Copper Roof Shingles: Problems and Solutions

A roof is the home’s first line of defense against harsh conditions. Lasting a century or more, copper roofs have been among the best roofing materials and still remain first choice for a considerable number of homeowners. Copper has a long life due to its ability to retain strength, resistance to corrosion, flexibility and aesthetically appealing for many years.

Copper is a metal of superior quality making it relatively expensive. Homeowners have an option of using either copper sheet roofs or copper roof shingles tiles depending on the climatic elements surrounding the area.

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Among coppers most sustainable attributes is recyclability hence having minimum impact on energy consumption and natural resources. Even after demolition it still maintains its high performance and it’s not downsized into lower quality materials. Despite its numerous merits, copper roofs will require repair to prolong their life.

Generally copper roof shingles lasts for more than 100 years and require very minimal maintenance. Proper installation and constantly addressing or repairing minor damages caused by adverse weather elements and corrosion is very necessary to ensure the roofs lasts past a lifetime. Below are some of the common defects associated with copper roofs and how they can be easily repaired.


A patina is a thin layer of corrosion caused by a reaction with the environment. However, a patina is not damaging to the copper instead it forms a thin coating which acts as a protective layer against further degradation. This does not necessarily mean that over time, alkalis, ammonia, acid rain, masonry cleaners and bacteria wouldn’t cause corrosion.

Contact of the copper roof shingles with acidic moisture provides the perfect environment for corrosion to occur. To prolong the life of your copper roof and prevent corrosion, regularly rinse it with clean water. Be more particular in areas whereby rain water doesn’t remove dust and bird droppings for localized corrosion mainly occurs there.

It’s important to note that alkaline soaps that do not contain sodium hydroxide and detergents containing pyrophosphates or ammonia should not be used to clean copper roofs because they degrade them.

Copper Roof Shingles Copper Roof Shingles

Expansion and contraction
As temperatures change, copper roofs tend to expand and contracts and end up loosening their fasteners. Loose nails do not fully lift from the decking and this prevents the roof seams from laying flat on the roof deck. Replacement of the nails and cleats is a necessity at this point. Consider using soldering iron to help in the softening of the copper so that you can remove and refasten the cleats and the nails.

Softening of the copper is very essential to prevent fracturing of the sheets. Annealing (application of heat) is mainly used for this purpose. Other alternatives to soldering include welding and brazing.

Degradation and failure

Copper is a relatively soft material which is susceptible to damage from several abrasive forces including hail, water and foot traffic which can easily cause the copper to wear away resulting in the roof failure. Continuous exposure of the copper roof to abrasive forces can make it develop faults and weak spots. This is mainly manifested in form of star-shaped cracks and fractures. Where necessary, the joints are re-opened and the defective sheets replaced with better suited ones.

If one encounters cases of copper roofs showing fatigue, it’s imperative that they consult professionals to determine whether to repair or just replace it. In case of patch repair, first the layer of patination is removed around the damaged area with an acidic solution in water. A copper sheet patch, triangular in shape is then adhered on the cleaned area with the help of a silicon that is an acid-cure.. This triangular patch mainly points towards the sloping area of the roof and enables water to shed away.

In some repairs, other adhesive material is used including gluing the copper sheet with self-adhesive flashing tape, black mastic, mastic beads and mastic tape. The methods are mostly not recommended because of their limited lifespan.

Considering a replacement

If a defect is in relation to the specification/laying or under structure of the copper metal sheet, a replacement is the only best option because the problem might worsen if not promptly addressed. To ensure that the replacement works, it’s paramount that its placed in a manner that matches the originally design while it overcomes the shortcomings in the original method employed.

If the copper shingles are well-laid and supported, they can last for more than 100 years. Unlike replacement, suitable repair is perfect for copper as a sustainable roofing material. Considering how expensive copper is, other materials can be used as an alternative during replacement and with time there will be noticeable visual change in the roofing. To get the ultimate result, consider getting a professional for any replacement and repair of a damaged copper roof.