Aluminum Siding VS Steel Cladding

Aluminum siding vs steel cladding systems for modern buildings

Finding and buying the most suitable wall cladding systems for a facility demands homeowners to choose between the importance of environmental impact, durability, performance, and aesthetics. The siding clients choose for their projects provides a building with a distinctive personality, and claddings are also the first layer of protection against exterior elements. Though ACM panels building claddings have been the most popular external cladding option for past decades, homeowners can choose other options available for metal wall systems. Most builders recommend aluminum siding for roofing applications. However, a considerable number of new homes feature aluminum siding and other metal cladding systems. This article provides the essentials about aluminum cladding and steel cladding systems most used in the construction industry.

What are Aluminum Claddings and Steel Claddings?

Aluminum Siding claddings and steel claddings are exterior wall system alternatives that appeal to most designers and architects due to their durability, ease of installation, and superior protection. Most metal sidings for residential facilities are either made from steel or aluminum. Each system has specific drawbacks and benefits. Both of these exterior wall panels have been commercially available since the 1940s. However, the metallic and solid rood and building facade with unfinished metals was not appreciated by architects. Thus, metal cladding manufacturers and suppliers started experimenting with an embossed coating for aluminum and steel siding. These finishes helped prevent rust and allowed the building facade design to simulate the appearance of natural materials such as wood.

What are the Advantages of Aluminum Siding and Steel Cladding?

When it comes to durability and stability, both aluminum siding and steel cladding are perfect choices. After proper installation, both of these metal sidings require almost no maintenance. Metal claddings are also famous for their fire resistance characteristics which provide extra safety for the building. This particular advantage of aluminum claddings makes these building materials significant for homes located in areas with extreme wildfires. Moreover, aluminum siding features another benefit: it simply does not rot, corrode, rust, or blister. Additionally, metal sidings are resistant to pests and termites.

Aluminum Sidings and ACM panels building cladding systems
Aluminum Sidings and Aluminum Composite Panels Create Stunning Appearance for the Building’s Facade

What are the Cons of Metal Sidings?

Although there are not so many drawbacks to metal sidings, it is essential to know their cons. One of the disadvantages of aluminum sidings and steel cladding is that they have incredibly high energy tracks. These manufactured metal building panels have one of the highest integrated energy ratings of all construction materials. Thus, a long-distance shipping increment is expected for these materials. However, architects and builders can reduce this negative environmental factor by choosing metal cladding such as aluminum composite panels with FR core substance that incorporate many recycled sidings.

What are the Differences Between an Aluminum Siding and Steel?

Traditional Aluminum cladding can scratch or dent easily, resulting in repairing or removing aluminum siding. On the other hand, steel materials are sturdier and more robust than aluminum, allowing the building facade to resist dents and scratches more efficiently. However, it is essential to know that when steel cladding is not adequately taken care of, it is prone to corrosion and rust.

Another primary difference between aluminum claddings and steel siding is related to their installation. Since aluminum is much more lightweight than steel, installing aluminum sidings is much easier and can be done by homeowners with some essential equipment and tools. The considerable weight of steel cladding will generally require pro builders’ help to have a suitable installation. Additionally, steel building materials require additional sealing methods for better protection against corrosion.

How do Metal Claddings Appeal?

Modern aluminum sidings and steel panels are similar in appearance to other metal claddings. In many cases, people cannot tell the differences until they take a closer look at the materials and touch them. Most modern building materials manufacturers and suppliers make steel and aluminum siding that mimics the look of natural wood grains. Alumtech Bond, one of the leading suppliers and manufacturers of aluminum composite panels and aluminum sidings, has a massive inventory of claddings in dozens of various finishes and woodgrain appearances.

Metal claddings with aluminum sidings
Metal Claddings can create a modern and minimal style for the building

How Long Do Aluminum Siding and Steel Cladding Last?

With precise and regular maintenance (once or twice a year), aluminum sidings can easily last more than 50 years. However, homeowners will most likely need to repair or repaint aluminum siding every 5 to 10 years, depending on the cladding quality and the level of exposure to the exterior elements such as snow, wind loads, rainwater, and dust. For comparison’s sake, cedar siding can last up to 40 years maximally if appropriately maintained.

