What is the difference between galvanized and galvalume metal roofing?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Both types of metal roof panel are a sheet of steel with a rust-resistant coating. For many years the standard coating technique was galvanization, which is a hot dip in molten zinc. The zinc bonds with the steel and forms a distinct crystalline surface pattern after exposure to air, called “spangles.” 

   In the early 1970s, Bethlehem Steel introduced an alternate rust-resistant coating that they trademarked as Galvalume®, which is a combination of zinc and aluminum, with a trace amount of silicon. The vast majority of metal roofs in our area have been galvalume since the mid-1990s because of its longer lifespan.

   But both materials have pros and cons, and galvanized is still the predominant choice for applications other than roofing, such as agricultural and livestock structures:



  • Coating more resistant to damage during bending or cutting
  • Less expensive
  • Has distinct spangle pattern and bright metal color when new, like in the close-up photo above.
  • Better paint adhesion


  • Lasts only a little more than half as long as galvalume
  • Less resistant to corrosion due to rain and coastal salt air



  • Lasts almost twice as long
  • More resistant to corrosion due to rain and coastal salt air


  • Coating more easily damaged during bending or cutting
  • More expensive
  • Muted spangle pattern and softer, gray metal color when new, like in the photo at the top of the page
  • Not as good paint adhesion

    Because any installation work that disturbs the rust-resistant coating will open up an area for early corrosion, it is always better to cut metal roofing with shears rather than a saw, which tears away the coating near the saw cut. Also, screws have replaced nailing as a method to secure the panels to the roof deck. A screw holds the panel snug and a neoprene washer under the screw head covers and seals the small area of coating damage at the screw penetration. Nails had the annoying tendency to loosen and gradually pop up over the years, making numerous tiny openings in the roof, like in the photo below. 

    The next two photos show rust at galvanized metal roofing at the bottom panels due to damage of coating when cutting panel, and corrosion behind chimney due to acidity of wet leaves accumulated behind chimney deteriorating the coating.

    Also see our blog post Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof?

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  To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:

Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?

Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof? 

What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?

What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?  

What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?  

Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof? 

What is "ponding" on a flat roof?

Is an attic required to have a light by the building code? 

What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof? 

What's the average lifespan of a roof?

Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings? 

Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?

What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door? 

Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?

How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?

How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home? 

What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof? 

How can I make my roof last longer?  

What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?

How can I find out the age of a roof? 

Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?

Should I buy a house with an old roof? 

What are those metal boxes on the roof?

What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?

Why do roof edges start leaking?

Why do my dormer windows leak? 

Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?

Should I put gutters on the house? 

How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic? 

What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof? 

What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof? 

Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?

How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?  

 Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?

What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic? 

    Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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