Copper is widely used in the construction industry because of its appearance, ease of construction, weather tightness, flexibility, fire resistance, and longevity. It is regarded as a wise choice for buildings with a long design life even though it’s expensive.
Recently, one local builder selected copper flashings and gutters to install on a slate roof, which is expected to last more than 100 years. Another local contractor used copper gutters and downspouts in a remodel project because the owners wanted to achieve the architectural appearance of European buildings dating to the late 1800s. These Palo Alto residential projects had budgets exceeding $1 million, highlighting the kind of building in this area where the copper is used. Schools, offices, and retail buildings also employ copper materials.
Copper roofs and flashing are fabricated into standard or custom shapes by a number of manufacturers. Roof panels are commonly from 0.4 to 1.0 m and up to 3.1 m (10 ft) long, with other sizes available via special order. Historically, copper roof panels have been soldered, overlapped, or physically seamed together. Panels today usually have formed edges that add strength and provide a simple, water-tight way of joining adjacent pieces. Un-seamed copper panels and copper shingles are also used for roofing. These items are installed in an overlapping pattern, from the eaves up to the crown of the roof in the same way as wood or composition shingles.
Comparison shows that copper roofs have a warranted life that is 2-1/2 times that of steel roofs, and that copper costs 2 to 6 times more than steel. Actual service life for both materials can significantly exceed these warranties and will probably be longer than that of the structure itself if care and skill are used to install the roof, and if local environmental conditions are favorable.
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