Metal roofing has long been popular for agricultural and industrial buildings, but it's also a practical choice for residential use in every part of the country. Homeowners and builders in the snowbelt can benefit from metal's ability to shrug off ice and snow. In wildfire-prone regions of the West, its natural fire resistance is a major selling point, and its resistance to wind makes it an attractive choice in coastal areas. It's virtually immune to the unsightly mildew growth (actually a variety of algae) that often forms on asphalt shingles in the warm, humid southern states. The reflective qualities of metal also enable southern homeowners to trim their utility bills: According to a 2001 study by Florida Power and Light, some types of metal roofing can reduce cooling costs by up to 23% compared to asphalt shingles. On the Great Plains, where hailstorms can destroy a roof in minutes, some metal panels can withstand the impact of even golf ball­sized hail without damage, and many insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners for installing them. At 50 to 150 pounds per square, metal has the lowest weight of any residential roofing, making it attractive in seismically active areas, where heavier roof systems can stress framing members during earthquakes. In many cases, its light weight permits installations over an existing roof, eliminating the labor-intensive tear-off process and the cost of disposal.

The installed cost of metal is higher than that of asphalt shingles, but when life expectancy and maintenance costs are factored in, metal compares favorably to less expensive roofing materials, especially in the South, where asphalt shingles last an average of just 17 years. Environment-conscious consumers and trade groups also like to point...

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