Homeowners Take a Shine to Copper Shingles, Creating New Upscale Market

October 11, 2004


NEW YORK, NY— From the solid copper "Golden Temple" in Kunming, China, to the famous baptistery doors of Italy's Florence Cathedral, copper and its alloys, bronze and brass, have served as decorative and functional elements on some of the world's oldest and most famous architecture. North America, our copper landmarks are a little younger, but no less impressive. Historic Christ Church in Philadelphia is the oldest-known copper-roofed church in America, dating back to 1727. The most enduring copper icon in U.S. history is the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, sculpted in 1884 from over 160,000 pounds of the semi-precious metal.

In recent years, a new market has taken a shine to man's oldest metal. Influenced by the development and availability of new, lightweight copper roofing shingles, more homeowners are choosing copper roofs for reasons both aesthetic and practical.

"Homeowners turn to copper to add refinement and a sense of luxury to their homes," says David L. Hunt, manager of architectural services at Revere Copper Products, Inc., which developed its first copper shingle over 50 years ago for the commercial market.

Kent Schwickert, president of Schwickert Inc. in Mankato, Minnesota, an architectural sheet metal fabrication and roofing company, agrees. He attributes the increased interest in copper shingles to a "desire for uniqueness" among affluent homeowners.

Consumers are "going outside the box" to find quality products for their homes, says Schwickert, whose company recently entered the residential roofing market. For these people, a roof is "more than something to protect them, it provides an aesthetic value to their home," he says.

Vacation spots like Colorado's ski country and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, have long been home to copper roofs, says Hunt, because of the metal's ability to stand up to the extremes that Mother Nature can dish out - such as high winds and heavy snowfall.

Various estimates put the lifespan of a copper roof at more than 100 years, while asphalt shingles - the most commonly used roofing material in America - are said to last 15-30 years, on average. This makes copper one of the most cost-effective roofing materials on the market. One reason for its longevity is the natural blue-green patina that develops with age and serves as a protective shell when copper is exposed to the elements.

In addition to its attractive patina, copper is environmentally friendly, boasting one of the highest recycling rates of any engineering metal. And, copper shingles are never discarded or relegated to landfills. Because of their inherent value, copper building products are typically salvaged and recycled. Other key attributes of this premium metal are its fire resistance and ability to withstand excessive temperatures.

There are at least a dozen manufacturers supplying copper shingles to contractors across the continent. A partial listing can be found at our Architecture section.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Download a high-resolution image to go with this story from Discover Copper Edition #1.