Insulated metal panels (IMPs) are ideal for many roofing and wall applications. They are considered a top-of-the-line choice known for their superior insulation value, high performance air barrier, design flexibility, and fast installation. The simplicity of installation creates a high-performance building envelope. The many design options provide a versatile building solution for commercial, industrial, and institutional projects.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? What’s the catch? Well, those benefits won’t mean much if proper care is not taken during the installation process to ensure you’re getting what you paid for. Potential consequences can span the gamut—from minor aesthetic headaches to extremely costly errors such as leaks and structural issues.
Here are some ways to avoid common pitfalls when installing IMP panels on your next metal wall or roof project.
1. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s product installation manuals.
Installation manuals are not just for show! Even the most experienced installer should read, review and understand the installation guide before installing IMPs, and the panels should always be installed in accordance with the project’s installation drawings.
Don’t simply rely on the “what-you’ve-done-before” mindset. Take the time to review the specifics for every individual project. In addition to providing the information needed to execute a successful install, it can also give installers an opportunity to build upon their own knowledge base. One of the most common errors is related to proper receipt and handling of the panels. Investing a few minutes before the project starts and at the start of each day to review key topics helps avoid costly errors and improves production.
If you have a question or something does not seem right stop and call the manufacturer. It is always best to address a problem up front than try and fix a problem after the building is in operation.
2. Equipment check. Do you have what you need?
To keep your IMP installation on track, it’s imperative to ensure you have the equipment you’ll need for the job. Does your project need one or two forklifts, is a crane a better option? Will your project include longer-length IMPs being installed in a vertical orientation? If so, you may need special lifting equipment so as not to damage the panels. Whatever the details, crews need to be prepared to receive a project’s specific materials on site. A little advance planning will ultimately save you time and money by reducing labor and avoiding costly mistakes.
3. Don’t assume every IMP application is the same.
All buildings are not created equal. Just because a construction crew has had experience installing insulated metal panels on past jobs, doesn’t mean they can assume the process will be exactly the same every time. There will always be specific conditions and variables that need to be taken into consideration. Techniques used for vertical industrial panels will be different for horizontal architectural panels.
The vapor barrier (a key function of an IMP) is a great example of how a miscalculation can be problematic. Depending on the panel, the vapor barrier may be applied either at the factory or at the jobsite. If the project calls for a cold storage environment, the “warm” side of the vapor barrier will be on the exterior. Alternatively, a commercial or industrial application generally calls for the vapor seal to be on the opposite side of the panel. Confuse placement of the seal and you’re bound to run into problems down the road.
4. Be on the lookout for creases, buckles and framing alignment.
A crease or buckle on the face of a panel might seem like no big deal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, framing alignment is one of the most critical aspects to ensure a proper fit-up of the construction as a whole. In terms of the panels themselves, not only will a framing misalignment not LOOK right but can also cause numerous efficiency and performance issues. Installing inexpensive shims can avoid panels needing to be replaced.
Additionally, make sure the first panel is plum and square, if you start right it is much easier to finish right.
Purlins must be level and square and all framing and bracing should be installed before installing panels. (The IMP manufacturer should specify the amount of tolerances allowed.) Also, take care with caulking and taping, foam-to-foam connections (in order to mitigate potential vapor leaks), seaming, and lap joints.
Attention to detail will avoid costly mistakes.
5. Always think ahead.
Being proactive may be the most important piece of advice construction crews need to hear.
For one, be sure to have a panel surplus on hand. You may be of the mindset that ordering extra panels is at worst a waste or at best, not worth the effort. This is a common judgement error that often leads to installation delays. If a crew has only ordered the exact number of panels needed for a job and there is any damage to the product, whether prior to delivery, on-site or during the installation, there a risk to the project schedule. Waiting on replacement panels can wreak havoc on schedules, especially with panels that may need special manufacturing due to custom components, finishes or colors. What do you do with extra panels you don’t need on the initial installation? Building owners can hold on to any surplus panels to be used as replacements, as needed, over the lifecycle of the building. A little preparation today can go a long way.
Other best practices include understanding the project’s site conditions and ensuring crews remain crews up to date on proper installation techniques—including staying current with training and certifications.
By taking this advice to heart, you can exponentially increase your ability to enjoy the many benefits of IMPs and be confident in your investment. For more information on MBCI’s insulated metal panels and proper installation guidelines, we encourage you to contact your local MBCI representative or visit our website.