Metal Wall Panels: TYPES, BENEFITS, AND CONSIDERATIONS
Metal, known for its longevity, strength, and weather resistance, is widely selected as a predominate material in the construction industry to serve a wide range of functions. Dating back to the 1700’s we begin to see metal used in construction, but it wasn’t until the mid 19th century when metal made a rise in the construction industries as a cladding application.
The development of construction processes using metal is one of the most important innovations in architecture. This allows structures to be built taller and stronger with less material for unsupported openings on interior and exterior walls.
Types of Metal Wall Panels
Immensely popular for their design capabilities and finishes, metal panels are also versatile in nature with off-the-shelf products or custom avant-garde designs like Frank Gehry’s eccentric swoops to Zaha Hadid’s sharp angles.
Whether you are installing standard shapes horizontally or vertically or using 2-D and 3-D shapes with diagonal reveals, every project is sure to be unique.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common systems architects are using.
Single Skin Metal
Single Skin panels, performed or roll-formed, are relatively inexpensive and are one of the most commonly used systems in construction for a metal wall. While panel profiles may have been limited in the past, manufacturers are constantly improving their processes to produce a wider selection of profiles and design options that are making an impact on wall installations as well.
Concealed Fastener panels are considered to be a higher quality system. Fasteners are hidden creating a modern clean look, while clips are used to allow for thermal movement. These systems allow designers, architects, and owners to create a custom look with decorative reveals to offer texture.
Exposed Fastener systems are typically less expensive and have a faster installation time. Because these panels are fastened to the structure directly through the panel and the edges are overlapped, clips and seaming are not required.
Both products can be installed horizontally and vertically, depending on your design needs. These systems alone do not provide thermal protection, but can be combined with a continuous insulation product to make a complete thermal and moisture protected structure.
Insulated Metal Panels
IMPs (Insulated Metal Panels) contain a foam core with exceptional insulation properties that can be installed quickly. The insulation properties of IMPs meet most energy codes and contribute toward credits for a LEED Green Rating System.
Because the interior and exterior metal faces act as a finished surface, these systems take the place of using separate products allowing the installation process to be mainstreamed saving time and money. Units are finished, and ready to install and seal when delivered.
Some of the most common uses of IMPs are:
Industrial and Commercial Buildings: Warehouses, Hangers, MFC Facilities
Architectural Buildings: Schools, Hospitals, Airports, Stadiums
Cold Storage: Food MFC Facilities
Metal plate systems offer design freedom, functionality, and performance. Designers can incorporate different substrates, depths, curves, perforations and tapers to elicit strong reactions and create unique experiences. Plate can be the difference between creating a memorable building and one that fades into the background.
Metal-faced composite panels are made from a thermoplastic core and two thin metal sheets. But what sets them apart from IMPs is the fact that metal-faced composite cores have no thermal value, and the panels themselves are very difficult to recycle. These panels are used in architectural structures, especially when looking for cost effective creative solutions.
Designers are using perforated facades as decorative metal screens to add personality, privacy, and light filtration to building structures across the United States. They are the perfect blend of design and technology that allows architects, artist, and designers the ability to bring strength and style through endless design patterns, perforation style/sizes, panel colors, and materials to create truly mesmerizing effects.
So why metal wall panel systems instead of more traditional materials? Let’s learn more about them:
The Benefits of Metal Wall Panels
Metal has a beautiful appearance, with various pattern options, for interior and exterior uses.
Because of their sleek modern finish and ease of installation, metal is becoming a popular cladding over other traditional cladding materials. Here are five benefits of using metal wall panels in your next project:
Metal cladding maintains its structural integrity and looks good for the life of the product (about 20-30 years), in most cases with little to no maintenance. However, if you live in an area that experiences bad or hostile weather conditions, you may need to do a little preventative maintenance.
Inspect annually – remove debris, inspect joints
Wash the walls – use plain water to spray down the walls
Replace any damaged panels/trim – occasionally a panel/trim may be damaged by weather
In the construction industry, time is money. The smallest delay can have a huge impact on cost.
Metal panels have a faster installation time than other traditional materials such as, brick, and EIFs resulting in less labor and construction cost.
