Metal shingles disguised

Metal roofing manufacturers constantly add profiles in an attempt to meet the needs and desires of everyone who needs a roof. Because of the benefits their products can provide, metal roofing manufacturers have consciously developed products to compete aesthetically with the manufacturers of all types of residential roofing — asphalt shingles, wood shingles and shakes, concrete and clay tile.
As a result, today there are more metal roofing substrates, styles, colors, and companies to choose from than ever before.
To best compete with the aforementioned opposition, the metal roofing industry has adapted its thinking to manufacturing products that resemble the competition. For the most part, these profiles fall under the broad category known as metal shingles.
There are stamped shingles in a variety of shapes, slate shingles, tile and shake facsimiles, as well as stone-coated shingles that mimic the look of temporary asphalt shingles. Somewhere out there is a metal roof that will get the job done, and provide the look the customer wants.
Those who like the look of clay and concrete tiles can now choose one of several metal products and benefit from a lighter and more durable system. During the recent hurricanes in Florida and surrounding states, many tile roofs were damaged by the high winds. Those same tile roofs caused more damage when large pieces became projectiles.
In many areas, homeowners prefer the rustic look of wood shakes and shingles. Metal roofing manufacturers can provide that look as well, along with the peace of mind that comes from having a roof that can handle anything nature throws at it — fire, mold, hail, and/or snow.
Then there are high-end shingle products like copper. According to David Hunt, manager of architectural services for Revere Copper, more homeowners are choosing copper roofs for reasons aesthetic and practical. Those homeowners are influenced by the development and availability of new lightweight copper roofing shingles. “Homeowners turn to copper to add refinement and a sense of luxury to their homes,” Hunt says. Customers have a “desire for uniqueness.”
Still, asphalt shingles are installed on more U.S. homes than any other roofing type. The biggest selling point is price, but customers know they get what they pay for.
“The stupidest sales tactic I’ve heard of, and I’ve heard it a lot of times, is when one of those asphalt roofers tells a homeowner he can’t afford a metal roof,” says Bob Kulp, of Kulp’s of Stratford in central Wisconsin. “That sort of ticks off homeowners, but the cheap sell is the only tactic they’ve got. Quality is never an angle; it’s always from a price perspective. We can give a client a dozen different reasons why they should have metal and the only thing they have is price.”
As long as there are people out there who don’t necessarily want the look of flat or ribbed metal panels on their homes, the manufacturers of metal roofing systems will keep cranking out the ever-growing variety of shingle products. Shingle products will cost the customer more, in part because they may take longer to install. Because shingle products are chosen in part for their aesthetic value, most view metal shingles as an up-sell product. Kulp installs mainly Decra Roofing systems, but also works with products from Metro Roof Products and Revere Copper. As a salesman, Kulp sees the advantage of being armed with a product similar in appearance to asphalt shingles.
“A lot of people say they don’t like the look of a metal roof, so we ask them what a metal roof looks like,” says Kulp. “Usually they tell us about the ribbed stuff they see on sheds or pole barns. So we ask them if they’d consider a metal roof that looked like asphalt shingles. When they come to us thinking about metal, we always lead them down that road.”
Bruce Horton of Metal Roofing Systems in St. Charles, Mo., got into the business of installing metal shingles because his wife wanted the look for their home and no one else installed it. “We were looking for the granular coated clay tile look, and we looked for anybody in the vicinity,” he says. “Nobody knew what we were talking about, but we kept looking and looking and looking. Finally we found the manufacturers. It was a long, slow process of getting to the right product, but eventually we got there. I even found a guy who would come out and give us an estimate, but he was so bad, I thought, ‘You’re not getting on my house.’”
Horton and his wife liked the granular coated tile look of the Dura-Loc product. Horton talked to a Dura-Loc representative and was given the opportunity help on an installation in Iowa. After working with and looking over the installed product, Horton was hooked. Now he’s got to set the hook in the Show-Me State.
“I had no idea it would be such a hard sell in this area,” Horton says. “Everybody down here always has a different answer. The metal roofing market is pretty tough. The roofs we usually get are so complicated that it’s just almost unbelievable. They’re even hard for an asphalt roofer to cut all these corners, those are the ones we take.”
Don Hickman, owner of Hickman Metal Roofing in Gainesville, Fla., installs Metro Roof Products, as well as standing seam and through-fastened panels. He believes the stone-coated systems have evolved into an architectural shingle, with a better look. “The only drawback once it’s installed is that it looks like a composite roof and a lot of people don’t notice it,” he says. “That makes it tough to market. We do well at home shows, where people can see it and touch it.”
