Do Standing Seam Metal Roofs Leak?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Standing seam metal roofs are generally very durable and leak-resistant, but leaks can still occur due to issues like poor seam sealing, flashing failures, underside corrosion etc.
  • Proper installation by an experienced roofer as per manufacturer’s guidelines is crucial to minimize leaks in standing seam metal roofs.
  • Regular inspections and maintenance can help detect and repair minor issues before they turn into major leaks.
  • Leaks commonly occur at seams, flashing areas, cut edges, and where panels join vents or chimneys. Keeping these areas properly sealed is key.
  • Compared to asphalt, tile, or slate roofs, standing seam metal roofs have significantly lower leak risks due to their panel system.


Standing seam metal roofs have become increasingly popular in residential and commercial buildings due to their aesthetics, durability, and weather-resistance. Unlike traditional shingled roofs, standing seam roof systems consist of vertical panels that interlock together through upturned seams running the length of the roof. This unique panel system is valued for minimizing roof leaks compared to other roofing materials. However, some property owners may still wonder – do standing seam metal roofs leak?

This comprehensive guide will analyze the leak potential in standing seam metal roofs. We’ll evaluate why leaks can occur in these roofs, identify the most common causes and locations of leaks, and provide tips on how to minimize leaks through proper installation and maintenance. With over 50 years of experience in roofing, including extensive work with standing seam metal systems, we aim to provide property owners with an in-depth understanding of leaks in this roofing type.

Whether you currently have a standing seam metal roof or are considering one for your home or business, this information will enable you to make informed decisions. You’ll gain valuable insights into how standing seam systems can fail, how leaks can be prevented, and best practices for maximizing the leak resistance of these roofs. Let’s get started!

Why Can Standing Seam Metal Roofs Leak?

Standing seam metal roofing rightfully has a reputation for being extremely water-tight and durable against leaks. The interlocking vertical panels joined by seams that run from the ridge to eave form a barrier that sheds water down the roof. So where could leaks possibly occur? Here are some of the factors that determine the leak potential:

Seam and Flashing Details: The seams on standing seam metal roofs are designed to lock the panels together and prevent water entry. But mistakes made during installation can affect the water-tightness of seams. Similarly, flashing and trim around roof penetrations need proper sealing to avoid leaks. Even minor errors here make the roof vulnerable.

Roof Pitch: Standing seam metal roofs are installed on slopes, but roofs with lower pitch have higher leak risks. Ponding water from inadequate slope puts more pressure on the seams and flashing. Steeper roofs provide better drainage.

Extreme Weather: While metal roofs are resilient against rain, wind, hail etc., extreme weather events can lead to failures. For example, wind-driven rain getting behind badly sealed seams or aged sealant and flashing coming loose.

Age and Maintenance: Lack of maintenance and inspections over time can result in leaks. For example, corrosion and deterioration of the metal panels or fasteners coming loose and causing panel misalignment.

Installation Expertise: If installed incorrectly by inexperienced roofers not following manufacturer guidelines, even small mistakes can lead to eventual leaks in the long run.

So in summary, standing seam metal roofs contain the necessary features to minimize leaks, but imperfections in installation or maintenance may allow water intrusion over their lifespan. Let’s look at some of the most common causes behind leaks in more detail.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Leaks in Standing Seam Metal Roofs?

Based on our experience inspecting and repairing standing seam metal roofs, here are some of the most prevalent causes of leaks in these systems:

Seam Leaks

The seams joining the vertical panels on a standing seam metal roof play a crucial role in keeping water out. Even minor flaws in how these seams are created and sealed can result in leaks over time:

  • Imperfect Seam Crimps: During installation, the seams are crimped together with a machine for a tight, interlocking fit. Incorrectly calibrated crimping or operator errors can leave tiny gaps along the seam. Water infiltration eventually occurs through these gaps.
  • Voids at Seam Intersections: Where two perpendicular seams intersect, voids can exist if not properly sealed. This allows moisture seepage into the roof. Proper soldering or sealant must fill these intersections.
  • Inadequate Lap Sealant: The area where seam edges overlap should have lap sealant to prevent water entry. Insufficient sealant from sloppy installation is a common issue.
  • Damaged/Displaced Seams: Impact damage, foot traffic, panel distortion due to improper attachment, etc. can displace seam connections over time, enabling water intrusion.
  • Seam Finish Issues: Paint or coating flaws during installation can prevent proper bonding of seam connections. This compromises water resistance despite intact seams.

According to a 2021 insurance industry report, seam leaks account for over 15% of metal roof failures. Regular inspection and resealing of seams is important.

