Manufacturers spend thousands of dollars on the testing of metal roofing products every year. Roofing products are tested to see how they hold up and react in various conditions: wind, hail, wind-driven rain and fire. As the pictures within these pages illustrate — roofing products are really abused in these tests.
The demand for testing comes from codes, but just as importantly, from you — the roofing community, the building community and the architectural community. In your quest to find and install the best products, manufacturer testing is a way to establish what products stand up to your requirements.
Tests are not conducted just once — they need to be renewed! And every renewal costs money, an investment by your manufacturer. It all helps ensure you’ve got what you need to keep your customers happy.
Bill Croucher, PE, has headed up testing for decades at Fabral, a manufacturer of metal roofing and wall panels in Lancaster, Pa. In fact, he sat on the ASTM committee to establish the E1592 wind uplift standard for standing seam panels.
(ASTM E1592 is the “Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Sheet Metal Roof and Siding Systems by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference”)
“We do some in-house testing,” Croucher says. “We have a 10 by 25 wind uplift chamber in our laboratory. Generally we’ll bring in an independent third-party engineer to take part in the testing in our lab to make sure we’re in accordance with the ASTM standard.”
Croucher says Fabral had its wind uplift chamber up and running before there was an ASTM standard. The manufacturer does not have an annual budget for such testing because it’s done on as-needed basis — when a new standing seam panel is developed or a new standard is put in place. “It’s more for new panels,” he says. “There aren’t too many standard updates.”
When Fabral develops a new standing seam profile, Croucher says the wind uplift test comes first. “Once it meets the 1592, we can take it to market,” he says. “All 1592 testing is done to failure. You learn so much more from failing it over not failing it. You learn where the failure occurs … is it the clip, the seam? You have to test to failure.
“Eventually, we get it tested for air infiltration and water penetration, as well as fire testing and acoustical testing.”
Those tests can’t be done at Fabral’s headquarters in Lancaster, Pa., so engineers have to assemble a roof system at a third-party laboratory. Croucher says shipping materials and travel expenses can add up in a hurry, easily requiring a manufacturer to spend more than $25,000 on the testing to meet ASTM standards, UL standards — and that’s per profile! For those who seek approval stamps from FM, Florida and/or Miami-Dade, that cost can easily double or triple — for each profile.
Jim Bush takes care of the testing procedures for ATAS International, an east central Pennsylvania manufacturer of metal roofing and wall panels. “We do our testing at a nearby testing lab,” Bush says. “There are facilities all over the nation.”
Panels developed by ATAS undergo ongoing testing, according to Bush. Panels are tested on different substrates — say plywood vs. metal decking — and may end up with different results. The entire roofing systems must be tested as well as the roofing material itself. “Then you find out where the failure will occur,” Bush says. “Was it the panel? Was it the screw? Was it the clip? It can vary depending on the substrate.”
Testing is an investment — without it, it’s impossible to sell roofing. “We test because of the demand from roofers and the architectural community. It has to perform the way we say it’s going to perform,” Bush says.
Christopher Payne is the manager of technical services in roofing at NB Handy, a wholesale distributor of commercial roofing products, HVAC equipment and supplies, sheet metal and sheet metal fabricating equipment. Payne has spent the last 2-1/2 years gaining Miami-Dade approval for the line of his company’s products. It’s a demanding process because Miami-Dade’s requirements are as stringent as any. “It’s not because they’re giving you a hard time, they want it to be right,” Payne says. “We’re dealing with life safety issues, so we have to be sure we’re dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t.’”
Tests can be as extensive as the manufacturer wants them to be, because the variations of a products and its install can be numerous. When testing standing seam panels for wind uplift, you want to test the widest pan possible — because a narrower pan will increase the number of seams, fasteners and clips, therefore strengthening the system. He says if an 18-inch panel meets the wind requirement, any narrower panel with the same seam height, clip spacing, etc., and assembly also meets the standard.
Conversely, for wind-driven rain, you want to test the narrowest panel because it will result in more seams (where leaking can occur in excessive conditions) and more holes in the underlayment, creating more opportunities for leaks. So if the narrowest panel passes the test, any wider panels would qualify as well.
NB Handy’s products were tested to the required standards to be installed in the high velocity hurricane zone or the HVHZ, which designates a geographic area incorporating all of Miami/Dade and Broward Counties and Coastal Palm Beach County.
