By Shawn Zuver, editorial/content director
In past columns, I’ve discussed pricing for metal roofing and metal building systems. After calling attention to some of the many variables that have an effect on cost, I threw out some low-end estimates of what you might expect to pay. Since those articles were posted, I’ve been asked why I don’t offer the same information for metal walls. It’s a good question, which I’ll try to address here.
In those previous articles about metal roofing and building costs, I stressed that there are many things—the word “countless” would not be an exaggeration—that need to be considered. It’s rare to find truly identical structures even in tract housing developments, so it’s safe to say that no two projects are literally alike. This is a very important point to keep in mind when you’re considering the price of any metal construction product, especially metal walls.
First, Here’s The Price
Before we get into the variables, I’ll say that I know of prices as low as $2 per square foot for simple ribbed metal wall panels, with a basic-level paint finish, that are attached by fasteners (color-matched screws). This is for a basic installation, which may not even include trim, and wouldn’t likely include anything beyond that—such as framing, insulation or other accessories. Please remember that this is the low end of the spectrum. The upper limits depend on the specific requirements of your project.
With that in mind, here are some of the variables that will affect cost.
Type Of Metal Walls
For this discussion, I’m primarily talking about metal walls used in exterior applications. These metal walls (call them “skins”, if you like) could be bare or coil-coated (painted) galvanized panels in a ribbed profile that are fastened with screws, like my $2 example above; insulated metal panels (IMPs - sometimes called sandwich panels) that have interior and exterior metal skins with an insulating core; metal plate or composite systems with smooth or textured finishes; rainscreens; or other systems. Each product or system will have its own benefits such as greater aesthetics, longevity, thermal efficiency—and all of these things could be expected to affect the cost.
Regardless of the system or panel profile that is selected, the type of metal that is used will also have a bearing on cost. For example, you can expect aluminum to be more expensive than galvanized steel, copper more expensive than aluminum. That higher price could logically be expected to allow you to purchase a material that offers desirable characteristics. Likewise, the coating that is used on the base metal will also affect the cost, just as it provides longer life-span or aesthetics.
New Or Retrofit Work?
You should also expect that a new project with metal walls will be priced differently than if the same metal wall product were installed on an existing structure. In general, retrofit/renovation work will require higher costs than a new project due to design, engineering and installation considerations. It’s also true that more complex projects will be more expensive than simple ones. For example, a three-story installation is likely to cost more than a single-story job.
Metal products are known for their environmental advantages, most notably recyclability—before the panels are formed and again after their life span is eventually through. Cool roof coatings and solar collecting capabilities for some systems are other environmental benefits. Naturally, these alternatives come at an added initial cost, which can be expected to pay the owner back multiple times during the life of the project.
As you can see, while you can start in the $2 range for a very basic ribbed panel formed from light-gauge galvanized steel, it’s impossible to come up with a catch-all price for metal walls due to the countless options and project-specific differences that are involved. The bottom line is that exterior metal walls come in a vast selection of profiles, base materials and finishes, and can offer a wide range of benefits—including energy efficiency and solar collection—to meet your specific project requirements.
The topic of metal wall panel cost and selection is so broad that I can’t begin to do it justice in this one column, but I can point you to some information right here on DesignandBuildwithMetal.com to help you sort through the many wall panel alternatives. To come up with design possibilities, you’ll find hundreds and hundreds of photos of metal wall panels in our Project Type Gallery and Design Solutions sections. Our Product Showcase also features listings of leading wall panel offerings, while our Supplier Directory offers contact information for suppliers. You’re sure to find the exact product that you need.
If you’d like to read my column on metal roof pricing, click here. To see my thoughts on metal building system costs, click here.