Home builder Gary Mevis doesn't have much trouble selling metal roofs to buyers of the high-end custom homes he nestles under the towering Ponderosa pine trees in Prescott, Ariz.

His sales pitch involves this likely scenario: “Say you're away from your home and in comes a strong wind, which we get here, and one of those heavy limbs breaks off and falls on your roof and you have an asphalt shingle roof. That limb can go completely through that shingle and the roof decking, and now you've got a hole in your roof, and you may not know it for a couple of weeks because you're away.”

The same limb could crash onto a 28-gauge steel roof, he says, and “it may make a dent. But it's a dent you won't even notice.”

Metal roofing, a traditional favorite for rural outbuildings and commercial structures, has a new and growing following among custom builders and urban remodelers—and their customers.

Since 2000, sales of residential metal roofs have doubled along with market share for the product, thanks in part to a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz by the five-year-old Metal Roofing Alliance, a coalition of companies that make the roofing or supply materials to its manufacturers.

The Belfair, Wash.-based alliance aims to debunk the widespread consumer perception that metal roofing is best suited for barns, where the plink-plink of raindrops on the roof won't disturb occupants and the one-style-fits-all silver sheets won't present an eyesore in a neighborhood of homes topped with earth-tone asphalt.

The message seems to be sinking in, as roofers, remodelers, custom builders, and small production builders are crowning houses from California to the East Coast with roofs made of aluminum, steel, tin, and copper.

The new appeal is largely aesthetic: Today's metal roofs can be painted almost any color and can be patterned to mimic the look of cement tiles, wood shakes, and even asphalt shingles. Even subdivisions that once outlawed metal roofs are softening to the look-alike styles. Notes Tom Black, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance: “A lot of times, if you have a wood shake-look metal and you're standing at the curb, you'd be hard-pressed to tell it's metal at all.”

More Than Good Looks

But looks alone haven't earned metal 8 percent of the residential roofing market. Roof-ravaging wind, hail, and snow have won metal some converts among homeowners paying for replacement roofs after hurricanes and storms.

Indeed, a 50-year warranty is a huge selling point for the manufacturers of most metal roofs, including some that have earned a Class 4 hail-resistance rating and are guaranteed to withstand 120-mph winds.

Metal's staying power during Florida's foursome of hurricanes last summer “created a monster for us,” brags Brad Davis, owner of West Coast Metal Roofing & Construction in Milton, Fla., whose sales have increased by 380 percent since August.

Homeowners there, partial to the look of concrete tile, are opting for tile-look and stone-coated metal as they replace their weather-torn roofs, Davis says. Indeed, notes Black, about 80 percent of the residential metal roofing market involves repairs or replacements rather than new construction.

At up to four times the cost of a standard asphalt roof, however, metal isn't a favorite among builders, who usually opt to upgrade consumer priorities like kitchens and entryways before sinking extra money into the roof, Black says.

Still, Black notes, custom builders are meandering toward metal, and he predicts that as more consumers become aware of metal's durability and new styles, production builders will follow.

For now, “it is a way for custom builders to differentiate their homes and provide value,” he says.

Remodeler Gerry Donaghue says that's why he started pushing metal to the customers who hire him to build additions onto or reroof their homes.

“There are hundreds of guys who put on asphalt products,” says the owner of Donaghue Construction Group in Nashua, N.H. “We wanted to be different from other contractors.”

The profits followed. “For roofing contractors, it's a great opportunity,” claims Black. “It's a product where they can make money. In asphalt shingles, a lot of the installation gets down to competing for the last 25 cents. But because metal and other premium roofing products require specialized installation, roofers can charge more for it, he says.

That's if they can find the help. While he hasn't had any trouble getting his hands on metal products during Florida's reroofing binge, Davis says he has a three-month backlog of jobs because he can't find enough qualified installers.

After contacting roofing manufacturers for referrals, he has imported installers from as far away as Minnesota, where roofers typically are dormant during snowy winters that put construction on hold.

Installation of metal roofs “has a learning curve to it,” agrees Donaghue. But as the market for metal matures, roofers of all kinds are trying to learn, says Natalie Tanner, marketing manager for Decra Roofing Systems, whose shingle-like, metal-coated steel product, she says, is easier to install than the traditional metal sheets.

“It has opened up the market to other kinds of contractors besides metal roofing contractors,” Tanner says.

Likewise, the rush to reroof with metal has led major manufacturers of popular asphalt shingles to consider adding the product line to their traditional menu of housetopping products.

Tamko bought Metalworks last year, and Black says “all of the manufacturers have looked at” making similar moves. “That will be a trend over time. I'm not sure how soon that will happen.”

New Innovations

In the meantime, metal roofing manufacturers are cooking up some applications for their products that some say could propel metal to the peak of the industry.

For starters, three manufacturers have made all of their products compliant with the federal government's Energy Star program by using a paint additive with such a high reflective value that it lowers the temperature of the roof—even in most dark colors—by up to 35 percent. That saves the homeowner money on air conditioning bills.

