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Residential Roofs 101: Can You Paint Your Metal Roof?

October 13, 2020

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While the material is durable and lightweight, homeowners often still wonder, “Can you paint a metal roof?” Fresh paint means an updated appearance and a stunning complement to new siding or brick face, improving a home’s curb appeal in an instant. Some paints even offer added insulation, making a home more energy-efficient.

As long as you prepare the metal surface properly and use the right primer, paint and sealant, as well as the best tools and techniques, you can paint a metal roof. In many cases it’s best to leave this work to the pros, to ensure it gets done right and to keep you safely on the ground!

Before you run down to the hardware store and start stocking up on metal paints and primers, consider some vital tips on the best products and techniques to use, and whether or not metal roofs need painting in the first place! This quick guide will ensure a proper paint job and that no detail is overlooked when it comes to updating your home’s metal roof.

painting a metal roof

How Do You Paint an Old Metal Roof?

If you do decide to paint a metal roof yourself, note some very important tips and first steps to take in the process. This information will help ensure the roof looks its best and that your chosen color stays true and in good condition for as long as possible.

  • First note that a metal roof should weather for at least six months before you paint it. This allows the metal to settle and potential corrosion to show, so you can treat that damage as needed before applying fresh paint.
  • Always power wash the roof before painting. Pressure washing removes stubborn dirt and grime that a simple broom or garden hose overlooks.
  • If you notice oily stains or other residues left after power washing, use a diluted white vinegar solution and clean rags to wash them away. An acidic cleaner like white vinegar helps remove oil, grease, and other spots and stains.
  • Start your paint job with a primer meant for metal. Primer helps the paint adhere better, which is vital for a home’s roof! Extreme weather conditions, sharp bird claws, and other factors already cause lots of wear and tear on roof paint; applying a new coat without a primer can mean even more damage.
  • Acrylic latex paints are easy to apply and their latex base provides lots of adhesion and coverage, making them an excellent choice for applying over old paint.
  • Oil-based acrylic paint is also sufficient for metal roofs, but ensure you use a high-quality primer with any oil-based paint, as they tend to seep into material and don’t offer the same adhesion as latex.
  • When shopping for paint, note that some exterior paints offer added fire resistance, insulation, heat deflection, and the like. Choose a paint that suits your climate and needs in particular; in a tropical environment, for example, heat deflection means a cooler interior environment and lower energy costs.
  • Rollers are sufficient for covering the large area of a home’s roof, but ensure you choose one meant for corrugated metal, for even coverage.
  • A pressurized paint sprayer makes the work faster than rollers and helps cover all the nooks and crannies of a roof, but you might need to switch back to rollers if the wind should kick up during painting!
  • Note if your new paint needs a sealant and apply it as instructed on the packaging.

metal roof

Do Metal Roofs Need to Be Painted?

Older roofs and those covered in liquid paint might need a touchup every few years, depending on weather conditions and even your own property. For example, thick soot often settles onto homes near busy roadways or airports, wearing away roofing paint. Tropical weather and large bodies of water might mean rusted metal roofs, so they need a fresh coating and other maintenance every few years as well.

Because today’s roof paints offer so many added advantages, you might consider repainting your home’s roof for added insulation and protection even if the current paint job is in good condition! A fresh new color also updates a structure’s appearance and can coordinate better with exterior walls, fencing, and other features.

roof repair and painting by roofing contractor

How Long Does Metal Roof Paint Last?

Today’s metal roofs are often powder coated, not covered with liquid paint. A powder coating is applied in powder form and then given an electrostatic shock, which adheres the material to the metal. Powder coatings are often more durable and last longer than liquid paints, so you might need to repaint a powder-coated metal roof some ten years after installation, if that.

Liquid roof paints might last four to seven years, depending on their quality. Weather exposure, whether or not you use a primer, and how often you add a sealant also affect their lifespan. Regular roof washing can also extend paint appearance, removing corrosive bird droppings, air pollution residues, soot, acid rain, and other debris.

