A robust exterior shell is paramount for industrial facilities. It needs to withstand the elements, ensure thermal efficiency, and contribute to the building’s structural integrity. Sheet metal cladding provides the perfect solution, offering durability, weatherproofing, and a range of design options. However, proper installation is crucial to reap the full benefits of cladding systems.

This guide provides a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to sheet and cladding installation specifically for construction professionals working on industrial buildings within the UK.

Pre-Installation Considerations: Planning Makes Perfect

Before commencing the installation process, it is essential to thoroughly understand the project specifications and the properties of the chosen cladding material.

Here’s a breakdown of the key considerations:

  • Material Selection: The type of cladding material (steel, aluminium, composite panels) should be selected based on various factors. These include the building’s intended use, fire safety requirements, wind load resistance, and desired aesthetics. Understanding these factors ensures the chosen material possesses the necessary properties for optimal performance.
  • Site Preparation: The substrate (supporting structure) for the cladding system needs meticulous inspection for levelness, plumbness, and squareness. Any deviations from these parameters must be rectified to guarantee proper panel alignment during installation. A well-prepared substrate ensures a smooth and efficient installation process.
  • Cladding Layout & Design: A detailed cladding layout plan is crucial. This plan should consider panel dimensions, joint details, fixings, and openings for features like windows, doors, and ventilation systems. It must also adhere to relevant British Standards, such as BS EN 1993-1-1:2005 (Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures—Part 1-1: General provisions and rules for buildings). A well-designed layout plan minimises errors and ensures a structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing final product.
  • Weather Conditions: Scheduling installation during favourable weather conditions is paramount. Rain, strong winds, or extreme temperatures can introduce complications and compromise the quality of the installation. By waiting for suitable weather, construction professionals can ensure a smooth and successful installation process.

Step-by-Step Installation Process: Building a Robust Shell

Installing the Subframing: The Foundation for Success

The sub-framing system serves as the secure base for the cladding panels. Typically constructed from galvanised steel sections (purlins and rails), it’s designed to withstand the anticipated wind loads as per BS 6399-1:1997 (Loading for Buildings – Part 1: Code of practice for dead and live loads).

Here’s a breakdown of the sub-framing installation process:

  • Secure the purlins and rails to the primary structure using appropriate fasteners such as self-drilling screws or bespoke brackets. Ensure these fasteners are installed in a manner that maintains the level and plumb of the sub-framing.
  • Maintaining the specified spacing between the sub-framing members is crucial. Refer to the cladding manufacturer’s recommendations for the precise spacing requirements for your chosen cladding system. Following these guidelines ensures optimal structural integrity and proper panel alignment.

Panel Installation: Bringing the Cladding to Life

The installation process begins with the starter panels at the building’s base. Ensure proper alignment and level are achieved during this initial stage, as it sets the benchmark for the subsequent panels.

Subsequent panels are typically fixed using interlocking joints or mechanical fixings like rivets or screws. The chosen fixing method should guarantee a weathertight seal and sufficient strength as outlined in BS EN 1993-1-8:2005 (Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures – Part 1-8: Supplementary rules for structures susceptible to seismic actions). Always consult the manufacturer’s specific installation instructions for the chosen cladding system. Following these instructions ensures proper jointing techniques and avoids compromising the weatherproofing capabilities of the cladding.

Proceed with panel installation sequentially, continuously checking for alignment and level throughout the process. Maintaining consistent checks minimises errors and ensures a visually appealing and structurally sound finished product.

Flashings & Trims: The Finishing Touches and Weatherproofing Essentials

Flashings are critical elements that provide weatherproofing at vulnerable areas like roof overlaps, wall junctions, and around openings. Here’s a closer look at the installation of flashings and trims:

  • Install flashings using appropriate materials like galvanised steel sheets or pre-formed sections. Ensure proper overlaps and water deflection details are incorporated as per BS 6229:2018 (Flat roofs with up to 5° slope – Code of practice for design and construction). Following these guidelines guarantees effective water drainage and minimises the risk of leaks.
  • Employ sealants at all flashing junctions to create a watertight barrier. Sealants provide an additional layer of protection against moisture ingress.
  • Similarly, cover exposed edges and corners of the cladding system with trims. Trims not only enhance aesthetics but also provide additional weather protection.

Quality Control & Finishing Touches: Ensuring a Flawless Finish

Once the cladding installation is complete, a thorough inspection is mandatory. This inspection ensures all panels are securely fixed, joints are properly sealed, and flashings are functioning effectively.

Any imperfections in the cladding surface, such as minor scratches or dents, should be addressed as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. This step maintains the material’s integrity and aesthetics of the overall cladding system.

Maintaining Your Cladding System for Long-Term Performance

While a well-installed cladding system offers exceptional durability, regular maintenance is vital to ensure optimal performance throughout its lifespan. Here are some key maintenance considerations:

  • Conduct periodic inspections to identify any signs of damage, corrosion, or loose fixings. Early detection and rectification of these issues prevent them from escalating into more significant problems.
  • Clean the cladding system regularly to remove dirt, debris, and environmental pollutants. The cleaning method should be appropriate for the chosen cladding material to avoid any unintended damage. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for specific cleaning procedures.
  • Re-apply sealant at flashing junctions periodically to maintain their watertight integrity. Over time, exposure to weather elements can degrade the sealant’s effectiveness. Resealing ensures continued weatherproofing capabilities.


By following these comprehensive steps and adhering to relevant British Standards, construction professionals can ensure the successful installation of sheet and cladding systems for industrial buildings in the UK.

A well-installed cladding system not only enhances the building’s visual appeal but also provides significant benefits in terms of durability, weatherproofing, and thermal performance. This translates to a more energy-efficient, comfortable, and long-lasting industrial facility.

FAQs: Addressing Common Cladding Concerns

What are the different types of cladding systems available?

Industrial cladding comes in various forms, including profiled steel sheets, insulated composite panels, and architectural metal panels. The choice depends on factors like budget, desired performance characteristics, and aesthetics. Consulting with a cladding specialist can help you determine the most suitable option for your specific project requirements.

What are the key considerations for fire safety in cladding systems?

Building regulations mandate the use of fire-resistant cladding materials in specific locations. To ensure the chosen cladding system meets the required fire safety ratings, consult the relevant British Standards, such as BS EN 13501-1:2007 (Fire classification of construction products and building elements—Part 1: Classification by fire resistance).

How long does a typical cladding system last?

The lifespan of a cladding system depends on various factors, including the material used, the quality of installation, and the maintenance practices employed. However, with proper selection, installation, and maintenance, a well-designed cladding system can last for several decades.