Which Metal Is Better for Roofing: Steel or Copper?

Which Metal Is Better for Roofing: Steel or Copper

Metal roofing is a great choice for many buildings, both residential and commercial. It’s extremely durable and can conform to a wide range of aesthetics. On top of that, you can get metal components customized for better functionality or looks. Among metal roofing materials, two of the most common are steel and copper. Let’s compare them to see which is the best.

Copper Roofing

Copper is one of the most sought-after roofing materials in the world. It has been used for centuries, and copper roofing is often a mark of distinction and value. As far as performance goes, copper has its pros and cons.


The pros of copper roofing are extremely compelling, starting with its impressive lifespan. Copper roofs are expected to last more than 40 years. While no one can warranty them as such, it’s common for these roofs to make it a full century or longer. You cannot beat copper for longevity in roofing.

Almost as compelling for copper is the aesthetic value. Copper roofs are considered by many to be the most beautiful roofs of all. The copper sheen is gorgeous, and over time, the metal will form a patina with a unique blend of green and blue coloring. No two copper roofs are alike.

Copper is also extremely resistant to corrosion. It never rusts, which is part of why it lasts so long. It’s a soft metal, and that makes it fairly easy to install. In all, copper roofing is an investment, and a valuable one at that.


Despite the wonders of copper, there are reasons that you see other kinds of roofs on buildings. At the top of the list of cons is the initial cost. Copper is one of the most expensive roofing materials you can find. Just look at the raw cost of copper for an idea. Then realize that it has to be fabricated and installed. These roofs are not cheap.

Copper is also prone to denting. While most dents are meaningless in terms of roofing performance, no one loves a dented roof. And when storms get extreme enough, the dents can turn into perforations that leak.

Another drawback to copper is, ironically enough, the aesthetic. You can’t predict how it will look in 10 years. Some patinas are mesmerizing. Others are less impressive. Because of the looks, buyer’s remorse is a risk with copper roofing.

Steel Roofing

Copper generally looks like a good choice when choosing a metal roof, but steel is quite competitive. Most steel roofing will have a protective zinc layer. Galvanized stainless steel is the most common way to achieve this, but other alloys are also viable. Here are the pros and cons of steel roofing.


Let’s talk about why steel roofing is a favorite for many contractors. For starters, it’s a reliable roofing material. Steel has amazing tensile strength and is very hard to dent. It can stand up to harsher weather than pretty much any other material out there, even copper.

Steel is also a metal that benefits from coatings and finishes. That means you get to pick the color of your steel roof, and you can change it down the road if you want a different look.

Steel is better for foot traffic than copper. It’s also much easier to source. Steel shortages are a lot less common than copper shortages, which makes it a compelling option for easier maintenance and repairs.

Most of all, steel costs a lot less than copper. For that price, you’re still expecting a lifetime of performance out of your roof.


What holds steel back from perfection? At the top of the list is corrosion. Steel is not inherently resistant to corrosion. It has to wear a protective layer, and if that protection is scratched or damaged, the roof can rust. That means steel needs more maintenance because you have to stay on top of wear and tear on that protective coat.

Also, steel only lasts about half as long as copper. That makes the cost analysis between the two pretty tricky. Depending on prices, copper can cost several times as much as steel. It can also last indefinitely. On the other hand, if the steel roof needs a replacement, it likely won’t be your problem. That makes the comparison less straightforward.

It’s not right to say that one of these roofs is clearly superior to the other. They are both strong, and you can reasonably expect to never replace either in your lifetime. Copper ultimately outperforms steel but for a greater price. For many people, choosing between the two comes down to cost and aesthetics. Pick the one you like more, according to your budget. When you do make your choice, Alpine Sheet Metal Systems is here to fabricate the roof. We work with all kinds of metals, and we can produce custom components and sheets for your roof.

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