Commercial, Mixed-Use and Strata Roof Maintenance in Vancouver, B.C.

Thermal Movement In Metal Roofs: What Is It & How To Deal With It?

Thermal Movement In Metal Roofs: What Is It & How To Deal With It?

As a roofing professional, I must educate property owners about the possible issues that could occur with their roofing system over time. If you own a metal roof one of the things you need to look out for is thermal expansion or thermal movement. This happens in most building materials but is visibly seen in metals.

Thermal movement is the expansion and contraction of metal panels due to the rise and fall in temperatures.

In this article, we will explore the thermal movements in metal roofs. The scientific reason behind this phenomenon, what effects it has on your roof and how to deal with it.

What Is The Science Behind Thermal Movement In Metal Roofs?

Thermal movement is the natural expansion and contraction of metal panels in response to temperature changes. Metals expand as they heat up and contract as they cool down. The degree of expansion and contraction depends on the type of metal, the temperature change, and the length and thickness of the panel.

In metal roofs, thermal movement occurs due to the heating and cooling of the roof’s surface. During the day, the roof absorbs heat from the sun, causing it to expand. As the temperature drops at night, the roof cools down and contracts.

This cycle of expansion and contraction can cause stress on the roof and its supporting structures. Also, metals with a higher coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) will expand more than metals with a lower CTE. Thicker metal sheets will also expand less than thinner sheets,

In Easy Words….

Hotter Temperatures —-> The roof expands

Colder Temperatures —-> The roof contracts

What Does Thermal Movement Do To Your Metal Roof?

Thermal expansion and contraction can have severe effects on a metal roof, including:

  1. Stress on the Roof: Thermal expansion and contraction can cause stress on the roof and its supporting structures, leading to damage over time.
  2. Roof Leaks: Thermal movement can cause fasteners to become loose, creating gaps that allow water to seep into the building and cause roof leaks.
  3. Roof Buckling: If the roof is not designed to accommodate thermal movement, it can cause the metal sheets to buckle, resulting in an unsightly appearance and potential structural damage.
  4. Reduced Lifespan: Thermal expansion and contraction can reduce the lifespan of a metal roof if not properly addressed, leading to premature replacement.
  5. Increased Maintenance Costs: If the effects of thermal movement are not addressed, it can increase the maintenance costs of a metal roof over time.

How to Counter Thermal Movement in Metal Roofs?

Here are some ways to counter thermal expansion and contraction on metal roofs:

Use the Right Type of Metal

Using the right type of metal can help minimize the effects of thermal movement. Some types of metals have a lower coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) than others, meaning they expand and contract less in response to temperature changes. Choosing a metal with a lower CTE can help reduce the effects of thermal movement.

Proper Insulation

Proper insulation can help reduce the effects of heat on metal roofs. Insulation helps regulate the roof’s temperature and prevents it from expanding and contracting excessively.

Proper Fastening

Proper fastening of the metal sheets is critical for metal roofs for several reasons and one amongst them is thermal movements. Fasteners should be correctly spaced and sized to accommodate expansion and contraction. Over-tightening or under-tightening the fasteners can cause damage to the roof over time.

Expansion Joints

Expansion joints are gaps in the roof that are covered with a flexible material that can stretch and compress with the movement of the metal. Expansion joints allow the roof to expand and contract without causing damage to the roof or its supporting structures.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of the metal roof can help identify and address any issues related to thermal movement. Inspections should be conducted periodically to check for loose or damaged fasteners, gaps in the roof, or other signs of damage.

Reflective Paint

Using highly reflective paint to paint your metal roof may reflect most of the heat rather than absorb it. This may reduce thermal movement considerably.


Thermal movement is the most natural process that takes place in metal panels. It is hard to prevent it completely but it can be reduced considerably by taking the above mention steps. If you have any other questions related to your metal roof feel free to comment your questions below.

Also, if you need a reliable roofing service connect with us Anytime!

Leak-Stop is a one-stop destination to meet your roofing-related requirements. We offer roof repair, replacement, maintenance and inspection services all over GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District).

We offer a free inspection to first-time clients. Connect with us TODAY at 1 866 777 0084 for immediate assistance!

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