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Corrugated Roofing Sheets: When to Use What and Where?

House with corrugated metal roof

Be it a garage, a shed, or a workshop, corrugated roofing is the default choice for waterproofing outbuilding roofs, but their popularity is not just restricted to residential buildings. Corrugated roofing sheets are often used to roof warehousing, logging, and agricultural buildings because they are affordable, provide reliable waterproofing, and are easy to install. However, that’s just an overview and unless we know exactly what to use where and when, the end result won’t be as satisfactory as it should be.

After all, corrugation simply refers to the ridged or wavy structural pattern of the layered sheets that make up corrugated roofs. The term itself says nothing about the different materials that are used to manufacture those sheets, nor does it specify anything about the difference in price or quality of those materials. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast, a contractor, a business owner, or a homeowner, the following information about corrugated roofing should cover pretty much all that you will need to know.

Bitumen Corrugated Roofing

As far as suitability is concerned, bitumen corrugated roofing sheets can be used to put a waterproof and windproof roof on top of sheds, stables, barns, temporary shelters, garages, and pretty much any other outbuilding that could use waterproofing. They come in a wide variety of colours, making it easier to match the installations with your external décor too.

Bitumen is the preferred option for corrugated, waterproof roofing over metal, because it provides a perfect balance between the shortcomings of steel and aluminium roofing sheets. The corrugated sheets, known as Corrapol-BT, are lightweight, affordable, durable, and they do not corrode. Most importantly though, these affordable and sturdy corrugated roofing sheets can be installed on top of any outbuilding with ease and speed. 

For example, this collection of roofing bitumen sheets from the Clear Amber Shop are ready to be installed by almost anyone, irrespective of whether they have prior roofing experience or not. Manufacturers like Corrapol-BT tend to make installations exceptionally easy by offering a hefty selection of different flashings and other accessories for all their corrugated roofing sheets. 

Metal Corrugated Roofing

Metal corrugated sheets are generally used to roof large agricultural and other industrial structures. Metal is preferred for the larger commercial structures because the alloys can hold strong even when the sheets are spread over a large surface area. Due to the natural susceptibility of metal roofs to conduct heat, corrugated metal roofing is not ideal for residential structures.

Metal has other advantages and disadvantages, but very few of them are universally applicable to all metallic alloys that are used to manufacture corrugated roofing sheets. Nevertheless, we can broadly classify corrugated metal roofing sheets under two major categories.

  1. Corrugated roofing sheets made from steel and steel alloys.
  2. Corrugated roofing sheets made from aluminium and aluminium alloys.

All metal alloys used to manufacture corrugated roofing are subject to corrosion, but aluminium sheets will corrode and develop holes much faster than even plain old carbon steel sheets. Stainless steel is going to be your best option in metal, as far as longevity, sturdiness, and corrosion resistance is concerned, but it will cost significantly more than aluminium or any other material on this list. On top of that, the weight of steel makes it almost impossible to install without professional equipment.

Aluminium roofing sheets do have the advantage of being lighter and cheaper than steel of course, which makes them much easier to install and replace. On the other hand, aluminium corrugated roofs may not last long enough for the cheaper purchase to be profitable in the long run. Some more expensive aluminium alloy roofs can last much longer than plain aluminium sheets though, thus they do offer a better value-for-money proposition.

 Roof made of corrugated metal

Fiberglass Corrugated Roofing

Fiberglass does not corrode, the sheets are lightweight, and they can indeed withstand a surprising about of pressure and impact. However, fiberglass corrugated sheets will allow light to pass through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course, depending on where the building is located and what it is being used for. For example, greenhouses benefit the most from fiberglass corrugated roofs. Engineered fiberglass can provide complete heat insulation, which will lower the cost of keeping your greenhouse heated during winter.

Fiberglass corrugated roofing can be moulded into almost any shape to suit even oddly shaped buildings. Corrugated fibreglass roofs are generally transparent or translucent, but they can be coloured in a wide range of other shades nowadays. Note that tinted fiberglass roofs can significantly decrease the amount of light that they allow to pass through them. Depending on how light sensitive you need the interiors to be, this can be used to your benefit.

The biggest gripe with quality fiberglass corrugated sheets is the fact that they can be quite expensive. Other than that, the amplified noise of rain drops on fiberglass roofs can be quite a bother on rainy nights. Finally, fiberglass as a material is lightweight, which is all good as far as installation is concerned. Unfortunately, that also makes them less suitable for locations where high wind velocity and storms are common.

Plastic Corrugated Roofing

Corrugated roofing sheets are generally manufactured from either polycarbonate or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) polymers. Both share very similar advantages and disadvantages, but PVC is well known as one of the most toxic plastics in existence, so polycarbonate plastic sheets are preferable in between the two. Corrugated roofs made from plastic are moderately resistant to weathering and corrosion, but they do not remain completely unaffected either.

They seal in heat and provide complete insulation, not unlike fiberglass. Also, quite similar to fiberglass, polycarbonate corrugated roofs are highly susceptible to high winds and storms. Finally, they tend to be just as loud in amplifying the sound of falling rain as fibreglass, if not more so. Despite the similarities, fiberglass and plastic have their own advantages over each other. For example, plastic is cheaper and lighter, but fibreglass lasts longer.

If you are looking for cheap, light, and colourful corrugated roofing solutions, polycarbonate sheets are indeed cheap, light, and easy to install. Also, it is difficult to find anything else that can match polycarbonate sheets in terms of the material’s ability to reflect light and colour. You should be able to find polycarbonate corrugated roofing sheets in almost any design, shape, or size you need to, which is what makes polycarbonate sheets the most versatile material in corrugated roofing for décor.

Fibre-Cement Corrugated Roofing: Are they Safe?

Modern fibre-cement mixes for corrugated concrete roofs should be safe. It is not uncommon to find asbestos fibres in old, corrugated cement roofs and there is no way for one to be sure without getting the materials tested. Every now and then, stories still pop up about asbestos poisoning from unexpected places.

However, the use of asbestos in cement is illegal and it has been so for decades in UK. Therefore, modern fibre-cement corrugated roofing solutions should be safe as metal fillings have replaced the use of asbestos in concrete. If you cannot confirm what the “fibre” is in the fibre-cement mix though, it is best to avoid such installations altogether. If you can indeed confirm that they are using flour, cellulose, or amorphous silica fibres instead, then it should pose no threat to human health.