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Copper Roof Buyer's Guide: Costs, Pros, and Cons

Jack Wisniewski

Published on February 10, 2021

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Copper Roof Buyer's Guide: Costs, Pros, and Cons

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Source: Pitch Perfect Roofing

Extravagant. Revered. Lustrous.

Whichever glowing descriptor you want to choose for it, copper takes up the top shelf of roofing materials.

Alongside its visual appeal, copper roofing lasts longer than just about anything else and requires little maintenance throughout its lifetime. Few, if any, contemporaries can contend with this rare trifecta of attributes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you will need to pay a pretty penny to bask in a copper roof of your own.

Read on to see up-to-date copper roof costs. If the pricing doesn't discourage you, we welcome you to get familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of copper.

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How much does a copper roof cost?

The cost of a copper roof ranges between $20 and $40 per square foot installed, which firmly places it among the most expensive roofing materials. For an average, 1,700 square foot roof, a full copper roof replacement would cost $40,000 and $80,000.

The type and thickness of the copper will factor into your roofing costs. Styles include flat seam panels and shingles, each with differing unit prices and installation procedures. For example, standing seam metal may require a specialized contractor with a roll forming machine to fit your roof correctly.

As for the strength of the copper, thicker costs more. Manufacturers usually indicate the thickness of copper by ounces.

A 16-ounce copper sheet, for instance, means every square foot of copper amounts to one pound. You will typically find copper roofing panels in either 16-ounce or 20-ounce weights.

On average, 20-ounce copper roofing costs $2 more per square foot than 16-ounce roofing. 16-ounce copper will suit most homes, but buildings underneath trees or in regions that see severe hail may warrant thicker copper to prevent denting.

As with any new roofing project, roof pitch, which installer you choose, penetrations through your roof, and whether you need to make essential repairs beforehand will also play into costs.

Talk to local pros to get quotes on your copper roof installation project

Pros of copper roofing

Aesthetics

Image source: Rooftop Services

Starting with what’s most apparent to the eye, many prize the glistening, distinctive, pink-orange complexion of copper.

Image source: VR Roofing

Copper patinas as it ages, which gives the exterior a verdigris color, not unlike the Statue of Liberty. Some refuse to wait for the years-long patination transformation and opt for pre-applied chemical treatments to give their copper roof the blue-green patina right out of the box.

Image source: Zappone Manufacturing

On top of its alluring colors, copper comes in several different shapes. Large copper panels can deliver a sleek, modern appearance while shingles elicit more traditional sentiments.

No matter how you prefer it to look, a copper roof is a surefire way to enhance curb appeal.

Durability and longevity

Like other metal roofing options such as steel, copper resists fire, insects, and rotting – typical hazards for asphalt shingles and wood.

The similarity with steel ends there as copper does not rust. Exposure to oxygen and moisture accelerates the patina process, which preserves the underlying copper.

The distinctive copper roof of the Municipal Building in Minneapolis was installed in 1950. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

All of these facets together endow copper roofing with a lifespan of over 100 years, which is partly why it appears as a building material in historic architecture across the world.

For all intents and purposes, it would not be a stretch to say a new copper roof will outlive the structure beneath.

Low maintenance

Thanks to its protective patina and inherent resilience, a properly installed copper roof requires little to no maintenance.

Apart from rust, which copper defies, the primary issue of metal roofing panels stems from their fasteners. Thermal expansion and contraction can drive out screws over time, which loosens the connection between the metal and the structure.

Basic copper roof maintenance should include annual inspections and, if necessary, re-fastening of screws. You may also want to hire a roofer experienced with copper to clean your roof every few years.

Sustainability and energy savings

Image source: Global Home Improvement

Cost-effective to recycle, copper goes green beyond its color.

Copper industries take substantial care to ensure scrapped material finds use in new applications, including construction. Architectural copper is primarily made of recycled content – as much as 90 percent.

As copper roofing lasts decades, if not more than a century, it also lessens the environmental footprint of your structure. When the time comes to replace your copper roof, it can be recycled for future use as opposed to crowding our landfills, where asphalt shingles alone contributed to around 8 percent of all construction and demolition waste in 2017.

On top of reducing waste, copper boasts exceptional energy efficiency when combined with the right roofing system. A 2014 study found that a ventilated standing seam copper roofing system significantly reduced heat transfer to a test structure compared to typical asphalt shingle and vented stone coated steel installations.

Remembering that most homeowners use asphalt shingles, copper roofing helps divert construction waste away from landfills and reduces energy consumption.

Lightweight

Per 100 square feet, copper roofing weighs between 100 to 125 pounds – much lighter than clay tile, wood, and even asphalt shingles.

The minimal weight of copper roofing makes it suitable for just about any structure, new and old.

Copper roof cons

Upfront

There is no way around it – copper is costly.

At a minimum, a full copper roof costs around four times as much as an asphalt shingle roof, the most common residential roofing material nationwide.

Image source: 29protons

To satisfy their appetite for copper without paying for an entire roof replacement, many homeowners opt to use it as an exterior garnish, like over an awning or a bay window.

Unless you are swimming in it, you will likely want to use copper sparingly or look towards the many more affordable roofing options.

Incompatibility with other metals

Copper causes galvanic corrosion when in contact with certain metals, namely aluminum and zinc. Even rainwater dripping down from a copper roof into aluminum gutters can result in degradation and system failure.

To avoid galvanic reactions, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors advises sticking with the same metal for all roofing components. If you do not already use copper gutters, flashing, and fasteners, we recommend considering these add-ons along with your new roof.

Best installed by a pro

Image source: HKC Roofing

Correct installation is essential for a copper roof to live up to its prescribed lifetime and deliver the return on investment homeowners expect.

Unfortunately, copper is not the easiest material to install in many cases. For example, some junctures of copper roof installations need soldering, which requires specialized tools, materials, and technical expertise.

This “con” – to have a qualified contractor install your roof – is not exclusive to copper, but it's worth mentioning to anyone contemplating a DIY project. For any roofing material, especially one as expensive as copper, we recommend hiring a roofing contractor.

Is copper roofing worth it?

Image source: Custom Copper and Sheet Metal Roofing

Remodeling magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value report found that homeowners recoup 61.2 percent of metal roofing replacement costs at resale on average.

According to that same data, that figure is 2.8 percent less than the resale value for asphalt shingles.

But we’re not talking about any ordinary metal roof here. This is stunning and everlasting copper!

Once we factor in the maintenance and potential energy savings, a copper roof replacement very well could deliver a better return on investment than 61.2 percent, even when reckoning with the high installation costs.

If you have the wherewithal and plan on savoring your illustrious roof for years to come, copper is worth it.

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