Q: We are building a new house and our neighbor has suggested that we consider a metal roof, which would protect us from the fire hazard in this area--high winds and brush fires. Our neighbor installed such a roof himself. However, I am concerned that a metal roof will produce more heat and be noisy when we have rain. Do you have any advice on metal roofing?

A: Metal roofing has come a long way from the corrugated "tin" roof (usually galvanized steel) that was used in countless rural homes and farm buildings. Today's residential metal roofing can be attractive and durable, and it is enjoying an increase in popularity for a number of reasons.

Although the warranties range from 20 years to 50 years, a properly installed metal roof can last the life of your house. It is strong and resists high winds, insects, mildew and dry rot.

The fire-safety aspect of metal roofs is a definite benefit. In fire-prone areas or where houses are built close together, fires often are spread by sparks and embers landing on a neighbor's roof or being carried in the wind from the burning brush.

Metal roofing, especially aluminum, is energy-efficient, particularly in the summer when it rejects much of the sun's heat that a standard shingle roof absorbs. Because of its contour, metal roofing is slightly raised from the roof sheathing surface. This creates a shallow air gap beneath the roof that allows natural air flow to carry away the sun's heat. The temperature in the attic immediately beneath an aluminum roof with a wood shake appearance can be 30 degrees to 40 degrees cooler than with standard roofing materials. In hot weather, this can significantly cut your air-conditioning bills.

Meanwhile, corrugated or ribbed galvanized steel is no longer your only choice. If you want color, you can buy steel sheet roofing with a baked-on enamel finish in a wide range of colors. And when it comes to sheet-metal roofing, besides steel, there are aluminum, terne-plated steel--terne is an alloy of tin and lead--and copper. Metal roofs are available in several types, colors and designs that look just like standard roofs: shingle, wood, shake, tile, etc. Some even have a fine sand-like coating resembling ordinary tiles or shingles.

Corrugated or ribbed roofing panels can be installed by the do-it-yourselfer, but seamed metal roofing requires professional installation. If you install a metal roof yourself, be sure to use nails and flashing made from the same metal as your roofing. If this is impossible, you should consult a professional roofer for advice. When dissimilar metals make contact in the presence of moisture, galvanic action causes rapid corrosion.

You can install metal roofing directly over one or two layers of old shingles without stripping off the old roof.

If you have adequate attic insulation, the noise from rain on the roof should not be any louder than with a standard roof.

Write to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190, or e-mail copleysd@copleynews.com.