A church re-roof by The Ribble Group has parishioners asking about the product.
A church re-roof by The Ribble Group has parishioners asking about the product.

Reid Ribble would be the first to acknowledge that stone-coated steel isn't exactly new. That's because his company, The Ribble Group, in Kaukauna, Wis., has been installing it for 18 years.

Stone-coated steel shingles, shakes, or tiles — all configurations are available — were developed in New Zealand 50 years ago. They combine the durability of metal with the color and texture available in asphalt shingles. “It doesn't look like metal roofing,” says Pete Croft, vice president of marketing and sales for manufacturer Metro Roof Products, “but it provides all the qualities that metal roofing does.”

NICHE NO MORE? For years, roofing contractors found stone-coated steel to be a niche product, more complicated to install and limited in appeal to the higher-end homeowner willing to pay double the price of asphalt. But recent price increases for composition shingles have boosted the popularity of stone-coated steel as a contractor-suggested upsell.

“A major portion of the time I go out, they're replacing wood shakes and considering concrete tile,” says Kim Smith, owner of J.N. Davis Roofing Co., in Pasadena, Calif. “And when I leave they say: ‘Thank you for telling us about this. We never knew it existed.'”

Smith cites, as major selling points, the product's light weight and walkability (especially matched against concrete tile), reliability, and the fact that “it looks gorgeous.”

The disadvantage? It's a tougher install, notes Ribble, who says that a 1½ -day asphalt shingle job would typically take 2½ days with stone-coated steel. And it's all in the flashing. “Your rake edges and valley cuts are more difficult,” he says. “So are your roof-to-wall interfaces.”

His company's metal shop produces the necessary accessories. The Ribble Group, which also markets as Security Roofing, has spread the word, Ribble says, by doing stone-coated steel roofs on churches, which then, essentially, become an advertisement for the product and get parishioners interested.

GROWING APPEAL Ribble estimates that as recently as three years ago 2% of his business was stone-coated steel. It's now 7% to 8%. Dale Brenke, president of Schmidt Siding & Window Co., in Mankato, Minn., says that his company did 17 steel-shingle installations last year — most of them stone-coated — and estimates that he'll do twice as many in 2008.

Buyers are typically past window or siding customers, and the lure, in a climate particularly tough on roofing, is longevity. Smith says that he has yet to make a repair call on a stone-coated steel roof he has installed. “I've got one on my house,” he adds.