Updated Nov 1, 2022
Selecting a new roofing material can be tedious, stressful, and expensive. While hiring a roofing contractor can help simplify that process, you’ll still need to pick a material for your roof. With over a dozen options on the market today, choosing the best type of roofing for your home can be tricky.
So, which one should you choose? While we can’t answer that question for you, we can offer insight into copper roofing, a beautiful and durable material that can last you several lifetimes. This article reviews the costs associated with a copper roof and its pros, cons, and how it compares to other popular metal roofing materials.
Copper roofing doesn’t come cheap – it’s actually the most expensive roofing material on the market. On average, a new copper roof costs anywhere from $20 to $30 per square foot when installed. The price of copper roofing is significantly higher than the $10 per square foot average of alternative metal roofing materials.
The final cost of installing a copper roof differs for every home, as each house has various features that affect pricing. Factors like the size and shape of the roof, the home’s location, labor costs, and material type can raise or lower the price. The table below outlines a few costs to give you an idea of what to expect from a copper roof installation.
|Cost Breakdown||Cost ($)|
|Typical Cost Range||$50,000 to $70,000|
|Per Square Foot (General)||$20 to $40|
|Labor (Per Square Foot)||$6 to $12|
|Removing Existing Roof (Per Square Foot)||$1 to $5|
The size and shape of your home’s roof will significantly affect how much your copper roofing installation costs. While regular gable roofs are relatively straightforward, they can become tricky when there are numerous steep peaks and valleys requiring sealing.
Aside from this, the size of your roof will also affect the total. Larger roofs require more materials and labor to get the job done, so they tend to be pricier than smaller installations.
Steeply-sloped roofs and those with numerous boots and vents usually cost more than gentle-sloped roofs with fewer boots and vents. This is primarily due to the extra labor required to fit the roofing material around the additional features protruding from the roof.
Your contractor’s team will need to utilize flashing, sealant, caulk, and meticulous work to ensure the seams around these features are dried and watertight. Since this process requires extra time and labor, you’ll face additional costs.
Most areas require residents to obtain permits before building and completing similar projects, like roofing. These permits can tack on additional fees to the final cost of your system, not to mention the potential wait before starting the project as you wait for the approval.
On top of this aspect, you’ll need to ensure you can order the materials for your area. If you live in a rural location, ordering the roofing materials you need can be a challenge. However, if you live in a city, you’ll likely have access to the materials you need. Keep in mind that ordering the materials you need might add extra fees to your project.
Labor costs vary from one location to the next, so this can significantly affect your project. For the most part, labor costs run between $6 and $12 per square foot for copper roofing installation projects.
Although many roofing materials come in several price points based on the quality of the material, copper roofing typically fluctuates within the same range for the material itself. However, the type of roofing you choose will affect the final cost of the system.
There are three common types of copper roofing: shingles, panels, and rolled. Copper shingles are the least expensive at $13 to $16 per square foot. Copper roofing panels hold up the middle of the spectrum at $18 to $21 per square foot, and rolled copper is the most expensive at $23 to $26 per square foot.
Aside from the type of roofing you choose, the seam type can also affect the cost. This applies to copper panels, as shingles require different installation methods. If you decide to go with a flat seamed roof, you can expect to pay $18 to $20 per square foot. For a standing seamed roof, expect to pay $18 to $21, and for a batten seam roof, expect to pay between $19 and $21.
Unless you’re working on a newly built home, you’ll probably have to tear off an existing roof for your roof replacement. This will add to your final bill, as your roofers will need to strip the roof of the old material before replacing it with copper material. Generally, this is relatively inexpensive, ranging between $1 and $5 per square foot for removal.
However, you might need to pay for the disposal of the old material, which can add a lump sum to your bill.
As you sift through potential roofing materials for your building project or re-roofing process, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of each option. Like every building material, copper has its list of benefits and drawbacks. The chart below outlines the ups and downs of copper to help you decide if it’s a good choice for your home. Continue reading beyond the chart for a detailed look at each point.
Copper is an excellent material for numerous applications, including roofing projects. The following sections outline the notable benefits of copper roofing:
Unlike many roofing material alternatives, copper lasts for decades. In many cases, copper lasts well over 60 years with proper care and maintenance (sometimes upwards of 100 years). So, despite the initial cost, the investment pays off in the long run.
Copper is a strong material that not only lasts for decades but holds up well as time passes. It withstands damage from fire, hail, heavy snow, mold, mildew, and insects. Due to copper’s inherent strength and durability, some homeowners may be able to secure lower insurance rates.
Adding a copper roof to your home works wonders for its value (though other factors can detract from its overall value). Many homeowners can recoup as much as 90% of their initial investment toward their copper roof when they sell their homes. Of course, if you don’t plan on selling, this might not be a deciding factor for you, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Copper is a recyclable material, making it an environmentally friendly option. Instead of throwing the roofing material away at the end of its lifespan, homeowners can sell it or reuse it in another manner. Many other roofing materials, like synthetic roofing tiles, end up in landfills and can take up to 300 years to decompose.
Copper can be worth nearly twice the recycled value of aluminum and almost a whopping four times the recycled value of stainless steel. So, if you decide to add copper roofing to your home, you can proceed with peace of mind knowing you can recycle it at the end of its lifespan.
Homeowners who appreciate a striking, eye-catching feature on their homes may enjoy the looks of copper. The rosy amber color creates significant curb appeal and sets the home apart from surrounding houses. So, copper might be the perfect option if you want a distinct, stunning, and unique roofing material.
For the most part, metal roofing materials are energy efficient, and copper roofing is no exception. Instead of allowing heat from sunlight into the home, the roof reflects light, which helps keep the house cooler through the summer months. This can help reduce heating and cooling costs, making your home more energy efficient.
