Pros and Cons of Perforated Metals

Perforated metal has been used in construction for about 100 years, and it is more popular than ever. Part of the reason for its popularity is that perforated metal is a building material that can fulfill many needs for a specialty contractor — both decorative and purely practical. But there are many other reasons why perforated metals are so popular.

Here are a few that just might make you decide to use perforated metals in your next construction project.

Table of Contents

The Pros

Aesthetic appeal. Architects love working with perforated metals of all types — aluminum, stainless steel, galvanized steel, mesh, copper — for the style and flair perforated metals give to buildings and other structures. With perforated metals, architects can select from a wide variety of finishes and hole shapes such as round, triangular, hexagonal and square that can be arranged in different patterns to create visual interest. Architects can even create unique custom perforated metal designs to achieve a specific look. 

Photo by LadyRhino

Privacy, plus functional and decorative lighting. Four solid walls provide maximum privacy while glass walls let natural sunlight in. But if you want both privacy and natural sunlight, perforated metals provide the perfect solution. Perforated metal also creates a more appealing and welcoming environment. It not only lets light enter a building, it can project light outwards from a building, resulting in backlit perforated facades that are simply eye-catching. 

Acoustic performance. Perforated metal is great for diffusing sound, soundproofing and reducing acoustic emissions. When installed along a ceiling, perforated metal can help prevent echoes. It can be used as a protective covering for acoustical material that is designed to either absorb or reflect sound or scatter it in a specific way. Sound waves can pass right through the perforated material. Perforated metal can also be used as a selective sound absorber, tuning out a certain band of frequencies. Keep in mind that some metals are better than others when it comes to sound absorption. 

Reduced weight. The perforated metal sheet is made of a material that is lighter than a non-perforated sheet of the same size and thickness, while retaining its durability. Perforated metal’s lighter weight makes it easier to handle and work with. It also reduces the load on the building’s framework. And, since it weighs less, transportation costs will also be less compared to a similar load of non-perforated sheet metal. 

Superior strength and durability. A perforated metal sheet has a structural strength that is superior to many building materials. According to the Industrial Perforators Association, round holes arranged in a standard 60 degree triangular pattern ranging from .020” to .75” account for more than 50% of perforated metal production. This standard 60-degree staggered pattern is the most popular hole arrangement because of its “inherent strength” and the wide range of open areas it provides. A perforated metal panel is also durable and able to withstand harsh weather elements. If the perforated metal panel needs to bear weight, use a stronger metal such as aluminum, stainless steel or galvanized steel. 

Pressure equalization. Because of its strength and durability, perforated metal, when used as cladding for a building, provides equivalent protection as other types of metal siding. The big difference is that perforated metal siding allows for more effective pressure equalization between the space behind the perforated panel and the exterior of the building. Pressure equalization is especially important in construction projects such as high-rise structures, which are subject to variable wind loading. Perforated metal cladding also has more give and flexes along with the natural swaying of tall buildings. 

Improves energy efficiency and building performance. Using perforated metal sheets provides more control over a building’s light and ventilation. A big benefit of perforated metal is that it deflects heat build-up from the sun. This means your HVAC system won’t need to work as hard to maintain a consistent temperature, and therefore will use less energy. That makes perforated metal a more efficient option for regulating temperature. And since perforated material allows natural light to enter the building, less artificial indoor lighting is needed, further reducing the building’s energy usage. This combination of increased sunshade and ventilation has been proven to reduce the maintenance costs for a building. 

Versatility and flexibility. Perforated metal sheets can be made from a variety of materials and manipulated into various sizes, thicknesses, shapes and perforation designs. That means you can get the characteristics such as  strength or  bendability you need to achieve the look or function you want. Perforated metals can be purely decorative or structural. 

Photo by TMRK

Environmentally friendly. Today, more than ever, buildings constructed with environmentally friendly materials are in high demand from building owners. And metal is a green material that satisfies that demand. First of all, perforated metal is recyclable — not just once, but many times. Using perforated metal reduces the depletion of our natural resources and promotes sustainability. A large percent of recycled metal is used in the manufacturing process for perforated metal. And the waste created during the manufacturing process is also recyclable. Secondly, by its very nature, perforated metal is eco-friendly, using less metal than a metal panel of the same size. The perforations decrease the amount of metal between 10% and 40%. The reduced weight means less fuel is required to transport it to your jobsite. Finally, buildings designed using perforated metal as a functional element, enjoy better temperature regulation and improved energy efficiency. If light is allowed to pass freely through perforated metal panels, it decreases the amount of required artificial indoor lighting. Taking all these factors in account, you can see that perforated metals leave less of an environmental footprint behind compared to other building materials. 

The Cons

Potentially higher cost.  Steel typically costs more than other building products such as wood, concrete, brick or stone. And galvanized steel is on the low end when it comes to the cost of perforated metals. You’ll pay even more for aluminum, stainless steel or copper perforated metal products. 

Potential for corrosion and fracture. Metal, particularly steel, will rust, weakening it and making it brittle and susceptible to fracture. Typically, metal is treated with a protective coating to combat moisture or salt and other corrosive elements. Nearly all steel is galvanized by adding a protective coat of zinc. Other paint coatings can help retard corrosion on other metals. As long as the protective coating remains viable, corrosion should not be a problem.

Photo by Nataschen

Not easy to make field corrections. If you’re at the jobsite and a piece of wood is the wrong length, you can easily rectify the situation right then and there. But what can you do if a perforated metal component doesn’t fit correctly? Trying to force-fit it or modify it can mar the finish and weaken the metal. The only other option is to wait until the manufacturer or supplier can replace it, potentially delaying your project. 

In Summary

Perforated metal has many positive attributes, both aesthetic and practical, that make it a top choice for many projects. But it’s not the perfect material type for every project. It’s definitely worth considering, however.