Protecting Metal Panels During Construction

Prevent dents, scratches, bends and scuffs on your panels

Metal panels are used on buildings because of their durability and ability to withstand extreme weather.

However, their painted surfaces must be protected during construction’s unloading, unpacking, moving, handling and installation phases to protect their finish. Additionally, metal panels have low impact resistance—care must be taken to avoid damage such as dents, scratches, bends or scuffs that can occur during construction. Here’s how to protect them.

Receiving Panels

Protecting metal wall panels starts before they arrive on a job site. “Once you’ve established what materials you need for your project, you must determine how those materials will be received and stored on the job site,” says Ashley Harper, product manager,DBCI, Douglasville, Ga. “Before the material is shipped, it is an industry best-practice to conduct pre-installation meetings with everyone involved with the project. This allows each person to be aligned with the construction schedule, material sequencing and knowing how the material will be arriving to the job site.”

Confirm your job-site conditions warrant delivery. Prolonged exposure of bundled, pre-painted panels to wet conditions can cause paint blistering or substrate corrosion. Panels exposed to direct sunlight may exhibit thermal bow. “The lay-down areas should be free of standing water and protected from weather conditions that deteriorate the material,” Harper says. “Before the material arrives to the job site, have a designated offload staging area and the proper equipment ready to unload the product safely and damage free. When material arrives, [it] should be inventoried and inspected immediately, to ensure it is free of acceptable damage such as: dents, discoloration, breakage, etc.”

For a lay-down area, choose a flat area, close to the application where the metal wall panels can be placed to await lifting. “Ask the lift equipment provider to give his input on the decision,” says Mike Garrity, new equipment sales director, The ALL Family of Companies, Cleveland. “I’ve seen situations where someone has decided to put the panels behind the office trailer—and that just won’t work all. Our sales reps always visit the job site before the crane ever arrives. They take the individual contours of the site into consideration and select this lay-down area to minimize handling. These are very delicate products, so the strategy is to keep handling to a minimum.”

Jared Bradford, owner of Panelclad, Visalia, Calif., advises protecting your panels by limiting the amount of time they are stored on-site. “Schedule just-in-time deliveries on short lead items, and get them installed as soon as possible.” Justin Kanter, superintendent at PCL Construction Services Inc., Los Angeles, agrees that it’s a best practice to keep any finished product off the job site until it is ready to be installed. “Keeping the panels crated or stored in a bin are the safest means of keeping them scratch-free or undamaged,” Kanter says. To get panels delivered to the job site, Kanter believes a storage crate is always the best method. “A well-manufactured crate can provide proper storage with easy mobility, given the job site has a crane or a forklift,” he adds.

James Hatch, vice president of preconstruction at Kovach, Chandler, Ariz., believes owners and architects have a vision of their design and how they want the final building to look and bring life to the surroundings. But he insists there is a lot behind the scenes that is critical to making this happen successfully. “Part of that includes the time and care of the materials themselves. Part of that includes the experience and know-how of the actual installers on a job site. Part of that comes from project management optimizing the schedule and ensuring the building envelope is properly cared for during installation.” He contends an advantage in using a single-source building envelope partner is that all of these elements come into play simultaneously. “There is no hand-off. Accountability rests with a single source to keep the materials protected and to deliver a final product that is both functional and beautiful for years to come.”

Handle with Care

Most metal panels have a film or protective layer on them when they’re shipped to the job site. “While this film doesn’t protect panels from everything, it will keep a barrier between your finish material and any light work that might occur around it,” says Kanter. “While the crew will have to go back to remove it, it saves time overall, as a trade performing a successor scope will not need to re-protect it if it already has a protective layer over it.”

Hatch cautions that if panels are going to be on-site for an extended period of time, they should be covered with additional protection like a tarp to protect the protective film from baking on the panels/trim. “Exposure to the sun can bake the protective plastic that we put on all of our metal composite material (MCM) panels, if left unprotected in the sun for an extended period of time. If this happens, it is very hard to remove any protective coating.”

For high-traffic areas and lower elevations exposed to foot traffic or equipment, Hatch suggests keeping panels protected for as long as possible. Leave the protective coating on panels or cover the panels with additional plywood or ISO board to protect them from other construction going on on-site.

Follow manufacturers’ handling instructions and have a minimum of two employees move a panel; never drag or push panels around the job site. Individual panels should never be moved in a flat position. Turn it on its edge first, then support it at each end with as many men as necessary to safely handle. Dragging a panel across the surface of another panel will almost certainly mar the finish. Keep aisles clear to provide for safe movement of material and equipment for employees. Dispose of debris and dunnage in the provided receptacles and in accordance with local regulations.

“If conditions do not allow for immediate installation, extra care should be taken to preserve the material from damage,” Harper says. “Materials should be kept away from harsh environments and elements to prevent rust, discoloration and damage from other trades such as welding burn marks. It is recommended materials be stored indoors with dry air circulation and incompliance with site safety regulations. Photo documentation should be completed when storing materials for long periods of time to provide support in case of loss or damage.”

Careful Installation

The size, weight, shape and number of panels drive their correct installation. “For example, soffit materials installed with a forklift will have a different analysis than if installing with a scissor or boom lift,” Kanter says. “Depending on the weight, the panels can be moved around by hand, suction cups, forklift or crane. Larger, durable, heavy pieces require more manpower or specific equipment to install. Longer, thinner, flimsier parts will require some preplanning on how they will be moved around and installed. On a project with the same panel or few panel types, producing a few extra panels helps to mitigate instances where panels may become damaged between shipping, handing and installation.”

Garrity contends protecting metal panels requires planning, appropriate rigging and the right crane. “With metal wall panels having different sizes and thicknesses, it’s important to know what approach to take depending on those variables. It will impact the size of the spreader bar you’ll need and the number of contact points of the rigging. Contact points also might require softeners to protect the material as it is being handled. Trying to save money with an undersized crane isn’t the way to go. You’ll end up having to move it more and every move means an additional pick, which means additional handling. Choosing a crane with a larger radius that can stay in one place is the best option.”

Bradford says lifting equipment is most commonly used when working with insulated metal panels or MCM panels due to their heavy and cumbersome design, which is difficult to handle safely and efficiently by hand. “Mechanical lifting equipment, whether it be vacuum, clamp or panelizing, not only makes the task possible, but can greatly increase your productivity. However, single-skin panels are much lighter in weight, and can more often be man-handled, or lifted with a clamp and a rope. But is this the correct method to use? Many organizations are unsure how best to handle this obstacle on their job sites, because alternative options are limited. The process is similar around the industry. Sheet metal is lifted at height above the crew below, with a single clamp, or hook, and a rope, typically at the effort of three to four men per panel. [Our] PANELIZER system is an engineered lifting solution that panelizes and lifts six panels at a time.”

Vacuum lifting equipment is best suited for rigid panels but not recommended for lifting single-skin panels due to their flexible profile and suction-loss issues. “We do not recommend handling single-skin panels with vacuum lifters due to the potential for deflection between the outside edge of a vacuum pad and the edge of the panel itself,” says Barry Wood, vice president at Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc., Laurel, Mont. “One thing about the vacuum lifters is that, when they are able to be used, there is no drilling or clamping required. So the likelihood of damaging the panels is much lower.”

By Mark Robins
Senior Editor
Metal Construction News

June 01, 2020
Read original article here: https://www.metalconstructionnews.com/articles/protecting-metal-panels-during-construction