Is Metal Just Metal?

Metal construction dates back to the early 20th century. Less than a century later, metal buildings comprise 38 percent of all one- and two-story commercial projects in the construction market. Metal products and assemblies are used in government facilities, shopping centers, retail stores, office complexes, motels, aircraft hangers, arenas, libraries, schools and churches.

Metal has also changed the face of self-storage, whose early construction began with block walls, block or sheetrock partitions, built-up roof systems, and small swing doors. Now, metal roofing and cladding are the most widely used components in the industry. Steel provides more than a quick, economical method of construction; it requires less maintenance than other materials. It also offers flexibility when it comes to framing, exteriors and roofing.


Self-storage facilities can be constructed of factory-primed red iron or galvanized steel members in a variety of designs. Metal members come in several shapes and sizes, which result in as many framing methods. Some of the most popular systems include load-bearing, post-and-purlin, beam-and-purlin, clearspan, rigid-frame or a combination thereof.

All these options vary in quality, so choose your supplier carefully. Metal comes in different gauges (thicknesses) and tolerances. Most suppliers use steel with a minimum 55 ksi yield strength to meet engineering requirements. The higher the yield, the stronger the steel; therefore, yield strength correlates with cost.

One way to ensure youre getting the proper steel is to request its mill reports. A qualified architect or engineer can also help determine the quality and applicability of materials. Every municipality has its own building codes and requirements, so make sure your supplier can meet those standards.


Most steel frames work well with popular exterior finishes such as block, EIFS (synthetic stucco), stucco, brick, concrete tilt wall and cladding. Wall applications come in a variety of profiles based on preference or architectural requirements. They can be multi-rib with various spacing, smooth finished, embossed, textured, corrugated, colored and insulated.

Metal wall panels come in an assortment of finishes and colors that can give a building a unique look. Pre-painted systems use Kynar or siliconized polyester over a galvanized or Galvalume substructure. Some wall panels can even be used for structural support to achieve required engineering values.

Cladding is the most economical product for exterior wall finishes. Its a low-maintenance product that lasts much longer than many other materials and can be used in conjunction with other products to achieve architectural appeal.

An aerial shot of Castle Hill's metal roof and building.


A metal roof is one of a self-storage owners best investments. It can come in an array of styles ranging from the less-expensive screw-down roof to a high-end standing-seam roof. Metal roofs can be galvanized or pre-finished with color or Galvalume. Because of its level of performance, Galvalume is the most common finish. It offers durability and has been proven to outlast G-90 galvanized steel up to four times. It also provides excellent reflectivity. When properly combined with insulation, it can result in a cost-effective, energy-efficient roofing system.

Your Supplier

Its important to know your metal supplier stands behind its products. Ask for a sample warranty and read it carefully, as warranties vary from one vendor to another. In addition, there are separate warranties for Galvalume and pre-painted products.

Its also wise to check your suppliers references. Know how the company performs in the supply and erection of its buildings, as well as how it addresses problems and warranty issues.

Just Metal?

Is metal just metal? Not anymore. For self-storage, its the quickest, most economical method of construction. In todays market, building with steel provides more flexibility than ever, with multiple options for framing, aesthetics and roofing. Developers and contractors are getting the best value for their projects by using metal components.

Justin Farris is the sales director for Capco Steel Inc., which specializes in the design, engineering, supply and erection of metal-building systems for the self-storage industry. Based in San Antonio, the company is licensed from coast to coast and has built more than 22 million square feet of self-storage in 42 states. Capco supplies and erects metal framing, roofs, partitions, wall cladding and canopies for projects ranging from simple conversions and single-story buildings to complex five-story structures. For more information, e-mail [email protected]; visit

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