The paint was developed by the military to brush onto planes and tanks so they would reflect less heat and become harder for enemy radar to detect. Using the same paint on a metal roof means the homeowner can choose an earth tone rather than a light color or white and still keep the house cool.

Another technology, already in use in California, integrates solar-energy technology into standing-seam metal roof panels to help the house collect heat from the sun for use in heating and cooling the home.

“I think that's going to take over the photovoltaic market eventually,” predicts Dan Perkins, a one-time home builder turned metal roofer in Ishpeming, Mich., who has installed Uni-Solar panels on homes in Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and California.

Kevin Corcoran, vice president for business development at manufacturer Englert, predicts the innovations will keep coming, and that metal before long will be as common as tiles and other high-end products.

“It's become unbelievably popular,” he says, “because it looks like what a homeowner is used to seeing on a home.”

Metro Roof Products. Stone-coated steel shakes protect against hail, fire, and 120-mph wind, says the maker. The panels are made with wood-grain impressions and weigh 1.3 pounds per square foot. The stone coating on the metal shakes is embedded in an acrylic polymer resistant to UV rays, according to the firm. Metro also makes stone-coated steel shingles and curved tiles. 866-638-7648. www.metroroofproducts.com.

Decra. This manufacturer coats its Decra shingles with a zinc/aluminum alloy. Stone chips are bonded to the shingles with acrylic, giving it a classic look, the company says. The shingles, which weigh 1.25 pounds per square foot, resist freezing and thawing, and winds up to 120 mph, according to the firm. Decra shingles come in five finishes, including fawn grey and midnight eclipse. 877-463-3272. www.decra.com.

SolarShield. Adding a SolarShield metal roof increases a home's property value by 5 percent and can lower insurance premiums, the maker says. The Monticello panel, pictured, is 16 inches wide and up to 50 feet long with a rib height of 1 inch. Monticello panels, which come in gauges of 26 or 29, are available in 26 colors. 888-361-3236. www.solarshieldmetalroofing.com.

Perfection. Country Manor shakes offer the appearance of wood with the durability of aluminum, the maker says. The roofing is made from 98 percent recycled metal and weighs 50 pounds per 100 square feet. Polymer sealant protects the roof from fading, peeling, curling, and cracking better than any other, according to the firm. Country Manor shakes are available in nine colors. 888-788-2427. www.perfectionusa.com.

Englert. This manufacturer's metal roofs, which feature the Energy Star seal of approval, will not crack, perforate, shrink, or erode, the company says. The shingles are made from up to 50 percent recycled metal, and the panels themselves are 100 percent recyclable, according to the firm. The roofs come in several colors, including a Galvalume metallic finish (pictured). 732-826-8614. www.englertinc.com.

McElroy Metal. Meridian paneling from this company is a snap-together roofing product, which must be installed over solid decking. Meridian has a Class A fire rating and is rated Class 4 for impact resistance. Meridian comes in gauges of 24 and 26 and in either 12- or 16-inch-wide panels. The panels can be ordered in ribbed, striated, or flat pan styles. 888-245-3696. www.mcelroymetal.com.

Metalworks. StoneCrest Slate is made of double-stamped steel to closely mimic the look of natural slate. The panels are fire-, fade-, and wind-resistant, and builders can install them over pre-existing roofs if local building codes allow, the maker says. The panels come in four colors: Sierra slate gray, Quaker green, Vermont blue (pictured), and Sequoia red. 800-641-4691. www.metalworksroof.com.

Atas. CastleTop shingles are diamond-shaped metal tiles suitable for roof, wall, and mansard installations. CastleTop installs with concealed fasteners and in some cases can go over the existing roof, the maker says. The shingles come in 29 colors, which may be combined for different looks, and are available in zinc, aluminum, or copper. 800-468-1441. www.atas.com.

Classic Products. Interlocking, aluminum Oxford Shingle panels provide for an energy-efficient, low-profile roof, says the manufacturer. The panels are 12 inches by 60 inches and come in colors such as aged bronze and copper patina. The .024-inch-thick aluminum is rust resistant, making it superior to steel roofing systems, according to the maker. 800-543-8938. www.classicroof.com.

Met-Tile. This company makes its metal roofing out of steel and coats it with zinc aluminum. The panels resemble tile, the maker says, but the look is achieved by applying sheets vertically from eaves to ridges, which makes the roof more weathertight. The panels weigh 125 pounds each, leading some roofers to substitute them for heavier clay or concrete tile, says the firm. 909-947-0311. www.met-tile.com.

Custom-Bilt Metals. Vail Majestic Copper Shingles, made from 16-ounce solid copper coil, resist snow loads, the maker says. The panels are 34 inches by 12 inches and lock with surrounding shingles on all four sides. These shingles are rated Class A for fire resistance and withstand 110-mph winds, says the firm. Vail Majestic Copper Shingles come in three colors: antique patina, pre-patina copper (pictured), and copper. 800-826-7813. www.custombiltmetals.com.