What Are the Different Types of Roofing Sheets?
Sheet roofing is a relatively new form of roof covering, especially when compared to roofing materials that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years, such as thatch or roof tiles. In recent decades however, leading manufacturers such as Clear Amber, Britmet, and Ariel Plastics have brought a wide range of gorgeous, innovative roofing sheets onto the market.
Roof sheets have quickly become the go-to favourite for homeowners undertaking DIY projects such as re-roofing their shed or garage. This is largely thanks to the exceptional speed and ease of installation that roofing sheets offer over other materials. What’s more, many roofing sheets are also highly durable, making them a great choice for a low maintenance roof.
Many of our customers ask us questions such as “What are the different types of roofing sheets?”, and “Which roofing sheet is best for me?”. The answer to the second question of course, depends on your budget, as well as the needs and requirements of your project. In this article we’re going to explore the pros and cons of all major types of roofing sheet, to help you decide which is right for you.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose Roofing Sheets?
- Types of Roofing Sheets
- Which Roofing Sheet is Best for Me?
Why Choose Roofing Sheets?
Roofing sheets boast many significant advantages over other roofing materials, which make it easy to see why they’re so popular.
There are few materials that can be applied to quite as many structures as roofing sheets. With lightweight options available suitable for small garden outbuildings such as sheds, along with heavy duty options perfect for commercial or agricultural use.
Quick, Easy Installation
Unlike fitting many individual roof tiles, fixing a roofing sheet which will cover the same area takes just minutes. This means that even larger projects will take just a fraction of the time to complete. Ideal for keeping project costs low if hiring professionals.
The lifespan of roofing sheets depends on the material you choose, but even the most cost-effective type of roofing sheet such as bitumen will last for well over a decade, with materials such as fibre cement or metal lasting for fifty years or longer.
Durability and Low Maintenance
Most roofing sheets are incredibly strong, and able to withstand anything the Great British weather throws at them. This means that you’ll rarely have to worry about carrying out expensive repairs to your sheeted roof, and maintaining it will require little more than regular removal of dirt and debris.
Types of Roofing Sheets
So, what types of roofing sheets are available, and how do they compare to one another? The rule of thumb is that generally, a higher price means greater durability. Whilst costs can vary between brands, sheets made from each material will generally be in the same price range regardless of manufacturer. Another thing to note, is that almost all roofing sheets come in a corrugated profile, with the exception of tile effect and box profile sheets made from galvanised steel.
Polycarbonate Roofing Sheets
Polycarbonate roof sheets are ideal for filling the space below with light, and are some of the least expensive roof sheets on the market. This makes polycarbonate the ideal choice for conservatories, greenhouses, and lean-tos. Polycarbonate roofing is highly customisable, with both corrugated and solid polycarbonate sheets available in a selection of finishes, as well as thicknesses ranging from 4mm to 35mm. The right polycarbonate sheet for you will depend on your exact project, with thicker sheets being better suited to roofing applications.
Thanks to the high degree of freedom you have when choosing polycarbonate, it’s easy to find the perfect sheet to suit the levels of durability, light transmission, and of course aesthetics that you desire. Whilst DIYers can install polycarbonate roofing onto a timber framed carport themselves quite easily, if your roof requires self-supporting glazing bars, we’d recommend hiring a professional. Taking necessary accessories such as glazing bars into consideration, a polycarbonate roof will set you back around £20 per square metre.
- Life Expectancy: Polycarbonate roofing sheets can be expected to last between 15 - 20 years when correctly installed. Whilst not the type of roofing sheet that lasts the longest, their combination of easy installation and reasonable cost means replacing any damaged polycarbonate will be an inexpensive process requiring a minimum of hassle.
- Weight: Polycarbonate is one of the lightest roofing materials around, making it easy to handle and work with on-site, as well as requiring minimal structural support. This can, however, mean that polycarbonate can be susceptible to lifting during high winds, but this can be prevented with secure fixings.
- Installation: As stated, installing polycarbonate sheets really couldn’t be simpler. Most brands offer a full polycarbonate roofing system alongside their sheets, meaning you’ll have specially made accessories and fixings to hand while completing your project. Each sheet will take mere minutes to install, meaning a whole roof can be fitted in the space of a day.
- Versatility: Polycarbonate is one of the most flexible kinds of roofing sheet, able to be used on a wide variety of projects. What’s more, polycarbonate sheets can be installed on roofs with pitches as low as 9°. They’re also incredibly simple to cut on-site, meaning you can quickly adapt your sheets to suit your project. Learn how to cut polycarbonate.