How to Seal Metal Claddings and Sidings?

All metal claddings and sidings should feature some sealants for better protecting the metal from rusting and corrosion. Manufacturers mainly apply a thin layer of zinc for steel cladding, which creates galvanized steel to improve the building facade’s rust resistance. On the other hand, most aluminum cladding systems will be powder coated to feature better attractiveness and aesthetics. Powder coating adheres to the metal perfectly and adds an extra protection layer.

After installing aluminum siding, installers and builders can utilize a simple caulking gun for sealing small cracks where boards meet and around windows or doors. After the metal cladding is up and closed, the primary maintenance is to clean and wash the panels once a year to remove debris and dirt. Even if homeowners detect rusting, they can utilize a metal wire brush to remove the rust and then paint the panel with an anti-rusting primer before restoring the original hue.

How to Install Aluminum Siding and Steel Claddings?

Installing Aluminum siding and steel claddings is similar to fabricating and applying vinyl sidings. However, the job will require two or more people since there will be extra weight to deal with during the installation process. Even some large aluminum composite panels with lightweight characteristics can be hard to install with fewer people since they require several installers to hold in place while the cladding board is screwed or attached to the main structure of the building. Cutting and bending metal cladding panels and sheets is also more complicated than wood materials and can leave dangerous sharp edges which should be molded perfectly.

Building materials suppliers provide most metal siding products with specific guidelines for installing based on the particular design. Metal cladding systems do not offer a particular degree of water resistance. However, homeowners need to take special care with flashing between the strips to protect the cladding from water infiltration.

Aluminum sidings installation process
Aluminum Siding and ACM panels Installation Process

Tools Needed for Installing Aluminum Siding

Some cladding systems, such as vinyl siding, can be installed with only a simple utility knife, hammer, and nails. However, installing aluminum siding requires the use of specialized equipment, including:

  • Nibbler Cutters
  • Tin Snips
  • Electric Shears
  • Screw Gun or Drill
  • Angle Grinder or Miter Saw
  • Welder
  • Cutting Torch
  • Files
  • Sanding Pads

Where to Buy Aluminum Siding and Steel Claddings?

Homeowners can find and buy aluminum siding, ACM panels, and steel claddings from most home improvement stores. Aluminum composite panels and wood sidings are easier to find at building materials retailers. If homeowners cannot find what they desire and look for at chain stores, several building materials suppliers and manufacturers can be found online. However, it is essential to identify the manufacturer’s reliability and trustworthiness by checking their professional portfolio or contacting them through their phone number or email address to see if their deals are reasonable.

What Home Styles and Designs are Suitable for Metal Sidings and Claddings?

Since most metal sidings and claddings come in a wide variety of colors, finishes, wood grains, designs, and styles, they can fit into any home style. However, aluminum sidings with wood grains, also known as aluminum wood sidings, are the best option for barn-style facilities. Solid color series of metal claddings are compatible with modern designs that incorporate geometric shapes.

aluminum sidings for modern and traditional building designs
Modern and traditional buildings and homes can feature aluminum sidings

Do Metal Cladding Systems Add an Insulation to the Home?

Due to the aluminum cladding thinness, most of these building facade systems do not offer efficient insulation capacity on their own. However, aluminum composite panels, ACM, or ACP are great insulating aluminum cladding systems since they feature three layers of structure with two metal sheets and one core substance. Even if homeowners opt for traditional metal sidings, they can apply rigid foam insulation to the building’s exterior before installing the aluminum siding. Additionally, there are sidings available with a pre-applied and sprayed-on foam substances backing.

Are Aluminum Cladding Systems Recyclable?

