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Exterior of a beautiful historic Cape Ann home with many windows and an asphalt roof

Metal vs. Asphalt Roofing: What’s the Difference? (2024)

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Default Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt + 1 other Fact Checked Icon Fact-checked Updated 05/09/2024

If it’s time to install a new roof, you’re likely looking for an option 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. To help you decide between a metal vs. asphalt roof, we spent hours researching how these two materials compare. Our comprehensive guide looks at cost, maintenance, longevity, installation, and eco-friendliness—plus other roofing materials you might consider.

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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. We’ve broken down the most important differences below.

What Is the Cost Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

When you compare the cost of shingles vs. a metal roof, asphalt shingles come out ahead. Basic three-tab shingles cost $1–$3 per square foot. More premium architectural shingles cost $2–$4 per square foot. Expect to pay around $2 per square foot for labor. Based on national averages, you can expect to pay a total of $5,800–$12,200 to replace an asphalt shingle roof.

It’s not uncommon for metal roofing to cost double that amount. Here are some of the most common types of metal roofing and their costs per square foot:

The cost of metal roofing also varies by style. The cheapest option is sheet metal, at $4–$6.50 per square foot, followed by metal shingles at $7–$22 per square foot. Corrugated roofs with exposed fasteners cost $4–$26 per square foot, while cut-to-size standing seam roofs cost $9–$30 per square foot.

Cost data sourced from contractor estimates used by HomeAdvisor and Angi.

What Is the Durability and Lifespan Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

You can’t compare costs without looking at longevity. Metal roofs cost more upfront, but the return on investment is higher. Metal roofs can endure a lot, which is why they often come with 30–50-year warranties. They may even outlast their warranty, holding up for 40–70 years. However, metal roofs are vulnerable to denting. A fallen tree branch or extremely heavy hail could cause dents, making leakage a concern and warranting at least a partial roof replacement, though this isn't likely to occur in your typical storm. 

Asphalt shingles typically come with a 15–30-year warranty and are most vulnerable to humidity and moisture. Pooling water and climates with heavy rain or long-lasting ice can lead to cracks and algae or fungus growth. Asphalt shingles also experience a lot of cracking in climates with drastically different day versus night temperatures, which shortens their lifespan.

What Is the Maintenance Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

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.

It’s more commonly asphalt shingles that present a problem, but not every issue is difficult or expensive to fix. For instance, in the video below, general contractor Tom Silva helps a homeowner remove moss from his shingle roof and install a zinc strip to prevent it from growing back. This is a relatively simple DIY job, or you can pay $0.20–$0.70 per square foot for a professional roof cleaning plus $150–$250 for a preventive treatment.

What Is the Sustainability Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

Approximately 11 million tons of asphalt shingles are sent to landfills each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. They can’t be recycled and are a petroleum-based product, which means they increase fossil fuel dependency.

Most metal roofing materials are recycled and can be recycled again once removed from your roof. Plus, their reflective nature helps prevent heat transmission, making them more energy efficient.

What Is the Installation Process Difference Between Metal and Asphalt Roofing?

Asphalt shingles are much easier and quicker to install than metal. They can be installed in one to two days, in some cases over an existing layer.

Metal roofing materials are lighter and leave less room for error. Installing a metal roof takes longer and will likely require more specialized tradespeople, which can increase labor costs.

What Are Metal Roofing Pros and Cons?

The three most common metal roof styles are standing seam panels, exposed fastener panels, and metal shingles. 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. Exposed fastener panels are attached to the roof with screws or nails, while metal shingles mimic the look of traditional roofing materials.

Homeowners can also choose from several types of metal, including aluminum, copper, zinc, 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
Is eco-friendly and energy-efficient 
Requires little maintenance if installed correctly
Costs more than many other options
Requires intensive labor to install

What Are Asphalt Roofing Pros and Cons?

There are three types of asphalt shingle roofs. Basic three-tab asphalt shingles are thin and flat with a brick-like pattern, while architectural or dimensional shingles have a thicker and more textured appearance. Luxury or designer shingles are thicker still with a texture that mimics premium roofing materials like slate tiles or wood shakes.

Asphalt shingles are one of the cheapest roofing options available, but they also require more maintenance and don’t last as long. Most homeowners choose dimensional asphalt shingles for their curb appeal and midrange cost as compared to the other two choices.

Pros and Cons of Asphalt Roofing

Is more affordable upfront than most options
Is easy to install, and you may be able to perform minor repairs yourself
Comes in a wide variety of style and color options
Requires more frequent maintenance
Is less eco-friendly and insulative

If neither asphalt nor metal works for you, there are many other types of roofs to choose from:

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 a longevity comparable to metal. It also has great thermal properties and a midrange cost.

Green roofing

Green roofing is made from plants and is gaining popularity in the United States. It can cost as much as $30 per square foot, though its energy efficiency may save you so much on your electricity bill that you recoup the expense.

Slate roofing

Slate tiles are one of the more expensive options, but their lifespan 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 electricity like solar panels. It’s expensive, but your energy savings may make the extra cost worthwhile. 

Wood roofing

Wood shingles and shakes are resistant to rot, 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.

For a quick comparison of the most common roofing materials—including metal and asphalt—check out this video below with general contractor Tom Silva:

What Should You Consider When Choosing a Roof Type?

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

Climate: Areas that see lots of extreme weather, such as tropical storms or wildfires, may require 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 could 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 upfront 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.

Which Is Better, a Metal or Asphalt Roof?

The choice between metal vs. asphalt roofing comes down to cost and durability. Asphalt shingles are more budget-friendly yet require more frequent replacement and offer less weather resistance. Metal roofs, on the other hand, offer impressive longevity and durability but come with a higher initial cost. Take time to explore all the options, talk to a roofing contractor, and analyze your roof and climate to see which roofing type is best for your home. 

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

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FAQ About Metal and Asphalt Roofs

What is better: a metal roof or an asphalt roof?

Deciding whether metal roofing or asphalt shingles are better depends on your priorities. Asphalt roofs are cheaper upfront and come in a variety of colors, but metal roofs last longer and are more energy-efficient. 

What are the disadvantages of a metal roof?

Metal roofs are one of the most expensive roof types. They take longer to install and can experience rusting if not laid correctly. 

Is it cheaper to do a metal roof or asphalt roof?

It’s much cheaper to install an asphalt roof than a metal one. Asphalt costs roughly $1–$3 per square foot for basic three-tab shingles or $2–$4 for architectural shingles, plus another $2 per square foot for installation. Metal roofing starts at $4 per square foot and can go as high as $30 per square foot, with local roofing contractors charging $40–$80 per hour or $7–$14 per square foot for installation.

Are metal roofs louder than asphalt roofs?

No, metal roofs are not noticeably louder than asphalt roofs. Metal roofs are installed over plywood sheathing and a layer of insulation, so they are only around 8 decibels louder than an asphalt roof. Attic space also helps with sound deadening.

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