Because architectural metal panels are versatile, they can be placed just about anywhere. In the past, preformed panels could only be installed vertically. Now, manufacturers are providing options for material to be installed both horizontally and vertically.
Having the ability to install panels horizontally or vertically can help achieve a variety of unique looks and better wall designs. Replace heavier cladding materials with a lighter siding panel to cover an exterior of a building or choose smaller segments to complement other finish materials that create an aesthetically pleasing focal point.
High Level of Design Freedom
Faux finishes and textures are making a big splash in the metal industry. While shades of gray are still very trendy, bright colors are becoming extremely popular, and custom color pallets are being used for brand recognition.
Shape variations and reveals add a new dimension when designing. With metal, anything is possible! From 2D and 3D shapes, with multiple planes, colors, and textures designers are creating new standards for how metal can be used.
If you are looking to go green, then building materials matter. Architectural metal panels are not only long lasting but are most also 100% recyclable at the end of their life cycle.
Because of the recyclability of metal, there is usually very little construction waste upon completion of a project. This not only prevents overall waste, but it also promotes environmentally friendly practices.
What to Consider Before Purchasing A Metal Panel
Because metal systems are so versatile and the options are limitless, designing with metal can become overwhelming.
Are you worried about testing, maximizing the full benefits or selecting the right panel and finish? Don’t worry, you are not alone. The answers can be found by examining a few factors:
Location /climates will determine design factors needed to comply with state codes. Make sure you always check with the manufacturers to determine if certain panels have been tested to meet required standards. If testing has not been done on a product, that in itself will disqualify the selected panel option. Engineering design should always be done by a professional to ensure design specifications meet code and testing requirements.
Hiring the Right Contractor
Save yourself the hassle and heartache of trying to hire the lowest bidder. Installing metal roof or walls require a specific set of skills and tools, so getting the right person for your install is important. If you think it’s too expensive to hire a professional, imagine how much it would cost to have it installed twice.
Do your research – search the internet, read reviews, and ask friends and neighbors
Narrow your options – metal experience is a must, check for proof of insurance and licensing
Get a quote – compare at least three quotes, compare what is included in each contract
Choosing the Right Metal
Material choices will be heavily influenced by project specific factors. Construction budgets, additional bordering materials, climate conditions, and desired aesthetics all play a role when deciding which metals are best suited your projects.
The following are some of the most common metal options used in metal architecture:
Stainless Steel: is often used in high traffic areas and spaces with larger span distances because of its strength, superior impact qualities and clean polished finish. Stainless steel is very popular because of its oxidation process which keeps the material from rusting.
Steel usually ranges between $25.00 to $50.00 a square foot depending on the panel styles.
Galvanized Steel: has a protective zinc coating applied that prevents corrosion of the material.
Aluminum: is very popular, affordable, and durable. Although aluminum is not cheaper than steel, its life cycle quality is much higher in coastal environments. Material typically last about 40-50 years and cost up to $20.00 a square foot.
Zinc: is one of the most in-demand metals in the world for roofing and wall assemblies. Zinc can last between 80-100 years because of its self-healing properties which forms through a thin protective layer, called Patina. The patina layer protects the material from natural elements such as air and water This is why zinc is used to coat and galvanize iron and steel; it keeps them safe from corrosion and adds to the durability of the material.
Zinc can run anywhere from $20.00 to $50.00 a square foot.
Copper: like zinc, is very durable. Copper does not require a protective coating and its natural weathering causes the cladding to turn green. Copper is also more expensive than aluminum or steel, but like zinc it is more durable. Cost usually runs about $30.00 to $50.00 a square foot.
If you are looking to use natural products in exterior areas, opt for corrosion-resistant materials such as zinc, stainless steel, or copper. If you are looking to keep cost down, opt for painted steel or aluminum. Faux natural finishes are achievable using modern day coating techniques and technology.
For applications in hostile environments, like Coastal, Industrial and bio-hazardous industries – your metal panels will require special coatings.
All in all, metal wall panels continue to gain widespread prominence among architects and developers for their unique application in both commercial and residential areas. They can withstand the impact of the elements and time, and provide unique functionality to architectural structures.