Raising the Roof

June 1, 2000
Metal standing-seam roofs help to conserve energy and, with proper maintenance, can be long-lasting.

When it comes time to re-roof a facility, consider a number of objectives. Most important, as the first line of defense against the elements, it should be weather-tight. But it also should be thermally efficient, economical, attractive, and offer design flexibility and long life with minimal maintenance.

One system that can effectively meet all these goals is the metal standing-seam roof. Its versatility and low life-cycle costs have made it a fast-growing roofing choice among school systems.

No leaks

Standing-seam systems prevent leaks. Their design eliminates most through-the-roof fasteners, a frequent source of penetration problems. And because the roof panels are mounted on a system of concealed sliding clips, they move with thermal expansion and contraction forces rather than being pulled apart by them.

The panels interlock mechanically at standing seams, above the roof plane and away from water or ice. One available seam configuration, for example, is a full 360-degree rolled seam, designed for maximum resistance to penetration.

Standing-seam roofs normally are installed to create a minimum slope of 1/14:12. This creates positive drainage, which eliminates standing water. The slope directs water away from the building rather than channeling it to an internal system. Over time, the internal method of drainage may increase maintenance costs and provide a shorter life to the watertight integrity of the building.

Even in retrofitting flat built-up roofs that are common on older buildings, you can create this slope economically by installing a light-gauge substructural system.

Installing the replacement roof on a substructural system allows the new roof to be mounted right over the old one. This not only avoids disruption to activities inside the building and eliminates exposing the building's interior to the elements, but it also saves the labor and costs involved in removing the old roof.

Before you have a new roof designed, you should have a structural engineer inspect the building. This will determine whether the structure is adequate for the new roofing load, and, if not, what can be done to reinforce it. The inspection also will determine if the existing roof has extensive entrapped moisture-as in some failed built-up systems-and what needs to be done to provide proper ventilation.

Metal standing-seam roofs are thermally efficient and suitable for nearly any climate condition. Installing a standing-seam system over an existing roof usually creates "attic space" for adding insulation. The result is greater heating and cooling efficiency. Annual fuel savings of 20 to 30 percent are typical-and savings of as much as 75 percent have been reported in northern regions.

Looking good

While performance is usually the most important factor in choosing a new roof, don't overlook the improvement a standing-seam system can make to a building's appearance. In many of today's older schools, a new roof can provide a dramatic and much-needed facelift. The roof can become an important architectural element of the building.

And thanks to today's computer design technology, virtually any configuration-multiple levels, high or low slopes, hips, valleys, gables, or whatever the specifications and design dictate-can be rapidly designed, engineered and fabricated.

Many panel configurations are available, with choices in width of coverage, and rib and seam heights. Flatter profile panels can be designed for a more attractive appearance on higher pitched roofs. Standing-seam roofs also come in a variety of colors.

As well as being aesthetically pleasing, standing-seam roofs offer tremendous design flexibility-they can be installed on any building type and any kind of roof deck.


What truly makes a metal standing-seam system economical is the low maintenance and operating costs over the life of the roof. When properly installed and backed by a reputable manufacturer, standing-seam roofs should last 30 to 40 years and require only minimal maintenance. More often than not, the only necessary upkeep is to inspect the roof annually, remove any debris and clean the gutters.

Initial installation costs can run a little higher, but these often are offset by reductions in future maintenance, energy consumption and re-roofing costs.

Standing-seam systems can be warranted for up to 20 years. Look carefully when comparing warranties of competing systems. Warranties can vary widely in such details as what is actually covered, whether there is a dollar limit on the protection, and whether it depreciates over time.

An important point to remember: warranty protection is no substitute for quality workmanship. Installing a metal standing-seam roof requires specialized skills, and selecting an experienced contractor is critical.

Deal only with reputable companies that have longevity and a comprehensive installation training program. Look into the contractor's basic roofing training for its installers, and find out what kind of training and technical support the system manufacturer provides for the roofing contractors.

Schools are always being challenged to maximize the value received for each dollar of expenditure, and the choice of roofing materials can play a big part in reducing budget expenses.

Severe roof leaks, ponding water and saturated insulation were a source of frustration at Mathews High School in Mathews, Va. So Mathews County school officials decided to replace its 20-year-old deteriorated built-up roofing. The new roof, a metal standing-seam system, also updated the building's appearance and tied together a variety of complex roof configurations.

"Our new roof is attractive, and the best thing is, it does not leak!" says Harry Ward, superintendent of the Mathews County School System. "I would recommend this system to anyone looking at a roof replacement. It is by far the best on the market based on the cost per square foot."

The project was completed in eight months at a total cost of about $534,000, or $8.26 per square foot.

A light-gauge steel framing system supports the standing-seam panels and ensures that the existing structural elements are not overloaded. That allowed the new roof to be installed on top of the old one and saved the expense of tearing off the original roof. This method also allowed school activities to proceed uninterrupted during construction.

Once the sub-framing system was in place, the standing-seam panels were installed to create slopes that range from 1/14:12 to 2 2/3:12. This solved the drainage and insulation problems.

The new roofing system has cut the school's energy costs by an estimated 45 percent. "Attic space" created by the sub-framing system made room for a layer of R-19 batt insulation. The natural reflectivity of the metal panels has lowered roof surface temperatures by up to 100 degrees F. Less heat is transferred to the building's interior so the building needs less air conditioning.

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