27 Apr 2016

Stand out with metal roofing and cladding


If you’re wanting your self-build to stand out from the crowd, specifying metal roofing and cladding such as copper or zinc will do just the trick. Adding instant wow factor and robustness, these unique options have contributed to a number of award-winning projects – pure testament to their quality and demand in this growing sector.


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Roofing and cladding materials are required to give a long life, be aesthetically pleasing, be easily and economically applied, require little or no maintenance and be environmentally friendly. Copper, steel and zinc embody these qualities better than any other material.

Over the long-term, metal roofing and cladding is the most cost-effective. A typical metal system can last over 100 years whereas other roofing and cladding materials need to be replaced, sometimes more than once, during that time.


A properly installed copper, steel or zinc product is a once-and-once-only job, with little or no maintenance required. Copper and zinc gradually develop a durable patina, which reforms if damaged, while stainless steel is inherently resistant to corrosion. No chemicals are needed – the roof is resistant to decay and naturally fire proof.

Copper, zinc and stainless steel are much lighter than other roofing materials and require less structural support. There is a consequent reduction in cost throughout the whole project.

Environmental costs

Today’s self-builder, and the industry as a whole, is increasingly looking at environmental costs. Copper, zinc and stainless steel are completely recyclable, thus lowering demand on resources and energy.

Very formable and ideal for cladding complicated details and shapes, copper, zinc and stainless steel can be dramatically modern or discreetly traditional. Whether it be the luminous green of copper, the rich warm matt grey of zinc or the sheen of stainless steel, a metal roof enhances any building.

Metal types

This elegant metal is prized for its ability to develop a self-protecting and virtually maintenance-free verdigris patina that ensures a long lifespan of 100 years or more. If left to age, copper will mellow from bright, golden-bronze tones through dark browns to a characteristic blue-green finish. New products include mesh-style claddings with colour-preserving coatings that can create a highly individual look.

Aluminium cladding is durable, hygienic, lightweight, low maintenance and recyclable. ACM is a popular choice in the industry, due to its flexibility and ease of fabrication. It is impervious to termites and other insects, and because it allows the wall to 'breathe', there is a very low risk of leaking. Aluminium composite cladding can be fitted with insulation on the back or underneath in order to improve its energy efficiency.

Steel is a relatively cheap metal, but it needs to be treated to prevent it from rusting. Stainless steel is more expensive but creates a striking, reflective effect. You can embrace rust by using corten steel, an alloy which forms a stable outer layer that is weather resistant and a beautiful browny-orange colour.

The use of zinc in self-builds is gathering pace, mainly because of the visual aesthetic that subtle, pre-weathered colours provide. These are mostly specified to give a stylish, contemporary appearance totally unlike traditional slate and tile roofs, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that zinc has been used throughout Europe for more than two centuries. For more standard work, however, zinc’s versatility and adaptability enable it to be used for roofing, facade and rainwater systems, its natural, self-protecting patina reduces maintenance costs to a minimum throughout a design life which often exceeds 80 years.

Jargon Buster

Cassette Panel:
Cassette Panel provides a classical way of installing large sheets of material to large-scale, repetitive projects. The sheets are mechanically fixed with rivets, screws, clips and hooks and installed directly to a rail/gutter support system.

Standing Seam:
Standing Seam is a style of profile for cladding. As the light and temperature changes so does the visual texture of the panel. Standing Seam is installed onto plywood for support, with a continuous 20mm ventilation air space behind the plywood.

Rainscreen Cladding:
Rainscreen Cladding is the attachment of an outer skin of cladding with a ventilated and drained cavity to a new or existing building. The system is a form of double wall construction that uses an outer layer to keep out the rain and an inner layer to provide thermal insulation.

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