Hickman says the Metro shingles allow him to provide an option to his customers.
“It has to be code-approved and the Metro products meet those standards here in Florida, where it probably gets tested more so than anywhere else,” Hickman says. “It’s an alternative to the painted metal. It’s for people who don’t like the painted metal or for those who can’t use it because of deed restrictions. For those people who live with deed restrictions, stone-coated is their only option for metal.”
Terry Lamb of Sunshine Metal Works in Oxford, Ala., sells shingles from Classic Products as well as standing seam roofing. He owns his own roll former and buys coil from McElroy Metal — standing seam accounts for about 75 percent of his business. Lamb offers alternatives.
“When we walk in with a $10,000 or $12,000 McElroy job, it’s going to be a $20,000 or $22,000 Classic job,” he says. “But as far as the product goes, Classic’s shingles are on the cutting edge with their high-R pigment coatings.”
Many metal shingle products, as well as metal panels, are manufactured on technology’s cutting edge, adding to their value. Reflective pigments allow for metal — in a wider variety of colors — to meet the Energy Star standards for reflectivity, a factor in figuring the “cool” qualities (Metal Roofing Magazine, April-May 2004) of a roofing product.
Many manufacturers have taken advantage of the latest innovation by converting all of their painted metal products to reflective paints, offering contractors with another selling tool. It also appeals to architects and specifiers who prefer a product that is Energy Star compliant and meets LEED requirements. Among the companies who have made the switch are Classic Products, Englert, Custom-Bilt Metals, Follansbee Steel, and Petersen Aluminum.
Kulp says many customers are discovering the one-time cost of a metal shingle roof is less than purchasing four or five asphalt roofs during the life of a metal roofing system. It gives the price advantage to the metal roofing product. “They’re more educated and sophisticated now and that’s a great thing,” he says. “I enjoy selling to people who are a little more savvy, and still smart enough to realize they’re not the experts. Everyone has access to the Internet, so they learn about our products that way.”
Kulp recalls one woman who wanted a metal roof, and she was 79. She had purchased a new asphalt shingle roof six years earlier and it needed to be replaced. She told Kulp if she lives to be 90, she didn’t want to have to buy new roofing two more times.
Lamb says the biggest competition in his market (Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee) is exposed fastener metal panels. “They walk in and they’re selling it for $125 a square and we’re at $625 a square, so we have to sell value and aluminum, and we do. I sell my heart out,” he says. “Homeowners know they get what they pay for. I make it a point to let them know we’re in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, we’ve got a general contractor’s license, we have all the proper insurance, and we’re members of the Alabama Home Builders and MRA. Each of those cost something and it’s passed on to the end customer, but it’s spread out over a large number of customers. They see the benefit of working with a company like that.”
Frank Farmer, owner of American Metal Roofs in Flint, Mich., says asphalt roofers in central Michigan are realizing the threat of metal and are bragging up a new longevity of their products. “They’re all saying they’ve climbed into bed with their manufacturers, they’re in programs and they’re certified because they’re using a complete system,” he says. “They’re selling their stuff as a 40-year shingle, when the reality of it is the stuff we’re tearing off here is 10 or 12 years old and it’s supposed to be a 25-year shingle. The 40-year stuff is coming off in 12 to 14 years. We call on a lot of churches, and we’re finding that after about 14 or 15 years, their 40-year shingle is shot. That’s what drives our business.
“We carved a niche in our area with aluminum. It’s new heat reflective coatings on top of heat reflective aluminum; it’s a plus, plus. The biggest selling point is the quality product and the quality of installation. The Rustic Shake is so popular, it’s been around since 1959.”
Farmer, who installs aluminum shingles from Classic Products, conservatively estimates his company’s numbers will double 2004, but with fingers crossed says, “We could hit three times.”
“We realize we’re on the cutting edge of something big here in the next few years,” says Farmer. “We’ve built a program around the best product and quality installation. The last few years, we’ve been building and training our crews. We’re going to grow.”
The advantages of metal continue to grow. The variety of metal shingles and alternatives to painted metal panels continues to grow. It could be argued there is a correlation between that growth and the growth of metal roofing in the residential market.
Lamb says there are three things that lead customers to his door looking for a metal shingle product. “The No. 1 thing is the guarantee of a lifetime roof,” he says. “They love the idea of never having to replace the roof. The second thing is quality and the third thing is beauty, something unique that no one else has.”

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