Standing Seam Roofing

The Devil Is In The Details! How corner cutting is done on a standing seam roof.

January 21, 2021

How is corner cutting possible on a Standing Seam Roof?

In today's competitive marketplace, offering a high quality product, with a skilled install and a fair price, is not an easy task. This can be further complicated by the simple fact that some contractors choose to gain their competitive edge by cutting some corners.

Cost cutting measures are made possible by the fact that many of the most important steps of a metal roof are hidden from plain site. Once the metal panel is applied, all things below it are now hidden. Below you will find a list of the most common cost cutting steps that lead to a substandard metal roof. We will share how dangerous these steps can be to a roofs health, and will be followed by a solution to the problem.




Cost Cutting: Standing Seam panels are anchored to the roof by use of a "clip", with an arm that grabs the top of the panel seam. The bottom flange of the clip is then screwed into the deck. This clip design allows for the panel to expand and contract, due to temperature change, while the clip stays in place. A very simple way that a contactor uses to save money is to reduce the number of clips used on a job.


Because many standing seam roofs in our part of the world are fabricated on machines right at the jobsite, there is not a lot of shared knowledge of what the proper number of clips for a particular metal panel should be.


The Standard: National and State level testing for storm resistance, such as wind, give us a firm guideline on what the industry refers to as "clip spacing". We at AL-CO Metal Roofing use the standard given to us by the Texas Wind Storm, one clip every 16 inches on center. This insures that your metal roof will not blow off under high wind pressures that you may experience during a hurricane.


The Difference: We recently removed a standing seam roof that was installed with the clips more than 4 feet apart, "FOUR FEET!" When we installed the new roof, we used three times more clips. That’s an easy way to save a great deal of money on material costs. The bottom line is that it cost the contractor less to put the roof on, and when a severe storm came along, the roof failed.

Image of metal roofing panel clips



Cost Cutting: Some contractors have found it easier to make their own standing seam clips from the same material they make the roofing panels out of. You buy it as part of the build coil for a savings and don’t pay any separate shipping as well. Makes sense right?  Well, this material is made to be flexible enough for a machine to bend the panels into shape in the field. The crews like them, because they are easily bent to shape and screwed into place. One more ugly secret about hand fabricated clips is there are no predrilled slots for screw placement, therefore, the clips are typically applied with only one screw.


The Standard: Industry standard clips are made to a specific strength, so, that they will hold down a roofing panel down under extreme wind loads. This is achieved through using a metal that is formulated to be much harder than standard "mild" steel. These clips have been tested by multiple entities across the country, Miami Dade, and Texas Wind Storm, to insure real world performance.


The Difference: A few years ago a low power tornado came though San Antonio, and we inspected a standing seam roof that had blown off in the storm. The winds of this particular storm were recorded to be around 101 miles per hour. This is well below what a metal roof can handle. Upon inspection, we found that the  clips were far and few between, and only one screw per clip. This allowed the entire slope of metal roofing panels to be yanked off of the roof, and come to rest in the yard, allowing the rain to pour in the house. AL-CO Metal Roofing uses hurricane rated clips that will insure your roof stays on under tough conditions. And, yes, they cost more than making your own clips, with a pair of tin snips in your back shop.




Cost Cutting: It takes a lot of screws to put a metal roof on, we easily go through 3,000 or more on a single roof. If you can find a cheaper screw, money can be saved. Standing Seam roofing screws are a very specific class of screw. The most common way to get around this higher cost, is to look for cheaper, more abundant screws, used by another industry. Most have found something called a "truss head screw". This is a sheet metal screw for attaching things to sheet metal, like metal trusses.


The Standard: Screws are literally the main part holding the entire roof down, so, screw choice is critical. We use a Panhead Wood Screw, that are coated in White Zinc and have an asymmetrical thread. The panhead is so it can be flat on top and not introduce dimples into the metal panel above. Designed with a self tapping tip to cut though metal sheet, with a thread depth for anchoring into wood decking.  The asymmetrical thread is to used to make for a smooth cut into the , but, it also gives a flat surface, when attempting to pull the screw out of the deck, like wind loads. This screw has a conical shaped neck, where the head meets the shaft. This makes them highly resistant to the heads popping off under wind load.


The Difference: When several thousand screws are used on the typical metal roof, it is easy to see why cutting a corner here would save a lot of money. But, truss screws have some serious flaws. Their zinc coating level is not intended for 100% exterior exposure, and will lead to rust long term. The threads are optimized for sheet metal and not wood, so, they lack thread depth that give the screw proper pull out ratings. The neck, where the head attaches to the shaft, is a weak point, when the screw is under stress. Its not uncommon for the heads of these substandard screws to pop off ,if they are over driven by a screw gun.

Image of metal roofing screws



Cost Cutting: If you are looking at purchasing a metal roof with color, then, picking the right coating is paramount. If a contractor wants to cut some real cash out of their roofing costs, paint choice can deliver. And, the homeowners will be totally unaware of what paint is on the coil, when its delivered to the house. It shows the right color, so, it must be fine. The lower cost paint options are mostly polyester, water-based paints. You might see some jazzed up names to make these cheaper paints sound better, by using the terms like "Super" or "Ultra", but, they will still be basic paints.


The Standard: The best coatings available for metal roofing are ceramic based. This a group of coatings called PDVF's which stands for Polyvinylidene Fluoride. Since it's such a mouthful to say, we use the industry name of Kynar. To put it plainly, Kynar is the highest grade of paint available for any metal exterior. It has proven over decades of exposure, that is does not fade, crack, peel, or delaminate. AL-CO Metal Roofing only offers Kynar paints for their roofing materials .


The Difference: When you buy metal coil in bulk, and you can save a couple dimes or more on each square foot of roofing material you buy, it's easy to cut hundreds or thousands of dollars off of your cost, and the homeowner won't even know you have done it. These lower cost coatings show fade as early at 12-15 years, and can have delamination issues in their 20's. Kynar has a zero fade warranty of 35 years, and a lifetime warranty on delamination. The two levels of coating aren't even comparable.  Our suggestion is, if you want a painted/colored metal roof, demand Kynar and settle for nothing else.


What does this mean to the consumer?


If a contractor is using any combination of the shortcuts described above, their resulting price could easily be thousands of dollars less than ANY legitimately priced metal roof. At AL-CO Metal Roofing, we find customers confused by pricing all the time. Just by receiving a "low ball" price from the corner cutting contractor, is enough to make any homeowner think twice about whom to trust. These low prices sound great for the checkbook, but the old adage holds true in roofing "You get what you pay for".


Our suggestion is that you do your homework on any roofing company you consider. Did they show you the parts and pieces that will go into their roof? Do they offer a strong enough warranty? Do you they have trained crews? Where does their material come from?  Ask all these questions and more before considering a price valid. Ask for references from previous customers, and addressed of exiting work.


Remember, a low price that doesn’t meet any standard, is no real roof at all. Thanks for reading. Ask for a free roof consultation with no pressure to buy from AL-CO Metal Roofing. You can make that request right here on our website.

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