It is autumn season again and before we know it, winter is within our midst. Now is the best time to prepare your metal building for cold weather. These maintenance tips will not only lower your electricity bills, but also provide protection for your investment.
Today, a lot of insulated metal buildings used for commercial and industrial applications are being heated by gas-fired high efficiency heating systems.For whatever system is in place, it is wise to call a technician to check on your heating system way ahead of the cold season when everybody seems to need help with their heaters. The guy will ensure that your heating system is clean and in good condition.
- Turn On Reverse Switch of Ceiling Fans
According to Energy Star, turning on the reverse switch of ceiling fans after turning on the heat will produce an updraft, which will push down heated air from the ceiling into the room. This is especially helpful for metal buildings with high ceilings. Besides, the resulting additional heat might allow you to turn down the thermostat by a degree or two, which in turn, would help you save on electricity.
If you had icicles and ice dam formations last winter, then do something to prevent them from happening again this year. A well-ventilated attic space is the first line of defense against the formation of ice dams. Get in touch with a professional home-energy auditor or weatherization contractor who can identify and fix air leaks and/or inadequate insulation in your attic.
- Check the Roof and Clean the Gutters
As far as the roof is concerned, drainage is the big issue. The entire roof, the gutters and drains should be clutter-free before the snow comes. Debris on the roof could end up in the drains. It is important to maintain the cleanliness of gutters to avoid water overflowing, causing damage from freezing and rust. Likewise, clogged downspouts are in danger of freezing solid during winter. For any damage in the roof, call a professional.
- Repair Caulking on Windows and Doors
Check the gaps and joints in your window and doorframes. If there are gaps where heat can escape, you may need to reapply exterior caulk. Choose the product that will not shrink and impervious to the elements.
Metal buildings, when properly designed to meet building codes, are durable structures that can stand up to high winds and heavy snow.
Previous posts talked about the various ways to save when you opt for metal buildings. With prefabricated metal buildings, you save time, money and even the environment. Another way to save money is through reduced insurance premiums. However, you will find out later that a sure way to reduce insurance premiums is to go for metal buildings instead of other traditional construction methods.
Insurance for your most important assets, such as your home, provides protection against damage, theft and the elements. Having insurance saves you a lot of headaches because insurance companies will cover any economic losses incurred should the covered events happen.
However, one way to really lower your premiums is if you raise your deductible because the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Your deductible equals the amount you agree to pay out of your own money before the insurer pays you for the damages. According to the Insurance Information3 Institute, you lower you premiums by as much as 25% if you double your deductible.
Insurers compute the deductible differently – some may impose percentage deductible while others use dollar-value deductible. There are times when the deductible depends on the exposure such as hurricanes. For example, the dollar-value deductible can be 2% of the metal building’s insured value for hurricane-related losses. On the other hand, the percentage deductible may be computed based on dwelling limit or dwelling limit plus the value of building contents or total damages.
Insurance premiums may also be reduced by 5% to 10% for each of these conditions – you have an alarm or sprinkler system, fire extinguishers or a metal roof. Pre-engineered metal buildings can have lower insurance costs compared to other types of structures for many reasons.
Metal buildings are hardy and durable structures. They are computer-engineered to withstand strong winds and blinding rain and other unfavorable climactic conditions. Steel is non-combustible and would not contribute to the spread of fire, allowing metal buildings to be acknowledged as fire resistant structures. They require minimal maintenance since the steel components are resistant to mold, mildew and rust.
For some reason, there might be a need to make changes or improvements to the insulation systems of metal buildings at some point after their construction. There are a lot of reasons for installing thermal barriers for metal building retrofit. Some of these are:
- Improve the interior appearance
- Improve the acoustics
- Redesign the lighting systems
- Solve interior condensation problems
And the benefits of thermal barriers for metal building retrofit include:
- Increased productivity
- More quiet working and living conditions
- Better lighting
- More pleasant working and living environments
Thermal barriers prevent heat transfer through the building envelope, roof and walls. In metal building retrofit, installation can be a bit complicated and requires greater customization, especially if there are obstructions on the floor and wall areas.
The most common types of thermal barriers for metal buildings retrofit today are:
- Blankets and batts – These are the common and least expensive types of metal building insulation. They are used to insulate the areas above ceilings, below floors and inside walls. They have about R-3 R values per inch of thickness. However, for rigid boards made from polyurethane, fiberglass or polystyrene, R-values range from R-4 to R-8 per inch of thickness.
