Custom metal buildings are among the hottest trends in the construction industry, with revenue expected to increase a startling 33% from 2012 by 2022.
But what is it about these steel-framed, industrial-looking buildings that’s captivating the attention of major corporations nationwide?
And, are they hot, unsafe, and flimsy like so many people seem to think?
We have your answers!
Here’s a list of nine things to know about metal buildings:
1. There Are Several Unique Types
There’s no doubt that metal buildings are popular in residential construction — think metal carports, barns, backyard storage sheds, and RV covers.
But they’re also building a solid reputation in the commercial side of the industry. Commercial contractors love the limitless opportunities steel buildings present.
In terms of large-scale structures — like 150-feet or longer — commercial metal buildings are gradually outpacing standard builds in the form of:
- Storage buildings
- Data centers
- Manufacturing facilities
- Recreational centers
- Metal workshops
- Large-scale metal garages for vehicle storage
- Office warehouses
- Airplane hangars
- Strip malls
- Concrete works and maintenance facilities
- Manufacturing facilities
- Agricultural storage facilities
- Large-scale barns
But just how huge can these metal monstrosities be?
As a matter of fact, two of the most famous structures in the world are also metal buildings.
At 1,200-feet tall and built with more than 60,000 tons of steel, the Empire State Building in New York City is one of the tallest metal buildings in history.
2. They Hold Their Value Longer (and Require Fewer Repairs)
An 8,000-square-foot metal building comes with heftier upfront costs than your typical steel horse barn or steel garage.
But pre-engineered metal buildings hold their value remarkably well.
Run-of-the-mill commercial buildings lose a fraction of their value every year. A regular commercial building might be worth half of its purchase cost 20 years from now due to wear-and-tear, age-related repairs, and outdated components.
Meanwhile, steel buildings can last a lifetime without rusting or structural issues. Those facts alone drive up the building’s resale value if you ever choose to sell and upgrade to a larger facility in the future.
Repairs and maintenance are also easier tasks. Whether it’s rust cropping up on the fasteners, water pooling on the roof, or chipped exterior paint, many steel building repairs are simple enough to solve in-house.
Not to mention, expanding your warehouse or plant requires fewer steps and materials. All you need is an additional steel frame to join the two structures together.
3. Metal Buildings Are Energy Efficient and Cost-Effective
Of all the factors to consider when investing in a metal building, none is more important than pricing.
Can your company swing the initial construction?
Is there enough money in the budget to cover the monthly operational fees?
Luckily, steel structures offer greater efficiency in two critical areas:
Cost and energy.
The savings appear early on in the building project’s design stage. Although fluctuating steel prices and delivery distance will all add to the final price tag, the shorter overall construction time will save you in labor costs.
Metal buildings are also eco-friendly.
Commercial steel buildings usually have thick gaps between their exterior walls. This leaves extra room for filled cavity systems to keep rodents out and insulate the building.
Insulation can help with climate control while saving you on heating and cooling costs.
And, although roofs are often responsible for heat or cooling loss, that’s not the case with metal buildings.
Metal reflects more light than asphalt, especially light-colored metal. These roofs help to keep your building’s interior cool and potentially lower your energy costs by a whopping 50%.
4. You Can Get a 10, 20, or Even 30-Year Warranty
While commercial metal buildings can survive natural disasters like earthquakes and torrential flooding, they’re still susceptible to damage and everyday wear and tear.
But you can protect your investment with a long-term warranty.
Every reliable construction company offers warranties to keep customers happy and resale values high.
Here are some common examples of metal building warranty terms:
- Workmanship or materials: 1 year
- Frame: 20 years
- Exterior paint and color coatings: 25 years
- Roof sheeting: 10–25 years
- Wind and snow damage: 30 years
- Rust perforation: 40 years
- Trusses: 50 years
- Fasteners: Lifetime
That means your company won’t have to pay much out of pocket to fix chipped paint, cracked beams, or faulty workmanship. If you’ve ever owned or leased out a building in the past, you know just how much these fixes add up.
Remember that not all companies offer the same warranties, and you should always read the fine print to see if your building qualifies.
For example, not all warranties cover damage from severe and unexpected natural disasters, like a tornado or hurricane. Other manufacturers consider the warranty invalid if you make structural adjustments to the building after installation.
5. Several Roof Styles Are Available
In addition to protecting the building’s interior, the roof can also add an aesthetic flair.
Here’s a look at the more popular roofing styles for metal buildings (and why you might want to choose one over the other):
The most basic roofing option (especially for <30’ buildings), these roofs feature curved metal panels from front to back.
This is a slope-free roofing style with a more industrial look, though it’s prone to water pooling in areas with heavy rainfall.
These angled roofs allow for better runoff, are more common for smaller metal buildings, and don’t require interior beams (allowing for a more substantial clearspan).
A gable roof is a two-paneled roof arranged in a triangle formation, giving it a more residential appearance.
Popular in the agricultural community, these four-pieced roofs join together at a point in the center, similar to a pyramid.
Boxed-Eave (Similar to an A-frame)
This is a more rugged-looking and sturdy roof style that’s easy to maintain and ideal for areas with little rain or snowfall.
The sturdiest roof style available for metal buildings, vertical roofs offer a steep slope to clear off any debris, snow, and rain.
6. Erecting One Can Take a Week or Less With a Building Kit
A typical commercial building could take a construction crew some 6–12 months to build, from pouring the foundation to installing the drywall to adding electrical and plumbing components.
But with a steel building kit, you can shrink that timeline down to just a week or less (not including ground prep). That’s especially true for smaller-scale steel structures.
