Copper is a natural material and one of the strongest of all metal roofing systems. While no longer as common as contemporary roofing materials, copper still adorns the roofs of many homes and businesses across the country. Due to its elegant metallic luster, eco-friendly properties, and lightweight quality, copper is considered a premium roofing material that provides remarkable architectural beauty. While copper delivers countless benefits, it does have some drawbacks in terms of maintenance. Keeping a copper roof clean can be a little tricky and requires the use of certain products to prevent damage. Learn more about how to clean a copper roof and why copper maintenance is essential.
Copper and Exposure to the Elements
Unlike asphalt shingles and other materials that do not change much in their appearance over time, copper commonly changes color when exposed to the elements. Over time, copper develops a light green patina on the outside. This patina helps to protect the metal from damage but does little to ward off dirt and grime.
The patina found on copper roofs is a sign that the copper is maturing and as it matures, it also strengthens. Patina occurs when the copper is exposed to moisture and various air contaminants. Over the years, the patina can change in color and grow thicker. The color is often associated with the location of the roof. For example, if you live in an urban environment, you may have a bluish patina due to deposits that form from urban pollution.
When you use the wrong ingredients to clean your copper roof, you could potentially ruin the finish. There are a variety of special cleaners and kits on the market designed specifically to clean copper roofs.
Different Types of Copper Roofs
Properties are not limited to just one type of copper roofing. In fact, there are several popular roofing systems that use copper as a main attraction. Continuous copper roofing is one type of roof system that consists of layers of copper sheeting that are assembled in a single piece and without seams and joints. This is the most expensive copper roofing option.
A more affordable alternative are copper panels. Copper panels are made up of smaller copper sheets available in standard sizes. When installed, these panels have noticeable seams that are crimped through a process known as standing seam copper roofing.
The final type of copper roof includes copper roofing shingles. This low-cost option requires the use of copper fasteners which are applied by hand. While copper shingles can be aesthetically pleasing, they are more prone to damage, and therefore caution must be used during installation.
Tips on How to Clean a Copper Roof
Before you can apply any cleaners to your roof, you will need to make sure it is free of debris. Use a broom to sweep off your roof to get rid of any loose dirt, leaves, and twigs. Be sure to wear non-skid shoes when you are on the roof to avoid slip and fall accidents. Also, never clean your roof by yourself for safety reasons.
Remember that polishing a copper roof is not the best option. Instead, you want to try other methods to remove tarnish. Mechanical sanding can be an effective option to help bring your copper roof back to its original brilliance. Use a fine grit sandpaper or sponge and work in one direction. You can also use a chemical cleaning gel or mild acid cleaner to clean your copper roof.
Copper Roof Coating
The product that you use on your roof will primarily depend on the age of the roof and its condition. For example, if you have a new copper roof, the only thing you really need to do to maintain its color and shine is to apply a copper coating. Start by wiping the copper clean using a solvent to remove any contaminants or mill oil. Next, apply two to three coats of a copper roof coating. This is typically a clear coating that will seal your copper roof without causing it to change color.
If you have a small roof that is tarnished and want to restore it to its original color, a copper cleaner and sealing kit may do the trick. These kits are designed to restore roofs as small as 15 square feet to as large as 125 square feet or more. In these kits you will find a copper cleaning gel, neutralizer, and protective coating designed to seal the copper after cleaning.
Once your roof has been swept, follow these basic cleaning steps:
- Remove any previous coating. Copper cleaning gel will not be effective if a sealant coating was previously applied to the copper. You can remove previous coatings by sanding or with a solvent like lacquer thinner or xylene.
- Brush the cleaning gel onto the copper. The consistency of the gel should be like thick paint.
- Give the gel time to work. Heavily tarnished copper may require the gel to sit for at least three to five hours. If the gel begins to dry up, mist it with some water. Do not allow the gel to fully dry on the roof.
- Once the tarnish has loosened, scrub the copper with a no-scratch scrub pad in the direction of the copper grain.
- Use a cloth to remove the cleaning gel and any residue.
- Combine the neutralizer with water (look at the kit instructions for exact amounts) and use the mixture to rinse the copper. Once neutralized, rinse the copper well with plain water and towel dry.
Repairing Your Copper Roof
As copper is a naturally malleable material, it can succumb to damage. Tree limbs and other debris can cause dents or holes in the copper which affects its appearance and ability to protect your home. If your copper roof has been damaged, consider contacting a professional roof repair contractor for a thorough roof evaluation. For more information on how to clean a copper roof or to schedule a copper roof evaluation, contact the roof repair contractors at Beyond Exteriors.