- Loose fill – Made up of loose pellet, fiber mix of synthetic or natural of cotton and wool, fiberglass or rock wool, these types of insulation are blown into the building using special types of equipment. Commonly, they have an R-value of R-3 to R-4 per inch of depth. However, compared to the rock wool variety, the cellulose type has about 30% more insulating value.
- Foam insulation – Installing foam insulation system involves spraying the material into cavities in walls, ceilings and floors. The liquid expands during application and becomes a solid plastic filled with lots of tiny air-filled cells that can occupy unusual spaces. Because of its sealing benefits and the need for a professional to do the installation, foam insulation costs more but it s more effective than other systems.
- Fabric liner – Made of lightweight and flexible materials, fabric liner systems are economical and easy to install. For the ceilings, the fabric liner system, spanning the building bay, is placed beneath the purlins on a support platform and sealed. For the walls, a single fabric liner is mechanically fastened and sealed from column to column and from floor to ceiling. Then the fiberglass or cellulose insulation is then placed on top of the fabric liner to complete the installation. This system is more effective than faced fiberglass insulation as far as sealing all seams is concerned.
Retrofitting with thermal barriers also decrease the overall energy consumption of metal buildings, which can lead to LEED certification.
The foundation provides stability and strength to any building that is why its importance can never be overemphasized. In the case of prefabricated metal buildings, the location of the anchor bolts is as important as the foundation. Improper location and construction of anchor bolts can lead a lot of headaches for the building owner such as costly fixes and even fatal accidents.
When buying metal buildings, the supplier or manufacturer provides an anchor bolt plan detailing the location of every anchor bolt on the concrete slab as well as the locations of the framed opening(s), reactions and bolt diameters. The owner is the one responsible for hiring a Concrete Contractor to design and build the proper foundation for the metal building.
But there seems to be some gray area on who is really responsible for the correct placement and embodiment of anchor bolts.
Section 6.2.2 of the Metal Building Systems Manual states that “the foundation, concrete or masonry work along with the setting or inspection of anchor bolts, leveling plates, templates, column base tie rods or any other items to be set or imbedded in the concrete masonry” IS NOT the responsibility of the Erector.
However, what complicates matters is Section 6.4, which states “except when the concrete slab and foundation are constructed by the Erector, the End Customer is responsible for all additional costs resulting from errors in the concrete slab and foundation. It is the responsibility of the Erector to ensure that concrete dimensions and anchor bolt locations are correct before setting any steel”.
Based on the above, the following are true:
- The responsibility of ensuring that the anchor bolts, leveling plates, templates, and other items are set and embedded into the concrete correctly lies on the Concrete Contractor.
- Once the Concrete Contractor is done with the building foundation, the Erector of the metal building has the sole responsibility of ensuring that the anchor bolts have the correct dimensions and are properly placed BEFORE any steel frame is set.
- If the Erector finds any problem, he needs to get in touch with the general contractor or the Concrete Erector to fix the issue BEFORE starting any construction.
If the anchor bolts do not match the holes in the steel framing, either the framing is changed or the anchor bolts removed from the concrete and redone. Both of these options are not only costly, but would also cause a major delay for the project.
The goal is to remove snow and ice from the roof of metal buildings. Care must be taken in doing so to avoid damaging the roof panels and all the other accessories attached to the building. Remember, to always observe all necessary safety precautions before proceeding.
It is essential to review your metal building’s design first, specifically the number of bays and develop a plan of action based on the layout. Incorrect removal of snow may create unwanted loading on roofs of metal buildings, which may jeopardize their structural integrity.
1) Begin, by removing all the icicles hanging from the eaves and gutters. Do this carefully so as not to cause any damage to the eaves and gutters, as well as the roof itself. Also, if icicles are not removed, there is a tendency for removed snow to stick to them, which may cause additional load on the edge of the roof.
2) Remember to work in sections and refrain from traveling from one section of the roof to the other to avoid compacting snow, which would make the work more difficult for you.
3) Remove the drifted snow first. Drifted snow is usually found on lower roofs, mechanical vents and skylights.
4) Snow removal must be done in a pattern – working on both sides of the roof and avoiding large differences in live loads. The greatest deflection always occurs at the center of each bay so this is the best place to start.
