Unlike the box shaped steel buildings of yesterday, today’s contemporary steel structure can be modern, stylish, attractive, and virtually indistinguishable from conventional types of construction. You have most likely been in a pre-fabricated steel church, auto dealership, recreation center, sports arena or school, without ever suspecting that it was actually a metal building.
The demand for cost effectiveness, durability, as well as speedy erection and rapid occupancy of the building, has launched pre-engineered steel structures into every sector of new construction. Steel buildings are now used in agricultural, commercial, industrial, and institutional construction.
There are various outstanding new features that are helping the steel building industry meet the demand for buildings that fit in, aesthetically speaking, with the general community. These new architectural finishes for the outside (or interior!) of the structure are also known as facades. Any steel building can be outfitted with simulated brick, stone, stucco, and other finishes for a fraction of the cost of the “real thing”.
They may be applied over interior walls as well, either as accents or to cover entire walls. The applications are limited only by your imagination.
The most popular facades for steel buildings include:
- Steel “stucco look” panels
- Insulated “stucco finish” panels
- Simulated or synthetic stone
- Brick Veneers
- Natural Stone and Faux Stone Veneers
- Masonry facades
- Exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS)
Let’s take a closer look at each of these different finishes.
You can give your steel building the attractive, polished look of stucco, for half the price, with a product such as StuccoLite, also known as pre- stucco panels. These panels have many advantages for the steel building owner:
- StuccoLite panels are ideally suited for all types of commercial construction projects as well as residential homes and apartments.
- The panels are manufactured to fit the size of each particular building exactly, virtually eliminating both waste of materials and the time needed to cut panels to size at the jobsite.
- Many standard colors are available, as well as custom colors- all guaranteed colorfast.
- Adding an additional layer of insulation before these panels’ installation has resulted in significant savings in heating and cooling costs.
- Panels can be installed in any climate throughout the year.
- All components are manufactured using the latest in paint application technology.
- The wall panels are roll formed from 20 gauge hot dipped galvanized steel coil.
- This system of exterior finishing does not require maintenance. If cleaning is desired, the use of a pressure sprayer is suggested.
- If a change in panel color is needed, this can be done easily by using a high quality acrylic paint applied to the surface.
- Because this type of “stucco” panel is pre-finished, care needs to be taken to avoid damage during erection. These panels are not designed to be used as load bearing walls.
NOTE: This product is STEEL. It is not synthetic stucco, also known as EIFS (exterior insulation finishing system).
These panels combine the advantages of lightweight insulated panels with the architectural appearance of sprayed stucco. They are high strength, energy effiecient and quick to install.
The panels can be installed in either vertical or horizontal configurations to provide a distinctive, modern architectural appearance with a surprisingly low cost.
Decorative “stone” products made of lightweight synthetic materials now look so authentic, even the stone mason is fooled! You have probably seen these structural stone finishes many times without realizing it at theme parks and zoos. Here are the main advantages of these finishes:
- 98% Closed –Cell polyurethane construction makes a product which is waterproof and resistant to harsh weather, solvents, pests and fungus.
- They are flame resistant, self extinguishing, and waterproof.
- Synthetic stone weighs about one pound per square foot, making it easy to handle.
- These products are highly durable and impact resistant and will resist cracking better than real stone and cast stone products!
- The products are cut on the jobsite with standard tools and attach easily with adhesive and screws.
- Synthetic stone finishes provide a significant R Value (insulation value) to most applications.
- These products are typically less expensive than real stone or cast stone facades. Due to the lighter weight, shipping and handling costs are lower as well.
- Installation is substantially less in both labor costs and time!
- These products are considered a “green” option - 100% inert, non-toxic, non-gaseous and odor-free.
Many of the larger metal steel buildings' manufacturers produce their own versions of these synthetic products. Ask what your supplier has available.
Although simulated stone, brick and stucco have many advantages, there are always people who will prefer to use the original, natural products. These now come in highly innovative forms that use modern methods of applications as well. Although not as inexpensive as the synthetics, they are still a lower cost option than traditional stonework or masonry, they can also be shipped to your jobsite as panels that are ready to install by your regular construction crew. If these products are not provided by your steel building manufacturer, you will have to outsource them. A quick Google search will turn up many alternatives.
Here are some of these innovative and distinctive products:
Thin brick veneer is a relatively new product which is seeing increasing popularity in commercial, residential and do-it-yourself markets. This exciting finishing option is made from shale and/or clay, and is kiln-fired. The panels can be installed, inside or out, in much less time than it takes to lay whole bricks the old fashioned way. They are both thinner and lighter, only about ½”- 1” thick, and can be installed by any construction crew.
A five-man crew can easily hang 3,200 sq. ft. per day, as compared to only 450 sq ft. per day laid by the same number of masons!
With a stone veneer, actual stones are processed and set into mortar to form siding panels. With a “faux” stone veneer, a cement and iron oxide blend is poured into molds where it sets to a stone shape, and can be formed into panels. The faux stone is mass produced and much lighter weight, and usually less expensive. As far as appearances go, the two are hard to tell apart! These products are a long-lasting, great looking way of adding architectural interest as well as resale value to your property.
Pre-cast light weight concrete has the look, feel and durability of masonry. Light-weight, molded polymer reinforced concrete cladding offers greater impact-resistance and easier maintenance than CMU (concrete masonry unit, or concrete blocks). Traditional CMU has various disadvantages, such as high installation costs, difficulty of insulation, a very low “R” value, and CMU is water absorbent so must be weather-proofed. The pre-cast panels offer the same classy look, with out the disadvantages
Also known as “synthetic stucco”, EIFS is actually a multi-layered wall system consisting of three separate components:
- Insulation Board - Made of polystyrene (or similar material), which is secured to the exterior wall surface either mechanically or with adhesive.
- Base Coat - Applied on top of the insulation and reinforced with fiber mesh.
- Finishing Coat - Applied on top of the base coat giving a durable, crack-resistant finish. This is the product which gives EIFS its stucco-like appearance.
As a finishing system, EIFS has huge design flexibility, is highly insulating and energy efficient, and offers the freedom of unlimited colors, textures, specialty finishes, integral shapes, curves and details. You may hear EIFS referred to as “dryvit”; this is actually the name of the company which invented the original product.
The EIFS industry has become embroiled in controversy over the past years, because moisture was found to seep in between the EIFS and the underlying structure, and not be able to drain. This has caused both mold and damage to the underlying structures, frequently traditional wood constructions. The industry claims that the problem lies not with the product but with faulty installation of it.
However, advances to the product as well as much more conscientious installation have hopefully solved this problem. Make sure if you are using EIFS that your contractor follows the specifications exactly for installing the product.
One of the last choices you will need to make will be whether you want to use either anchored or adhered veneers. Adhered veneers have become the most popular in the last 15 years. With the latter, it is of utmost importance, due to the fact that it is a construction code requirement, that if movement joints are involved these must be shown on the drawings.
There are many other facades on the market, and exciting new products are being marketed all the time. Check with your metal building supplier for the newest that they offer, and make your steel building not only functional but attractive!
EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA), http://www.eima.com/
DspInspections.com EIFS Facts, by Douglas Pencille, http://dspinspections.com/eifs_facts.htm
General Steel Corporation, http://www.generalsteelindustrialbuildings.com/building-exterior-finishes.htm
Advantage Buildings and Cladding, http://www.abewal.com/cladding_alternatives.htm
The Brick Industry Association, http://www.bia.org/BIA/technotes/t28c.htm
Build Direct.com, http://siding.builddirect.com/Stone-Siding/FAQ_7247.aspx
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