Knowing When to Call the Metal Manufacturer: Part 2

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 the 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.

bad roof jack installation - part #2 ACCESSORIES SECTION
The pipe penetration shown here is not the correct type of piping for metal roofing, and not the correct installation. This can lead to issues with roof performance, including leaking and water damage.

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 Engagement

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.

Roof Penetrations Made by Non-roofing Contractors

In our last two posts, we have looked at the proper ways for roofing contractors to address different types of penetrations in metal roofing in order to assure that a watertight seal is achieved from the outset, as well as over the life of the roof. But what happens when another contractor, such as a plumber, electrician, or other trade needs to penetrate the roof? How is the watertightness of the roof assured then?

Warranty Control for a Metal Roof

Most metal roofing warranties are very specific about what is included or not included should a roof leak occur. Therefore, the manufacturer’s warranty should be the first thing that is checked for a particular project to determine whether a seemingly innocent bit of work on the roof has the potential for a loss of warranty coverage. Commonly, qualified roofing contractors need to do the work and it needs to be inspected, but in some cases, supervised work may be acceptable too. Either way, any penetration installed by a trade contractor other than a roofing contractor should be fully coordinated with the architect or owner’s representative, the roofing manufacturer’s representative, the general contractor, and the roofing contractor. Once reviewed, there may be several options on how to proceed.

Guided Installation

For a single or simple penetration, say for a single small mechanical or electrical line, it may be possible to simply work with the trade contractor on the location of the penetration, review in advance that the proper materials are being used, and check the quality of the work for water tightness when complete. (Note: following the guidelines in our prior post on Pipe and Flute Penetrations will provide a good checklist of things to cover.) If everything is appropriately done, then it may be possible to have the roofing manufacturer add the new penetration to the list of items covered under the warranty.

Lightning Rod
Lightning Rod Application for Metal Panels

Coordinated Installation

In some cases, numerous penetrations may be required, such as the installation of multiple lightning rods across a roof. In this case, it might be more prudent to consider a coordinated, cooperative effort to allow each trade to do what it does best and keep the warranty in effect. Instead of an electrician being responsible for the roof penetrations and for lightning rods, let him focus on the lightning protection and wiring aspects of the work. But first, bring in a roofing contractor to advise on the proper locations of the lightning rods and to be the one responsible for the watertight seal. Location advice would include things like avoiding valleys, standing seams, or other areas that are difficult to seal or flash around. The electrician could then make the needed lightning rod penetrations in the agreed-upon locations and complete his work. Following right behind, the roofing contractor could install retrofit rubber roof jacks around the lightning rods and assure that they are sealed properly. Alternatively, the roofing contractor could make the penetration and allow the electrician to install the lightning rod, while the roofing contractor installs an appropriate rubber roof jack over or around it. Either way, the two trades need to  review the process ahead of time and be sure that everyone is on board to produce the best results for everyone involved.

Bottom Line: Think Through Penetrations

roof penetrations
Standing Seam Roof Penetration

Standing seam metal roofs have become more complex in recent years, with more and varied types of roof penetrations. This simply magnifies the need for better communication between the design professional, roof manufacturer, general contractor, roofing contractor, and any of the various trades that might be working on the roof.

When everyone takes the time to plan up front and think through their own needs and the options to get there, everyone wins. The architect/owner representative can ensure that his or her clients get a roof that will perform long-term. The roof manufacturer is able to provide expertise that has been gained over a long period of time through working with similar details on roofs all over the country. The roofing contractor can leave the project knowing that the details are long-term and will mean little chance for leak callbacks. Plus, the general contractor and the building owner can quickly resolve any arguments over which trade is responsible for repairing a roof leak.

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