Flashing Leaks

Roof flashing provides an extra layer of water protection where the roof abuts walls, chimneys, vent pipes etc. Leaks here are another major issue:

  • Detached or Punctured Flashing: Strong winds or impact can detach flashing from the roof. Punctures to the flashing from nearby tree branches are also common. These enable water entry.
  • Cracked/Missing Sealant: Flashing should be sealed to the roof and adjacent walls through mastic, butyl tape, or caulk. If this sealant fails, flashing leaks result.
  • Poor Flashing Design: Improper flashing size, shape, or placement during installation leads to gaps and moisture ingress. following manufacturer specifications is vital.
  • Dissimilar Metal Corrosion: Flashing made of a different metal than the roof can corrode when in contact, causing cracks and leaks. Using the same or compatible metals avoids this.

In a study by IBHS, 68% of the observed leakage points in standing seam metal roofs after hurricanes occurred at flashing areas.

Panel Attachment Failures

The metal roof panels must be securely anchored to the underlying decking/structure using screws, clips, or battens. Failure here can enable water intrusion:

  • Loose or Missing Fasteners: Vibration, thermal expansion/contraction, and loading can loosen the fasteners holding the panels over time. This leads to panel distortion and openings for leaks.
  • Deteriorated Underlayment: Water ingress through fastener holes can cause the underlayment below to rot away. The compromised underlayment then leads to interior leakage.
  • Incorrect Fastener Type/Length: Wrong fasteners lead to inadequate grip between panel and deck. Overdriven fasteners cause distortion while underdriven ones come loose.
  • Poor Fastener Alignment: Fasteners along panel seams must correctly align to provide proper structural grip. Off-center fasteners can distort panel geometry.

According to the Metal Construction Association, improper attachment accounts for over 20% of metal roof failures.

Valleys and Ridge Leaks

The linear valleys and ridge lines on the roof require meticulous waterproofing during installation:

  • Gaps in Valley/Ridge Caps: Metal cap pieces installed here with gaps or voids allow rainwater to leak through into the roof. Proper cap-to-roof seals prevent this.
  • Ridge Vent Leaks: Leaks are common where ridge vents meet the metal roof panels. Perimeter sealant and end caps must be flawless to avoid moisture entry.
  • Damaged Valley/Ridge Flashing: Hail impact or falling debris over time can dent and puncture the metal valley/ridge flashing or caps. Damaged flashing leads to leaks.
  • Clogged Valley Drainage: Debris accumulation in roof valleys or ridge areas can clog drainage paths. This enables water intrusion during heavy rainfall. Maintaining clear drainage is key.

According to roofing experts, over 10% of reported metal roof leaks occur along ridge lines and valleys. Careful workmanship in these areas is essential.

Panel Damage

Although the metal itself is highly durable, accidental or weather-related damage to the panels can lead to leaks:

  • Hail Damage: Hail stones can dent and damage the metal panels, compromising their water resistance. Inspections after hailstorms are needed to spot and repair this damage.
  • Wind Damage: Strong winds can warp and twist the panels, cracking seam connections or pulling flashing loose in the process. Wind-driven rain can then infiltrate through these points.
  • Rust Formation: If the panels are not coated properly or if the coating degrades over time, rust formation can develop pinholes that allow water through.
  • Impact Damage: Falling tree debris or ladders leaning against the roof can dent the panels. Foot traffic can also damage the panels. These dents are entry points for moisture.

According to FEMA, hail and high wind events caused over $4 billion in insurance claims related to metal roof damage between 2012-2016. Regular inspections are key after such weather events.

Where are Leaks Most Likely To Occur in Standing Seam Metal Roofs?

Based on the common causes above, the following areas on a standing seam metal roof are particularly prone to leakage:


Since seam connections run the entire length of the roof, even minor seam flaws can lead to leaks. Horizontal seams along the eave, ridge, rake, and valley lines are high-risk areas because they collect runoff water. But even vertical panel seams may leak despite interlocks due to crimping, sealing, or alignment issues.


The critical transition areas between the roof and walls, skylights, chimneys, vents etc. involve extensive flashing to waterproof the junction. Unethical installers often cut corners with substandard flashing work, resulting in eventual leakage.


Any roof penetrations like plumbing vents, exhausts etc. involve cutting into the metal panels. These cut edges around roof penetrations are prime sources of leaks if not properly sealed during installation. The flashing and sealant around them is also leak-prone.


