If it’s time to install a new roof, you’re likely looking for a material that’s cost-effective, easy to maintain, and long-lasting. Two popular roofing materials are metal and asphalt, but they’re notably different across those three key factors. We at the This Old House Reviews Team researched how metal and asphalt roofs compare, looking at cost, maintenance, longevity, installation, eco-friendliness, and more. Read on to determine which material is best for your home.

Use our expert research to learn more about your project

Enter your ZIP code and tell us about your home

Match with local experts who can meet your needs

Get Your Roofing Project Quote Today
Compare quotes in as little as 5 minutes

What Is the Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

Asphalt roofs are cheaper, quieter, and easier to install. Metal roofs are easier to maintain, longer-lasting, and more eco-friendly. Learn more about how these roof types differ. 


A metal roof costs considerably more up-front than asphalt shingles. Basic asphalt shingles cost $4.25–$4.95 per square foot, including installation. For every 100 square feet, that’s roughly $460 on average. More premium, architectural asphalt shingles run $4.50–$8.25. 

It’s not uncommon for metal roofing, be it standing-seam or screw-down panels, to cost double that amount. Here are some of the most common types of metal roofing and their costs per square foot with installation:

  • Aluminum shingles: $8.50–$13.75
  • Copper shingles: $21–$39.70
  • Corrugated metal panels: $5.50–$11.50
  • Standing-seam metal panels: $10–$17.05
  • Steel shingles: $8–$12.65

See more new roof construction costs to compare. 

Durability and Life Span

You can’t compare costs without looking at longevity. Metal roofs cost more up-front, but their return on investment is higher. Metal roofs can endure a lot, which is why they typically come with 30–50-year warranties. They often outlast their warranty, holding up for 40–70 years, but are vulnerable to denting. A fallen tree branch or heavy hail could cause a dent, so bad leakage is a concern, warranting at least a partial roof replacement. 

Asphalt shingles typically come with a 15–30-year warranty. They’re most vulnerable to dampness. Pooling water and climates with heavy rain or long-lasting ice can lead to cracks and algae and fungus growth. Asphalt shingles also experience a lot of cracking in climates that have a drastic difference in day versus night temperatures, which shortens their life span.  


The frequency and expense of roof maintenance for either type largely depends on climate and how well the roof was installed. Properly installed metal roofs typically require less maintenance since they’re less vulnerable to moisture. Regardless of the material, roofing experts recommend inspecting your roof at least once per year to check for any debris or damage that could cause a leak. But it’s more commonly asphalt shingles that present a problem as opposed to metal. 


Approximately 11 million tons of asphalt shingles are sent to landfills each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But metal roofing materials are mostly recycled and can be recycled again once removed from your roof. Asphalt shingles can’t be recycled and are a petroleum-based product, which increases fossil fuel dependency. Metal roofs’ reflective nature help block heat transmission, making them more energy efficient.

Installation Process

Asphalt shingles are much easier and quicker to install than metal. They can be installed in one to two days, in most cases over an existing layer. Metal roofing materials are heavier, and the project has less room for error. The job also takes longer and will likely require more specialized tradesmen, which can increase labor costs.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing systems come in two forms: standing-seam and screw-down panels. A standing-seam metal roof features panels that are locked together at the seam, allowing them to easily expand and contract as the temperature changes. Screwed-down metal roofing panels aren’t made to easily expand and contract. 

There are multiple metal types used for roofing, such as aluminum, copper, and steel. The weight and durability of metal drives up its price, but higher quality metal typically leads to a better return on investment. 

Pros and Cons of Metal Roofing

✔ Can last up to 70 years
✔ Requires little maintenance if installed correctly
✔ Is more eco-friendly and energy-efficient 

✘ Costs more than many other options
✘ Requires more labor to install

Asphalt Roofing

There are three types of asphalt shingle roofs. Basic asphalt shingles come in a three-tab formation and a dimensional design that gives the appearance of a wood shake roof. There are also more premium asphalt shingles that are larger and made to look like slate. Most homeowners choose dimensional asphalt shingles for their curb appeal and midrange cost as compared to the other two choices. Asphalt shingles are one of the cheapest roofing options available, but they also require more maintenance and don’t last as long. 

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Roofing

✔ Is more affordable up-front than most options
✔ Is easier to install, and you may be able to perform minor repairs yourself
✔ Come in a wide variety of style and color options

✘ Requires more frequent maintenance
✘ Is less eco-friendly and insulative

Other Roof Types

If neither asphalt nor metal work for you, there are many other roofing materials to choose from. Some of the best types of roofs include:

  • Built-up roofing: Built-up roofing, or BUR, is made from layers of asphalt, aggregate, ply sheets, and other materials. It’s mostly used for flat roofs and is typically cheaper than even asphalt shingles. 
  • Clay roofing: Clay, ceramic, and terracotta roofing materials are eco-friendly and durable, as well as fire-resistant. Expect to pay a higher cost for these.
  • Concrete roofing: Concrete has longevity comparable to metal. It also has great thermal properties and a more midrange cost. 
  • Green roofing: Green roofing is made from plants and is gaining popularity in the United States. It can cost as much as $28 per square foot, though its energy efficiency can save so much on your electricity bill, you may recoup the expense.
  • Slate roofing: Slate tiles are one of the more expensive options, but their life span may make it worth it. It’s not uncommon for slate roofing to last over 100 years. 
  • Solar roofing: Solar roofing mimics a traditional roofing design but generates energy like solar panels. It’s expensive, but your electricity bill savings may make it worth it to you. 
  • Wood roofing: Wood shingles and shakes are resistant to rot and mold, easy to install, and naturally insulating. The cost is midrange, but they’re not recommended for fire-prone areas and are harder to insure if you live in a dry climate.

Things To Consider When Choosing a Roof Type

Consider the following when choosing the right type of roof for your house:

  • Climate: An area that sees lots of extreme weather, such as tropical storms or wildfires, needs a certain kind of roof. As mentioned, wood roofing isn’t fit for fire-prone areas. Solar roofing wouldn’t be a smart investment in an area that’s often cloudy. Slate roofing is a good choice for high winds.
  • Cost: Your budget should be one of the biggest factors when deciding on a roof type. Remember not to look at the material cost alone, but labor, maintenance, and repair as well. Also, consider resale value.
  • Durability: The more vulnerable a roof type is to damage and degradation, the quicker you’ll need repairs or replacement. 
  • Energy efficiency: Even if you have to pay more up-front for a roofing material that’s more energy-efficient, consider the savings in regard to energy costs.
  • Roof slope: The way your roof slopes affects water runoff and wind resistance. A material that doesn’t hold up well under standing water, such as asphalt, wouldn’t be appropriate for a roof with minimal sloping.

Our Conclusion

Cost can be a deciding factor when choosing a material for your new roof, but it’s important to consider what’s best for your home. Though some materials are more affordable than others, you often get what you pay for. Take time to explore your options, talk to a roofing contractor, and analyze your roof and climate to see what will best stand the test of time. 

See our guide to new roof costs for a more detailed breakdown of what to expect for your roofing project.

Get Your Roofing Project Quote Today
Compare quotes in as little as 5 minutes

FAQ About Roof Types