Metal architecture is all around us: it’s used to make roofs, gutter systems and is growing in popularity for wall applications in commercial and residential buildings. Whether you work in the metal construction industry, are deciding whether to use metal wall panels in your home or business, or just looking for research material, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basics of metal wall panels before you make any final decisions or purchases.
One of the more popular metals used in commercial construction is steel, but wall panels can be made from a variety of materials, including:
Buildings you see every day may have been constructed using metal wall panels, including:
Types of Metal Wall Panels
Although there are numerous kinds of materials with which you can make metal wall panels, there are three common types of panels used in metal construction. Each one has unique properties, depending on the kind of structure you’re building or the kind of environment surrounding it.
Here is a brief overview of each type of metal wall panel: single skin, metal composite material, and insulated.
Single Skin Metal Panels
Single skin metal panels are also referred to as preformed or rollformed panels. They typically are just a single interlocking layer of prefinished or natural metal that has been rollformed or preformed into the desired profile. Most wall panels of this type can be installed horizontally or vertically in less time and with less of the cost of other metal panel systems.
They can come insulated or uninsulated, and can be made with protective coatings that help fight corrosion and fading. However, since they are less rigid than other types of metal wall panels, they are still very susceptible to damage, especially at ground level. There are certain benefits to using single skin metal wall panels including:
Metal Composite Material (MCM) Metal Panels
This type of metal wall panel has been used in construction projects in North America for almost 40 years. These panels are formed by joining two thick metal skins (predominantly aluminum but can be made of steel, zinc, copper, stainless steel or titanium) to a core that is made of polyethylene or other fire-retardant plastic material, and bonded under a specific temperature, pressure, and tension. The end product is a metal/plastic composite with greater benefits than just using a solid metal panel of the same thickness.
What are the advantages of using an MCM panel?
You won’t have oil canning in the panels since the metal skins are bonded to a core, making for a more balanced panel
Panels retain their manufactured shape even after installation
MCM panels are multi-functional and can be installed on various building types or to join areas between other building materials
They retain their beauty and shine for years, and keeps the building’s curb appeal
They can be bent, curved, or joined in different shapes depending on what the construction plans require
They provide a ‘building envelope’ protecting the exterior of the building against harsh elements, air, and water infiltration
Insulated Metal Panels
As the name suggests, this metal wall panel is made with an insulating foam center (typically expanded polystyrene or polyisocyanurate) sandwiched by two aluminum or steel metal face panels. They make an excellent choice for commercial or industrial buildings and climate-controlled facilities.
When deciding whether or not you should use IMPs for your job, environmental factors should be taken into consideration, as these metal panels need to be sealed properly to prevent water intrusion. Climate also plays a deciding factor, so take into consideration the humidity, temperature, and air movement of the location you plan to install these metal wall panels.
Insulated metal wall panels are great to use in some building applications because:
They come in numerous colors, widths, profiles, and finishes so you can achieve almost any look you desire
They provide superior energy-efficient insulation
They are quick to install
Check out this Metal Construction News comparison guide of the different kinds of metal wall panels and properties of each so you know exactly what type is best suited for your next job.
Advantages of Using Metal Wall Panels
Why would someone want to use metal wall panels instead of other common materials such as vinyl, brick, stone, or wood? Here are some of the benefits for using metal wall panels over other types, and why they might be better than using traditional wall systems:
Visually appealing - Metal wall panels have beautiful appearances for both interior and exterior applications on commercial or residential buildings. They come in a wide variety of colors, have shiny or matte finishes, and can be shaped and formed into different patterns. The diverse nature of metal wall panels makes them extremely easy for architects and interior designers to use in their projects.
Durability - Structures made from metal materials hold up well under normal wear and tear, so it’s no surprise that metal wall panels would do the same. They don’t dent or ding easily, compared to vinyl panels or wood, and can stay beautiful for years. Most metal wall panels also require minimal maintenance after installation.
Lower costs on installation and maintenance - If you’re looking to purchase metal wall panels for your home, business, or contracted project, you might be happy to know that they have relatively low installation and maintenance costs. Because they are more lightweight than other heavier materials like brick or granite, they can be installed quicker and don’t require as much support structure.
Fireproof and Rain Screen - When building or designing exterior walls, you’ll need to worry about the elements and how they could affect the materials you are working with. Metal walls can act as barriers to fire, helping to prevent spreading and keeping other areas cool if a fire should occur. They also keep water from getting inside of the building, preventing mold or decay from destroying the structure’s integrity.
Environmentally and eco-friendly - Metal walls are considered to be eco-friendly and sustainable materials to use in building construction. They can also help with reducing energy consumption. Another advantage of using metal is that it can be recycled, and still keep its physical properties.
Problems with Metal Wall Panels
While there are many advantages of using metal in a building’s architecture, there are some issues you may encounter when using metal as the main component in a structure’s wall panel:
Pitting - As metal panels are exposed to weather and pollution, the protective coating on the metal wall can be ‘attacked’ resulting in a pitted appearance. Pitting doesn’t affect the structure of the building or wall, it just makes the walls look less appealing.
Oil canning - Oil canning refers to the perceived waviness or warping in flat areas of a metal panel, caused by various stresses within the metal itself. Oil canning only affects the visual aesthetic of the building, much like pitting, but it's less likely to occur in flat plate metal wall panels.
Shadowing - Installing a stiffener (a formed shape in the metal panel to reduce oil canning in the flat area of the panel) on the back of the panel can cause shadowing, which causes the stiffener to become visible on the face of the panel.
Dissimilar metals - When different metal types are combined, a negative interaction may occur, and can cause problems such as water runoff and galvanic corrosion.
Galvanic corrosion occurs when one type of metal is in direct contact with another type, causing the least noble material to corrode, which can affect the structural strength of the panel.
Water runoff happens when water runs off of one type of metal onto a different type, causing staining or corrosion.
While metal wall panels are growing in popularity in all types of buildings, there is a lot that goes into their design and application. We hope that this gives you a better idea how metal wall panels are used, why they might be a better option to use in certain situations over traditional materials, and which type might best suit your needs.
At New Tech Machinery, we believe that education is the key to happy customers, so we strive to make sure we provide you with as many answers as we can to your numerous questions and concerns.
We’re here to help you with anything you need to know about metal wall panel applications, how they are made, or if they are the best fit for your project. Contact any of our specialists with any questions you have, or visit our learning center for blogs, videos, and downloadable content.