Although roofers in Europe have long been familiar with zinc as a construction material, this metal is only just beginning to come into fashion in the United States. However, in Europe, especially countries like Belgium, France, and Germany, many to most urban homes use zinc roofing (roughly 85% of roofs in Paris are made of zinc). Its popularity is no small wonder, given that zinc offers a wide variety of advantages over other similar materials used in roofing and cladding.
This article will offer insight into the reasons why this zinc is so highly desirable. In particular, we will consider the advantages of zinc and consider just how suitable it is as a construction material.
Perhaps the single most desirable aspect of zinc is its incredible durability as a construction material. This strength comes from the fact that zinc roofing will naturally last for decades (up to a century) before needing replacement, and requires very little maintenance in order to do so.
Zinc will naturally last much longer than the other common roofing choices in America. Asphalt shingles (currently the most common material for roofing in the US) will need to be fully replaced roughly once every ten years. Cast steel sheets are certainly more durable in comparison, but in order for steel to last as long as zinc, it must be galvanized (generally with a coating made up of aluminum and zinc). The only other roofing material that can naturally last as long as zinc is copper, but it tends to be a much costlier option, potentially even prohibitively so. Zinc offers a perfect middle ground of extreme durability while still being competitively priced.
The next major factor contributing to zinc’s incredible durability is the fact that, not only will zinc roofing last for several decades, it will require very little maintenance in order to do so. This is thanks to zinc’s patina, a protective outer layer that will form naturally over time. When a zinc roof is first installed, it will start off a very dark gray color. Over time the metal will oxidize and change to a lighter gray or bluish color.
This patina process protects a zinc roof in two ways. Firstly, the oxidized outer layer will naturally protect the metal from rust or any kind of damage that may result from exposure to moisture or air over time. Secondly, zinc’s patina actually allows the metal to self-heal from damage. While a zinc roof can be scratched or damaged on the surface, the continual oxidation process will eventually “heal” over the damage with a fresh layer of patina, eliminating the need for repairs on anything but major damage.
Due to the desirable qualities of a patina, it’s possible (and common) to purchase zinc roofing that is pre-patinated so that this defensive layer is already established as soon as the roof is installed.
Other Benefits of Zinc
Apart from its incredible lifespan, there are several other factors contributing to zinc’s overall attractiveness as a roofing material.
Natural Antimicrobial Properties
In addition to its other benefits, zinc has one more strength that contributes to its longevity as a construction material – it is naturally antimicrobial. Zinc is even commonly used as an ingredient in oral hygiene products for this very reason. This means that algae, moss, lichen, and mildew will not be able to take root and grow on a zinc roof, eliminating yet another maintenance need common in other roofing materials.
Zinc’s sustainability is another factor making it a good choice for roofing in the long run. Zinc requires less energy than aluminum or copper to smelt and process, is up to 100% recyclable, and is a naturally highly abundant metal (the 24th most common found on Earth). This sustainability means that not only will zinc roofs last a long time, we can continue to produce them for a long time with reduced harm to the environment.
Using Zinc for Your Next Construction Project
MetalTech Global is the nation’s premiere distributor and fabricator of coil, sheet and finished architectural metals products. Working with our affiliates, we are promoting the use of sustainable metal products in the building.
We envision that home and commercial construction will be committed to using only durable and reusable products. MetalTech Global can help your commitment be successful as durability, reusability, and sustainability is our area of expertise. We work with companies like elZinc America, VMZinc, Lorin Industries, and Hussey Copper to provide the highest quality architectural products in natural metals.
While zinc has been used extensively in Europe for hundreds of years, it is a relatively new building metal in North America, and its potential for robust, beautiful structures is unmatched. As of 2021, MetalTech Global is the largest stocking center of architectural zinc in North America, with the capability of re-processing sheets and coils for customers on demand.
Contact us today for architectural metals, coils, panels, metal fabrication and cutting, folding, and more!