Exploring Metal Construction Misconceptions, Part 2

By Shawn Zuver,

I addressed a few common myths concerning metal construction products in my previous column. Like all myths, sometimes they’re based on fact - or some small thread of a fact - and other times they’re simply way off-base. In this installment, I'd like to take a look at a handful of other often-heard misconceptions.

Metal Roofing And Metal Buildings Are Prone To Lightning Strikes. This is a classic example of myths that surround metal construction products. The industry reports that I’ve read on this topic indicate that, all things being equal, metal roofs and metal buildings are no more likely to suffer lightning strikes than buildings that use non-metal materials. Like other structures, metal buildings and roofs can be struck by lightning, but they are not “magnets” for lightning. Thankfully, there are lightning protection systems that can be installed to effectively address this problem, no matter what building materials are used.

Metal Buildings Are All Boxes. I have to admit that this was one of my preconceived notions of metal buildings - before I started covering this marketplace. I soon learned that descriptions of metal buildings as boxes were no more accurate than to equate all metal buildings with the iconic Quonset huts of military barracks fame. I’ve seen metal building systems used to create multi-story office facilities, octagonal churches, winged school campuses, distinguished federal buildings and an endless variety of low-rise facilities. Sure, some metal buildings do fall into the simple box-like structure category, but that’s a very small percentage of the overall market.

Metal Buildings Are Great, But You'll Have To Accept What’s In Stock. Manufacturing practices in the metal building industry have evolved considerably over the years. In most cases, the old methods of running “stock” buildings through the production process are gone. I’d imagine it still goes on in some places, but the typical industry practice today is to manufacture each building after it has been custom ordered. If you’d like a metal building in an unusual length, width, eave height or any other configuration, it’s a pretty sure bet that you can have it made…as long as it meets engineering standards. Feeding this “stock” metal building myth are advertisements that list prices for buildings in particular sizes; in most cases, these are just examples to offer ideas to potential customers. With few exceptions, when you order your building it’s made to your specifications. Makes you feel kind of special, doesn’t it?

Metal Roofing And Wall Panels Only Come In Standard Lengths. Similar to the previous item about “stock” metal buildings, I was recently surprised when someone told me that they needed “odd” panel lengths, and they weren’t looking forward to shearing a few inches from every panel. While it’s true that supply centers stock metal panels in certain lengths, that’s only for convenience. Ask them to order the same panels in your specific length and you’ll find that virtually any increment, at least down to the inch, is available. Depending on the size of your project, custom colors and other finish options are also a possibility, if you’d like to step outside the ever-broadening color palette that’s available from most panel manufacturers.

Cold-Formed Steel Framing Means That It Has Less Strength. I’m far from being mistaken as an engineer, but I have had the opportunity to walk through many cold-formed (or light-gauge, if you prefer that term) steel structures as they were being built and upon their completion. I used to be amazed at cold-formed stud walls that extended 25 feet from floor to ceiling, or to know that those same lightweight framing components could be assembled to create roof trusses that were able to handle tile roofing and northern snow loads. I soon learned that even though the components are light, cold-frame steel can be engineered for incredible strength.

Hopefully I’ve helped put some metal construction myths to rest, though I understand if you’d like more proof than just my words in this column. For more information on metal buildings, metal roof and wall panels, cold-formed steel, lightning protection and a variety of other topics, check out the testing reports available from hundreds of product suppliers listed in our Supplier Directory. For other misconceptions about metal construction products, check out part 1 of this column.

Shawn Zuver is editorial/content director for He has been covering the metal construction industry, including residential and non-residential construction, since 1985. To contact Shawn, email

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