Can You Paint Over a Rusted Metal Roof?

Shop any hardware store and you’ll see paints supposedly designed for covering rust. While you might use these products to paint over a rusted metal roof, this isn’t always the best choice and especially for a home’s roof! Rust spreads even underneath paint, weakening metal, and leading to eventual holes that can mean interior water leaks and even mold growth.

Rather than painting over a rusted metal roof, try removing the rust with a wire brush, then mix one cup of tri-sodium phosphate in one gallon of water and spray this on the roof using a spray attachment and a garden hose. Rinse the roof and let it dry thoroughly before priming and then painting.

A rusted roof might also indicate that your paint needs better sealing, to protect the metal itself. Choose a rustproof paint and sealant and have the roof inspected every year for more rust and resultant holes. For extensive rust, consider replacing that metal panel instead. 

rusted metal roof on a home

How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Metal Roof?

Your cost to paint a metal roof depends on the paint you choose and if the roof needs specific prep work, such as filling in rusted areas or fixing dents. Most roofers or painters charge between $1.20 and $2.70 per square foot, on average. That might translate to $1400 to $3200 for an average home.

Before you decide that the cost to paint a metal roof is not worth that investment, consider the advantages of fresh paint and especially if your home’s roof has rusted spots. Cleaning away that rust and applying new paint to keep it from spreading reduces the risk of holes and roof repair. Paint with added insulating factors help keep your interior comfortable and reduce your home’s utility costs.

While metal is already a durable material that might last some 50 years before it needs replacing, a fresh coat of paint offers added protection against weather damage and wear. In turn, you might face far fewer repair and replacement costs over the life of home ownership when you invest in those metal roof painting costs!

Why You Shouldn’t Paint Over Black Spots on a Metal Roof

Black spots and streaks on a metal roof might look like dirt, soot, dried dust, and other such debris; however, those black spots and stains are most likely algae! Algae tends to grow along roof decking and other layers underneath metal panels and is commonly found in high-humidity areas, or on neglected roofs covered in layers of damp debris.

Trying to paint over algae can mean an uneven surface, and that algae might simply continue to grow and spread. Rather than painting over black spots and streaks, have the roof inspected as needed and then talk to a power washing contractor about needed roof washing. Specialty cleansers and techniques can remove algae and ensure a safe surface ready for painting.

What Is the Most Popular Metal Roof Color?

When shopping for paint for a metal roof, you might be surprised at your color options! One advantage of metal over asphalt shingles and other materials is that you can choose from a variety of paints, so you’re sure to find a color that complements your home and suits your needs.

The most popular metal roof colors include dark bronze, matte black, and slate gray, all of which look stunning atop a traditional red brick home. Colonial red and Hartford green are typically next in line, and these offer a great contrast against white siding or whitewashed brick.

When choosing a metal roof color, note that a lighter color will reflect sunlight and heat away from the home, while a darker color holds heat, melting snow and ice more quickly and easily. You might also consider outside features and their colors; for example, if you have a white vinyl pool and blue pool tile, a bronze roof might look out of place. Choose a more neutral slate gray for your property instead.

Related Questions

Can a homeowner paint a metal roof themselves?

Being on a roof is dangerous in any situation, but trying to manage paint sprayers and other equipment makes it even more precarious. To stay safe on the ground, invest in a roofing contractor or painter instead.

What maintenance does a painted metal roof need?

A metal roof typically only needs regular pressure washing, to remove damaging soot and other debris, and annual inspection to check for loose connectors or developing rust. Ensure your roof paint is dry thoroughly before washing or brushing it as well.

This information is brought to you by the roofing pros at The Boston Roofers. With decades of home improvement experience, The Boston Roofers is the name you can trust for all your roofing questions and repairs. If you’re still wondering, can you paint a metal roof, or need roofing services in the Boston area, call the experts at The Boston Roofers today.

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