What is the right paint for painting a metal roof? Expert advice on how to choose a metal roof paints that will beautify and protect your metal roof. Includes information about types of metal roof paint, including costs.

Metal roofs are not as common as traditional asphalt shingle roofs, but they are gaining popularity among homeowners who want a durable, long-lasting, and energy-efficient roofing. As discussed in the article Pros & Cons of Painting Metal Roofing, a good paint job can improve the appearance and value of a metal roof, and extend its life.

But choosing the right paint for a metal roof can be a challenge, as there are many factors to consider. Some types of paint are more suitable for certain types of metal roofing materials—choosing the wrong paint can lead to early failure or even damage the surface. In this article, we offer expert recommendations for the types of metal roof paint that are suitable for particular types of metal roofing. We’ll help you navigate the world of metal roof paints and choose the right one for your home.

Closeup of textured red metal roofing.
© Serhii Akhtemiichuk | Dreamstime

Please note that painting a metal roof is not the same as applying a coating to a metal roof. A metal roof coating is formulated to protect a metal roof and extend its lifespan—it’s typically thicker and adheres and protects better (and generally longer) than metal roofing paint. For more, see Choosing Metal Roof Coatings. Metal roof paint offers less protection but a much wider range of colors.

Factors for Choosing the Right Metal Roof Paint

Choosing the best paint for your metal roof will depend on a number of factors. You should take into consideration:

  1. The paint’s purpose is very important. Is it intended to protect the roof or to improve its appearance? If the goal is to protect the roof, a durable and weather-resistant paint like polyester or silicone (see below) should be used.
  2. The metal roofing material will need to be compatible with the paint. Different metal roofing materials have different properties, such as rust-resistance and smoothness, which can affect the performance of the paint. For example, aluminum and galvanized steel roofs require different types of paint than copper roofs.
  3. The climate of your region makes a big difference. Where weather conditions are harsh, with high winds or extreme temperatures, you’ll want a very durable paint or roof coating.
  4. The paint’s color will affect the roof’s performance. Lighter colors reflect sunlight, which can help to keep your home cooler in the summer, while darker colors absorb heat, making your home warmer—causing heat gain inside the house. In addition, dark tones can cause the roof to expand and contract, leading to cracks or other damage.
  5. The “solids content” of paint refers to the amount of paint that remains on your roof after it has dried. A high solids content indicates that the paint has a high concentration of solids (i.e., pigments, binders, and additives) relative to solvents, which makes the paint thicker and more durable. Paint with a high solids content will adhere to the surface, providing better protection and durability. To determine whether a metal roof paint has a high solids content, look at the manufacturer’s specifications or consult with a paint dealer.
  6. The paint’s cost is almost always a consideration. You don’t necessarily need to go for the most expensive type in all situations because, though expensive paints tend to offer better protection, they may be overkill for some roofs. Then again, don’t buy cheap paint—you won’t want to go through the labor and cost of having your roof painted again in the near future. The chances are good that cheap paint won’t provide the same level of protection and durability as a higher-quality paint. Cost is usually closely related to quality. Ask your paint dealer for recommendations that are a good value in both performance and cost.

Types & Cost of Metal Roof Paint

When choosing a paint for a metal roof, select a high-quality paint that—in addition to having a high solids content—is specifically designed to provide long-lasting protection against rain, snow, and UV radiation, and will resist fading, chalking, and other forms of weathering. Here are the most common metal roof paints and their approximate costs:

  1. Acrylic paint is the most common paint for metal roofs. Because it is water-based, it dries quickly, is relatively easy to apply, and cleans-up with water. In terms of cost, acrylic paint is the least expensive option, cost from $20 to $40 per gallon.
  2. Polyester paint is more durable than acrylic paint—it’s often used for commercial metal roofs. It is a solvent-based paint that can withstand harsh weather conditions and is resistant to fading and chalking. Polyester paint typically costs from $50 to $100 per gallon.
  3. Silicone paint, the most durable option for metal roofs, will last for decades. It resists fading, chalking, corrosion, cracking, and similar damage. The most expensive option, paint with a high silicone content can run from $100 to $200 per gallon.

Oil-based or alkyd-based paints are generally not used on metal roofs because they tend to crack and peel, and don’t provide the same durability and weather resistance as other metal roof paints. They’re also more difficult to work with and can emit strong fumes during application.

Are Primers Needed for Metal Roof Paints?

For most metal roofs, a rust-inhibiting primer that is specifically designed for the surface and the top coat is recommended to prevent corrosion and ensure adhesion of the topcoat. The right kind of primer for your roof depends on the type of metal the roof is made from and the type of paint you plan to use as a top coat. Discuss this with your paint dealer. For more about primers, see What Are The Right Primers for Metal Roof Paints?

In Summary

When choosing a paint for your metal roof, consider the type of metal, the color, the quality, the solids content, and the cost. With these factors in mind, you’ll be able to choose a paint that provides excellent protection and durability for your metal roof.

Did we answer all of your questions about the benefits and drawbacks of painting metal roofs? Please check out the “Conversation” at the bottom of the page if you’d like to explore this topic further.



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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort