When selecting a metal roofing product, there is an expectation that it will perform as intended over the life of the building. But what assures building owners, code officials, or design professionals that a product will in fact perform as promised? This question often comes up in building product discussions and the accepted way to answer it is to subject the products to physical testing. The type of testing is usually very specific to the product based on protocols and procedures developed by independent agencies such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ASTM International, or others. Manufacturers typically submit their products to independent testing labs who follow these standard test procedures. Once testing has concluded, they report the results back to the manufacturer. These results then show whether the product meets stated performance criteria or not. If not, the manufacturer can re-design and re-test until it does and then make the final results available to the public.
For metal roofing, a series of relevant and important tests are typically performed. In this blog, we will look at two of them related to structural performance and wind uplift.
The structural integrity of metal roofing is crucial given the various natural forces that can be imposed on the materials. Effects from wind, snow, or other conditions can compromise its integrity. Accordingly, the ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings (including sub-committee E06.57 on Performance of Metal Roof Systems) has developed ASTM E1592 “Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Sheet Metal Roof and Siding Systems by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference”. While the standard acknowledges the use of computation (i.e. calculations) to determine the basic structural capacity of most metal products, it also points out that some conditions are outside of the scope of computational analysis and hence need to be tested.
The standard describes a test method with “optional apparatus and procedures for use in evaluating the structural performance of a given (metal) system for a range of support spacings or for confirming the structural performance of a specific installation”. As such, it is very specific both to metal roofing and its installation. This test method uses imposed air pressure not to look at air leakage but simply to determine structural reactions. It consists of three steps:
1. Sealing the test specimen into or against one face of a test chamber
2. Supplying air to, or exhausting air from, the chamber at the rate required to maintain the test pressure difference across the specimen
3. Observing, measuring, and recording the deflection, deformations, and nature of any failures of principal or critical elements of the panel profile or members of the anchor system
The test needs to be performed with enough variation to produce a load deformation curve of the metal and account for typical edge restraint (fastening) representative of field conditions.
Manufacturers need to submit different products that are tested at least once at two different span lengths between supports. Standing seam roof panels are typically tested at a 5’-0” and 1’-0” span. Spans between the two tested spans can be interpolated. The result is a table of tested loading results that can be compared to code required or engineered design loading to then determine if the selected material and spacing are adequate for the project needs or if another product or spacing is needed.
The ASTM E1592 test is focused on the structural integrity of metal panels. It also uses positive and negative air pressure in a static (i.e. non-moving) condition to determine performance. There is also a separate concern about how metal roofing will perform in a dynamic condition as would be expected in a windy condition where wind gusts can ebb and flow erratically. In that regard, a separate test developed jointly between Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) looks at the ability of roofing to resist being blown off a building due to wind. Known as ANSI/UL 580 “Standard for Tests for Uplift Resistance of Roof Assemblies”, it has become the recognized means to identify and classify the suitability of roofing for different wind conditions – low to high.
This test is also specific in its scope and intent stating that it “evaluates the roof deck, its attachment to supports, and roof covering materials”. It also points out that it is not intended to test special roof conditions, main or secondary structural supports, or deterioration of roofing. The standard prescribes in considerable detail the type of test chamber that needs to be constructed and used for the testing which includes three sections: “a top section to create a uniform vacuum, a center section in which the roof assembly (i.e. deck, attachment, and roofing) is constructed, and a bottom section to create uniform positive pressure”. The test procedure is then based on placing the roof assembly into the test chamber and subjecting it to a prescribed sequence of 5 phases of oscillating positive and negative pressure cycles (simulating dynamic wind conditions) over 80 minutes of total testing.
There are four wind uplift classifications obtainable for a tested assembly based on the test assembly retaining its attachment, integrity and without any permanent damage. These include Class 15, Class 30, Class 60, and Class 90. Each class has its own requirements for test pressures with increasing pressure as the class number increases. Higher class numbers indicate increasing levels of wind uplift resistance. Note, that to obtain a Class 60 rating, the tested assembly must pass the Class 30 test then be immediately subjected to the Class 60 test sequence. Similarly, to obtain a Class 90 rating, the tested assembly must first pass both the Class 30 and 60 tests. Metal roofing manufacturers who want their roofing products tested and classified under UL 580 must pair them with standard roof deck and fastening materials. Hence most have many different tests performed and results reported accordingly.
When reviewing metal roofing options, it is comforting to know that most manufacturers have tested their products and designed them to meet or exceed minimum requirements. To find out more about tested results of products you may be considering, contact your local MBCI representative or see the MBCI website and select the “testing” tab under a selected product.
Many metal roofing installers may think that their years of experience on the job is enough. But even for those who have been putting up metal roofs for a long time, the truth is that if they haven’t put up a particular brand’s roof before, they need to go through that manufacturer’s installer training and get certified. There are several reasons for this.
- More and more, architects are starting to specify that an installer must be certified by the manufacturer of the product being installed.
