Whole Living Daily

Ask Mindy: Is Steel the Best Green Roofing Material?

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Q: I have heard that steel-panel roofing is eco-friendly, but I'm worried about hail damage and loud noise during thunderstorms. Are they durable and good for insulation? —Carol Smurawski

A: It’s true that raindrops will register louder on steel than asphalt or wood, but this is not necessarily unpleasant. (For example, if you agree with Lovin’ Spoonful and find romance in the sound of “Rain on the Roof.") On the other hand, the pattering can become pretty maddening if you don’t install insulation, which you’ll want to do for any roof to conserve energy, advises Sean Connelly, an architect and assistant director of KYA Sustainability Studio in Honolulu. “With a metal roof, you’ll also need a lightning rod to ground any strikes.”

Steel is also healthier. Unlike fossil-fuel-derived asphalt or vinyl in hot weather, steel will not offgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Because it’s chemically stable and will not leach chemicals, it is also good for rainwater catchment.

More eco-friendly perks? Not only is it recyclable, roofing steel is also partially recycled. That combined with its being a natural heat reflector wins it green points from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (L.E.E.D.) program.

You shouldn't be concerned about durability, either. Steel is fire-, wind- and impact-resistant and not susceptible to degradation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and a roof made of steel can last more than 50 years! If you live in an area with lots of hail, ask for a steel roof system that has passed UL 2218 Impact Resistance testing at the Class IV (most severe) level. This, along with steel’s fire-resistance, may reduce your home insurance premiums.

When it comes to insulation, consider nontoxic, eco-friendly material such as the recycled cotton used in Bonded Logic insulation available at Green Depot. You could also paint your roof white to save on energy cooling costs in hot weather. Ask for an EPA Energy Star-certified white coating to be eligible for tax credits.

Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.

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Comments (2)

  • My neighbor did this to her roof. The big draw back is the noise and we have to go outside to use our cell phones. We have tried different carriers and it is a problem. Who would ever think?

  • Yikes, so sorry to hear this! Has your neighbor tried insulating under the metal? The noise may likely be bothering her, too.

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