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Specifying IMPs? Experts Say Keep It Standard

Randy Wilken
Craig Storch

By Randy Wilken and Craig Storch, P.E., Metl-Span

Standard sizing of lumber products began nearly a century ago to create a shared understanding between the lumber mills and the markets. Lumber products commonly traveled long distances by rail or water, making communication difficult. Standard sizes helped create an understanding of value and accurate expectations.

Today, for instance, Metl-Span’s CF architectural insulated metal panels come in standard widths of 24, 30, 36 and 42 inches, as do most building products throughout the industry. In fact, Metl-Span produces standard products for some of the same reasons as the lumber mills from 100 years ago.

Other Building Elements Come in Standard Sizes

Most insulated metal panels are installed vertically, but they can also be installed horizontally. The panel width is typically determined during the design phase and takes the building envelope into account, including openings for windows and doors. One reason standard width wall panels are so popular is they correspond more easily to other building elements and the framing, which also come in standard sizes. Deviating from the standards creates design challenges and requires more attention to detail.

Metl-Span's CF architectural panels come standard in the same dimensions as most other building products, for compatibility and economy.

Manufacturing Process Designed for Standard Widths

The manufacturing process is tooled to create standard products. Metal wall panels are made of steel coils that come in standard widths. Creating custom products requires an adjustment in the manufacturing process, making it more difficult to accommodate. This added time and disruption of the manufacturing process makes it more expensive to produce custom products.

Custom Widths Available but More Costly

Designers sometimes select metal panels with custom widths so site lines align with the perimeter edge of the windows and doors. When considering custom widths, it is important to consider if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Projects with panels containing customized measurements can be more time-consuming and expensive to construct. Most building elements come in standard widths, so it is essential to plan diligently for custom products to accomplish a cohesive final product.

Many of the metal panel profiles are not available in custom widths, leaving fewer panel options. This is because the profiles are designed for specific measurements. Some manufacturers offer custom sizes, but those are costlier. Most of the customizable products either have profiles that are small and close together or the panels are flat, which make it easier to create custom widths without compromising the profile.

About Metl-Span

Metl-Span-logoMetl-Span, a Nucor company, manufactures insulated metal wall and roof systems for projects ranging from architectural to cold-storage. To learn more, visit

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