- Variety of Colours and Thicknesses: There are many different kinds of polycarbonate roofing sheet. Most commonly, polycarbonate is available in clear, opal, or bronze finishes, designed to allow different levels of light transmission into the space below. Thicknesses range from 4mm, which is ideal for creating cloches and cold frames, all the way up to 25mm or 35mm, which are perfect for conservatory roofs.
Bitumen Roofing Sheets
Bitumen roof sheets are by far our customers’ favourite. This is thanks to their light weight, solid durability, moderate lifespan, and cost-effectiveness. If well looked-after, bitumen roofing can last for over 20 years, requiring very little ongoing maintenance. Plus, these sheets are a fraction of the cost of other roofing materials, available as low as £5 per square metre.
Bitumen roofing shares many of the advantages of polycarbonate, including the simple installation. Each sheet boasts great coverage and requires just 20 fixings to securely fit to your roof. Bitumen is a far more versatile roofing material however, available in many more colours and finishes, which is why they can be seen on such a diverse range of structures right across the UK.
- Cost: Bitumen sheets offer even greater value for money than a polycarbonate roofing system. A bitumen roof will set you back around £5-10 per square metre, including fixings and accessories. This makes them highly affordable, perfect for small projects and inexpensive repairs should the need arise.
- Life Expectancy: Bitumen roofing has a similar lifespan to polycarbonate, lasting anywhere from 15 to 25 years, depending on conditions and how well it’s looked after. The main factor which will affect bitumen’s longevity is how severe the weather can be in your area.
- Weight: Whilst not quite as lightweight as most polycarbonate, bitumen roofing sheets are nevertheless very easy to handle and move around. This makes them simple to work with and install, as well as ideal for lightweight structures such as sheds, pergolas, stables and more.
- Installation: A sheeted roof made from bitumen will take very little time to install. Each sheet will require around twenty fixings to keep it nice and secure on the roof, requiring no specialist tools. This makes bitumen the ideal choice for smaller projects or those undertaken by homeowners new to DIY. Learn how to fit bitumen roofing.
- Versatility: The versatility of bitumen roofing cannot be understated. Able to be installed onto roofs with pitches as low as 5°, there are few types of roofing sheet quite as flexible as bitumen. They’re a great option when covering sheds, outbuildings, garages, lean-tos, stables, and far more besides.
- Variety of Colours: One of the things that draws customers to bitumen roofing the most is the sheer range of colours and finishes available. Shades including red, blue, green, black and more allow homeowners to achieve the perfect aesthetic they’re looking for to match the style of their property.
Metal Roofing Sheets
Amongst all materials, there are few that boast the same combination of durability and longevity as metal roofing sheets. Whilst they are by no means as easy to handle or install, nor as cost-effective as other materials, if you’re looking for top-notch performance and strength, metal is a fantastic choice. What’s more, metal roofing can last for over 40 years, far eclipsing cheaper alternatives.
Our range of metal roof sheets includes a variety of profiles, including standard corrugated metal sheets, as well as those in tile effect and box profiles. All of these are available in a broad selection of colours, finishes, and additional coatings which provide extra resistance to weather damage. Most metal roofing sheets are made from galvanised steel, which is exceptionally durable.
- Cost: The price point for metal roofing is medium to high, with cost varying depending upon the brand, type of metal, style, and size of sheet you choose.
- Weight: Metal roofing is heavy, particularly compared to materials such as bitumen or PVC. You can expect metal roof sheets to weigh around 6kg per square metre once installed, meaning your structure will need a bit of strength to handle it.
- Installation: Whilst metal sheets are still relatively lightweight and able to be handled by one person, they can take a little more time to install. This is due to the size and thickness of the fixings required, which increase the time needed to fit each sheet.
- Versatility: Metal roofing can be installed on roofs with pitches as low as 5°, and these sheets are suitable for residential projects, as well as park homes, extensions, garages, commercial applications, and more.
- Range of Profiles: Metal roofing is available in the standard corrugated form factor, which is a versatile all-rounder, along with box profiles ideal for commercial or industrial buildings such as warehouses, as well as iconic tile effect sheets, which mimic the appearance of roof tiles, making them suitable for house roofs.
