How To Insulate An Existing Metal Building

How To Insulate An Existing Metal Building

Insulation can be added to a new project or an existing one and is a great way to provide an extra layer of protection to the structure. Not only that, insulation can help to regulate temperatures, allowing for more efficiency and less use out of the HVAC system. But what about existing metal structures? How would you insulate an existing metal building?

Though insulation isn’t necessary, there is a step-by-step process for installing insulation into an existing metal structure. You can use either fiberglass sheets or spray foam insulation. You can do this yourself or hire a professional to do it for you depending on your level of comfortability with this project.

In this article, we will discuss how you can insulate an existing metal building. That way, you know your options and can choose your method according to your needs.

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Do You Need Insulation?

Well, this kind of depends. It isn’t 100% necessary for metal buildings and there are many that choose to forego the insulation due to installation costs or the environment where the building is erected.

There are benefits to be had from installing insulation, particularly in more humid regions. The insulation will prevent condensation from building up on the underside of the roofing panels and dripping down into the structure.

With dry heat, it might be better to leave some air flow and use an evaporative cooling that will take advantage of that air flow.

Why Insulate?

Perhaps the biggest reason to insulate a metal building is due to energy usage. Metal buildings with proper insulation is that it helps to reduce the overall amount of power used by that building. Thermal energy will be trapped or reflected by the insulation. This means that heating and cooling the structure will take far less work from the HVAC system.

In a time where energy efficiency is of the utmost importance, having insulation in a metal building can be a great way to keep energy usage under control.

Insulating A Steel Building

For a steel building, a radiant barrier insulation will need to be used. Installing the radiant barrier insulation works in conjunction with the exterior panels being installed. It is important to not attempt to do this on a windy day and make sure that the frame is fully constructed, and the panels are ready to be installed.

Use double-sided tape on the frame studs in a top-down manner. You’re only taping the outside because this is where the panels are going to be installed. Install the panels and insulation on one side of the structure first to reduce the chances that the wind will blow the insulation away.

Use tape to tape the seams on the white side of the insulation. Take a good look at the panels to ensure that everything has been properly placed and secured. Finally, screw in the screws through the panel, the insulation, and all the way into the metal frame itself.

Installing Spray Foam Insulation

If you are looking to add insulation to an existing metal structure, this is likely the best solution. Not only that, it is also recommended for extremely cold or dusty climates. Foam is great because it doesn’t hold in moisture like a fiberglass insulation might do.

Additionally, spray foam insulation is perhaps the easiest type of insulation if the metal panels are already attached to the frame and you don’t want to take them off to install a radiant barrier insulation.

Foam is a great option for colder or dustier climates because it seals the building from any outside invaders. This can even include pests and insects which tend to hide in structures like these during the colder months of the year.

Keep in mind that while foam insulation is easy to install and very cost effective, it is also very difficult to remove. If you ever plan on removing it, it will take quite a bit of time to hack away the foam for replacement.

Installing Fiberglass Sheets

One of the most common insulation materials in homes and commercial structures around the United States are fiberglass sheets. Generally speaking, it is also one of the first products that come to mind when we think about insulation.

Having said that, it isn’t recommended for use on metal frame buildings. There are more than a few reasons for this to be aware of.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Fiberglass Sheets For Metal Structures

Generally speaking, rolled fiberglass will come in 15-inch rolls, though they can be as wide as 24 inches. The spacing of studs in some metal buildings can be in the 4 to 5-foot range on-center. This means using multiple strips between each of the studs.

It also isn’t the best idea to tape the insulation together for proper on-center coverage. Not only that, if the climate is wrong, the tape can peel or wear away and that will ultimately leave gaps in the insulation coverage as well.

Which Option To Use

The best option for metal structures is likely the radiant barrier. Though it takes a little extra work to install versus the spray foam, it is extremely durable, energy efficient, and can be removed easily if that is required.

Spray foam is a more cost-effective option and makes for an easier installation, but it can be a nightmare to remove spray foam for any reason. Really, you couldn’t go wrong with either option for properly insulating a metal structure and it really comes down to budget and user preference.

Professional Installation Costs

For those who don’t feel comfortable installing the insulation themselves, there are always professional options to peruse. Knowing the costs involved can properly prepare you from a budgetary standpoint to know what the entire process will cost.

Depending on the materials and the professional that you use, it can run anywhere from $150-$350 on average to have a steel building insulated. This varies based on the size of the building as more materials and labor may be required.

Those individuals looking to save some money can cut down the overall cost by nearly two-thirds by installing it themselves. The only downside to this is that there is a greater chance of error in the installation whereas a professional would do the job well because they no doubt have far more experience than a do-it-yourselfer.

How To Stop Condensation From Building On A Metal Roof

When condensation begins to form in the gaps of metal roofing, it can leak down into other areas of the structure. This can lead to things like rusting and other forms of water damage that can ultimately weaken the structure from the inside.

Installing insulation is the surest way to combat that condensation. Builders traditionally use fiberglass to keep condensation at bay, but it can be a tougher install for metal structures. That is why using a spray insulation or radiant barriers can be a much more effective option.

Does A Metal Roof Need Furring Strips?

Furring strips fill in some of the space in the roof area of a structure. Even if the structure is metal, it still needs furring strips to add structural support. It is important to install insulation in the spaces between the strips to prevent the aforementioned condensation.

Generally speaking, it is common to use 24 inches of spacing for furring strips on a metal roof. It can vary based on the measurements involved. Use a guide to determine how much spacing the roof area will need.

Should You Hire A Professional Or Do This Yourself?

Installing insulation into an existing metal building is a relatively straightforward process, therefore, it’s possible that you can do this yourself without hiring a professional. However, this really depends on whether or not you’re comfortable with the process, and the type of insulation you choose.

Fiberglass Insulation

If you choose to install fiberglass sheets then this is pretty easy to do on your own. However, you may need help carrying the sheets and setting them up. But they’re a lot easier to install than spray foam. So, the sheets are more DIY friendly, but that’s not to say that you can’t install the spray foam, or both spray foam and fiberglass sheets.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam is an easy installation method as well as far as the application of it goes, however, it can be incredibly messy. Moreover, if you don’t know what you’re doing, then this may affect how the foam sets. Even professionals hesitate to use spray foam because it’s an entire process within itself.

But, you can always try it, and teach yourself the correct way to use it if this is the type you’re wanting to use. However, it may be a better idea to hire a professional if you decide to go this route.

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Wrapping It Up

Insulating an existing metal building is a fairly straightforward process, but this ultimately depends on the type of insulation you use. Fiberglass sheets aren’t recommended but are easier while spray foam is the best choice, but it can be hard to apply correctly. Regardless, this is a DIY friendly project, but don’t hesitate to hire a professional when in doubt!

Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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