Ask Danny | Ep. 2: Insider Answers on Metal Roofing6 min read
In Episode 2 of “Ask Danny,” metal roofing expert Todd Miller gives us some insider tips and information about installation, energy efficiency and style options.
About Todd Miller
Todd Miller is president of Isaiah Industries, a manufacturer of residential metal roofing.
With 40 years of industry experience, Todd has worked with property owners and contractors on projects worldwide.
In addition to roofing, he is often sought after for his expertise with condensation and ventilation.
Todd also has an educational website at Ask Todd Miller as well as a podcast, “Construction Disruption.”
Working with Todd in Louisiana
I met Todd while shooting a Today’s Homeowner TV episode in Cut Off, La., in 2020. Hurricane Zeta had majorly damaged David and Ruby LeBlanc’s roof, so we installed a new metal roof for them.
For David and Ruby’s metal roof, we used an aluminum product called rustic shingle.
They live on the Gulf Coast, so aluminum is ideal for their environment because it resists corrosion. Plus, the shingles interlock on all sides, giving it strong wind resistance with an added old-world shake look.
Less than a year later, their metal roof was put to the test during Hurricane Ida.
“As I watched that storm track, I was sweating bullets,” Todd says. “You always believe in your product, you know it can do well, but on the other hand, storms like that can be unpredictable. You can end up with a lot of wind-blown debris that oftentimes can cause damage.”
Ida brought on wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour and also destroyed the neighbor’s garage.
David and Ruby’s metal roof came through in shining colors. The only damage was one detached hip cap on the side closest to their neighbor’s garage.
“Their fairly old home has endured damage and hardships from storms in the past, but you would never know it,” Todd says. “They’re delightful people and determined to protect this home for the next generation.”
Do you have to remove all the existing shingles from the roof before you install a metal roof?
Todd: While every house is different, the short answer is no. If you only have a single layer of shingles, most building codes allow for a second layer of roofing.
It’s pretty common for metal roofs, especially shingled and corrugated metal, to be installed over an existing layer of shingles. However, if you want a standing seam metal roof, you’ll need to have a smooth surface for installation. If you don’t, you’ll end up with oil canning, or ripples in the panels.
No matter what type of metal roof you want, always have an attic inspection before installation. Look closely at the underside of the roof deck for signs of rot, water infiltration and high moisture levels that need to be addressed.
Do you recommend a roofer put down strapping before the roof goes on?
Todd: Usually I don’t. For most products, it’s not required.
If you have proper attic ventilation, there aren’t any concerns from a condensation standpoint.
Strapping or batten can be used, but ultimately it will make the roof harder to walk on, more prone to wind uplift, and you may find yourself having to raise your gutters. This is why we generally promote direct-to-deck installation.
Even with direct-to-deck installation, if it’s over the old singles, we will put a layer of underlayment over the existing shingles.
Most times, the building code requires it, but it also makes good sense. You don’t want the old shingles’ abrasive top surface rubbing against the back of the metal panels.
How long does it take to install a metal roof?
Todd: Of course, every house is different, but one- to three-day installations are not uncommon.
This is another great benefit of metal roofing — minimal disruption to your routine during installation.
What types of metal roofing are becoming more popular?
Traditionally, corrugated and shiplap metal roofs are the most popular, but that’s starting to change.
Many homeowners associations and architectural review boards won’t allow metal roofing. Plus, it can be hard for some homeowners to imagine a roof that’s not asphalt shingles.
But now, there are metal roofing options that look like a traditional roof. They’re called modular metal products, which are basically metal shingles.
They’re produced from steel, aluminum and even copper. These panels are formed in a variety of ways, and can look like existing asphalt shingles, wood shake, high-end slate or barrel tile.
With this type of metal roofing, you can get the look of more traditional high-end roofing with the durability, energy efficiency and sustainability of metal roofing.
Are darker metal roofs less energy-efficient than lighter ones?
Todd: Generally, when we talk about metal roofing’s energy efficiency, it’s in terms of solar reflection.
The more solar energy your roof absorbs, the hotter your home will be. This results in your air conditioner working harder to keep your home cool.
Typically, lighter metal roofs reflect more sunlight than darker ones.
White naturally has a high solar reflection of about 65 percent, but you don’t necessarily have to get a white roof to have an energy-efficient roof.
There are now cool roof coatings with pigments that reflect infrared energy from the sun and keep the roof cool.
Without this cool roof coating, a darker roof only reflects about 3-4 percent of the sun’s infrared energy. With these new pigments, the roof reflects up to 25-30 percent.
- Choose the product first. Ultimately, you’re going to live with the looks of that product for a long time. If you don’t love the look and it doesn’t fit your home, you won’t be happy with it. The Metal Roofing Alliance has a visualizer to help you see how a metal roof will look on your home.
- When you choose your product, find an installer through the manufacturer. They’ll know the product through and through.
- Think long-term. The upfront cost of installing metal roofing is more expensive than a traditional roof, but you’ll save over time. Look at it on a cost-by-year basis. If you intend to stay in your home for a number of years, you can see good payback over time with lower utility bills and fewer repairs.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, forget about it — you haven’t seen anything yet.
Years ago, a woman in upstate New York wanted a metal roof installed on a small bungalow. She owned a fairly high-end magazine and website and wanted to work out a deal where Todd would help her get a roof and, in turn, she would promote Todd’s business.
It seemed like a win-win for Todd. As part of the deal, he sent a crew from Ohio to install the roof — free of charge.
Four years later, an upset woman called Todd. She said “You put a roof on my house and I don’t know why!”
Turns out, the woman who contacted Todd was not the owner. She was the renter.
“We put a roof on someone’s house who didn’t know it and didn’t even want it!”
All’s well that ends well, she turned out to be delightful, and she and Todd became great friends.
“We still laugh about it,” Todd says.