Residential retrofit ’08: Met-Tile

Metal “tile panel” or tile facsimile roofing is a premium re-roofing product, so some contractors believe it is suited only to high-end residential projects. “Not so!” says Belinda Loosen of Classic Roofing Systems by K.F. Loosen Construction in Cloquet, Minn., a general contractor and roofer who specializes in metal systems for residential and light commercial projects.

“Our company has used metal tile panels to re-roof hundreds of projects over the years, on everything from small homes and cabins to high-end custom residences,” Loosen says. “Even though the customers may be very different, the sales approach is essentially the same.”

Selling an upgrade
“We sell the customer on upgrading to premium metal roofing to increase the value of their home,” Loosen says. “A new shingle roof will simply maintain value, but a top quality metal roof is like earning instant equity. We know homeowners who have had their homes reappraised after re-roofing and the increase in property value is equal to or even greater than the cost of the roof. So it can virtually pay for itself.”

Though the initial cost of a metal system is higher, Loosen feels the gap is closing. “With the rising cost of oil, which of course is used in the production of shingle products, metal is starting to be competitive with a 430-pound shingle,” she says. “But you can’t just compare raw materials. When you re-roof with shingles, you usually have to tear off the existing roof to ensure that the warranty will not be voided. The resulting labor and disposal costs factor into the equation. With metal, you can usually go right over the existing roof and you only have to do it once: When it’s time for a ‘new’ roof, you can repaint the existing panels instead of having to replace the whole roof. And during the years in between, a good metal roof will be leak-free and will save on maintenance and repairs.

“These are all selling points that can help convince the homeowner to upgrade to a premium metal roof system.”

The company is a manufacturer’s representative and installing contractor for Met-Tile, Inc., a leading metal tile panel roof manufacturer. Met-Tile offers an Energy Star cool roof system that combines energy savings and high performance with the popular look of Spanish tile. Classic Roofing Systems installed its first Met-Tile roof in 1983.

“With any re-roof project, you have to start by looking at the R-value,” Loosen says. “We always want to make sure the home is properly insulated so that it will be cool in summer and warm in winter. With the Met-Tile system, the Energy Star rating ensures that the finish will be highly reflective and will stay cooler in the warm months. Another benefit is that the tile panel has a stepped design, which creates a ventilating air space between the roof and the substructure. Flat panels do not offer that advantage.”

Metal vs. metal
Metal systems are not all created equal, says Loosen. To make an educated buying decision, she recommends looking at a variety of design and performance factors:

— Finish: As noted, a solar-reflective paint finish will reflect away more heat in the summer, but that is not the only thing to look for. “A stucco-embossed finish, like that used on the Met-Tile panel, is less likely than a smooth finish to show dents and dings from hail or other severe weather,” says Loosen. “Also, a good metal system will be far more hail-resistant than shingles. Last year we had several customers whose shingle roofs were badly damaged by hailstorms, and they used their insurance checks to re-roof with metal.” She recommends looking for a product with UL Class 4 impact resistance, the highest level of protection against hail.

— Thickness of metal: “There are many products to choose from and some are only 29-gauge steel, which will not deliver the same performance as a sturdier panel,” says Loosen. “A 26-gauge thickness might be fine for a corrugated tile-facsimile profile, but flat panels are not as strong as corrugated, so 24-gauge might be required for those applications.”

— Dimensions and orientation of panel: Loosen also notes the dimensions of the panel and the manner of installation (i.e., horizontal versus vertical) can have a big impact on performance. “Some tile facsimile panels measure about 1×4 feet and are applied horizontally, so there are a lot of visible seams,” says Loosen. “These products may not be as weather-tight and if there are any existing insulation or ventilation issues, they will not protect against these problems. We have found that full-length, vertically installed panels that extend from eave to ridge offer a better solution.

“Panels of 16 to 18 feet are standard for most houses, though sometimes we go with longer lengths. Anything above 25 feet becomes problematic because the panels are hard to handle and flatbeds are needed to transport them.”

— Insurance credits and tax rebates: “Insurance companies are starting to pony up and give discounts for products with good ratings for fire, hail and/or wind protection,” Loosen says. She notes that local tax credits or incentives may also be available to homeowners and to contractors for use of energy-efficient systems. “Not all products have the same ratings, so you need to explore these discounts and credits both with local insurers and with the roofing manufacturers.”

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