For example, visually divide a bay into three sections, starting with the bay with the greatest amount of accumulated snow. For peaked roofs, remove the snow in layers, from the center (middle one-third) of a particular bay, working from the peak toward the eave. Then remove the snow on the other side of the same bay. Then work on the remaining sections for that bay. Do the same procedure for all bays.
5) The use of plastic shovels is highly recommended. Metal shovels, picks, axes or other sharp tools that are used to break up the ices can easily damage the roof.
6) If you have multi-level roofs, do not pile snow from upper roofs onto lower roofs. Work on the lower roofs first.
7) Do not remove all the snow and ice. Leave an approximate 3” depth. This way, you avoid hitting panel fasteners, snow guards, etc.
Metal buildings are popular choices for investors who prefer strength and durability. They are guaranteed to last for decades. Taking care of them will add more years to their reliable performance.
No matter who does the snow and ice removal on your metal building’s roof, it is still essential to observe these safety precautions to prevent accidents and injuries:
- Schedule the work when the metal building is unoccupied.
- Prepare warning signs and post them under the area below the roof where snow removal is being done. To ensure that people won’t enter the area under the roof where snow is being removed.
- Stay away from the path of sliding snow or ice. In the same token, stay alert for snow breaking away and sliding down the roof.
- To prevent the ladders from being knocked out, place them away from the area where the snow removal is being done.
- Always have another person monitor the snow removal so that he can obtain assistance in case it is required.
- Be extremely careful when stepping on the roof’s edge.
- Watch out for extreme deflections or when the roof makes unusual noises when stepped on. This could only mean that the structural integrity of the roof is now compromised. If you are doing the snow removal yourself, it is now time to call a professional.
On the other hand, to prevent the accumulation of snow and ice, maintaining the good condition of gutters and downspouts of metal buildings, especially after major winter storms, can prevent excessive snow build up.
Make sure that gutters can operate properly by doing a regular visual inspection. When needed, flush out dirt and debris with a pressure hose so rain and snow can flow freely. For larger items such rocks, cans, leaves and pine, needles use your gloved hands. If these obstructions are not removed, the resulting dirt can cause moisture and water buildup, which could eventually cause premature rusting and leaks in the sidelap or endlap.
Imagine what would happen if snow and ice are added to the debris. It could come to a point where the weigh of the stuff would exceed the load carrying capacity of the gutter and the support clips, causing the gutter to fail. Check for this and do the necessary repairs.
The same results are produced by blocked downspouts. In order for water to drain freely, keeping the bottom of downspouts clear of snow and ice is a good practice.
Just remember to follow OSHA requirements to prevent serious injuries when doing maintenance work on roofs of metal buildings.
Today’s metal buildings are built up to code, with wind and snow loads factored in as well. However, it does not mean that snow and ice accumulation must not be checked. Collapse of roofs of metal buildings is mostly due to excessive amounts of snow and ice. Preventive maintenance on the roof includes checks on whether the accumulation of snow and ice maybe beyond the roof’s capacity.
A blizzard may produce significant amounts of snowfall. However, repeated snow events can also cause the same problem because the snow would not have enough time to melt. Another event to watch out for is when it rains after snowing. The rainwater will saturate the snow, increasing its weight.
How do you make an intelligent assessment that the snow or ice on your roof needs to be removed? First, review the snow load value. Information on snow load that the metal buildings is designed to carry is contained on the erection drawings and also on the Letter of Certification for the building.
Next, determine the density of the accumulated snow on your roof. This is rather hard to do since by now since the accumulated stuff is made up of a combination of fresh and frozen snow. However, you can get a good estimate by carefully shoveling a 1 foot by 1 foot column of snow through the snow’s full depth. Make sure that this activity will not damage the roof. Take note of the snow’s depth where the sample was removed and place the removed snow on a waterproof container.
Weigh the snow. Use the weight and the depth to calculate the snow density in pounds per cubic foot (weight divided by the depth since the length and the width are both equal to 1). Divide the design snow load, which is in pounds per square foot, by the snow density, which is in pounds per cubic foot. This important value will give you an estimate of the snow depth for your structure’s particular design snow load.
If the accumulated snow and/or ice on your roof is half of the estimated snow depth, it is time to remove the snow. Only people experienced in doing such work should do the snow removal. If your metal building is a multi-story structure, it is best to hire professionals.
The last post talked about the dangers of falls and how to prevent them when performing preventive maintenance on roofs of metal buildings. This brings to mind the importance of cleaning translucent panels or skylights and the removal of dirt, debris and/or snow, which have accumulated on the roof.
