Posted August 11th, 2014 by Christy Serafini
For decades, zinc has been a popular roofing and siding material in the United States. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several architects used this metallic chemical element—also referred to as spelter in commercial settings—for constructing sheet-based roofs. The post-World War II years saw the gradual rise of less expensive roofing products like asphalt shingles, synthetic rubber, and thermoplastic, thus reducing the reliance on zinc. However, thanks to increasing awareness of the benefits of environmental friendly products, zinc roofing is making a comeback.
Physical Properties and Production
A silvery-white metal, zinc is mined from the earth. It is usually found with other base metals in ores; such metals include copper and lead. Zinc is a constituent of many alloys, the most well-known of which is brass (combination of zinc and copper). In fact, zinc ores were used to make brass, which applications over the course of several centuries included buckets, wall plaques, and weapons of war. Zinc was eventually isolated as a separate element during the 17th and 18th centuries; zinc roofing made its debut in the U.S. in 1816. Today, zinc is one of the most common metals in use, alongside iron, aluminum, and copper.
Protection Against Corrosion
For centuries, zinc has had a reputation for resistance to moisture and rust. Although many homeowners have the perception that all metal roofing is prone to rust, that is not the case with zinc roofing. Zinc develops a patina, a thin layer that covers it and consequently makes it a lot less reactive to weather elements—such as water and air—than iron or copper. It is why even to this day, zinc is used for coating (galvanizing) other metals, such as iron and steel; it is naturally corrosion-resistant.
The Green Factor
Additionally, the continued interest in energy efficient and eco-friendly (“green”) products, services, and guidelines has amplified attention to other benefits of zinc roofing. Zinc has a lower melting point than galvanized sheet metal, copper or aluminum; this means that it requires less energy for production. Also, like other types of architectural metal, zinc is 100 percent recyclable and eco-friendly. So, zinc roofs can be produced from recycled materials derived from re-roofed or demolished buildings.
Zinc is very easy to form or manipulate, thus making it an easy option for builders or architectural firms. Moreover, in addition to warding off corrosion, the zinc’s patina repairs the roof’s imperfections and scratches. This enhances the roof’s durability; it is why zinc roofs in Europe are still in great shape even a hundred years after installation. And since zinc is a rather common metal, it is easy to find. It is always locally available for order and installation.
Wade Architectural Systems
Based in the Houston metro area, Wade Architectural Systems is one of the premier suppliers of zinc roofing. It is a retailer of VMZINC, which manufactures titanium-zinc roofing products and systems; and Dri-Design, which makes solid zinc sheets. Although installing a zinc roof is relatively easy, professionals at Wade Architectural Systems can assist customers in determining whether their homes meet certain requirements. Such factors include project structural conformity, physical and chemical compatibility, and geometrical continuity.