- Selection of Colours: Another reason that metal roofing offers the widest variety of styles is the simply staggering choice on offer with regards to colours. These include vibrant reds, classic blacks, and many more. The unique combination of profiles, finishes, and colours means you’ll be able to pick the perfect roofing sheet to blend into your existing property.
Plastic Roofing Sheets
Plastic roofing sheets made from PVC share many similarities with bitumen roofing sheets. These plastic sheets are ideal for homeowners searching for a lightweight roof sheet that has a corrugated form factor at low cost. PVC roofing is often used as a low-cost alternative to roof lights, thanks to its excellent light transmission, allowing you to fill a space with light. Despite an approximate cost of just £15 per sheet, PVC sheets offer solid durability.
Plastic roof sheets are often seen as an alternative to polycarbonate roofing. This is thanks to the clear finishes available at a slightly lower cost, along with simpler installation. Rather than a full roofing system with glazing bars and so on, PVC roofing just requires basic fixings and flashings to install. These sheets can also be used in combination with other materials, to create a roof with a mix of opaque and translucent areas which allow light into the space below.
- Cost: PVC is certainly one of the cheapest roofing materials, costing around £10 per square metre. Whilst this low cost is reflected in the longevity and durability of these sheets, they are nevertheless incredibly easy and cheap to replace when needed.
- Life Expectancy: Plastic roofing sheets have a number of advantages, however longevity is not one of them. You can expect these sheets to last around 10 years when properly installed and maintained across their lifetime.
- Installation: PVC is one of the easiest types of roof sheet to install, taking just a few minutes per sheet. Similar to bitumen, these sheets are very lightweight, and require around 20 fixings per sheet.
- Versatility: Plastic roof sheets can even be used on low-pitched roofs, with a slope of just 5°. As well as this, these sheets can be installed on almost any structure, from lean-tos, to garages and warehouses. They’re even often used in combination with bitumen sheets.
- Range of Colours: PVC sheets have few colours and finishes to choose from, especially when compared to highly customisable metal or bitumen sheets. Most plastic roofing is available in clear or translucent finishes, as their greatest appeal is their light transmission.
Fibre Cement Roofing Sheets
Fibre cement roofing sheets are incredibly durable and boast an incredibly lifespan of over half a century. Available in a wide range of tasteful colours and finishes, fibre cement roof sheets can be used to complement almost any structure. What’s more, fibre cement sheets boast a number of advantages not shared by other materials. These include breathability, moisture resistance, and sustainability.
However, fibre cement is also one of the heaviest roofing materials available. Whilst this can make it a more daunting prospect for homeowners undertaking a DIY project, the weight of these sheets is part of what gives them their unparalleled strength. Installation can take longer than other materials, but their unique combination of durability, longevity, and aesthetics makes fibre cement an enticing choice for many, particularly in rural areas.
- Cost: Compared to many other types of roofing sheet, fibre cement is rather expensive. This is partly due to the high-quality materials used in its composite construction, making it far more appealing to farmers or business owners looking to protect an agricultural or industrial building than most homeowners.
- Life Expectancy: Fibre cement sheets will last an incredibly long time, only really being outlasted by slate roofing. If you’re looking for a roofing sheet that will truly stand the test of time, there are few better options than fibre cement.
- Installation: Whilst installing fibre cement sheets will generally take longer than other sheet materials, the process is still much faster than traditional roof tiles. The weight of these sheets means we’d recommend at least two people be involved in the process.
- Versatility: As with many other sheets, fibre cement roofing can be installed on roofs with pitches as low as 5°. Their strength and rural aesthetic make them one of the most popular choices on a range of agricultural structures, including stables, barns, garages, outbuildings, and more. These sheets are also resistant to salt and moisture, making them great for coastal properties.
- Range of Colours: Fibre cement sheets come in a selection of tasteful colours and profiles, including the iconic Big 6 and Big 3. This makes it simple to find the sheet that’s perfect for you and your project.
Which Roofing Sheet is Best for Me?
As you may be able to tell, each type of roofing sheet has its own positives and negatives, meaning the right one for you depends entirely on your needs. We hope this guide has made the choice clearer for you.
We stock a wide range of roofing sheets, each suited to a number of different applications. You’ll enjoy mega savings when you shop with us, and thanks to our nationwide delivery network, your order could be with you in a matter of days.
If you’ve got any more questions about our roof sheets, or anything else, please get in touch with our experienced customer service team. They’ll be able to help you with any questions you may have. Call 01295 565 565, email [email protected], or use our handy online live chat.