10 of the Most Common Myths about Metal Buildings

Published January 10, 2018 by Whirlwind Team

most common steel building myths

Over the years several myths have come to be told about metal buildings. Each one has a “truthy” sound to it but, in truth, none has a basis in fact. Most of these myths grew out of what people thought they knew about metal or remembered from high school physics.

However, there is a world of difference between an uncoated piece of metal and today’s metal building systems. They are built with steel, yes, but they are also created according to the technological innovations developed over time.

Here are some common myths about metal buildings followed by the true tale of the steel building.

Myth #1: Steel buildings are weak, flimsy, and cheap

If you have ever seen an old farm building out near the highway, you can imagine how this myth came into being. What you have to remember is that Farmer Brown had limited funds and likely cobbled together that little shed from scrap metal and corrugated tin.

It’s a far cry from today’s skillfully pre-engineered steel building systems fabricated from high-quality, galvanized steel, precision cut, pre-drilled, and fitted for optimal strength to meet or exceed local building code requirements.

Myth #2: Metal buildings are not energy efficient

Certainly, your garden shed can get pretty hot in the summer when the sun beats down, but that is not the case with metal building systems.

With the proper insulation and a cool roof, a metal building maintains a comfortable interior temperature with less energy than a typical wood-framed building. Insulation is easily installed as bats, blankets, and blown foam to R-values that can keep heat or cool air inside. A cool roof with special infrared pigments can reflect solar energy and re-emit heat as light so that less heat builds up on the roof and seeps into the interior.

Myth #3: Metal buildings are noisy

It seems like hail on a metal roof would sound like rocks from the interior. It also seems like sound inside the building would echo against metal walls.

Both of those notions are false unless the building is not insulated.

Metal roofs are installed directly on to insulation in the form of fiberglass or foam and the sound is deadened considerably. Inside, walls finished out with drywall, or other coverings echo no more than any other building.

Myth #4: Metal buildings are prone to lightning strikes

Metal is an electrical conductor, that is true. However, it is a positive conductor to earth. The energy from any lightning strike is spread over the entire roof and channeled to the ground. It is not released destructively within the frame as you would see in a wood framed structure.

In truth, it’s safer to be in a metal building during a thunderstorm than a conventional building.


Myth #5: Metal buildings are unsafe if exposed to live electrical wire

This myth is not true for the same reason the myth about lightning strikes is not true.

All electrical energy is channeled to ground through the building’s metal frame. Also, all modern buildings are required to be equipped with ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlets and circuits. A damaged or pierced wire in a timber frame can leak current and pose a fire risk. 

Myth #6: Metal buildings rust

Referring back to Myth #1, the steel used in metal building systems is coated with Galvalume(R) or other galvanized coating before it leaves the steel plant. Metal building manufacturers and fabricators also have access to metal coated in color finishes with a variety of textures.

Rust only becomes an issue if the coating is damaged or scratched, or if field-cut edges are not sealed before being placed. Regular maintenance to ensure the coating is renewed in areas of damage mitigates other opportunities for rust to take hold.

myths about metal building

Myth #7: Metal expands and contracts with changes in temperature

The fear is, of course, that expansion and contraction can cause damage to materials fastened to the frame or gaps will open and allow the entrance or escape of air.

In fact, metal does expand and contract, but metal building engineers and designers take that movement into account and mitigate problems through the ingenious use of fasteners and other techniques. In addition, metal is not the only material that experiences thermal movement; some wood has an expansion and contraction rate that is larger than metal. Wood can self-destruct from thermal movement where steel maintains its strength. 

Myth #8: Metal buildings interfere with radio, TV, Wifi, and cell phones

No, they do not. Just as electromagnetic waves diffract around timber, they diffract around steel. The waves pass between the studs and radios, television, and cell phones have no more trouble operating than in any other building.

In fact, if you can use your cell phone in an office building or at the grocery store, a metal framed home shouldn’t stop you.

As far as WiFi is concerned, metal buildings are used across the globe with no reports of interference with WiFi signals.


Myth #9: Metal buildings all look alike, are limited in design, and are unattractive 

No, no, and no. Steel is one of the most versatile building materials available. Metal buildings are not limited to a rectangular, box-like appearance. In fact, it can be a challenge to identify a metal building at a glance, or even two.

With the use of the variety of colors, textures, and finishes, a metal building can appear to be made of any material, including stone and brick. Trim, varying rooflines and profiles, and other accessories help create unique structures that can stand out or blend in. Curved walls are an option as is the liberal use of glass and other materials incorporated into the whole.

Myth #10: Metal buildings cost more than traditional construction

When you build with metal, you are selecting a material designed to last for decades with little maintenance. Can you say the same about traditional wood-frame, stone, or concrete construction?

While your initial costs may be slightly higher than if you used conventional construction techniques, you save money throughout the construction and lifecycle of the building.

  • Metal buildings can be erected faster than traditional construction. You need skilled workers but for a much shorter time, saving you money on time and labor.
  • Metal building construction yields little waste, saving money on cleanup and haul-off.
  • Metal buildings require little maintenance over their lifetimes. Your maintenance and repair costs will be minimal in comparison to conventional construction.
  • Additions and changes are easily performed with metal buildings, including disassembling the building to be erected on another site or for recycling.

It is less complicated and time-consuming to erect a metal building than constructing with traditional materials. There is no need for an architect although highly recommended for complex structures, certain types of construction equipment, and other expenses incurred with conventional construction.

There you have it - 10 myths about steel buildings, busted. Steel buildings are not rusty, rickety descendants of old farm sheds. Metal buildings are no more expensive or difficult to build than other construction methods. In fact, building with steel can save considerable expense in the long run.

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