Steel building materials have had an extremely high overall rate in the past decade. For instance, the steel recycling rate stood at 86 percent in 2014. Aluminum also had a recycling rate of about 35 percent in 2018. In general, most metal cladding systems that clients buy have some recycled content. However, steel panels tend to have a higher percentage of recycled substances than aluminum claddings. Since both cladding systems have a high embodied energy consumption, finding suppliers and manufacturers that state the number of recycled materials contents into their products is a perfect strategy to increase energy efficiency. Although metal siding lasts long, if there is a need for cladding replacement, it is better to take the old cladding to a scrap yard or recycling center. Most scrap yards will offer to pay homeowners on a material weight basis.

Are there Different Grades of Aluminum Siding Cladding?

aluminum siding cladding

Aluminum siding cladding is one of the most common building materials used in the construction industry as a cladding system. These metal building claddings are perfect for clients who want durable and stylish exteriors for their homes or offices. Construction material suppliers provide aluminum sidings with various textures, paint finishes, and grades. Although other practical and functional cladding systems, such as durable ACM panels, are suitable for modern architecture, aluminum sidings are still used in the building industry. When buying quality aluminum sidings, it is essential to know their thicknesses and characteristics. 

The Most Common Gauges or Grades of Aluminum Siding

The thickness of aluminum siding and other metal cladding systems is called “gauge” or “grade”. If you consider buying aluminum siding or cladding for your home, one of the most critical choices you will have to make is what grade your home will require. This decision plays an essential role in the durability of the siding and how well it will function during its life span. 

The different grades of aluminum sidings are expressed by a number such as 26 gauge or 29 gauge. The difference in thickness between these two grades is about the thickness of a single sheet of paper. Although it does not seem much different, the 26 gauge aluminum siding is better suited and more popular for building claddings. 

While aluminum siding panels can be customized to be at any gauge, they are most commonly available in 22, 24, 26, and 29 grades. As the gauge number gets higher, the metal siding panel gets thinner. Thus, a 22-grade board is thicker than all of the other gauges. The denser metal cladding systems are more durable. However, removing lower gauge aluminum siding can be challenging as they are heavier. Additionally, thick sidings are more costly.

The construction industry standard for residential facilities offers 26-grade siding. While this gauge is the most commonly used and recommended for building facades, there isn’t one thickness to fit all situations and applications. As told, extra strength from a lower grade metal siding is never a bad idea. However, not every siding situation will require the maximum thickness. 

When is it Recommended to Use Lower Gauge Metal sidings?

There are some particular situations that homeowners should consider using thicker aluminum sidings for their homes which are:

  • Locations With Harsh Climate
  • Building Structure
  • Siding Profile Choice and Paint System

A metal siding with a heavier gauge means extra durability and strength. Home protection is critical if the building is located in an area frequently impacted by storms or where the elements are known to be damaging, such as heavy snow and high wind loads. The lower gauge aluminum siding can resist being bent, dented, punctured, or blown off during extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes.

The building’s structure and its spanning capabilities, or the distance between two supports for the facility, can help determine the aluminum siding grade. The thicker the metal panels, the further installers can span boards over open support. 

Homeowners’ choice on the aluminum siding grades may be made easier depending on the cladding panel profile they choose. For instance, in the case of having flush wall panels for the siding material, it is not possible to utilize 29-gauge panels. Flush wall panels are only developed with thicker gauges. The paint finish that the client demands will also affect the grade of the siding. For example, for more expensive paint finishes, it is better to opt for heavier gauge systems.

The Advantages of Thicker Grade Aluminum Siding

The aluminum siding itself features various advantages. However, the thicker metal panels can be more beneficial generally.

  • Minimizing Denting
  • Reducing Oil Canning
  • Higher Durability

While a thicker metal cladding is very resistant to denting on impact, a thinner aluminum siding like 29-grade is easier to get scratched, dent or puncture.

One of the most notorious aluminum claddings problems is oil canning which can be overcome using thicker panels. The lower gauge panels make it harder for the claddings to change shape and helps reduce the strictness of oil canning. 

The thicker gauge metal cladding systems are more potent and can withstand gale forces, winds, and storms. They increase their wind uplift force and impact resistance, or the cladding’s ability to withstand intense exterior forces. However, it is crucial to note that aluminum sidings and claddings are naturally resistant to corrosion, fires, and rotting.