Unlike other popular roofing materials, such as tiled roofing, copper is lightweight. This makes installation much more manageable (though it’s best to have a professional handle this part). In addition, the lightweight nature of copper doesn’t require additional roof support, so you shouldn’t need to add extra support to your roof (unless the roof structure is already failing).
Copper roofing is virtually maintenance-free, as it doesn’t require any painting or sealant coating. Once you install the roof, it usually doesn’t require any maintenance for years on end. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to check the fasteners and non-copper components to ensure they’re in good shape, but a copper metal roof itself is very low roof maintenance (but it will turn green unless you remove the patina).
Although copper roofing has a lengthy list of benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Notable downsides to copper roofing include the following:
Copper is essentially the roofing industry’s version of gold. It’s costly compared to other forms of roofing options, even other sheet metal roofing materials (which are usually less than half the cost of copper). Plus, if you’re getting a copper roof, you will likely want copper gutters to match it. This drives up the total cost substantially. This can deter folks from installing copper as a roofing material, as the price creates a barrier to entry.
If you want to incorporate solar energy into your home, using stainless steel for the brackets on the roofing system when you have a copper roof is important. Other metals can react poorly with copper, so it’s essential to use something that doesn’t react.
While this aspect isn’t necessarily a drawback for everyone, it’s something to consider.
Some contractors don’t offer copper roofing, and some might not install this type of roofing. The installation process can be finicky (such as standing seams), as you need to avoid using certain types of metal that might react poorly alongside copper. Due to the potential complexity of installations, some contractors might not offer copper products or installation services. So, if you decide on copper for your roof, verify your contractor offers their services for this material.
While copper’s beautiful, shiny, amber hue is a selling point for the metal, it usually doesn’t remain the same color. Many people appreciate the “live” surface of copper that changes over time through oxidation, but some might not like the teal look of patina. So, if you want to prevent patina on your copper roof, you’ll need to follow specific preservation measures.
As you browse for the perfect roofing material, it’s a good idea to sift through all your options. If you’d prefer to install a metal roof. The chart below outlines a few metal roofing alternatives to copper and key features like cost, durability, and installation. Of course, you always have the option of a traditional shingle roof too, which is less than any metal roof cost.
|Roofing Material||Durability||Cost||Installation||Style Variety|
|Zinc||Excellent||High||Moderate to difficult||Good|
|Steel||Good||Low to medium||Difficult||Good|
|Tin||Good||Low to medium||Moderate to difficult||Good|
|Aluminum||Excellent||Low to medium||Moderate to difficult||Good|
Like copper roofing materials, zinc is an expensive option for your new roof. Although it is slightly cheaper (about 10% less), zinc is still much pricier than other options on the market, yet it doesn’t offer the same benefits as copper.
However, both materials are durable, resistant to mold (and other organism growth), and long-lasting. Over time, both materials develop a patina, although copper’s patina turns it greenish blue, while zinc’s patina turns it bluish gray.
Steel is another alternative to copper roofing. Like copper, steel requires very little maintenance, making it a good choice for those looking to avoid expensive maintenance costs. However, steel is prone to corrosion unless treated, so it needs to be cleaned and treated to prevent issues associated with it.
Unlike copper, steel is heavy, so it usually requires extra roof support. On top of that, the weight drives installation and shipping costs. That said, steel is cheaper than copper roofing by a long shot, so it’s more budget-friendly.
Tin is a traditional alternative to copper roofing materials. This material was a go-to roofing material for decades until asphalt shingles upstaged it. Even still, it remains a popular, inexpensive metal roofing material.
Tin roofing is much cheaper than copper but shares a few similarities. Both materials last for a decent amount of time (tin lasts around 50 years with care and maintenance), require little maintenance and are decently durable. However, while copper is aesthetically pleasing, tin falls short, as it sacrifices appearance to offer protection from the elements and durability.
Of course, tin has drawbacks, as it doesn’t work well for curb appeal and is susceptible to rust without proper protection.
Homeowners can also use aluminum as a metal alternative to copper roofing materials. Like copper, aluminum roofing can last for decades, although its lifespan is shorter than copper (it lasts about 50 years). Aluminum is lightweight, like copper, so it usually doesn’t require extra roof support.
Aluminum is an excellent option for coastal regions, as it’s resistant to rust. It’s durable and long-lasting, so it’s a solid alternative to copper for those on a budget.
Aside from the above considerations, there are a few additional aspects you should consider. The ideal roofing material varies based on numerous factors, so it’s essential to examine your needs and expectations from every angle.
Although copper features a warmer color, it matches most siding colors. You can choose from siding colors, like cream, tan, white, brown, red, black, or blue, to bring out the amber shades of the roof. However, you might not like the combination of specific siding colors with a copper roof, so be sure you check this before installing a copper roof (or new siding).
Copper roofing is incredibly easy to maintain, as cleaning and routine maintenance are virtually unnecessary. Of course, you’ll need to verify that other parts of the roof (fasteners, flashing, etc.) aren’t failing, but the roof itself should be virtually maintenance-free for many years.
You don’t need to finish or paint copper, but if you prefer the shiny look of new copper, you may need to use a special copper cleaner to restore the shine. Many folks that don’t enjoy the look of the green patina choose to have a professional clean the roof and restore the shiny amber color to the copper sheets.
However, aside from this, there isn’t any cleaning necessary. Rainwater is usually enough to rinse excess dirt and grime, but you can rinse off the roof with a garden hose if the rain doesn’t remove everything. However, it’s best to avoid heavy washing (such as power washing), as this can damage the protective coating of the patina.
Other Roofing Resources