Cover Story: Metal Shingles, the standing seam alternative

These products are certainly helping drive the growth of metal  /

Metal shingles. They are manufactured to provide a unique look in a durable, energy-efficient, recyclable roofing product. Believe it or not, there are consumers out there who want all that metal has to offer, but don’t want the standing seam look. A variety of metal shingle profiles provide homeowners and building managers with a bouquet of options.

Metal shingles offer the look of other roofing products — everything from asphalt shingles to clay and concrete tile to wood shakes. The big difference is the metal shingles are durable and lightweight and attractive. Only metal can boast all of those attributes.

Have you installed metal shingles? Have you thought about adding a metal shingle to your company’s offerings?

Because of the visual options metal shingles now offer, metal is becoming accepted in places metal roofing would never be considered before. Some metal shingle installers have carved a niche for their business installing on churches. Some are working their way into homeowners associations, where presentations introduce a new look for metal to HOA boards.

We talked to a handful of metal roofing contractors about their work with metal shingles and they were kind enough to share a bit about what they work with and why. We hope their beliefs and thoughts can help you.

Jeremy McKinnis, McKinnis Roofing, Blair, Neb.


McKinnis Roofing photo

McKinnis Roofing sells and installs mostly metal shingles from Gerard Roofing Technologies, but has completed projects using metal shingles from DECRA Roof Systems, Classic Metal Roofing Systems and ATAS International. About 80 percent of metal shingle installations are residential, with about 15 percent going on institutional buildings and five percent on commercial buildings.

“We’ve been offering metal shingles for at least the last 20 years,” McKinnis says. “We’ve always specialized in sheet metal work so metal shingles are a nice complement to our business. Metal shingles are gaining popularity, especially in the residential market. They’re just a better option when you take into consideration the investment.”

McKinnis Roofing, a member of the Metal Roofing Alliance, has witnessed a 100 percent growth in metal shingle installations in the last five years, when it accounted for about 10 percent of the residential jobs. “We believe in metal here,” McKinnis says. “It makes sense because of the warranty, the longevity and how they stand up to hail better than asphalt shingles. Metal is not just a commodity product like asphalt shingles.”

In addition to a growth in sales, that belief in metal shingles has led McKinnis to include them as an option in almost every sales presentation. It takes time to educate customers on the benefits of metal, but when they understand what metal has to offer — the durability, longevity, heating and cooling savings, tax rebates — the investment makes sense. “It’s a product that’s going to last, stand the test of time,” McKinnis says. “You’re purchasing a permanent roof instead of asphalt shingles which is a temporary roof.”

McKinnis says a big selling point of Gerard to contractors is its contractor training program because when your crews are certified by the manufacturer, it’s another great selling point.

Stefan Boyer, Weather Guard Factory-Direct Metal Roofing, Birmingham, Ala.


Weather Guard Factory-Direct Metal Roofing photo

Weather Guard offers metal shingles from several manufacturers, including DECRA Roof Systems, EDCO Products and Classic Metal Roofing Systems. Stefan Boyer, who runs the operation along with his brother Jonathon Boyer, says the company also offers standing seam and ag panel products from Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp.

The Weather Guard operation was started in 1989 by Robert Wells, an uncle of the Boyers. Wells currently serves as president and Jonathon is vice president of operations. Stefan is Weather Guard’s vice president of sales.

Initially, Weather Guard offered only ag panels and standing seam roofing, at the time a “good-and-better” offering. By the mid-90s, the company started offering metal shingles.

“I’m going to call him a pioneer,” Stefan Boyer says of his uncle. “He was at the forefront here when it comes to metal shingles. He was doing them when no one else was.”

Boyer says there are as many as three installers in the Birmingham area “that will tell you they do metal shingles, they dabble in it,” but they’re not committed to the product, which means they don’t have crews dedicated to installing metal shingles. Weather Guard has six installation crews, three dedicated to metal shingles.

As a member of the Metal Roofing Alliance, Weather Guard does between 90 and 95 percent of its metal shingle installations in the residential market. Boyer says it’s the fastest growing segment of Weather Guard business. Some of that growth has come from successfully educating homeowners associations about metal shingles. Some had originally banned any type of metal roofing, but Boyer says once they get to see the variety of metal shingles, they generally become “more comfortable with the idea” of allowing the installation of his products.

People in the area are familiar with metal shingles — during the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Government Resettlement Administration constructed the Cahaba Homestead Village or as it was locally called the “Slagheap Village” in the area directly west of downtown. Each of these homes was leased by the federal government until being sold to private landowners in 1947. Boyer says they were all topped with metal shingles — most still have those 80-year-old metal shingles.

They’ve been repainted, but they’re still working.

