Steel buildings are tough, lasting decades when constructed properly. Unfortunately, nothing is completely damage-proof. Even though steel requires minimal maintenance, there is some upkeep involved in making your building last. Plus, as the song says, you can’t stop the rain…or the hail or heavy snow or high winds or bad drivers.
If you are using your steel building to perform manufacturing or to store or use certain types of chemicals, other damage can occur over time that may require some care and repair. Can you replace parts of your steel building? If it can’t be repaired, it’s highly probable that a replacement panel or member can be used to bring your building back to working condition.
Anytime you have damage you need to repair it as soon as possible. If you don’t, the damage could spread from the weakened area and cost even more to repair. Also, only take on the metal building repairs you are confident you can perform. Hire a professional to do extensive maintenance, repair, or replacement.
Wall and roof panels
Annual inspections, checks after storm events, and a little cleaning are about all the maintenance a steel building requires. Metal wall and roof panels, being on the exterior of the building, are the most exposed part of your building to the elements.
- Check panels for scratches. When the protective coating is removed from metal panels, rust can take hold.
- Inspect penetrations and cut edges; cutting panels in the field leaves edges that can oxidize.
- Check all fasteners, flashings, and sealants; fasteners should be appropriately seated in their holes. Look for degraded sealant and caulk, which can allow moisture to penetrate the interior of the building.
- Make sure small openings are screened to prevent pests and varmints from entering the building.
- Clean exterior panels with water and, if needed, a mild detergent. Do not use anything abrasive. If your building is within 1,000 feet of a saltwater coast, annual rinses with potable water will keep excess oxidation from occurring.
Dirt and debris that adhere to wall and roof panels can become areas of mold growth and damage to the underlying panel as can areas where water tends to pond. Most caulking and sealant materials can be expected to degrade to a certain extent.
All wall and roof panels should be clean, watertight, and rust-free. If not, then it's time to repair and replace.
Clean and repair all scratches and raw edges where rust is present or may invade. Gently clean away dirt and repaint the areas with a coating of protective finish. If oxidation is occurring at penetrations because dissimilar metals come into contact with each other, correct the issue with sealant.
Replace any fasteners that have been damaged or corroded on an annual basis at a minimum. If flashing is damaged or missing, replace that as well.
If a panel has been damaged beyond repair, it is perfectly OK to replace a single panel or an entire section of wall or roof with new panels and fasteners. Check with the manufacturer to obtain panels that match the design, color, and texture of the rest of the building.
If you are working with the original metal building manufacturer, provide the original job number, the year the structure was built, the name of the project, and original builder information. The manufacturer can use the information to get you the best match possible for your old panels.
Inspect the interior of the building to check again to make sure all fasteners and sealants are in good repair. If you see daylight coming in between panels, through holes, or at the roof peak, you may have found areas that require attention that you didn’t see during the exterior inspection.
If the roof has been insulated or finished out with a ceiling on the inside, check to discolorations that could indicate water leaks or excess condensation. Water on the inside is no better than out, and the excess moisture could cause mold growth along with oxidation of metal.
Check secondary framing elements such as purlins, especially if you have anything hanging from them such as a sprinkler system. If the weight is over the loading specs given by the manufacturer, the purlins could bend and create instability in the roof system.
Repair or Replace
Again, any fasteners or sealants that are damaged or no longer weathertight should be replaced with new.
- Remove and replace any insulation that became wet, because it is no longer functional and could encourage mold growth.
- Slight damage to insulation covering may be repaired with special membranes or tapes, but wet insulation must be replaced.
- If you have bent purlins, remove the weight from them and replace them with sturdier purlins rated for the weight you are suspending from them.
If you have mold growth, clean it as recommended by the manufacturer and reseal the metal with coating or replace the entire panel.
Gutters and downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are highly recommended for channeling the water off the roof and away from the building. However, they also become depositories for leaves, dirt, and other debris. As you inspect the roof, check the gutters as well.
Remove all debris, especially if it is plugging the downspouts or a portion of the gutter. A pile of dirt could cause water to backsplash up under the eave and cause water damage. Make sure all joints are sealed to keep gutters and downspouts from leaking.
Replace any gutters and downspouts that are too damaged for repair.
Performing regular maintenance and repairing or replacing damaged panels as soon as you identify them will keep your steel building usable for a long time. Repairs can cost less, but when the damage is too severe or widespread, replacement may be the only option.
You can feel confident that steel building wall and roof panels can be easily replaced, so you don't need to rebuild everything from the foundation upward. Your original building manufacturer is an excellent resource for replacement parts and advice on maintaining and repairing your steel building.
Be realistic about the repairs you can safely make and hire a professional for anything more substantial, including replacing wall and roof panels.