

When your roof is in optimal condition, you can rest easy knowing your home’s structure is protected. Your roof protects your home’s value and your family, and a well-maintained roof will increase your comfort and last a lot longer.  

If those weren’t enough reasons to dig your ladder out of the garage, most insurance companies expect you to maintain your roof. If you neglect your roof and it is in poor condition, your carrier can require you to replace your roof or rescind your coverage.  

Improper roof maintenance leads to high, unwanted repair costs and potential problems like leaking, scuffing, denting, degradation, scratching, and galvanic corrosion. With routine maintenance, you can identify and avoid these problem areas. 

Common Metal Roof Repairs

If you identify any problems or concerns during your biannual inspection, contact a professional roofer to complete your roof repairs as soon as possible. 

Some common repairs include:

  • Flashing replacement because of corrosion
  • Gutter or downspout caulking
  • Stress wrinkling or oil canning
  • Areas of rust or corrosion
  • Scratches

How Long Will a Metal Roof Last?

metal roof
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Metal roof systems are durable, pest-resistant, and made of tough components. They survive even the harshest environments, lasting between 40 to 80 years, and require very little maintenance. Factors affecting your metal roof’s lifespan include:

  • Weather: Mild climates extend the lifespan of your room while harsh climates with snow and rain may decrease its longevity.
  • Maintenance: Low maintenance doesn’t mean there is no maintenance. Be sure to perform your biannual inspections and roof cleanings.
  • Installation: While you have little control over the installation of your roof, it is a key factor in its longevity. Be sure to read reviews before selecting a roofing contractor specializing in metal roof system installation.  

FAQ About Maintaining a Metal Roof

How much does a metal roof cost? 

Metal roofs can offer a cost-effective alternative to other premium roofing materials like tile depending on the type of metal. There is a large price disparity associated with metal roofing because of the cost of different roofing metals

High-end copper roofs cost significantly more than steel roofing, and stamped shingle roofing costs more than standing seam or exposed fastener. On average, metal roofs cost $22,000.

Cost of Materials Per Square FootNational Average With Labor
Standing Seam$3 to $20$29,000
Zinc$6 to $10$39,000
Copper$9 to $20$51,600
Metal Shingles$3 to $20$29,000
Galvanized Steel Shingles$3 to $8$21,000
Painted Aluminum Shingles$2 to $4$22,000
Tin Shingles$3 to $14$24,000

Can I perform metal roof repairs myself?

A professional roofing company can make quick work of your inspection and repairs. However, if you’re feeling brave and want to tackle the job yourself, there are a few simple repairs you can handle on your own.

  • Scratches: Repair minor scratches on your metal roof by applying mineral spirits with a clean cloth. Buff the scratch and wipe the mineral spirits over the area. Rinse completely and allow to dry. When completely dry, follow the manufacturer’s label and touch up the area with metal roof paint.
  • Rust: Repair rust spots by gently scrubbing the area with a mild cleanser like dish soap and water. Lightly sand any corrosion and apply a metal primer and touch-up paint to prevent further damage. 

Can a metal roof be installed over my existing roof? 

If you are like 80% of Americans and have an asphalt shingle roof, then the answer is yes. While it is always a good idea to replace your roof, metal roofs are lightweight, weighing just over one and a half pounds per square foot, and can be installed over your existing shingles. If your current roof uses a different roofing material, unfortunately, you will need a total roof replacement. 

Get Professional Maintenance and Repairs

Metal roofing continues to gain popularity in the U.S. thanks to its long lifespan and energy efficiency. But even the most low-maintenance roofs require some attention, and preventative maintenance goes a long way in preventing leaks and repairs. 
If you find yourself in need of a roof inspection, repairs, or even a cleaning, contact a local roofing professional to learn about options available in your area. 

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Kimberly Magerl

Born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, Kimberly Magerl enjoys growing fruits and vegetables in her garden. When she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.