Optimize your Steel Building with the Right Metal Panels: Part 1

Published February 28, 2018 by Whirlwind Team

metal building panels

There is more to your steel building than the primary and secondary frame members. To have a complete and durable structure, you need to optimize it with the right metal panels.

Metal panels make up the outer envelope of your building, forming the walls and the roof. Although made of relatively thin sheets of metal, these panels are made up of the same tough steel as the frame. The right metal panels will withstand whatever the environment throws at them without losing any of their aesthetic or structural strength.

The metal frame may be the skeleton that supports the structure, but the panels are the skin that protects the interior while retaining its attractive appearance, nearly maintenance free.

The Benefits of Steel Panels

Metal is the preferred construction material for infrastructure, strengthening roads and bridges. Why shouldn’t your building project use the same strong materials engineers have relied on for decades?

  • Steel is durable with long service life. A steel building will stand for a century with little maintenance.
  • The only maintenance steel panels require is the occasional cleaning with soap and water and repair of any scratches in the finish.
  • All steel is treated with a coating designed to protect it from oxidation and corrosion. As long as that coating is intact, the steel will not rust.
  • Steel panels do not burn or spread flames.
  • No pest can burrow, chew or otherwise damage steel panels.
  • If a steel panel becomes damaged, simply obtain a new one to match and replace it with an easy repair.

If you are seeking LEED points for a green building, steel provides them. It is 100% recyclable and most existing steel contains at least 25% recycled steel. With the right insulation, steel buildings are energy efficient, maintaining a comfortable and controlled environment for the occupants.

Vinyl, concrete and other siding options simply cannot perform to these levels.

Selecting Metal Panels for Your Roof and Walls

Metal roof and wall panels are available in a range of styles and colors. You can select smooth or corrugated panels in an array of colors and shades. The manufacturer typically has a range of colors in stock, but you can also order custom colors and coatings. You can match the roof panels with the wall panels or select contrasting colors.

For a cool roof option, choose a white roof with additives that will reflect the sun’s light and re-emit any heat that builds up in the roof. Steel panels hold very little solar radiation as heat, but a re-emissive pigment can increase energy efficiency over and above the savings from a roof coating that merely reflects light away.

  • Metal roof panels are also available that mimic other textures.
  • Panels can be created that have the same appearance as traditional asphalt shingles, tiles or shake shingles.
  • With today’s multi-layer factory finishes, it is difficult to tell the difference between a metal shingle with a granulated topcoat and an asphalt shingle.
  • Alternatively, you can leave the natural beauty of the steel shine through or select a color to match or coordinate with the walls or surrounding buildings.
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Metal roofs are available in any roof pitch and profile. You can choose from standing seam metal roofs to metal shingles and add any architectural element you desire, from hips and valleys to dormers and cupolas. Metal roof systems are available in all roof pitches from flat to steep and can handle transitions flawlessly.

Consider trim color as well and select trim to match, contrast or coordinate with wall and roof panel color and texture.

metal roofing and siding

Panel Fastening Overview

Panels are fastened to the steel secondary frame in one of two methods: through-fastened and standing seam.

Through-fastened is also known as “exposed,” and can be either structural or non-structural. Structural panels are capable of spanning across purlins or other secondary framing members such as joists or beams. Non-structural panels must be installed over a solid deck such as plywood or steel decking for stability.

  • Panels are typically two to three feet wide.
  • You can select from various rib shapes, heights and spacings.
  • Typical panels are of 26 and 29 gauge steel but can be obtained in 22 or 24 gauge steel.
  • Structural through-fastened panels also provide a diaphragm, which is important for wind-bracing.

Through-fastened panels are best for small to medium-sized buildings and residential applications where panel runs are limited to shorter lengths and thermal movement is not an issue.

If a purlin is missed or the panel is not fully seated during installation, the roof or wall could leak. Also, through-fastened panels do not “float” during thermal movement. Over time, the roof panels could begin to tear around the fasteners, begin to leak.

Standing seam panels create raised seams where two panels are joined together.

  • The seam shape is available in a trapezoidal rib, vertical rib, square rib and T-rib.
  • The seams can be double-locked, symmetrical, one-piece snap interlock or two-piece snap interlock to provide a single membrane watertight steel roof.
  • Standing seam roofs are fastened at the eave and end laps and are designed to float during thermal movement, eliminating the issue of tearing seen in larger through-fastened roofs.
  • Standing seam roof panels generally are oriented to shed water, ice and snow.
  • Photovoltaic panels are especially easy to install on standing seam roofs.

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Water shedding standing seam roofs, also called architectural roofs only have exposed fasteners are the eave and on specially designed end laps. Concealed clips in the panel seam allow the panel to float during thermal movement eliminating the tearing issue of through-fastened panels. 

  • Standing seam panels rely on gravity to shed water from the roof; the steeper the pitch, the faster the water sheds.
  • The roof pitch must be a minimum of 3:12.
  • The panels must be installed over a solid deck because they are not structural panels.
  • The deck must be covered with a moisture resistant barrier or membrane.

With water-shedding standing seam roofs, you want to keep the design and trim simple with no intricate trim details that could keep water from shedding properly.

Water barrier standing seam roofs can withstand temporary immersion in water over the panel seams and end laps without leaking.

  • Install with high-quality tape and/or bead sealant supplied by the manufacturer.
  • This design requires no deck and can be installed on pitches as low as 1/4:12.
  • It is available in 24-inch wide trapezoidal rib and 10 to 18-inch wide vertical rib.
  • Some vertical rib panels can span purlins and joists.
  • Trapezoidal ribs are traditionally commercial or industrial.

Depending on the rib style, the ribs can be more than three inches high. The ease of sealing at the hips and valleys depends on the rib style you select.

If you have chosen to construct a building with steel frames, you should complete the project with the right steel panels. Only steel is durable enough to withstand fire, wind and weather while remaining energy efficient.

Steel panels outperform other siding and roofing options and are available in multiple colors, profiles and appearance so you can have the building you desire.

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