Zinc Metal Siding – VM Zinc by Umicore

A few years ago a vendor brought in an update to our VM Zinc  product binder and in it were some samples of some new colors available for zinc panels – yes, yes, I know instead of focusing on how zinc looks, I should  point out some of the awesome sustainable facts about zinc (i.e. 90% of rolled zinc worldwide is recycled) but that’s really just the warm up act compared to how incredible the material looks. Ever since, we have been wanting to use zinc metal siding on a project. Problem was that there wasn’t a good fit for it on any of our projects, you can’t use this stuff on everything – you might want to but it just doesn’t work out that way. I would rather focus on how incredible the material feels and looks.

That’s right … I said “feels”. Despite that fact that zinc is metal, there is an amazing visual and physical softness to it. In fact, I took  thought about taking the samples from my office and rubbed them all over myself – they are that smooth … I think (not that I did that rubbing thing).

Below is a screen shot from the SketchUp model I built during the design development phase. The front corner of the house is wrapped in the “Quartz” zinc panels.

We have a modern infill project going on (last post is here. but all the posts on this project can be sorted through here ) and the stucco installation is finally complete. That means the frustrating shroud of scaffolding that has cocooned our project for the last few months is coming down and we can finally start to see some of the finished product. What I am currently most excited to see is the installation of the zinc standing seam wall panels that are on this job. We are actually using two different colors on this job – a beautiful grey zinc called “Quartz” and a mind-exploding black zinc called “Anthra”.

This is the actual front of the house as it looked last Friday. The zinc panels have been going up at a steady pace – you can see them here with their white protective film still in place – which will remain in place until the project is just about finished (another 7 months). The orange you see here is the building wrap that will be underneath the zinc paneling.

This is a view looking up at the front corner of the entry. The orange part you see on the bottom left cantilevers out over the entryway – it’s role is to provide protective cover at the entry door as well house the stairs from the ground level up to the third level (where you can see the large window on the front elevation)

A look at the fastener clips that hold each individual panel in place but also allows it to slide up and down. When the next adjacent panel gets installed, this fastener will no longer be visible.

This is a close up look at the bottom corner of the longest vertical run of panels and if you know what you’re looking at – there is magic going on here (I would be amazed if anybody knew what I was talking about … this isn’t the sort of magic that involves virgin panda tears). Heads up technical experts at VM Zinc, we totally made your detail better…

Here is the corner again… you see the bottom most piece of zinc running parallel to the ground? That’s our improvement … isn’t it kick ass. Let me explain it – since metal expands and contracts as it gets hot and cold (up to 1″ in a 30′ panel) our installer (who is the jeebus of sheet metal flashing) added an extra piece at the bottom. Since a 30′ panel will expand and

contract a different length than 20′ panel, this means that despite the panels shrinking and expanding at different lengths, there is always a consistent horizontal line of zinc at the bottom of the wall. And if you didn’t know – consistent looks intentional, inconsistent looks like a screw-up.

Ka-plowwwwwww. Did I blow your mind with education? Ear mark this detail people, this is the sort of thing that makes the difference between pretty good and Grey Poupon.

I can imagine the thought going through the minds of most of you - “if this product is so great why isn’t it used more? ” Since I like to keep it real, I’m going to tell you that the reason we don’t it more often is because of the price … it’s very expensive. For the average standing seam profile – material cost and labor will run you in the ballpark of $20 per square foot. Yes, I know that all granites and most decorative wall tiles cost more than that but you generally don’t wrap your house with them. That’s a big reason you don’t see zinc on residential projects as much as commercial.

VM ZINC offers a full range of titanium-zinc products that includes sheets, coils and manufactured systems. Additionally they offer a pre-weathered appearing material through a process that modifies the crystalline surface structure only. This treatment is durable and long-lasting and means the Zinc is 100% recyclable (holla!). In fact, more than 90% of zinc used in the building industry today is recycled. Since  zinc has a naturally forming patina which is self-protecting, it requires minimal to no maintenance.

VM Zinc’s rolled titanium zinc is solid, pure material and is 100% fully recyclable. It is paint and lacquer free and offers low-energy consumption, low maintenance and a lifespan of 80–100 years.

Did you know:

  • Rolled zinc was found in the ruins of Pompeii
  • Centuries before zinc was discovered in the metallic form, its ores were used for healing wounds and sore eyes and also for making brass (Copper + zinc = brass), in the time of Augustus (20 B.C. – 14 A.D.)
  • Zinc is also used to make bronze (=Copper + tin + zinc)
  • 85% of all roofs in Paris utilize zinc – the result of Napoleon III commissioning Baron Haussman to modernize the city of Paris in 1852. Haussman had a relative in the zinc business
  • A zinc roof typically lasts 100 + years, walls can last even longer
  • The composition of most zinc building materials is very similar – Zinc is 99.995% pure with trace amounts of copper, titanium, and aluminum
  • Zinc & Copper are adjacent to each other on the periodic table but are mortal enemies and should be separated (copper runoff will corrode zinc, but zinc will not do the same to copper)
  • Over time, zinc develops a protective, self-healing patina (much like copper) which is matte grey in appearance
  • The patina is a layer of zinc hydroxy-carbonate (you wanted to know this didn’t you? Don’t lie…)
  • When the zinc is exposed to water, zinc hydroxide forms – then once exposed to O2  & CO2. the chemical reaction is what forms the patina
  • Most zinc sold in the US is pre-weathered, which means it is run through an acidic bath to initiate a uniform patina that will further develop over time
  • It is safe to use zinc in a coastal environment, although it will weather faster
  • Like all metals, Zinc is “cold brittle” but can be installed in colder temperatures as long as the body of the material is heated to at least 45 deg F (7 deg C).
  • Zinc is an extremely malleable material and can conform nicely to radii
  • Zinc requires less energy than other non-ferrous metals to be produced – about 1/2 the energy used for copper and stainless steel & 1/4 the energy used for Aluminum

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