Roofing Cost Smackdown: Metal Roofing Wins on Total Cost of Ownership

Roofing total cost of ownership

It’s easy to experience a little sticker shock when shopping for new roofing. It’s definitely a hefty investment.  For some, it may be the biggest investment you’ll ever make on your home. However, you shouldn’t base your roofing choice solely on which type of roofing has the smallest price tag. That decision could come back to bite you down the road, especially if you plan to live in the home a long time.


You may also be intersted in: Comparing the cost of metal vs. shingle roofing


What is the Total Cost of Ownership of a Roof?

The Total cost of ownership, or TCO, factors in the expected lifespan and the initial cost of a roof to give you a more accurate depiction of how much a particular roofing type costs in the long term. Factoring in the TCO of roofing is a smarter way to shop if you plan on living in the home for an extended period of time (i.e., 15+ years).

Average Lifespan of Different Types of Roofing Materials

Environmental factors play a major role in how long a roof will last. Snow, hail, high-winds and extreme temperatures can significantly shorten the lifespan of a roof. The table below depicts the average lifespan of common types of roofing materials, but the main factor influencing the actual lifespan of a roof is choosing one that is ideal for the climate you live in – this is where the advice of a good roofing contractor is invaluable.

Type of Roofing Material

Estimated Lifespan

Asphalt Shingles

12 – 20 years

Metal Roofing (steel/aluminum)

40 – 60 years

Wood Shakes

15 – 30 years (requires maintenance every  3 to 5 years for maximum lifespan)

Slate Roofing

60+ years (depends on type of slate)

One quick note on roofing material warranties: Just because a roofing shingle comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t mean it will last a lifetime. The length of the manufacturer’s warranty is not always an accurate depiction of how long the roofing material will last.

Typical Roofing Costs

The cost of roofing can vary depending upon where you live, complexity of the installation and brand/quality of roofing you choose. It’s important to shop around when looking for a particular type of roofing to ensure you’re getting the best possible pricing.

Type of Roofing Material

Average Cost Per Sq Ft (Materials/Installation)

Asphalt Shingles

$2 - $4

Metal Roofing (steel/aluminum)

$5 - $7

Wood Shakes

$5 - $7

Slate Roofing

$7 - $11

Roofing TCO Breakdown

Based on the numbers in the tables above, the clear winner in terms of TCO is metal roofing. Compared to asphalt shingles, metal roofing lasts three times longer yet only costs an average of two times more. In other words, you’ll have to replace an asphalt shingle roof three times to match the longevity of metal roofing.

Slate roofing also offers an impressive TCO; however, it has a couple of potential drawbacks. First, its steep initial cost is out of some people’s price range. Secondly, it’s a heavy material that is not suitable for many roofing structures. There are lighter composite slate roofing products out there that are a good alternative to traditional slate roofing.

Wood shake roofing and asphalt roofing are at the bottom of the TCO scale, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad roofing choices. Wood shake roofs are some of the most beautiful looking roofs, and the aesthetics of the roof may be worth the extra investment for some people.

Asphalt shingles are by far the most popular residential roofing choice in the U.S., and properly maintained can sometimes outlast its expected lifespan. Also, newer composition shingles are a good alternative to asphalt shingles and offer increased durability at an affordable price.

Want to learn more? Read more articles from the Hometown Roofing Blog.