Customizing It, Residential Style!

Advice on wall panel installation for custom homes A wide selection of metal panels in diverse profiles, colors and finishes is providing endless customization for the residential market. Obviously, installing metal wall panels for custom homes is going to be a little different from non-custom homes. For a successful installation, these differences must be recognized… Continue reading Customizing It, Residential Style!

Mcn  Installation Feature  April15 1 Low Rez

Advice on wall panel installation for custom homes

A wide selection of metal panels in diverse profiles, colors and finishes is providing endless customization for the residential market. Obviously, installing metal wall panels for custom homes is going to be a little different from non-custom homes. For a successful installation, these differences must be recognized and understood.


The Differences

The major difference between custom home versus non-custom home wall panel installation lies in overall design-build uniqueness. “Typically, custom homes are larger in size and more complex with taller ceilings and multiple roof planes,” says Brad Kirkland, regional manager at Kingspan Insulated Panels Inc., Deland, Fla. “Custom home lot locations are sometimes in areas creating adversity to access to the working area, lay down areas, etc.

These differences can result in a slower-paced project if the direction of how the project will be mapped out is not carefully discussed during the planning of the project prior to construction. High reach equipment may become necessary or more practical for workers to access some of the areas due to terrain or height conditions.”

Jim Tuschall, president of Tuschall Engineering Co. Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., believes one of the biggest differences between the two is custom homes utilize a wider variety of panels such as engineered panels, curved panels, unique/exotic pre-painted panels, perforated panels, and natural metals such as zinc, copper and stainless steel. Additionally, “Non-custom applications are more utility in nature and use a more routine, unskilled installation,” he says. “Also, custom metal wall panels installed on exteriors can be brought inside. We have used these panels in foyers, family rooms, partitions and kitchens. Natural metals, zinc and copper are also used for countertops and accents.”

As an architect, Mark Horton, principal at Mark Horton/Architecture, San Francisco, feels one of the most exciting aspects of metal panel installation on custom homes is this use of alternative metals. “Most clients are probably aware of standard metal siding products, most of which have a finish applied,” he says. “But, the use of exposed metal systems, ranging from zinc to copper to Corten to
(even) polished stainless, is an exciting option that opens a wide expanse of architectural expressions and options for the designer.”

Another difference for Horton is he makes the detailing as straightforward and simple as possible for his non-custom residential construction. “For example, the metal siding is meeting other materials in flat plane junctions, and the number of different material-to-material details is kept to a minimum,” he says.

Dan Nicely, managing director, VMZINC USA + Mexico, Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C., agrees that expanded material options are indeed a customization difference and driver. But he cautions that as installers, general contractors and developers look at value engineering options during the material selection process, cutting corners on the exterior envelope may be the most expensive choice they make in that process. “If a high-end spec home calls for natural metals, taking a value engineering approach to the supporting materials may cause material failure in short order, call backs and possible litigation,” he warns.


The Contractor is Key

Multiple steps go into having a successful metal wall panel installation in a custom home application. The first and possibly most important is using a competent professional contractor with knowledge and expertise in this area. “For a successful installation of custom metal wall panels, the installer must have a custom state of mind and not a mind of production,” says Logan Mauldin, project director, The Miller-Clapperton Partnership Inc., Austell, Ga. “Contrary to non-custom homes that yield mass quantities and production, custom metal home wall panel installations are not projects that will yield high production. In order for the metal wall panel contractor to be successful, he should have the patience of a teacher and not focus on the small margins of high-quantity production.

Metal wall panels are different from most other finishes in the home because the metal wall panels are not fabricated on-site; they are fabricated in a shop off site of the project where they will eventually be installed. The metal wall panel contractor will need to work hand-in-hand with the design team throughout the design process to achieve a successful application. The following factors must be considered within the design to ensure success: the material limitations, connecting system constraints, product applications and product warranties.”

On a custom home, there are many small, specific details where materials meet, sometime in only one location. A successful customized residential installation is founded with the correct selection of these exact materials. “For example, rosin paper is fine for copper, but not for zinc,” says Nicely. “Asphalt-based or tar paper may be suitable for some sorts of roofing application, but not others-including zinc. The same can be said about support channels or painted steel. An installer may be setting up the perfect storm for expansion and contraction of the metal panels in conjunction with painted steel. This scenario can lead to galvanic action down the road when the paint wears away from painted steel and then comes into contact with the metal panels. Make sure that associated products are compatible with the metal panels.”


Customized Communication

For successful customized residence installation, the homeowner must understand what they are getting and the installation’s complexity. Contactors should discuss the aesthetic and functional mission of the material with them. In addition to a complete consideration of materials, installers should ensure homeowners are on the same page concerning expectations.

This should actually come before the material is ordered, but is often overlooked-especially in residential construction. “Does the homeowner understand how the material will perform over time?” asks Nicely. “Do they know what they should and should not do with their new metal-clad home? Do they understand that natural materials will change over time due to the patina, and that certain occurrences, like handprints, can and will change the metal over time without the proper treatments or coatings on the metal?”

There is other coordination necessary besides just the homeowner. “The installer should coordinate with the trades on-site, including window and door installers, and other contractors who might be installing complementary wall materials like brick and stone,” says Dave Rowe, product development director at Englert Inc., Perth Amboy, N.J. “Once the integration of materials has been approved, the contractor should field measure for the material to be used, provide a cutting list and a list of materials to the fabricator, and answer any installation detail questions the fabricator might have.”

Logan stresses an excellent line of communication is required between the design team and the metal wall panel contractor due to what he calls “the fickle nature” of custom home design. “The contractor needs to be prepared to accommodate changes within the design to make the owner happy,” he adds.

Horton agrees, saying: “It is often the case that on a custom residential project, we, the architect, are often proposing something to be constructed either with a material or in a method that the contractor hasn’t seen or done previously. As a result, it often takes a good partnership between the architect and the contractor to understand what can and can’t happen, and what should or shouldn’t happen.”

Not all project information is communicated solely from architectural drawings. Mauldin says field conditions will need to be accurately communicated, documented and accounted for to ensure successful fabrication.

Tuschall believes effective communication with the architect regarding custom residence installation is just the beginning. “Assist the architect with the design to ensure that the choice of material is being done properly,” he says. “Secondly, ensure detailing of the wall panels at windows, doors and terminations is related to hidden flashings, trims, attachment requirements and water management. Next, have a coordination meeting of shop drawings with the window contractor and waterproofing company to work through any issues with the integration of wall panels, windows and water barrier. Field verify all elevations and coordinate for shop fabrication.”


Sidebar: A Customized and Dry House

Proper installation of metal wall panels on a custom home’s rainscreen system is very important. It will ensure a long life, beautiful finish and a dry house. Waterproofing is vital and a high-grade membrane on the wall is needed. Integrating metal wall panels requires transitions to other substrates (stucco, wood siding, stone), which need to be done with great care and precision because metal is not as easy to repair as other materials.

Hat channels are needed on a horizontal application to ensure proper airflow and to dry any condensation that forms behind the rainscreen. In a vertical application, the wall panels create their own airflow. This is known as the chimney effect and it keeps the space dry and the surface from degrading. Corners, wall caps and transitions are all part of the finishing touches that are crucial since they make it all come together and look beautiful.

Mark Eaker, business development manager, Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp., Louisville, Ky.