Death, taxes and more building codes. Such certainties ensure that a contractor’s life is filled with challenges. But while many states are boosting building codes, they’re also opening a door of opportunity for enterprising roofing contractors to focus on what they do best, while simultaneously relieving general contractors of one less liability.

Credit this to metal-roofing systems with pre-manufactured-edges that come certified to ensure compliance with the new standards. At the same time, the rapid availability of these systems means roofing contractors can step out of their sheet metal shops and onto a stepladder where they can concentrate on their bread-and-butter expertise. Top it off with the fact pre-manufactured edge metal flashings have already been proven to speed the roofing process, improve structural integrity and yield a better-appearing building, and it seems that increased profits can actually be squeezed from a new code, after all.

Georgia is one the most recent states to adopt new standards for roof assemblies and rooftop structures. The state now requires that metal-edge flashings - copings, fascias and gravel stops - for low-slope roof systems pass the American National Standards Institute’s wind-load tests.


While only a handful of states to date have adopted the new code, it is spreading. The insurance industry is a major source behind this push. Factory Mutual, a major commercial property insurer, has determined that approximately 60 percent of construction litigation stems from damage caused by wind and water that enters buildings via the roof edge.

“A lot of roofers don’t know that insurance companies are now taking a different approach to blow-offs - it’s no longer considered an act of God,” says Mike McClure, president of Membrane Systems Inc. in Atlanta. Founded in 1980, MSI specializes in the installation, maintenance and repair of single-ply membrane roofing systems, and counts the Georgia Dome among its marquee projects.

“Now their approach is, ‘Somebody goofed and we have to figure out who it is and seek indemnification,’ ” adds McClure. “Increasingly, it’s the roofing contractor who has to pay up. For those of us who have been in the business for a long time, you can’t afford not to comply.”

General contractors sometimes end up liable if the roofing contractor leaves the state or declares bankruptcy, so they have a major stake in ensuring subcontractors comply with the new codes.

The Mayfair Tower in downtown Atlanta features state code-compliant edging.


Until now, approximately 80 percent of the metal-edge work in the United States has been performed by roofers themselves in their own sheet metal shops. In some cases, roofers farm it out to a local sheet metal shop that doesn’t specialize in flashings. However, the encroaching standards are rapidly changing this status quo.

While many reputable roofers have long used edge metal flashings that meet this requirement, few can bear the cost of setting up a testing laboratory to certify that their products actually pass the standards. Yet without certification, contractors lack a solid defense.

Equipped with the state-of-the-art machinery and modern testing equipment, established suppliers of pre-manufactured edge metal-roofing systems have already carved out a niche. Many of the primary players in this industry boast manufacturing plants that house machinery such as 95-ton hydraulic press brakes with computer back gauging, 16-gauge CNC-controlled 20-foot-long folders, 10- and 20-foot press brakes, and 12-foot hydraulic shears with 10-gauge capacities.

Few roofing contractors can afford to equip, man and maintain such factories.

“I have my own sheet metal shop, but even before the code went into effect I generally chose not to use it because we don’t have a dedicated, sheet metal-only staff,” says McClure. “I’d have to bring in somebody from the roofing crew after-hours, or wait until it was a rainy day, and have them spend their time in our sheet metal shop. Instead, it just makes sense for us to pay National Sheet Metal Systems to take care of this work so that our guys can stay out on the roof doing what they do best - installing roofs.”

Established 1998 in Scottsdale, Ga., National Sheet Metal Systems Inc. is a designer and manufacturer of commercial-edge metal-roofing systems. In addition to supplying fascia and coping products certified to meet the new standards, the company also fabricates, gravel stops, gutters, downspouts and counter-flashing products, custom job-specific fabrications and related accessories.

An Atlanta grocery store featuring National-made edging.


Even before the new standard, such companies have become the preferred choice for many roofing contractors because of the time savings and increased productivity afforded with the use of pre-manufactured-edge metal systems.

Two-piece, snap-on fascia systems for single-ply, built-up and modified roof membrane applications allow for fast and simple installation, enabling installers to quickly and easily dry-in the roofing environment. Snap-on coping systems eliminate exposed fasteners, allow for thermal expansion and contraction of the metal, while also greatly reducing installation costs. Because of their free-floating design, snap-on copings also allow for inherent construction variables such as wall thicknesses and inconsistent wood members. Pre-fabricated mitered corners, transitions, endcaps and scupper boxes also speed the roofing process. Just-in-time deliveries match production schedules.

“Roof edging is time consuming. In particular, the lead time it takes to get products fabricated and then get them on site can eat into your schedule,” McClure points out. “But some of these pre-manufactured systems are relatively quick to obtain and quick to put on.”

Looks better

The newest of these systems have also curried favor among contractors, and even architects, by virtue of yielding a more aesthetically pleasing result. Manufacturers that specialize in edge metal-roofing systems provide much greater consistency and uniformity than many sheet metal, roofer-owned or independent shop can provide. Oftentimes, CNC-controlled machinery is employed to ensure consistency, making it easier to duplicate roofing orders to exacting standards. In some cases, fully welded radius coping that uses CAD, water-jets and laser cutting technology is available to help meet rigid design parameters.

More materials also become available, including steel, stainless steel, aluminum and copper, as well as a wide array of colors for the finished product ¾ as many as 5,000 variations in some cases.
While the many advantages of using pre-manufactured-edge metal systems have already made it an obvious choice for roofing contractors who want to substantially grow their business, some say that the coming code changes will require almost all roofing contractors to adapt to them or risk going out of business.

“Some manufacturers only offer a handful of standard products in standard dimensions and profiles, but we often run into situations where a standard product doesn’t fit because we do more re-roofing than we do new construction work,” McClure says. “Fortunately, National can certify custom work as well as the standard snap-on stuff.”

While the economic advantages of pre-manufactured edge metal systems have already proved convincing for many contractors, eventually most individuals and businesses involved with roofing will have to comply with the new standard as additional states adopt it.

“With little warning or fanfare, literally almost overnight, our state (Georgia) codified the standard,” McClure said. “It caught everybody by surprise. Now all of a sudden you’re in a situation where you must comply in order to protect your business assets.”

This article and its images were supplied by National Sheet Metal Systems Inc.