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Inspecting the Metal Roof

June 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 242

Inspecting a metal roof rarely happens, and when it does it is a mixed blessing. The metal roof is usually well constructed, low maintenance, and attractive; yet it can be dangerous to traverse and poses significant challenges to the inspector. Standards of Practice stipulate that inspectors shall traverse the roof or document the reason(s) for not doing so. However, even setting aside the risks of traversing steep roofs, just walking on roofs made of metal, clay, or slate is assuming a certain level of liability (both to one's body and to the roof's integrity) and is usually recommended against by manufacturers.

The metal roof is characteristically high in quality, perhaps a step down from slate or clay roofs. It is not inexpensive and for that reason alone it sometimes gives inspectors pause. But the client needs to make a decision that will entail a large investment also, and he expects the inspector to do a thorough job.

Roofs made of metal have several advantages. They are lightweight, so the inspector doesn't need to make a structural assessment to see if there is adequate support. (Unless the house is relatively new, it is highly likely that the original roof was made of a different material.) The metal is strong and rigid with a smooth surface. This means it tends not to accumulate excess snow that could cause leaks or damage.

Its strength and rigidity also means that common problems with shake or shingle roofs (whether made of asphalt or cedar), such as cupping, curling, splitting, and so on, are not issues that need to be investigated. Other advantages are that metal is not combustible and that roofs made of it have relatively few joints, translating into fewer places to leak.

The disadvantages of metal roofs are what the inspector has to focus his attention. A major disadvantage is rusting. Manufacturers do a good job of coating their materials and protecting them from corrosion, but rusting still occurs. Likewise, one has to check for dents. An even more critical issue is that metal expands and contracts with changes in temperature, making these roofs susceptible to buckling. For this reason, panels tend to come no wider than twenty inches. Installers have to make room for thermal movements, and inspectors need to make sure buckling has not occurred.

Metal roofs come in two basic configurations: shingles and panels. The inspector is concerned not so much with the configuration but with the material used, the flashing, the fasteners, and the joints. Shingles are made in a profusion of appearances, often imitating clay tile, wood shakes, or wood shingles. However, there is hardly any overlap, resulting in exposure nearing 100%. Most shingles are made of treated steel or aluminum and coated with paint, acrylic, or stone granules. Their fasteners are nails, clips, or screws.

Metal panels are made of steel, aluminum, galvanized steel, copper, zinc, and a few other alloys. Their joints typically go vertically down the surface of the roof. Seams can be battened, laid flat, or standing up. Fasteners are clips or screws.

Besides checking for rust, dents, buckles, and failures of seams or fasteners, the inspector needs to estimate the roof's life expectancy. Metal roofs definitely last longer than composition or even shake roofs, with life spans ranging from twenty-five to fifty years.

John Gordon, PhD, is a licensed home inspector conducting his business out of Bellingham, Washington. He expresses thoroughness in his inspections and reports, providing clients detailed information on a number of topics including metal roof characteristics. John invites you to visit his website,

Source: EzineArticles
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Metal Roof


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