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Standing Seam vs. Exposed Fasteners: Which One Is Right For You?

November 22, 2021 | 7 min. read

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If you’re looking into metal roofing, you may have noticed there are two distinct types. If they’re both metal roofs, how different could they be?


The reality is that standing seam metal roofs differ significantly from exposed fastener roofs. Both have different sets of advantages and disadvantages that may make one of them fit your needs better than the other. 


Rescue My Roof does not install metal roofing, but we want to be able to help you with any of your roofing concerns, regardless of whether or not it is a service we offer.


With over a decade in the roofing industry, we have familiarized ourselves with metal roofing so that we can offer you the best information possible. Our goal is that you can utilize this information to get the best roof possible for your home.


In this article, we will be comparing standing seam roofs against exposed fasteners. By the end, you should be able to tell which roof is the best for your needs. 


What is Exposed Fastener Metal Roofing?


Exposed Fastener Metal Roof

There are two types of metal panel roofing that you should know about: Exposed Fastener and Standing Seam. 


Exposed fastener roofs are made from metal panels. These panels overlap slightly, and screws go through both panels of the overlapped metal  and directly into the roof deck. 


This type of metal roofing gets its name from the fact that the screw heads are visible from the top of the roof and not hidden behind any other panels. 


The Top 4 Advantages of Exposed Fastener Roofs


You’ll see exposed fastener metal roofs used in many different building projects, including residential buildings.


Here are some of the benefits of exposed fastener roofs to consider before buying: 


1. Exposed Fastener Metal Roofs are More Cost-Effective


Want the look of a metal roof without the high cost? You’re in luck. 


Exposed fastener roofs are generally cheaper than standing seam roofs, costing approximately $250 to $700 per square (100 square feet).


Exposed fastener roofs are cheaper than standing seam roofs for a variety of reasons. They use wider panels and a thinner gauge metal, along with lower-quality paint systems. This drives the cost down and makes it the less expensive option of the two roofing systems. 


2. No Seam-Work Required


Exposed faster roofs use panels that overlap each other, so there’s no hand-seaming required.


No seam-work means this roof is less labor-intensive and will save you on labor costs. 


3. Holds Up To Bad Weather Conditions


If installed correctly, exposed fastener metal roofs stand up to the test of bad weather conditions.


Metal roofs are very durable. Depending on the gauge (how thick) the roof is, they can handle poor weather conditions like high wind speed and hail. 


4. More Contractors Can Handle Exposed Fastener Installation


Exposed fasteners and standing seam are both metal roofing systems, but installation techniques differ greatly. 


The two systems require different skill sets. Exposed fastener roofs are the easiest of the two to install, so many contractors will have the tools to do the job.


However, it is in your best interest to find a roofing contractor certified by the metal roofing manufacturer. That means the manufacturer has selected them, and they use the appropriate techniques to install the roof.


This decreases the risk of poor workmanship on your roof, and you won’t have to risk paying for costly repairs earlier on. 


The Disadvantages of Exposed Fastener Roofs 


As with everything, there are some downsides to exposed fastener roofs. 


1. Many Roof Penetrations


Exposed fastener roofs are put together with – you guessed it – fasteners. 


These fasteners are drilled directly through the overlapping panels and into the roof deck. But because they are exposed and not covered by any seams, they pose a risk for leaks. 


When you have a ton of water or ice on your roof, it will try to find a way into your home. The penetrations created by the fasteners provide the perfect opportunity for water to get into your home.


This can lead to issues with rotten decking and mold and mildew growth in the attic space. 


If you notice these issues occurring, have a professional familiar with metal roofing do an inspection. You’ll want to catch the problem in its tracks before it does massive damage to your home. 


2. Frequent Maintenance


Out of the two styles of metal roofing, exposed fasteners require more maintenance, including:


  • Removing leaves and debris
  • Cleaning out your gutters
  • Cleaning any dirt, algae, or mildew off of your roof
  • Checking for scratches
  • Inspecting fasteners
  • Ensuring your roof is water-tight


3. Warranty Trouble


As you’ve learned, exposed fasteners have a high risk of leaks. As a result, manufacturers are reluctant to provide a weather-tight warranty. 


If there is any water damage resulting from rainy weather, the repairs will be up to you.


What is Standing Seam Metal Roofing?

Standing Seam Metal Roof

Standing seam roofs have raised seams that allow the panels to be connected to the roof deck without exposing the fasteners.


They are considered higher quality than exposed fastener roofing systems and are commonly seen in modern architectural buildings. 


The Advantages of Standing Seam Roofs


With a higher quality roofing system, here are some of the benefits you can expect:


1. No Exposed Fasteners


Standing seam roofs are the antithesis of its counterpart.


This is the best benefit you will get with this type of metal roof. Exposed fastener roofs leave a lot of room for leaks. With standing seam roofs, you don’t have to worry as much about that risk.


Additionally, the absence of visible fasteners makes the appearance of this roofing system a lot more appealing. 


If you don’t want to increase the risk of leaks and like the curb appeal this roofing system provides, a Standing Seam roof might be in your future.


2. Manufacturer Warranties


Again, the low likelihood of leaks provides another benefit: a weather-tight warranty.


Because the risk of leaks is lower, manufacturers aren’t as afraid to offer weather-tight warranties.