- For many manufacturers, including MBCI, in order to get a Standard III warranty with no dollar limit—or any Day One warranty—training and certification are required.
- Installers need to know the proper technique and protocols—for a particular manufacturer’s product! After all, you don’t make any money by going back and fixing leaks.
There are many other standing seams that are very similar to those that MBCI sells, and while they may look similar, there will be a number of small differences, such as the way panels are notched or the way sealants are put in. Even the way companies test panels can be different. For instance, if you have a Florida or Dade County approval or an FM approval, that’s all tied into the way the roof system is tested. So, if someone has a project where one of those things is required, it is imperative to make sure the installer is using that brand’s system of doing things, down to every last detail. These are some of the things covered in certification courses.
At MBCI, we offer a three-day course that covers all of our standing seam panels, and have a separate two-day course for insulated metal panels, which provides advanced installer training in metal roof installation through classroom lecture and hands-on application in a variety of MBCI’s products, assembling roof systems on a mockup to reinforce what was learned from the presentations. Courses take place once a quarter in different locations throughout the United States.
In terms of who should attend certification courses, generally speaking, it’s the person from the company who will be doing the actual work since a certified installer needs to be on the roof any time any work is being done on the roof. He or she is the one we train. And that installer is tied back to the company in order for them to receive certification. That company has to have workman’s comp and general liability insurance. If the certified person leaves the company to go elsewhere, the first company needs to certify someone else.
The Bottom Line of Certification
From a bottom line perspective, it’s important for companies to be proactive in making sure there is always someone on their team who is a certified installer for the products they use—or might use. Not only will they learn tips and tricks for proper installation, but it will also avoid a situation where you have a job, the panels are being delivered the next week and you realize you need someone to be certified. Maybe it’s three weeks until the next certification opportunity. You’ll want to have all that settled before you need it.
Just because you’ve been installing roofing for 30 years, doesn’t mean installer training and certification isn’t necessary. Our best advice is to come to the class and learn all the little idiosyncrasies about whatever manufacturer’s roofing panels you’ll be installing. This is a case where even a little knowledge goes a long way.
As stated in Part 1 of this series, the success of a metal roof or metal wall project can rest on the installer knowing when something isn’t working or just doesn’t seem right. When that happens, a call to the manufacturer is not just suggested but is really imperative to ensure any potential problem is averted before it’s too late. In addition to the previously discussed scenarios, such as damage to the physical panel or problems with the fasteners, let’s take a closer look at a few other common circumstances under which MBCI recommends immediately reaching out to the manufacturer:
Alignment and Substrate Issues
It is the installer’s responsibility to verify the substrate and check for proper alignment before attaching any sheeting materials. If the installer notices any issues of this sort (either before installation or once they start putting on the sheeting), they should stop and address them immediately. This might include oil canning or other irregularity in appearance of the panel. The installer should investigate the source. If unable to identify and properly remedy the situation on their own, then a call to the manufacturer’s support team is recommended. They may be able to suggest items to check to help locate the source of the problem—whether it be installation or manufacturing—and from there make suggestions as to the best possible means to address the situation.
When physically getting ready to modify a panel system by adding things to the roof (such as snow guards or mechanical curbs) or to walls by installing doors, windows and louvers, these penetrations can have an impact on the system and its weather-tightness and appearance. Oftentimes, other trades—who may or may not have knowledge of the sheeting system—are coming onto the job to perform the accessory installation. It’s wise to visit with manufacturer prior to installation and/or alert the non-metal panel installer of precautions to take when adding accessories.
Coordination regarding material types of accessories, fasteners and placement is critical. There are materials that can react negatively with the installed system and lead to damage as well as void manufacturers warranties. Accessories should always be discussed prior to installation. Read more about different types of roof accessories and penetrations in MBCI’s blog article, Roof Penetrations Made By Non-Roofing Contractors.
Panel systems have an engineered means by which the panels attach and engage one another as shown in the manufacturer’s installation manuals and project drawings. If at any point the panel will not engage as depicted in the details, installation should be halted and reviewed to determine the cause. This can require a call to the manufacturer to help determine if the matter is site and substrate related or potentially a manufacturing issue.
Do not continue to install the system if the laps are not nesting properly, clips are not engaging as detailed, panel modularity cannot be controlled or if the overall panel is not “resting” on the substrate such that there is excessive bowing and stress in the panel. This is the time to call the manufacturer, as once the material is completely installed, it is much more difficult to determine the cause of a problem and is potentially more expensive to remedy. Additionally, in many cases, full installation constitutes acceptance of the product and the manufacturer’s hands could be tied or extremely limited in being able to assist in remedying after the fact.
By knowing when to be proactive with a call to the manufacturer, installers can mitigate many types of potential pitfalls. And if you’re just not sure, it’s best to call.
For more information on metal roof and wall products and training, MBCI offers courses through its Metal Institute. These courses are available for general training purposes or for those seeking installer certification. To learn more, visit mbci.com/metalinstitute.