Periodical washing of skylights not only prolongs their life, it also helps maintain their good appearance and functionality. The frequently of this activity greatly depends on the location of metal buildings.
In anticipation of fewer daylight hours during winter, checking the skylights’ condition is usually done in the Fall, since cleaning them at this time will ensure that natural light is not restricted from penetrating the interiors of metal buildings.
The panels are constantly exposed to the elements – sunlight, rain, wind and/or snow – causing dullness, discoloration and fiber exposure. When cleaning translucent panels, remember to use only non-corrosive compounds and not those that contain ammonia or chlorine, which are primary causes of discoloration of skylights in metal buildings.
If cleaning the panels don’t solve the problem, maybe repairing or refinishing them will do the trick. In worst cases, the panels may be severely decayed that replacing them is the only viable solution.
Refinishing skylights to improve their condition is very easy and may be done by ordinary homeowners. The materials needed are the following: a non-corrosive cleaning agent, clean water, a stiff bristle or fine steel wool and a brush. Make sure to wear protective gloves to protect the hands from getting in touch with the refinishing chemicals and the exposed fibers, which may cause splinters.
First, make sure to wash the panel with water. If this does not remove the dirt, which may be stuck in the panel’s surface, use the cleaning compound instead. Use the brush or steel wool to remove the stubborn dirt that is trapped in the exposed fibers. Then, rinse off thoroughly with water.
Refinishers can be applied by brushing or spraying, but the former is preferred to achieve excellent results.
The many benefits that metal buildings offer have made them favorites in the construction industry. But much like traditional structures, maintenance activities on metal buildings, especially those located in areas with moderate to severe winters, be performed at least twice a year. And for those located near coastal areas, it should be more than twice a year.
If you plan to do the work yourself, bear in mind that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Know by heart OSHA, federal, state and local rules and regulations concerning the performance of building maintenance in order to prevent personal injury or death to you or to others.
For each maintenance activity, always comply with governing regulations, follow appropriate safety methods and use proper safety equipment. You can also get precious inputs on safety and risk management from your insurance provider and fire hazard inspector.
Most accidents that result in injuries and even deaths are caused by falls from roofs and other elevated places. That is why it is always important to use OSHA-approved Fall Protection. When working on the roof, do not walk on wet roof panels, stay away from skylights, ridge caps and gutters.
Skylights or translucent roof panels allow natural light into metal buildings and are considered by OSHA as roof openings. When properly installed and maintained, they are capable of resisting wind and snow loads. Stepping, sitting or walking on skylights may cause the panels to collapse resulting to serious injuries.
Although these translucent panels have warning labels that say “Do Not Walk On This Panel”, you may not be able to see these since the panels may be covered with accumulated dirt, debris and/or snow.
It is highly recommended that you review the roof framing plan drawing of your metal building in order to identify the location of rafters, purlins and skylights. You can find this in the erection drawings that came with your metal building. Another important reminder: always keep the roof framing drawings updated should any renovations and modifications were done on the roof after the construction of your metal building
Unlike structures of the past, today’s metal buildings require minimal maintenance, thanks to advancements in construction materials, design applications and fabrication systems. However, you also need to maintain its good condition because no matter how you take care of your building, the effects of sun exposure, build up of snow, dirt or grime will really require attention.
The frequency of preventive maintenance of metal buildings depends a lot on several factors including the location of your building, its age and condition ant the type of maintenance work to be performed.
A word of caution though; before doing any maintenance work on your metal building, consult your building contractor and know the appropriate local and federal safety requirements to avoid any problems such as those pertaining to warranties.
Another important reminder for first-time buyers of metal buildings: make sure to keep the following documents in a safe place for future reference:
- Engineering Design and Specification
This document contains important information such as the building code used in engineering the building, the design loads and any other special load condition and the building dimensions.
- Erection Drawings
The purpose of Erection Drawings is to help in the proper identification and assembly of all building elements.
- Bill of Materials
This document, which is several pages, details every piece and part shipped to the customer plus the building order. The details include the color, finish, length and quantity of each part.
Metal buildings come with warranties such as structural warranties and warranties on fasteners and paints. Structures constructed with traditional materials do not come with this feature.
- Product Certifications
Certifications may include those from insurers, test labs, UL or other independent certification agencies.
In addition to the above, other documents provided include architectural drawings as well as information on building equipment.
Next: Tips and guides on how to do preventive maintenance on metal buildings.