So when water finds its way into your home due to weather conditions, the manufacturer will be responsible for fixing the issue. 


3. Less Maintenance and a Longer Lifespan


Metal roofs of any variety typically require less maintenance than an asphalt roof. However, since fasteners do not penetrate the surface on standing seam roofs, you do not have the same maintenance routine as exposed fastener roofs.


With exposed fastener roofs, you must conduct inspections to make sure the fasteners aren’t failing. That is not an issue with standing seam roofs. 


However, this does not mean that there is no maintenance. You will still want to take steps like clearing your roof and gutters of debris to keep your roof in the best shape. 


4. Standing Seam Roofs Are Energy Efficient


Standing seam roofing systems sometimes offer cooling coils that are designed to reflect the sun’s rays.


In other words: they dispel the heat that other roofs may retain. This will help to keep your home cooler and will reduce energy bills. 


5. Many Material Options

Standing Seam Roof

Standing Seam roofs offer a variety of material options beyond the typical steel. 


Often, you can choose from painted aluminum, zinc, and copper. So with this roofing type, you will have more options.


The Disadvantages of Standing Seam Roofing Systems


Here are some important factors to consider before purchasing a standing seam roof:


1. Higher Cost


With all of the added benefits standing seam roofs bring comes a higher price. 


Standing seam roofs average $600 to $1,400 per square, making them one of the priciest roofing options. 


If you’re looking to purchase this roof, you’ll have to be ready to invest.


If you want to look at more cost-effective options, the exposed fastener metal roof or even the traditional asphalt roof may be the way to go.


2. You’ll Need a Speciality Contractor


This roof requires a much different skill set to install. To avoid voiding any manufacturer warranties by poor workmanship, you will want to find a reliable roofing contractor who is certified to install standing seam metal roofs.


If you go with a contractor who does not have the certification, you risk dealing with improper installation and pricey repairs. 


Avoid the hassle by finding a contractor who is manufacturer certified to handle the job. 


3. Extensive Installation Process


Standing seam roofs can be complex. This is why it is crucial that you follow the steps above and get a contractor specializing in metal roofing. 


Whereas many contractors can complete exposed fastener roofs, standing seams require more complex steps in the installation process, including: 


  • Forming the metal panels to your roof on-site using special machinery
  • Correctly spacing the metal panels
  • Mechanically seaming panels together
  • Making the necessary cuts to fit the panels to your roof shape


4. More Complex Repairs


As complex as they can be to install, they are also difficult to repair.


If a panel on your roof sustains damage, it will have to be disconnected from the surrounding panels, which can be tedious and time-consuming. 


This can lead to higher repair costs than other roofing systems. 


How Much Does an Exposed Fastener Metal Roof Cost vs. a Standing Seam Roof?


One of the extreme differences between exposed fasteners and standing seam roofs is the price.


Exposed fastener roofs run approximately $4.50 to $5.50 per square foot. This price fluctuates depending on market conditions, metal gauge, how long it takes to install, and the type of metal used. 


Because of the complexity of installation and the higher quality of product, standing seam roofs will be more expensive. They typically run from $8 to $14 per square foot. 


If you want a metal roof but have a low budget, your best option will be an exposed fastener roof. However, it is important to account for potential repairs in your budget. Because of the high level of penetrations they are susceptible to leaks. 


If standing seam roofs are within your budget, they present many advantages like better warranties and decreased likelihood of leaks. They are a great option to consider for a future roof replacement. 


How Long Will a Metal Roof Last?


One of the most important questions a roofing contractor can ask is if your home is your forever home. 


Regardless of the type, metal roofs can truly last a lifetime. Their average life expectancy is 40 to 70 years. 


So if you are replacing a roof and then selling your home, you will have to ask yourself if the value the roof adds to your home is going to justify a higher selling price. If the answer is no, it may be best to go with a more traditional roof style.


If you are in your forever home, love the look of a metal roof, and have the budget for it, a metal roof can last the life of your home. Meaning you can live the rest of your days in peace, never having to endure another roof replacement. 


How Long Does Installation Take?


Roof replacements can range anywhere from one day to weeks. Since a metal roof has a different installation technique, you may be wondering if you need to allocate more time for the process. 


The process for both types, exposed fastener and standing seam, should take one to two days without permitting any delays.


Things like weather and rotten decking can delay the project and extend the timeline, so be prepared for any changes. 


How to Choose: Exposed Fastener vs. Standing Seam


When deciding between the two roofing systems, the biggest considerations will be the budget and the disadvantages of each system. 


With exposed fasteners, you will save money initially. However, with a higher risk of leaks and no weather-tight warranty, you may find yourself paying for repairs down the road.


Standing Seam roofs provide a decreased risk of leaks, but it may be more challenging to find a contractor, and they will be more expensive. Overall, you will be paying more for the installation process, and you may not find a certified roofing contractor in your area. 


Knowing your budget will be the biggest help when deciding what roof to purchase. Don’t know what your budget is or what financing options are available? Read “How Can I Finance My Roof Replacement” and “Six Ways to Pay for a Roof Replacement.”

Rescue My Roof does not offer metal roofing. However, if metal roofing isn’t your style, you can contact us today to get a free estimate for a traditional asphalt roof.