Switching From Asphalt to Metal Roof Installation? Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes

How can you successfully make the switch from asphalt to metal roof installation? In this article, we’ll talk about what common mistakes to avoid.

As metal roofing continues to grow more popular in residential and commercial sectors, contractors are following the shift and looking for ways to begin working in the industry. It’s an increasingly favorable market with a high demand for quality workmanship and skilled labor. As a contractor, the challenge can be figuring out how to best approach making the switch to metal roofing and understanding how to succeed.

At Sheffield Metals International (SMI), we have a deep understanding of metal roofing materials, installation processes, technical considerations, design best practices, and more. Our expert team has collected valuable information over the years and used it to inform others in the industry to make their metal roofing projects go smoothly. Along with providing high-quality materials like coils, sheets, and accessories to our customers, we also create engaging content that informs contractors on how to best approach and complete their work.

Metal roof installation can be much more complex than a standard material such as shingles — that’s why it’s important to understand the challenges of transitioning to a new market. In this article, we’ll discuss a few main points to keep in mind when switching from asphalt to metal roofing and tips for succeeding when making the switch. We’ve also included insights from a former contractor on the Sheffield Metals Sales team, Stephen, who has had extensive experience in the metal roofing market.

 When you’re done reading, you’ll have a better picture of what switching to metal roofing might look like and how to best approach it.

Top 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Switching from Asphalt to Metal Roofing

a standing seam metal roofing on a house in Texas

“It’s really about trying to go about the transition in the most responsible way possible. Metal can be a lot more intensive than shingle roofing, and there are a lot of barriers to entry that you’re going to have to get over before getting into the full swing of things. But there are things you can do in the interim to alleviate that and baby step your way into it.”

-Stephen, Former Metal Roofing Contractor

Before you make the jump into metal roofing installations, it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at some of the key differences between asphalt and metal roofing, as well as some of the common pitfalls to avoid. Here are the top four mistakes we see contractors make when switching from asphalt to metal roofing.

1. Assuming All Metal Roofing Installations Require the Same Skillset

One of the most important differences to remember regarding metal roofing is that different types of roof systems will require very different skill sets. The gap between exposed fastener metal roofs and standing seam metal roofs, for instance, is significant.

Exposed Fastener

Commonly used on residential, industrial, and agricultural buildings, exposed fastener metal roofs can be identified by their visible fastener heads. Installation for exposed fastener systems is much simpler when compared to standing seam — for exposed fastener systems, you’ll be fastening the panels through the structure directly to the roof deck.

This system still requires knowledge of metal roofing and best practices for installation, but is not nearly as labor-intensive as standing seam options. Because of this, exposed fastener systems are great options for contractors looking to take that first step into metal roofing.

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Standing Seam

Offering sleek aesthetics, impressive durability and longevity, and high-performance engineered profile systems, standing seam metal roofs are growing steadily in popularity, even with their higher price point. Standing seam is a concealed fastener metal roofing system where each panel is seamed together, whether by hand or mechanically, or snapped together as in a snap-lock system.

Standing seam metal roofs require a much more labor-intensive process than exposed fastener systems. You’ll need to space clips correctly and spend more time on installation, as standing seam panels are much narrower than exposed fastener panels. Standing seam details are often much more complex than exposed fastener details, too.

Since they’re often used for commercial applications, standing seam metal roofs also may need weathertight warranties, which act as an assurance from the installer that the roof will not leak. Installations with weathertight warranties require even more attention to detail, as the system must be suited specifically to the engineering provided by the warranty issuer.

When you’re starting out in metal roofing, it’s essential to identify the differences between these systems and choose projects that you feel comfortable doing.

2. Improper Handling of Materials

Finished drip edge made by a Van Mark Metal Master 20

Unlike shingle roofs, which can be typically walked on and handled without too much precaution and still retain their appearance, metal roofing materials must be moved and installed with care and intention.

With the proper care for materials, the finished product will be an impressive aesthetic achievement, providing the customer with a sleek, modern design that will last for decades. You’re dealing with painted products, after all, and metal materials that can be scratched, chipped, or twisted — which could lead to complications like oil canning.

Understanding how to handle metal roofing materials is so important for effective installation. This starts with the manufacturing and storage of materials, which is why it’s essential to find a trusted metal roofing supplier that can offer you quality products.

From there, it’s up to you and your team to care for the materials as best as possible, including using the right number of people to carry each panel and getting panels up to the roof deck safely.

Which specific metal materials you’re using on your project is also something to keep in mind – using different materials on metal roofs could result in galvanic reaction, a chemical process resulting in corrosion. One of the most common examples of dissimilar metal corrosion we see is installers using copper gutters on steel roofs — even the water runoff can react with the steel, resulting in complications.

If you’re unsure of how certain materials will react, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional metal roofing supplier for advice on how to proceed.

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3. Lack of Product Knowledge

“Metal roofing, especially on certain roofs, can be quite a bit like an art form.”

-Stephen, Former Metal Roofing Contractor

As you can see from the brief topics we already mentioned — differences between roofing systems, handling of materials, and dissimilar metals — there is a lot of information to keep in mind when installing a metal roof. Knowing the ins and outs of metal roofing might not come quickly at first, but seeking out resources and experts in the field will help further your knowledge of the craft and make installations go smoother.