“Metal shingles have really taken off,” Boyer says. “We’ve gone from running a business out of our basement to a 2,000 square foot showroom and a 15,000 square foot distribution center. The look pushes it.”

Milton Tunnell, Custom Metal Roofing LLC, Blountville, Tenn.
Another member of the Metal Roofing Alliance, Tunnell cut his teeth working for his brother, installing Alcoa metal shingles in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area 30 years ago. Running his own single-crew operation in east Tennessee today, he’s loyal to that aluminum shingle product, now manufactured by Classic Metal Roofing Systems. He also installs metal shingle products from EDCO Products because the accessories are easy to work with and EDCO offers a great warranty.

“Just about everything we do is residential,” Tunnell says. “We’ve done three churches through the years, but that’s about it.”

With no one in the area dedicated to installing metal shingles, Tunnell stays busy and with the growing popularity of metal, it’s been easier to stay busy. “It’s been steady and we get a lot of work off of referrals,” he says. “Metal is making a big comeback here. You still see a lot of the ag panels, but metal shingles are getting more popular. People interested in metal roofing are doing a lot of research on the Internet. The MRA has really helped a lot of contractors in the industry and educated a lot of homeowners. I get leads from MRA every day from people who have shown an interest in the product. It’s the best investment I’ve made as far as marketing goes.”

Dan Perkins, Dan Perkins Construction, Ishpeming, Mich.


Dan Perkins Construction photo

“The brand we work with is Metalworks by TAMKO,” Perkins says. “We use the product because the profile lends itself to proper joinery at transitions to trim details, valleys, end walls, sidewalls and roof edges.”

Perkins says about one-third of the metal shingle jobs he takes on are commercial projects. The rest of his customers are residential. He says metal shingles represent about 20 percent of the metal roofing business. The rest is standing seam, a popular roofing choice in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where residents are no strangers to lots of snow on the roof.




Don Herzing, Herzing Roofing, Jefferson City, Mo.


Herzing Roofing photo

Herzing Roofing, a member of the MRA, works mostly with metal shingle products from ATAS International. Don Herzing believes they offer a longevity advantage because they are installed with a concealed fastener. “Churches are our bread an butter and we’re geared mostly toward restoration jobs. We do everything, the cornices, steeples, louvers, bell towers. ATAS has done a great job of capturing the look with those original shingles. ATAS has invested in the engineering of its products so they can handle the windloads. That’s a big deal 100 feet in the air on a steeple.

“We keep two crews going all the time, but our projects are generally a month or two months long, we don’t get in and out in a week. We expand and contract our crews as necessary and we’ve got some sub-contractors as well.”

Herzing credits a little luck and some foresight for the growth his company has seen with metal. “Back in 2001, we were doing about one metal roof a month,” he says. “So we can definitely see the increase since then. We got in it early, so we learned all the good and bads, ins and outs of the systems before anyone else. Plus, we got our referral list set up ahead of everyone else.”

Residential is a small, but growing part of Herzing’s business. He says the metal shingle offerings are more attractive, the prices have leveled off and people appreciate the value. “They learn a lot on the Internet now,” he says. “That’s a huge part of why it’s growing. People are more aware of what’s available. Plus metal prices have stayed the same, while asphalt shingle prices have gone through the roof. It used to be a 3-to-1 difference in price, but now it’s down to 2-to-1. With the economy going like it has, people are trying to get a better value for their dollar, they’re smarter with their money. We don’t do a lot of residential, but we’re doing more and more.”

Bob Kulp, Kulp’s of Stratford, Stratford, Wis.


Kulp’s of Stratford photo

Kulp’s of Stratford has worked with a variety of metal shingle projects, completing more than 400 with shingles from DECRA Roofing Systems. Kulp’s has installed less than a dozen each of  Metro Roof Products and Gerard Roofing Technologies and several with products from Classic Metal Roofing Systems and MetalWorks by TAMKO.

About half of the projects Kulp’s installs metal shingles on are residential and those residential projects make up for about 30 percent of the roofing squares installed. Institutional projects like churches and schools make up 35 percent of Kulp’s metal shingle projects, but they account for about 60 percent of the product. Smaller commercial jobs make up about 15 percent of Kulp’s metal shingle projects.

Kulp says he likes working with metal shingles because he is confident “in the product we’re offering and knowing it’s going to be there in 30 years, still giving homeowner protection.” He likes the available product choices and that metal shingles can often be installed with no need for tear-off, allowing for a cleaner installation.

“It’s the last roof homeowners have to consider, if properly installed,” Kulp says. “Often there’s not as much of an up-charge from asphalt shingles as they originally think. Beautiful choices in color, style, texture.”

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