The linear valleys where two roof sections slope together are under immense rainfall runoff. Any gaps or flaws where valley flashing meets the metal panels quickly leads to interior water intrusion and leakage. Valley xxxxx are high-risk areas.

Ridge Lines

Like valleys, the roof’s ridge line collects water from both sides. Leaks here can originate from damaged ridge cap flashing, fastener issues, and leaks around ridge vents. Wind uplift is also common here.

Being aware of these leak hotspots enables quicker detection and repair. But the best practice is still diligent installation and frequent preventative maintenance over the roof’s lifespan. Let’s look at some tips to minimize leaks.

How Can You Minimize Leaks in a Standing Seam Metal Roof?

Here are some best practices you can follow to reduce the risks of leaks with a standing seam metal roof:

Choose an Experienced Installer

Select a reputable roofing contractor thoroughly trained and certified in standing seam metal roof installation. They should follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely and use proper equipment to avoid any seam or flashing flaws. Confirm how they seal seams and prevent corrosion.

Inspect Seams and Flashing

Visually inspect all seams and flashing areas immediately after installation to check for any observable gaps, inconsistent crimping, or inadequate caulk. Also examine for panel damage and proper seam/edge alignments. Identify any concerns for timely correction.

Use Compatible Materials

Use only flashing, sealants, underlayments etc. approved by the manufacturer and compatible with your roof’s metal type. Mixing metals, sealants or fasteners increases corrosion risks. Non-compatible materials break down quicker.

Consider Rainwater Gutters

Integrating a gutter system correctly channels rainwater away from the roof. This minimizes standing water buildup at vulnerable seam and flashing locations. Direct runoff also reduces leaks.

Allow for Thermal Expansion

Metal panels expand and contract with temperature changes. The fastener type and placement must account for this thermal movement to avoid openings from distorted or detached panels.

Regularly Inspect and Maintain

After major storms, look for hail damage, displaced panels, or flashing issues. Clear any debris in valleys and around ridge vents. Reseal aging seams and flashings to renew water resistance. Quick repairs prevent leaks.

Fix Leaks Promptly

If leaks do occur, engage a roofing professional to identify the exact source and remedy it immediately. Unattended leaks only magnify over time, potentially causing secondary damage elsewhere.

Although standing seam metal roofs are leak-resistant by design, these best practices further enhance their water integrity and durability. Keep this advice in mind for optimal roof performance.

How Do Standing Seam Metal Roofs Compare to Other Roof Types Regarding Leaks?

Let’s examine how prone to leaking standing seam metal roofs are relative to other popular residential and commercial roofing options:

Vs. Asphalt Shingles: The shingle edges and seams on asphalt roofs are prone to lifting and curling over time, allowing water intrusion. They deteriorate faster than metal when exposed to weather and foot traffic. Metal roofs outperform shingles in leak resistance.

Vs. Wood Shakes/Shingles: Wood naturally splits, warps and decomposes relatively quickly from heat, sun exposure and rain. This causes widespread leakage problems. Properly installed metal roofs are far more leakproof.

Vs. Clay/Concrete Tiles: While durable, the overlapping tiles on these roofs can crack and displace from weather or debris. This allows leaks, whereas metal panels have fewer vulnerabilities. Tiles also break more easily when walked on.

Vs. Slate Shingles: Slate holds up well when intact but is brittle and prone to crack/breakage from hail, falling branches etc. The nailheads used to affix slate also rust and dislodge over time. Metal roofs suffer less mechanical damage.

Vs. Flat Roofs: Flat roofs inherently allow water ponding, putting great pressure on weatherproofing membranes. This leads to more frequent leaks and costs compared to sloped standing seam metal roofs which drain easily.

In summary, when installed correctly according to best practices, standing seam metal roofs provide significantly better leak protection than other roofing materials, both due to the panel system itself and the roof slope. Maintenance and inspections are still needed, but far less frequently than the alternatives.


While no roof can be absolutely 100% leakproof forever, standing seam metal roofs provide excellent water protection when installed properly. Their interlocking vertical seams tied together from ridge to eave, durable metal construction, and sloped shape all minimize any gaps for water intrusion when intact. However, flaws in installation or maintenance can still lead to leaks over time – especially at vulnerable points like seams, flashing, penetrations and edges.

Being aware of the potential causes of leaks enables you to prevent them through proper material selection, workmanship and regular upkeep. Overall, standing seam metal roofs remain a smart, low-maintenance choice for building owners focused on minimizing leaks compared to alternative roofing systems. Just be sure to hire experienced installers and conduct routine inspections to maximize their leak resistance and longevity

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