Now, you’re likely wondering how that’s possible.
Metal building kits cut out the legwork of the usual construction project.
In other words, you don’t need to hire all types of subcontractors to finish the project. A steel building company will pre-cut and weld the building’s shell in a factory before delivering it to your lot. Some companies even offer free delivery within a certain mile radius.
Everything you need comes in one — albeit large — package.
Just grab your toolkit, gather a crew of about 3–4 construction-savvy people, and follow the instructions. Generally, the prefab metal building route cuts the total construction time for small structures by about a third.
However, there are clear limitations in the corporate sector.
For one, building kits tend to be small, limiting them to smaller structures like barns and garages. In addition, there’s only so much you can customize in a factory-built 50 x 50 structure, leaving you with a too-small facility that isn’t designed to handle your business’s day-to-day operations.
7. Metal Buildings Handle Inclement Weather Better
Steel structures don’t only look sleek and futuristic from the aesthetic perspective — they also offer durability and a weatherproof quality that only tough metals like steel can provide.
Metal buildings are remarkably safe and resilient.
Steel buildings that sport rigid frame (or I-beam) designs offer shallow roofs, impressive structural integrity, and tertiary bracing systems. These features allow them to withstand seismic events, heavy snow loads, and fierce winds.
Many steel buildings can even handle wind gusts up to 170 MPH.
But the real benefits lie in the details.
For example, high-quality metal buildings come with galvanized coatings and corrosion-resistant paints. Together, these act as waterproof seals for the entire structure to prevent simple water leaks and rust build-up, especially in rainy parts of the country.
Steel is also incredibly fire-resistant (though not completely fire-proof) and noncombustible up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. So if a fire happens to break out in your facility, it won’t destroy your building or everything within.
And, while metal and natural phenomena might make you nervous, it’s worth noting that steel buildings aren’t inherently dangerous during storms. A metal building struck by lightning will absorb the current and transfer it into the ground below.
8. They’re Fully Customizable
If you’re considering a metal building for your company, the chances are that you have a good idea of what you want and need. That’s where a custom metal building becomes the most logical solution!
The metal building customization process allows you to choose:
- Exterior paint color
- Roof style
- Size and dimensions (with almost no limits)
- A clear span interior (no support columns)
- Windows and doors of your choice (roll-up doors, double doors, etc.)
- Additional storage space
Your company’s data center, agricultural facility, or storage facility doesn’t have to look like a bland, oversized, barebones metal barn or RV carport.
Related reading: Custom vs. Standard Metal Structures
9. You Can Snag a Lower Insurance Rate
Not all states require commercial property insurance. And, since steel buildings are mostly weatherproof and damage-resistant, it’s normal to question whether insurance is even worth the investment.
But here’s a tidbit of good news:
Because of those very features, an insurance policy on a metal building could come at a steep discount, with premiums as much as 30% lower than a wood-framed structure.
Most commercial steel buildings fall into the Insurance Services Office’s (ISO) “Classification 3” (noncombustible or slow-burning). As a result, the building’s frame can maintain the bulk of its structural integrity, even in instances of fire or prolonged high temperatures during a heatwave.
That, in addition to its impact resistance and mold-proof materials, makes your metal facility less of a risk to insurance companies. You can also lower your rates even further by installing safety devices like fire sprinklers and smoke alarms.
In the rare case your structure does need extensive or structural repairs, having an insurance policy to lean on can cut overhead costs.
What to Look for in Good Metal Building Construction
There’s no shortage of construction companies specializing in metal buildings, especially in the midwestern and southern states. So how do you know which one offers the best prices, highest-quality materials, and quickest lead times?
Before you invest in a metal building, consider the following:
A pole barn can’t double as a large-scale manufacturing plant, just like an 80-foot-by-100-foot steel building wouldn’t be a wise investment for a backyard shed.
Decide how you plan to use the building, then jot down a list of must-have features (clearance, length, an A-frame roof, fiberglass insulation, etc.).
Local Codes and Ordinances
If you’re buying a pre-owned metal building, ensure it’s in accordance with your area’s local codes, ordinances, and zoning regulations.
Building new? Pay a visit to your local municipal office to discuss your building plans before moving ahead with a construction company.
Ask what the company offers in the way of rust prevention. Options include galvanized metal coating, vertical roofs (to prevent water build-up), two-ply paints, and stainless steel screws.
A rust perforation warranty can also save you in repair costs some 40 years down the line.
Energy efficiency might not be a dealbreaker for you today, but monthly energy costs will eventually add up.
Insulation, reliable sealing, and a light roof color can keep your carbon footprint as low as possible.
The price of steel is always on the move, sometimes from hour to hour.
Fortunately, steel buildings are often more affordable than standard warehouses and facilities. They’re also recyclable, allowing you to sell scrap in the future to return some of your investment.
Size and Clear Span
When it comes to metal buildings and steel structures, the sky’s the limit (figuratively, for now).
Figure out your business’s ideal square footage, length, height, and clear span needs before you go any further.
A metal building in Maine may not survive long in North Carolina and vice versa.
Think about natural disasters, precipitation, wind gusts, and temperatures in your area. That way, you can customize your steel building to handle whatever nature throws at it.
The best way to protect your investment is by choosing a commercial construction company that offers a slew of warranties.
That includes rust perforation, paint, frame, fasteners, and more. Some of these warranties last for decades or even a lifetime.
Metal building designs are more popular than ever, but not all pre-engineered steel buildings are the same. The best custom steel building is one that’s big enough, meets your company’s needs, and retains its value long-term.