Zinc: The Dark Horse of Metal Roofing – Zinc Roof Costs and Pros & Cons in 2017

There are not many roofing materials that can match the longevity, durability, malleability, flexibility, resiliency, and cost-effectiveness of Zinc. Not even aluminum nor copper! Zinc roofs are known to last for hundreds of years, even in the most extreme environments. Truly unmatched durability, longevity, and classic beauty — that’s what Zinc roofing offers to a homeowner. At $15 to $20 per sq. ft. installed, it is the kind of value that is simply unmatched in all other roofing materials.


Zinc – Most Amazing Roofing Material You’ve Probably Never Heard of

In the US, the whole idea of using Zinc as a roofing material for a house sounds other worldly. Aluminum and Steel dominate residential metal roofing market, while asphalt shingles are by far the most popular overall roofing material. When you also factor in natural slate, clay tiles and cedar/wood roofing options, Zinc barely registers on most people’s radars. Though this trend is changing, slowly.

Did you know? 70% of residential roofs in Europe are covered with Zinc. In Paris, this number goes up to 85%.

via Metal Tech USA


Metal roofing is often chosen for its durability and longevity. All properly designed and correctly installed high-end metal roofs are likely to last at least 50 years. Yet, in order for that to hold true for Steel, for example, it must be coated with metallic finishes such as G-90 or Galvalume, along with high quality paint finishes such as Kynar 500. With Zinc, as well as copper, that is not the case.

Both Zinc and Copper form protective patina, meaning they will not rust nor be adversely impacted by weathering. Both of these metals benefit from aging, and their patina process. With Zinc, it starts out dark, as in dark gray / near black and then changes to a patina light gray or bluish color. Zinc can also be painted virtually any color, which serves as a sacrificial layer prior to the patination process.

Did you know? Thanks to Zinc’s naturally forming self-healing properties, it can provide years of virtually maintenance-free roof and building envelope protection

Zinc Standing Seam Roof with level changes on a House
via CraftCorp

What makes Zinc truly fascinating is its resiliency. All metal roofs, including Zinc, can be scratched. With Steel, scratches in its coating layer will expose the base material to the effects of oxidation and corrosion. With Zinc, it actually self-heals. You read that right, Zinc if scratched will self correct. The protective (patina) layer of Zinc is technically hydroxyl carbonate that will, over time, reform itself and thus eliminate blemishes or scratches. This is one, of a few reasons, why the market for Zinc will often sell pre-patinated Zinc roofing.

As you may have guessed, Zinc is extremely durable. When steel is “galvanized” it is really just adding a protective layer of Zinc to the Steel base to protect it from oxidation, as Steel is naturally corrosive, or will rust when exposed to salt, water, or moist environment over a long period of time. Galvanized and Galvalume Steel will forgo that aging for a couple of decades.

Like most metals, Zinc is insect-proof, fire resistant, and mildew / fungus-proof. Zinc also benefits from being non-toxic. Because of its low to non-existence toxicity level, soft zinc is marketed as replacement for flashing material for all roofs. Back in the day, the traditional material was lead, then steel, but soft zinc, offers virtually the same level of durability with no known toxicity impact.

Run-off water from Zinc is considered ‘clear’ or contaminant free, which most metals can’t readily claim. Thus, a zinc roof is a great option for homeowners interested in rain water collection.

Like many other metals, zinc is fully recyclable. Plus, it will reflect solar radiant heat, as most metals do to some degree, which prevents the unwanted transfer of heat from the roofing material into the attic space. Note: Asphalt shingles gain a lot of heat during the day and transfer much of it inside your home.

Moreover Zinc has even greater environmental value in that it takes less fuel to manufacture it, really to boil it and shape it into finished roofing product.

Did you know? Aluminum and steel use a good two to four times the energy in their production as compared to Zinc!

All this value would make you think it’s gotta be at least as expensive as Copper. Nope. Not necessarily.

Installation Costs and ROI for Zinc Roofing

Copper averages around $20+ per sq. ft. when installed as roofing. By far the most expensive metal material sold in the residential market. Steel can be had for as little as $6 to $10 per sq. ft. installed depending on the system. Aluminum installed can range from $7 to $12 per sq. ft. Zinc comes in at only a slightly higher price point $15 to $20 per sq. ft. installed.


Zinc Shingles and Standing Seam

Zinc Standing Seam Roofs
via Fine Metal Roof Tech

Zinc is very versatile. Zinc Shingles and Standing Seam are equally viable residential roofing options. Zinc shingles cost around $5 to $6 per sq. ft. of material, whereas Zinc standing seam panels will range in price from $6 to $8 per sq. ft. of material.

Zinc Shingle Colors
via Perma Lock Roofing

Then, figure in fasteners, underlayment material, and the like. Plus about $3 to $8 per sq. ft. for the installation, depending on the over difficulty level of your roof and your geographic location, and we’re back in the previously mentioned price range.

The reason for the wide range in pricing has to do with the availability of materials and professional installers in your region. -- Installers who actually have expertise and experience installing residential zinc roof and wall cladding products. Then there are factors such as slope of of your roof or how steep it is, and how many complex roof lines you have.

Lastly, your bottom line can be affected by whether or not the existing roof needs to be torn off and disposed of. All of the above factors will affect your total cost installed.

At RoofingCalc.com, we plugged an average sized roof of 1600 sq. ft. into their cost calculator, went with better grade (quality of materials), using a licensed and insured contractor, and a simple roof shape. For our zip code the installation total came to roughly $16,700 on the low end and $23,600 on the high end. Note: this does not include any tear off or removal costs. When plugging in a different zip code, the costs on both high and low went up $1000 (hint: we went with NY City, thinking that would be among the most expensive).

In terms of ROI, metal roofing will generally result in 86% recouped value should you decide to sell your house any time down the road. That’s among the best ROI ratios for all roofing types. With Zinc, the exact data isn’t there, but given the values we stated, it would be surprising if it weren’t higher than 86%, especially considering that on the east cost of the U.S., metal roofing tends to achieve a 95% ROI.

Advantages of Zinc Roofing

  • Highly cost effective
  • Durable - will last 100 years or more
  • Beautiful before and after patina process
  • Self healing - scratches be gone
  • Energy efficient
  • Eco-friendly
  • Fire, insect, mold resistance
  • Oh and non corrosive

Disadvantages of Zinc Roofing

  • Improper installation, such using a non-breathable synthetic underlayment could lead to non-breathable layer under the zinc, thereby trapping mold
  • Patina rate (of change) can vary depending on climate it is installed
  • With the above two noted, finding a quality contractor and making sure you get a breathable synthetic underlayment installed underneath the zinc roof in order to allow the roof deck to breathe is critical for getting positive outcomes. Though remember that pre-patinated Zinc roofing is possible to purchase.


Have you considered installing a Zinc Roof on your home?

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