How to Maintain your Steel Building’s Exterior

Published January 30, 2018 by Whirlwind Team

steel building exterior maintenance

You purchased a steel building for its longevity and durability. You are impressed with the versatility steel provides as a construction material. Also, you liked the idea of lower maintenance costs.

However, there is just a little maintenance that must be performed on a regular basis to ensure your building remains as sturdy and clean as when you first erected it. Let’s take a look at what you can do to preserve your beautiful metal building.

But first…

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Practice safety

Remember to take care when using a ladder and climbing on the roof.

  • The ladder should extend to at least three feet above the roofline.
  • The ladder must remain level and on firm ground.
  • Secure the ladder to your building to keep it from falling.
  • Always have someone with you to provide help if you need it.

Use a sturdy ladder that you have inspected for damage and loose joints and use the buddy system for safety.

Once you are on the roof, be extra cautious.

  • Wear heavy-duty rubber-soled work boots.
  • Never walk on the raised ribs, walk on the valleys of the panels.
  • Try to walk only on the lines where the screws fasten the panels to the purlins.
  • Stay off the skylights and other translucent panels

Finally, never, ever walk on a wet roof.

Frequency of maintenance

How often you must perform various maintenance activities depends on the local environment. If the building is located near a saltwater coastline, you will need to check the exterior panels for corrosion more often, perhaps every three to six months instead of annually.

Areas of high pollution, high humidity and extremely dry regions may also require more frequent maintenance. Certainly, after a major storm, you will want to inspect the building and repair any damage caused by wind, branches or other debris.

Clean up immediately after assembly

As soon as your building is complete, remove any objects that are still touching the exterior, such as tools, ladders or excess panels. Pay particular attention to removing anything remaining on the roof. You don’t want anything on the roof or near a wall panel that could scratch the finish or place unnecessary weight on the structure.

With a pre-engineered steel building there should be no need to drill or cut metal but wipe panels with a soft towel to make sure any shavings or metal dust have been removed.

Trim greenery and remove snow

If there is a hedge or other greenery growing near your building, trim it back so no leaves or branches can scrape the side or top of your building. Some hollies have sharp, heavy leaves that could abrade the nearby panels. Taller trees with limbs that hang over the roof can brush the roof panels and leave scratches or wear away the coating.

After heavy snow, if your roof does not shed it quickly, carefully remove it so the roof isn’t stressed by the added weight. The same holds true for icicles or anything else heavy. Check for buckling and replace any roof panels that have failed.

maintain metal building outside

Annual maintenance of steel buildings

Once everything has been cleaned up and the brush trimmed, you can put your building on an annual maintenance program. If the building is located in areas of saltwater, blowing sand or heavy pollution, you may want to inspect and clean more frequently.

  • Clean the wall and roof panels with water and a gentle detergent to remove dirt and dust. You can use a low-pressure spray washer or a sponge or soft rag. Carefully rinse with clean water to remove remaining detergent and allow it to air dry. Never use caustic or abrasive cleaners as they may damage the protective coating.
  • Inspect any power vents and clean the fan blades of built-up dirt and debris.
  • Repair scratches. As long as the metal substrate beneath the finish is protected, you can buff away small scuffs and scratches. Anything deeper will require repainting or replacement.
  • Check the fasteners. Cycles of heat and cold can cause movement that may loosen fasteners. Screw any that have backed out snuggly into the screw hole without over-tightening. If any fasteners have rusted, replace them.
  • Clean leaves and debris out of the gutters and downspouts so there is no standing water on the roof or near the eaves.
  • Remove leaves, dirt and debris off the roof, paying close attention to the roof valleys where leaves and dirt may gather. A clean roof ensures water will flow properly to the gutters.
  • If you have overhead doors, inspect the rollers, cables, tracks and any safety features such as an auto-reverse, replace worn components and lubricate where needed.
  • Remove ground material resting against the bottom of the wall panels. It can hold moisture against the panels for prolonged periods and lead to rust formation. When you mow, aim grass clippings away from the structure.

Periodic maintenance and repair

There are some metal building components that require maintenance on an as-needed basis. For example, if the personnel door has developed an annoying squeak, you can lubricate the hinges with lightweight oil. As long as you are lubricating the door, inspect the bottom and sides of the door for damaged edges that could allow moisture into the building.

If you have sliding doors, periodically clean out the tracks so the door moves smoothly and seals properly when closed. Inspect the bracing, high-strength bolts, and main frame connections every six months for tightness if you use overhead cranes.

Anytime a panel is scratched too deeply to repair, replace it using a new panel from the same manufacturer as the building if possible. Use new fasteners and make sure it is adequately sealed. Panels with light scratches in the coating can be touched up with the appropriate paint. Left uncovered, the scratched area would soon rust, creating an area of weakness where moisture can enter the building and create more damage.

Speaking of moisture entering the building, any time you find an opening in the building envelope, inspect the insulation for moisture damage, mold and rot. When in doubt, replace the insulation as well as the panel.


Even though steel buildings are extremely durable, you can get more years out of your building by providing timely maintenance, including cleaning, repair and replacement as needed. None of the maintenance will take much time or have to be performed very often.

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