There are three general categories of metal roof systems used for steep-slope roofing applications: architectural metal panel, structural metal panel and metal shingle panels. Generally, architectural metal panel roof systems are watershedding and are intended for use on steep slope roofs. Structural metal panel roof systems are used on low and steep slope roofs. Structural metal panel roof systems can be used on low slope roofs because of their hydrostatic characteristics.

Because architectural metal panel roof systems are designed to be used on steep slopes that will shed water rapidly over the metal panel's surface, the seams typically are not watertight. Many architectural metal roof systems are well suited for use on roof slopes of 3 inches per foot (14 degrees) or greater. One exception to the general slope guidelines for architectural metal panel roof systems is the traditional flat, seamed and soldered or welded metal roof system, such as copper. It may be specified on slopes less than 3 inches per foot (14 degrees). Solid roof sheathing is required for architectural metal panel roof systems, and underlayment is recommeded.

Most structural metal panel roof systems are designed to resist the passage of water at laps and other joints, as sealant or anti capillary designs can be used in the seams. Structural metal panel roof systems possess strength characteristics that allow them to span supporting members. Metal shingles and shingle panels are available in numerous varieties for use as steep-slope roof coverings. Most of the metal shingles are press-formed during the manufacturing process to provide a variety of shapes. These products can take the shape of individual or multiple asphalt, tile, slate or wood shingle configurations.