Before you even begin working in the metal roofing industry, it’s beneficial to seek out installers who have worked on metal roofs for years, as they can show you the ropes and teach you specific best practices. Likewise, the right metal roofing supplier can connect you with others in the industry to help build your network.  

4. Scaling Up Too Quickly

three standing seam metal roof roof panel rollforming machines sit side by side

“Once you’re doing 25, 35 metal roofs per year, that’s when I would really start looking into machinery. There are three main pieces of machinery that you’re going to need: a shear, a brake, and a rollformer.”

-Stephen, Former Metal Roofing Contractor

As you gain confidence and momentum in the metal roofing market, you might find that you need to scale up to keep up with the number of jobs you’re getting. Knowing when and how to scale up is crucial to keep your business thriving.

If you buy a machine or hire an extra crew too quickly, it could strap your business for cash. On the flip side, if you book 30-plus projects in your first year without understanding how to properly estimate and bid on a metal job, don’t understand the time involved in metal installation, or have an inexperienced crew and sales team, it could put you in a difficult spot as well.

Once you reach a point where you’re doing 25 to 35 roofs per year and feel comfortable with growing the business, it might be time to start looking into investing in machinery to aid your growth.

There are three main pieces of machinery that you’re going to need:

  • Shears: These tools are used to cut metal to specific measurements, enabling installers to get the correctly-sized flat sheets to bend trim pieces.
  • Brake: Owning a hand brake or an automatic brake will allow you to bend trim for unique project details.
  • Rollformer: Rollforming machines will drastically increase your output, allowing you to control your own panel manufacturing. While it is a large investment, it can start paying dividends very quickly if you’re doing enough jobs.

These three main pieces will help you take on more projects and improve efficiency.

How Can You Make the Switch from Asphalt to Metal Roof Installation Successfully?

A finished gray standing seam metal roof on a modern, residential home

Understanding some key points for transitioning to metal roofing can help you get on the right track. Still, it’s important to take a step deeper and look at some specific actions you can take to succeed in the metal roofing industry.

Build an Experienced Team

One of the crucial parts of building up a solid metal roofing portfolio is to first find great installers to hire for your crew. Metal roofing is more complex than shingles and requires a knowledge of the craft, so you’ll want to take your time, vet potential installers, and ask for references.

Then, you can start your team on a small project and see how things go. This is the core of your business — with reliable installers, you can separate yourself from others who might not be as attentive to details.

Start Simple and Build a Solid Portfolio

When you’re first starting, it’s helpful to begin with smaller, more straightforward projects. This will help you build up a portfolio of solid work that you can show to other potential customers. You can gain momentum and work your way up to more complex jobs.

Exposed fastener systems, which offer a more straightforward process for installation than standing seam systems, are a great option for contractors looking to get into metal roofing.

Likewise, you should also start with residential installations, as these are far less complicated than commercial projects that may require weathertight warranties and specific details to complete.

Get the Right Tools

Along with machinery, you’ll also want to look at those smaller tools you’ll need for metal roofing installation. Some may be similar to those you’d use on shingle roofing, while others you might need to purchase, such as aviation snips. Feel free to check out our full video on metal roofing tools, where we cover what you’ll need to install a metal roof.

Understand How to Sell Your Products

A small pavilion with a white metal roof

“There are a ton of contractors that sit their new sales teams in front of a computer and bring up [The Metal Roofing Channel] for training.”

-Stephen, Former Metal Roofing Contractor

Once you’ve got a solid installation team in place, it’s time to make your sales team experts on all things metal roofing. This can be as simple as visiting The Metal Roofing Channel and having your team go through the content, discovering the unique selling points of metal roofing and some of the more technical aspects, such as specific design considerations or wind uplift testing.

The more effective your sales team, the easier you’ll be able to bring in jobs and grow your business.

Find a Local Manufacturer

It’s essential to find a solid local panel manufacturer before you purchase your own equipment. Spend time getting to know their business and what exactly they offer, including what panel profiles they have available, the various materials and colors to choose from, whether they offer accessories, their standard lead times, and shipping and pickup options. Understand what you need and make sure it lines up with their offerings.

A great local manufacturer will be able to form your panels to what you need and provide convenience, as you can pick up your products quickly. 

Partner With a Trusted Supplier

If you have machinery, you’ll want to find a reliable coil and sheet supplier that can give you quality materials. This will help you form a reliable connection that you can buy from again and again, and they may also be able to connect you with other qualified installers and local manufacturers in the area to help build your business.

Where Can I Find More Information on Metal Roofing Installation?

Moving from asphalt roofing to metal can seem like an intimidating prospect. With the right knowledge and resources at your disposal, you can start taking advantage of a booming market and begin building a portfolio in metal roofing.

By now, you should have a better idea of what it takes to become successful in the metal roofing industry and how to best approach the transition from asphalt to metal. You might be looking for more information on metal roofing installation best practices, or how to scale your business to the next level.

One of the central parts of making the move to metal roof installations is to find the right supplier that can set you on the right track. Sheffield Metals provides high-quality coils, sheets, and accessories, plus expert Technical and Architectural teams that will guide you through your project, from start to finish. Contact us today to begin a lasting partnership.

Contact Sheffield Metals today!