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Posted by McElroy Metal ● Jan 10, 2024 2:30 PM

What is the most cost-effective metal roof panel width to specify and why?

Budget-conscious buyers know that cost is key. Running a business or building a home puts many expenses on your plate, so it is important to invest wisely in every purchase. This is especially true in your roofing selection. While standing seam metal roofing is known to offer tremendous long-term benefits, owners still need to feel confident that they have gotten the best product for their budget. It comes as no surprise then that one of the most frequent questions we are asked involves how to find the most cost-effective way to add standing seam panels to a project.

Every project comes with a unique set of variables, so there is not one “right” answer to this question. Consider the following topics to make the best decision for your project.

Standing Seam Panels Overview

pan-widthAvailable in twelve distinct systems, McElroy Metal’s standing seam panels are used for a wide range of applications and projects. These systems feature interlocking seams that connect panels, giving the roof a cohesive appearance and ensuring a durable, weather-tight lifespan. Typically offered in sizes ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches wide, the wider panels represent the more cost-effective choice.

Lower Cost, From Manufacturer to Consumer

As panels increase in pan width, the cost of physical manufacturing decreases as the facility produces fewer pieces to cover the same square footage. Additionally, there are often freight advantages when purchasing wider panels, thanks to less crating and packaging involved to cover the same roofing needs.

Save Time and Money During Installation

The largest savings in cost comes in the installation process in the form of decreased labor and accessory savings. Your contractor can install one 24-inch panel much more quickly than if he installed two 12-inch panels to cover the same square footage. In addition to less labor, wider panels also require fewer clips and fasteners than a narrower panel install. Expenses like accessories add up, and while the overall installation expenses aren’t necessarily cut in half by selecting a wider panel, the savings are significant. Wider panels also offer the valuable bonus of a potentially quicker installation process!

What Is The Right Panel Width For Your Project?

While choosing a wider panel size might seem like the perfect fit for your budget, other aspects need to be evaluated. Our widest metal panels are designed to be structurally supportive and typically mechanically seamed systems. While these superior products do their job well, they might not be the right fit for every project. For example, if you are working with a 5:12 pitch and installing over a plywood deck, our 24-inch panels might be overkill in performance and cost. The best alternative for your project might be to invest in an 18-inch snap-style panel instead of the industrial-strength seamed 24-inch version. In this circumstance, the narrower choice will save you money and fulfill its purpose perfectly.

Other Considerations: Oil Canning

As metal panels increase in width, they can be prone to a unique optical effect called oil canning. While oil canning is not a structural concern, it can be an aesthetic issue for owners hoping to achieve a specific look.

There are several smart strategies for getting the best deal and ensuring your roof looks great. One strategy is determining the best panel width for your specific roof slope. The appropriate panel size for each slope can minimize the visual effects of oil canning.

Read Now: What is Oil Canning of a Metal Roof?

For example, if a building has a slope of 3:12 or more, we advise the use of narrower panels in the 16-inch to 18-inch range to mitigate any appearance of oil canning. Our 24-inch panels are recommended for slopes below 3:12 because the lower slopes have a less visible roofline, thereby reducing the risk of oil canning concerns.

Another great solution for the issue of oil canning is the addition of a pan condition like striations. Striations are a pattern of linear grooves on a panel's flat surface, running parallel to the standing seam. In our manufacturing process, McElroy Metal can add very minor bends, or striations, every few inches running parallel to the standing seam. This technique counteracts the optical effect of oil canning and allows customers to purchase wider panels without as much risk of visual disturbances. It's also interesting to note that lighter metal colors are generally less impacted by oil canning, so selecting panels in a light color can provide both cost savings and peace of mind.

Another Option: Onsite Rollforming

While not related to product width, onsite rollforming services can be another option to reduce costs for large-scale projects.

McElroy Metal personnel use onsite equipment to produce continuous-length panels from eave to ridge.  Single-piece panels – up to 250 feet long each - improve weather tightness and greatly reduce installation labor. Additionally, installation crews save time dismantling and disposing of wooden packaging crates. Lastly, onsite production typically offers a reduction in freight costs as well.


There are many options and variables to consider when choosing the right product for your metal roofing materials. Our team is always available to discuss your project, review your options, and help you find a strategic solution. Connect with us, and let’s find the standing seam product that fits your budget and your needs.

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About McElroy Metal

Since 1963, McElroy Metal has served the construction industry with quality products and excellent customer service. The employee-owned components manufacturer is headquartered in Bossier City, La., and has 14 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: Standing Seam Systems, Onsite Rollforming, FAQ, Cost

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