A beautiful copper roof will last many decades and should need only minimal care. Strong and durable, copper has a natural lifecycle that takes it from a shiny copper glow to a rich, distinctive patina, one that is recognizable worldwide as seen in many historic buildings, some hundreds of years old. To achieve that distinguished maturity, most homeowners look forward to or even accelerate the maturation of their copper roof to its ultimate patina. But no matter what stage your copper roof is in, there are still things you should know to help your roof look and perform its very best for a very long time to come.
Copper Roof Patina Formation
The patina color on a copper roof is a sign that the copper is maturing and actually strengthening as it ages. When a copper roof is exposed to moisture and air contaminants, the oxidation process begins. A thin layer begins to form, which is the patina, sometimes called verdigris. As the years go by, the patina will grow thicker and it will change color. The color may vary, depending on the location of the roof. For example, urban copper roofs may have a bluish patina, due to the copper sulfate that forms from deposits from urban pollution. A copper roof on a building near the coast may have a greenish tint as the salt air forms copper chloride in the patina. It’s important to remember that this is a long, natural process. You can expect it to take even longer if you live in a dry climate that doesn’t get much rain or humidity. Plus, the patina will probably mature unevenly. Different parts of the roof may receive more or less sunlight, and other factors can also give it an uneven appearance. This is normal and eventually the entire roof will take on the same brilliant color. The process itself can be fascinating to follow over the years and can usually be allowed to progress naturally. That does not mean that the roof, like any other roof, should not be monitored for any problems, damage or debris.
Things to Avoid When You Have a Copper Roof
Normally, simple debris removal is all that’s needed to keep your roof in good condition. Some homeowners, however, may be tempted to manage the coloration of the roof and want to preserve the “shiny” phase of the copper. This is probably not the best route, as the thin layer of patina actually helps protect the copper beneath it and adds to the life of the copper roof. And, removing the patina can scar or damage the copper. It’s important to avoid harsh chemical cleaners as their use to remove the protective patina opens the possibility the roof will become pitted. Cleaning the roof with any type of soap is not recommended.
Another thing to avoid is using a chemical sealant on the roof. Use of a sealant creates a need for regular monitoring and maintenance and it has to be done meticulously to avoid damage. Missing a spot, uneven application or other mistakes can cause drastic unevenness in the patina and ruin the look of the roof for years until the sealant wears away. Remember, the patina itself is the only sealant that is required to have a beautiful, natural, long-lived copper roof.
If you live in Las Vegas, or any dry environment, you may wish to speed up the patina formation. This is usually best left to professionals as many of the chemicals and products marketed for this purpose can damage your roof. At Prestige we can treat the copper after installation with a safe and effective coating to help begin the aging process so your roof will more quickly form a natural, even patina pattern for the look you want. See below for a gentle, natural way to help the patina formation.
Proper Care for a Copper Roof
If properly installed by professionals trained as copper roofing specialists, your copper roof will basically be maintenance free. It’s still important to remove debris that may accumulate over the winter or after a rainstorm, so at least an annual inspection or post-storm inspection is in order. Removing debris will assure there is no damage under the debris from falling branches or other objects and it also allows the patina formation process to proceed evenly across the roof.
Occasionally, if debris has been present for some time, or if the roofer did a poor job of installing your roof (such as using steel nails that may rust instead of copper nails), you may see streaks or stains on the roof and want to remove them. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, here is a simple method you can use to lightly clean your roof. This wash will also help speed up the oxidation process in our dry climate. Be sure to do this when there is no rain in the forecast:
- Sweep any debris, dust, branches or leaves off the roof with a broom.
- Create a mixture using equal parts salt and white vinegar. Stir it until the salt is completely dissolved.
- Apply the mixture evenly over the roof, using a soft-bristled brush.
- Rinse the salt and vinegar off with a garden hose. Never use a pressure washer on a copper roof, because it can damage the patina.
Remember, a well-designed and properly installed copper roof will not normally have problems. However, if you notice anything that worries you, have your roofer take a look. To preserve the beauty and value of your unique copper roof and avoid unintentional damage, be sure to consult with your roofer before applying any cleaning or other roof treatments.
Prestige Roofing for All Your Roof Maintenance Needs
A thing of uncommon beauty, a copper roof can last a century or longer. You will enjoy years of beauty and find that your roof requires little maintenance compared to other types of roofs. At Prestige Roofing we are copper roofing experts, so in addition to crafting and installing your roof, we’re ready to take care of any cleaning or maintenance issues that come up. We hope you will get in touch with us for all your roofing needs.