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Comparing Types of Metal Roofing (Standing Seam vs Exposed Fastener)

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If you’re looking into metal roofing in Raleigh, chances are you’ve come across a couple of different terms regarding the roofing material itself.

The main kinds of metal roofing that you may see are: Standing seam, Exposed fastener (also known as Screw-down panel), and metal shingles, with standing seam and screw-down panel being the most common of those.

You may be unfamiliar with all of those terms, and still be intrigued by metal roofing, and that’s okay! This is a great place to start learning.

In this blog we are going to discussing:

Let’s get started!




standing seam metal section_WebPA standing seam metal roof is composed of multiple, vertical metal panels that are locked at the seams, with the fasteners hidden underneath the metal. These roofs typically use a high-quality steel substrate, which is a raw steel panel coated with another metal, usually zinc, or in the case of Galvalume®, a zinc and aluminum alloy.

Generally, standing seams are considered the higher end metal roof, and are used in both residential and commercial settings.

Standing seam metal roofs are highly weather resistant, making them an especially popular option for homes in coastal and rural markets, while their clean, modern look is increasing its foothold in suburban areas, especially as an accent piece.


An exposed-fastener roof, also known as a screw-down panel roof, is a little simpler. For this roofing system, metal panels are screwed down on a roof in an overlapping fashion, similar to the way asphalt shingles are installed. For screw-down panels, many of the same materials are used, except these panels are more widely available than those used for standing seam roofs. In fact, if you wanted to purchase the metal yourself, you can find the panels at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s.

This style of metal roof is more frequently used over uninhabited, unheated spaces, like barns, sheds, or carports. Why not on heated spaces or homes? Well, as metal heats up and cools, it expands and contracts accordingly, which, on an exposed fastener roof, can create some tricky situations that we’ll talk about in the next section.



screws coming out of EF metal roof_WebP

The screw-down type roof will require more maintenance, hands-down.

As we mentioned earlier, metal expands and contracts as it heats and cools. Standing-seam metal roofs are designed to allow this process to happen naturally, without restricting the roof and causing damage. Exposed fastener roofs, however, greatly restrict the metal’s movement. As the metal tries to do its thing, it will fight the screws holding it down, potentially working the screws out of their holes. As time goes on, you may end up having to replace the screws that come free with the next size up, throughout the lifetime of the roof.

An additional factor that brings down the lifetime of these exposed fasteners is that they are just that, exposed. The primary thing keeping water from penetrating the roof in each screw is a gasket, which like all things, will wear down with time, and sun exposure.

Each of these parts will need to be replaced, potentially as frequently as every 5-10 years, before those loose screws and degraded gaskets cause much bigger problems, like a leak.

Standing seam roofs will still require some maintenance, but not nearly as much, or as frequently, due to the fasteners being covered, and hidden away. You’ll still need to have it inspected routinely, especially at any penetrations in the roof, but for the most part you’ll be just fine by keeping it clean.


metal roof in Fayetteville_WebP-3

When it comes to price, exposed fastener roofs are cheaper than their standing seam counterparts. Typically, exposed fastener will cost $4-6 per square foot, while a standing seam panels can cost $12-16 per square foot or more, depending on complexity of the roof.

A main reason for the lower price up front is that the metal panels used for it are typically wider than standing seam panels, allowing them to cover more space on the roof with less material. They are also thinner, so the panel requires less metal material to cover that area. The sacrifice you make for that price, however, is durability. In the long run, keeping an exposed fastener roof in good condition can be a headache, and might get costly.

Another factor is the difficulty of the standing seam installation process. Performing one of these installations is much more complicated than a screw-down or asphalt shingle roof, so it requires a specialized, highly trained crew to complete the job correctly.

Always make sure your contractor has experience installing whichever system you’ve chosen for your roof, as an improper installation can leave you looking for another new roof in a hurry.


older metal roof_WebP-1

As with the maintenance category, the durability of the standing seam roof wins out in longevity. The thicker, generally higher quality material, and hidden fasteners allow for this roof to last several decades when installed properly, easily outliving an exposed fastener roof, and most asphalt shingle roofs.

That being said, no roof is perfect. Standing seam roofs may face an issue known as “oil canning.” Oil canning is a visual phenomenon that makes a metal panel look distorted or wavy. It can happen as a result of several different factors, but it is only cosmetic, and doesn’t mean that something is structurally wrong with your roof.


Now that you’ve gotten started learning about the different kinds of metal roofing, check out our blog on the Most Common Roofing Material in Raleigh, NC!

We’ve also done a pretty thorough blog breaking down metal roofing against asphalt shingles, so that’s definitely one to give a look, if you’re still deciding between those two materials. 

On Tops Roofing has been working on metal roofs in and around the Raleigh, NC area for over 30 years. If your metal roof needs a repair or replacement, we’ve got the experience to cover it!

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