The Ultimate Guide to Copper Roofing

In this guide, we'll discuss...


Copper Roofing Overview

Appearance

Copper is one of the most commonly used metals in the roofing industry, behind steel and aluminum roofing. The copper used in roofing installations is 99.9% pure copper.

Copper is not only beautiful in appearance, but it’s also durable.

A properly installed copper roof will likely be the last roof ever installed on the building. Copper holds up well to weathering, UV exposure, humid and dry climates, rainfall, wind, and hail.

In addition, one of the most appealing aspects of copper roofing is its weathering properties. It turns from the traditional shiny copper color to a blue-green tint referred to as "patina." It can take more than 25 years in some geographic locations for the patina to fully develop. Patina is actually a thin layer of copper sulfate that forms over the roofing material when exposed to weather and air pollutants. A perfect example of how this process works is the Statue of Liberty.

Copper roofing ages over time and forms a protective layer

The layer of patina that forms on copper roofing protects the copper from corrosion. Because of this all-natural protectant, there’s no need to apply any sort of protective coating or enamel to copper roofs. It’s a great benefit of this type of roofing.

It’s also not unusual to notice small undulations—known as oil canning—on the surface of copper roofing. The manufacturing process and inherited properties of the metal are the cause of oil canning. The oil canning issue will eventually go away as the patina finish conceals the imperfections.

Uses

Copper is used in the roofing industry for ornamental work and as a complete roofing solution. It's an exceptionally malleable metal that bends and molds to various shapes with relative ease.

Copper used in roofing applications is available in several levels of hardness. Soft copper is ideal for ornamental work, while much harder cold-rolled copper is used for roofing panels and shingles.

Copper roofing is an ideal choice for highlighting a decorative focal point of the roof. Roofing contractors are able to pre-fabricate the ornamental copper piece in-house or on-site. The roofer can pound the copper into virtually any shape.

LEARN MORE: The Homeowner's Complete Metal Roofing Guide


Copper Roofing Panels

Roofing panels composed of metal materials, such as copper, are often referred to as standing seam roofing. These are primarily pre-formed or field formed pans, typically between 14 - 18 inches wide. However, dimensions vary based on the size and angle of your roof.

These panels can be installed a number of different ways, depending on the dimensions of your roof and copper panels.

Common installation techniques include:

  • Gable Rake
  • Typical Standing Seam
  • Transverse Seams
  • Standing Seam at Hip

An experienced metal roofing contractor should be familiar with these standard practices. They should be knowledgeable and happy to explain the process and details regarding your particular panels and roof.


Find a Qualified Metal Roofing Contractor Near You


Copper can be used for flashing as well as roofing

Copper Roofing Flashing

Copper flashing is sold in coils ranging from .001 to .0216 inch. The thinnest copper flashing won’t serve as waterproofing for your property, as it’s primarily used in crafting. Thicker gauges require tin snips to cut, but are commonly used for roofing applications.

In addition to its durability, copper flashing is popular because over time, the color will changes from bright and shiny to a darkish green. This patina gives your property a sign of character.

Installed properly, copper flashing can outlast the majority of other materials. However, all copper flashing should be installed by a trained professional due to extensive problems caused by amateur installations.
 

Copper Roofing Installation

Standing seam copper roofs are a popular choice for steep and low-slope roofs because they offer superior water shedding properties. The copper panels are soldered together at the seams, making them strong and watertight.

Copper roofing installation is a skilled trade best left to roofing professionals with experience installing copper roofing. This is especially true for ornamental installs, such as domes or irregularly shaped roof structures.

Copper is an architectural roofing material rather than structural, meaning there must be solid decking or closely-spaced battens installed to support the copper panels or shingles. Since typical fasteners and flashing are susceptible to corrosion and discoloration, roofers use copper fasteners and flashing when working with copper roofing.

FIND OUT MORE: Metal Roofing Installation


Copper Roofing Costs

The cost of copper roofing is higher than most other types of roofing, such as asphalt shingles, tile, and steel roofing. However, copper roofs have been shown to last for more than a century, so it’s probably the last roof you'll ever buy for the building.

On average, the typical cost of a 2,500 sq. ft. copper roof is $44,144. Prices fluctuate depending on your location, the size and complexity of your roof, whether the old roofing material needs to be removed, the grade of material, and more.

Average Cost to Install 2,500 sq. ft. Metal Roof
Location Cost
Chicago, IL $61,810
Phoenix, AZ $44,089
Seattle, WA $48,614
Atlanta, GA $55,192

copper roof green with age

Copper Roof Finishes

There are a variety of finishes available for copper roofing, although copper is one of the few roofing materials that requires no protective finish at all.

Patina-Accelerators

It can take 5 to 15 years (or longer in some cases) for the desired blue-green patina color to take full effect. Certain chemicals can help accelerate this process, like ammonium chloride.

There’s no exact science to this acceleration process, and the geographic location greatly influences how well—if at all—the chemicals succeed at accelerating the patina process. Since it’s not an exact science and can actually hinder the quality of the patina finish, naturally-weathered patinas are often preferred.

Copper Coatings

If you prefer the natural, shiny look of copper, special coatings are available to protect the metal from developing the patina look. There are also waxes and oils available that help prevent water from contacting the surface of the copper, inhibiting the weathering process to take place. These coatings must be reapplied periodically to prevent weathering of the copper.

Factory-Coated Patinas

Several copper roofing manufacturers are producing chemically-treated copper roofing products that come straight from the factory with a patina finish. Because these pre-patinated roofing systems are relatively new to the industry, real world longevity, and quality testing is limited. At this point, natural weathering is the best option—you just have to be patient!


Finding an Experienced Copper Roofing Contractor

Hiring a qualified and experienced copper roofing contractor isn’t always easy considering it’s such a skilled trade. Hometown Roofing makes it easier by prescreening each and every roofing contractor so you can find a licensed and insured roofer that specializes in metal, and specifically copper, roofing.

Read our verified customer reviews of local roofing contractors to better help you decide on a quality contractor with a good standing in the community. You can also learn more about metal roofing by visiting our Metal Roofing FAQ page. A quality installation is the key to ensuring your copper roofing project withstands the test of time, so choosing the right roofing company is a top priority.

Find a Qualified Copper Roofer Near You