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Posted by McElroy Metal ● Oct 13, 2021 1:28 PM

Are Metal Roofs Hurricane Proof?

In the aftermath of a hurricane’s landfall, it is not uncommon to see photographs and video footage in the media that show metal roofing panels wrapped around a tree or buildings that are missing all or parts of their metal roof. While these images make for sensational media views, they actually help create a skewed perception about metal roofing’s performance in high wind events. 

The reality is that metal roofing stands up better to the wrath of mother nature than other roofing choices. A good example of a home surviving a hurricane is showcased in a  New York Times article that highlighted the performance of a house In Mexico Beach, FL that withstood the damaging effects of Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. This home suffered minimal damage while surrounding structures were demolished. How did this home perform so well? The entire structure was engineered with building components that were designed to withstand hurricane-force winds.

While it is impossible to call any roof hurricane-proof, a properly designed metal roofing system can be capable of handling wind speeds higher than what is typically experienced in hurricane-prone regions.    

Consequently, when hurricane-related metal roofing failures occur, the failures are most often due to a lack of proper engineering, faulty installation, or the failure of other building components. For example, a metal roof system can be properly engineered for high winds and even be properly installed but still fail if a door or window blows out, creating upward pressures. 

are-metal-roofs-hurricane-proof

Metal Roof Wind Performance

Properly designed and installed metal roofing often remains attached to the structure and, barring physical damage from flying debris, performs without leaks once the storm subsides. The overall performance of a metal roof is dependent on many variables that affect uplift pressures in addition to wind speed. The height of the building, shape, roof pitch, width of the building, and topography all affect the amount of force that a building may experience during a hurricane. Consequently,  it’s challenging to broadly state that a specific system will perform well in all situations.  But to offer some indication of the durability metal roofing offers, our Maxima or 238T panel systems are capable of safely withstanding wind speeds in excess of 200mph in many conditions.

Key Design Factors

  • The spacing and size of the sub-structural framing or decking that the panel attaches to is critical to performance.  For example, open framing purlins spaced more closely together will have better panel performance than those spaced farther apart. Similarly, metal or wood decking that is thicker will have better performance than similar, but thinner, materials. 
  • The panel attachment method (face fastened or clips) and the frequency of the attachment are also important elements.  For example, installing clips at 1’ on center instead of 2’ on center will greatly improve the panel's reaction to extreme wind events. Similarly, exposed fastener panel systems perform better in uplift conditions if the fasteners are placed at 20” on center instead of 30” on center.
  • Panel styles also impact performance.  Panels that engage by simply snapping them together are some of the poorest performers in hurricane events because the extreme uplift pressures can cause the panels to simply unsnap from each other.  Due to the fact they are directly face fastened to the roof deck or purlins, exposed fastener panels can perform well in high wind events.  Mechanically seamed panels often offer the best wind uplift performance making them a favored choice in hurricane-prone areas. 
  • Panel width and gauge choices also carry performance implications. As a general rule, narrower panels offer greater resistance to wind uplift.  Additionally, heavier gauge panels tend to perform better.   
  • All major components must be properly designed.  During high wind conditions, a building is only as strong as the weakest building component. If doors, windows, or walls fail, a metal roof may also fail. 

Who You Work with Matters

Proper product selection is critical in hurricane-prone areas; however, it’s also highly important to select the right partners.  

  1. Consult with local engineers that specialize in building and construction. Request your engineer design the entire roofing assembly including the roof deck material and thickness,  roof panel style and gauge, and clip/fastener spacing. 
  2. Work with a metal roofing manufacturer that has invested in the technology to complete in-house testing (like McElroy Metal) or uses third-party product testing to support their published load tables. Classification and testing from agencies like UL and FM are a sign of manufacturer commitment to engineering and safety.
  3. If you’re trying to avoid the cost of hiring an engineer, at the very least choose a metal roofing manufacturer with the ability to engineer their roofing systems to your local building code which normally considers hurricane wind speeds.

Realize your installer selection matters. Even the best roof poorly installed will fail to perform as expected. In fact, the MRA (Metal Roofing Alliance) has issued a warning in the wake of the recent hurricanes alerting consumers to the possibility of both material and installation quality concerns.MRA logo

Renee Ramey, MRA Executive Director, tells consumers to, “Beware of inferior material from unknown sources that some unscrupulous installers try to pass off at a discount… A good quality metal roof is made to stand the test of time and designed to offer outstanding protection. It should have verifiable warranties, superior coatings, proper gauge and thickness for residential use, and be sourced from reputable manufacturers. Contractors also should warranty their work and be able to prove their experience and knowledge.”

In their warning to consumers, the MRA suggests some questions consumers should ask before starting a new metal roofing project that includes things like:

  • Where is the roof manufactured?
  • What warranties are available?
  • Are your contractors’ members of well-known trade organizations?

These questions and the others they suggest are meant to help guide consumers toward reputable, safe contractors and materials. You can find the full MRA warning and guidelines here.

Insurance Discounts and After Storm Clean Up

For homeowners in hurricane-prone areas, some insurance providers offer discounts for homes with metal roofs. For instance, State Farm states that they offer an insurance discount for qualifying metal roofs. Consequently, when comparing different roof material types and costs, it’s important to contact your insurance provider and inquire about metal roof discounts.  While not guaranteed, the discounts offered can help reduce the cost difference between metal roofing and shingles.  

After-storm repairs should be another consideration in your roofing selection. As discussed above, metal roofs are a great choice in hurricane-prone areas because they are long-lasting, durable, and resist damage from high-speed winds. This improved performance means there is a good chance you won’t be faced with emergency repairs after the storm moves through.  While no roof is hurricane or windproof, selecting a metal roof means you might be able to skip the frenzy of trying to find a contractor (not to mention price gouging) in the days after the storm. It also means there’s a good chance you’ll miss the hassle of roof leaks and insurance claims.  

If damage does occur and your roof needs to be repaired, metal roof systems like our 138T and 238T systems allow for single panel replacement. The difference is that our 138T and 238T panels are symmetrical panels as opposed to other panel styles which are asymmetrical.  

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Asymmetrical panels look different on both sides and engage with each other in a way that can make them challenging, if not impossible, to repair without tearing off the complete roof back to the impacted area.  Since our 138T and 238T  panels are symmetrical, the panel looks the same on both sides and the repair can focus only on the damaged sections of your roof.  Using a symmetrical style panel results in lower costs and quicker completion time than a total roof repair/replacement.

Although no roof is truly a hurricane-proof roof, metal does offer some distinct advantages to those in storm-prone areas. When properly installed by a qualified contractor using high-quality materials, a metal roofing system is often capable of withstanding high wind speeds in excess of what is normally experienced in hurricane-prone regions. 

residential metal roof distributor

Learn everything you need to know about Residential Metal Roofing. Check out our metal roofing resources for inspiration and answers to your questions.

About McElroy Metal

Since 1963, McElroy Metal has served the construction industry with quality products and excellent customer service. The family-owned components manufacturer is headquartered in Bossier City, La., and has 13 manufacturing facilities across the United States. Quality, service and performance have been the cornerstone of McElroy Metal’s business philosophy and have contributed to the success of the company through the years. As a preferred service provider, these values will continue to be at the forefront of McElroy Metal’s model along with a strong focus on the customer.

Topics: Education, Metal Roofing, Standing Seam Systems, FAQ, Residential, Maxima, 138T and 238T

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