Payne says the advent of the Miami/Dade requirements resulted from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “The code is telling us what’s the worst we’re allowed to build a building,” he says.
Firestone Building Products
James Young is a code representative for Firestone Building Products, a supplier of architectural products to the construction industry. He estimates he spends about half of his year testing metal roofing panels — everything from wind uplift to fire tests. “It’s really about trying to supply the market with quality products,” Young says. “It’s very market driven. It’s about attaining a competitive advantage.”
Young says Firestone testing is all done in third-party labs — whatever lab is closest to a particular manufacturing facility. (When a panel manufactured in one plant meets standard, it covers panels manufactured in other company plants.) He says testing is about “maximizing efficiencies,” regarding the roofing material as well as the clips and fasteners. It’s more efficient to slit coil to manufacture 18-inch panels than it is to slit it for 16-inch panels — obviously, there is less waste. When you’re dealing with wider panels, clips will have to be reduced to meet codes and standards. Ultimately, the goal is to meet the pressures required for where a building is located. “The roof may look good when it goes on, but it’s not going to look good for long if it doesn’t meet the pressures,” Young says.
Panels undergo the UL Standard 580 for wind uplift, meaning the 10×10 roofing system must meet the UL requirement. For Miami-Dade and/or Florida approval, the UL Standard 1897 is intended to provide uplift resistance data for the evaluation of the attachment of roof covering systems to roof decks by using differential air pressures. The 1897 test is conducted to failure, which most commonly occurs in the seam of the panel — meaning the clip and fastener are doing their jobs.
Drexel Metals has invested “hundreds of thousands” of dollars on testing and approvals during the last five years, according to president Brian Partyka. Drexel supplies coil to regional roll formers who manufacture panels to the company’s specifications with machines from Drexel.
Testing is important to Drexel customers because they need that verification to meet codes and standards in their service area. These customers belong to the Drexel Metals Association of Regional Manufacturers … or DM-ARM. Partyka says those members have access to coil traceability as well as any and all testing conducted by Drexel for its roofing products as a component of various systems, all on a secure website, where they can download test results and warranties. It’s a part of the company’s quality assurance program, which ensures proper manufacturing and accountability for Drexel’s warranty programs.
“We don’t write a watertight warranty unless the project has all the required engineering,” Partyka says. “Engineering is critical to the long-term success of any project. We conduct testing so we can install metal roofing systems that work. We’ll get letters from homeowners and building owners thanking us for installing a roofing system than protected their belongings in an aggressive storm. That’s what it’s all about.”
Staff engineer Bobby Marks heads up the extensive testing conducted at Berridge Manufacturing, which specializes in research and development of new architectural sheet metal products. On Berridge’s website, every test result is published on a “Technical Bulletins” page that can keep you busy for a long time. Marks says Berridge has long been committed to testing and went so far as to build a wind uplift chamber back in the 1980s when there were very few labs for such testing.
“Basically, we test for three reasons,” Marks says. “We do testing for our own research and technology so we can produce the best possible product; we want our products to be certified to meet the various permitting entities; and for competitive reasons.”
Marks says on occasion a competitor will introduce a product, similar to a Berridge roofing panel, that meets a standard or passes a test the Berridge panel has not been tested for. So back to the lab he goes. Like most manufacturers, Berridge annually spends thousands of dollars on testing to provide the best product possible for its customers.
“We’re solely committed to a singular industry and we’ve committed our resources to be the best at what we do,” Marks says.
Marks says with the advent of ASTM 1592 in 1998, the metal roofing industry finally had a real accurate representation of the capacity of a standing seam system. When manufacturers started seeking Florida approval (from the state of Florida as well as Miami/Dade), the number of third-party laboratories increased to meet the demand.
If products meet the highest standards, even if they are not required in the area they’re being sold or installed, they have a competitive advantage.
“We test our products to see how they perform and to improve them,” Marks says. “We want to develop products we can sell and to satisfy the market.”
And it’s a market that is becoming more demanding all the time. Manufacturers are not just selling their products to roofers, they’re chasing architects, building owners, specifiers and engineers. And they’re all wise to what they want, because they demand the best product they can afford.
You should, too.