Roofing Material Choices – Why Architects and Contractors May Know Even Less Than You!


Choosing a new roof for a new home or re-roofing project can be a daunting task. Considering the diversity of perspectives and concerns of architects, designers, contractors, suppliers, building departments, architectural committees, sub contractors, building inspectors (and there may be others!), it’s easy to understand why it can be difficult to make sense of all the voices. I’ve been in the business 30 plus years and harmony from that choir is something I have learned not to expect.

First and foremost, keep in mind, the vast majority of designers and contractors are used to dealing with a few favorite roofers and those roofers usually have a few favorite roof material suppliers. If they don’t have to have interest in or experience with a particular type of roof material, then all of a sudden there are a thousand reasons why it’s too much money, or too complex, or hard to find, etc. etc. As a rule, construction people do NOT want to have to deal with a product with which they have little or no experience – and this is especially true with roof products.

I just went through an experience very recently where what the client wanted for their new home (an energy efficient metal roof), and what the contractor wanted them to want (an asphalt composition roof) could not be reconciled without a fuss. The client had signed a contract to rebuild the home where they planned to live for the indefinite future. They intended it to be an energy efficient, earth-friendly building that would be beautiful to view and have low energy usage. They contacted me because they decided after they began working on the project that they wanted a metal roof for its energy efficiency, and permanence.

As soon as I understood that they were already working with a general contractor I asked if I could contact the contractor so as to introduce myself and offer information and specifications for the metal roof options being considered by their client. You would have thought I was threatening them with an OSHA inspection! The phone line went cold. My next call was to the client to let him know how negative was the response of his contractor. The client assured me that I wasn’t wasting my time by measuring, specifying, and preparing a selection of colors and samples, so despite the inhospitable reception from the people swinging the hammers, I carried on with my work. The client was adamant that they wanted a roof product that was environmentally responsible, would reflect a high percentage of solar heat to off set cooling costs, and something that would last as long as they planned to be in the home (In this case the rest of their natural lives). All of the traits of a well-chosen metal roof. Too bad the contractor had different priorities.

After all of that preamble, including picking colors and reflective liners for beneath the visible metal, and specifying accessories and details, the client ended up with an asphalt roof. An ASPHALT ROOF! The LEAST environmentally friendly, the SHORTEST lifespan, the LEAST able to resist solar heat! The cheapest roof you can buy! And now on their, “Dream Home.” Quite an about face.

It turned out that even though they wanted the qualities of a metal roof, loved the appearance, and were more than able to afford the additional investment, the deciding factor was the contractor’s preference. The contractor convinced the client that switching from the originally specified asphalt roof would compromise the progress of the project. Of course that was nonsense – It would have done no such thing. However, it would have introduced an element that the contractor was not willing to deal with, and he didn’t want his little, predictable profit center messed with by sitting still for a new-fangled “green” upgrade to interfere with his project. The client listed the objections of the contractor, and it was all I could do to refrain from laughing (“…it would need new engineering…” NOT true – the metal roof was ½ the weight of the asphalt roof! “…it would change the ventilation…” NOT true – the metal roof installs on the same solid, vented deck as the composition roof. “…it might hold up the job…” NOT true – there are more qualified, available metal roof installers now than there have ever been, and the material is as readily available as any asphalt shingle….etc. etc.).

It just shows once more that whoever is on the site, directing traffic and standing in the midst of an incomplete project – with the meter running! – is the one really calling the shots. Eco-friendly, permanent roofing? Another time, maybe!

The moral of the story is that most people in the trade get used to a certain routine and will fight like mad to stop anyone else from messing with their plan. It’s also true that the vast majority of contractors and designers are most familiar with the most common roof materials – which happens to be asphalt shingles. Regardless of the fact that they are the cheapest, most short-lived product available, they are also the fastest to install and require the lowest level of installation competence. The quickness of installation alone makes them a almost irresistibly attractive to the average builder.

It may surprise most people to learn that in fact many architects and many contractors have a rather narrow view of roofing products and materials. If you are serious about choosing the best possible material for your next roof project, don’t rely on someone who doesn’t study it for a living. Instead, do your own research, and make a decision based on common sense and your own priorities – not those of someone like your builder who will never live in your house! And you may be surprised how many times architects – many of whom have already designed hundreds of custom homes and buildings! – tell me how UNFAMILIAR they are with many of the advantages of metal roofs! And these people are advising their clients – isn’t that strange?

For more information on this topic and others, there is a free roofing information booklet available for download at my website Start there and you’ll have a better understanding of the questions you should be asking than many in the trade!


Source by Christopher Testa