Zinc Metal Siding – VM Zinc by Umicore

August 23, 2011 — 28 Comments

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.


3d study zinc paneling at front entry


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”.

VM Zinc Colors Anthra and Quartz


zinc siding on modern infill house

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.


looking up - zinc siding panels on modern house

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)


Zinc Siding at front entry piece


zinc siding clip detail

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.


zinc siding detail on modern infill house

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…


zinc siding detail at modern house

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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  • Helpful article and brilliant work. Thanks

  • Ruby29burns

    Thanks For sharing such a post. Looking forward for such type of post. Good Going.

  • awesome article .. good work ., thanks for sharing the information 🙂

  •  Awesome Article .. great post .,
    the information you had provided is very helpful and i would really like to appreciate the the way you had put it here !!

  • Great site-visit (“behind-the-scenes”) shots of the zinc siding! (just catching up on the zinc siding post after reading the latest post on the metal screen).

  • Here is a nice zinc room in Atlanta by Brad Heppner, the place rocks: http://www.flickr.com/photos/terrykearns/4158605962/

  • We’re partial to stone, of course, but there is some very cool use of zinc panels here. Well done!

  • it was really excellent post!
    thanks a lot for sharing with us.

  • Dru Schwyhart

    Excellent post as always Bob!  The project you shared looks fantastic as well.

    Another point as to why Zinc isn’t used more frequently [which I think you may have touched on], is that it is very difficult to install CORRECTLY.  Not too many installers out there that aren’t certified by a zinc roofing manufacturer, or divinely blessed by the heavy metal roofing gods.

    I’m a big fan of the blog, and will keep reading.  Looking forward to more posts.

  • Blueplatepr

    Hi Bob

    My “Google alert” on VMZINC just picked up your post. I’m Umicore Building Products USA’s publicist / public relations coordinator. I’ve sent the link to my client because this is exactly what we want to hear from architects who use zinc, especially in residential applications. Very, very cool!

    • I’m glad you liked it – it’s a great product. My rep dropped off a book of photos with loads of great projects that have used zinc – most are in Europe. We are big fans of the material here in my office.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment – cheers

  • Grusso

    Super fantastic entry!  Can’t get enough of your architecture materials, details, and technology posts.  Really nice that you include some rough cost information too!  thanks, thanks, THANKS!

  • I fell in love with zinc more then ten years ago in San Francisco. A friend was having a party to celebrate his recently-completed renovation and one of the things he was most proud of was his zinc shower. He’d actually paneled his walk-in shower in zinc sheets and the effect was amazing. I agree with you, zinc does have a touch-me quality that asks to be rubbed. Great project Bob!

    • Thanks Paul – 

      The idea of using zinc in the shower sounds sorta fantastic… I might have to put that idea in the quiver.


    • sarah deeds

      what sort of patina developed in the shower? I am working on a project right now that will likely have a zinc shower…but we are wondering what it will look like after use…soap, water, regular patterns of water flow etc.

  • ModFruGal

    I sided my house in galvalume and can only imagine if we’d had the dough to go zinc.  I had no idea!  Looking forward to a few months down the road when that film comes off….

    • you and me both! I know the film needs to stay on but it’s sorta killing me that I won’t see the finished product for months after it has been installed. The bridge component – which is wrapped in the Anthra – is fairly isolated from random things hitting it during construction so we might be able to see that one before the rest. 

  • Great post, Bob; very informative and, of course, funny–I love that you show the detail and recognize the installer; they are a wealth of materials knowledge. I love VM Zinc panels too, I featured them in part of an alternative cladding story I did in AP. http://arch-products.com/fastpath/index.php

    • Hi Megan – thanks for the link! This project is full of expert installers and we have lots of meetings with them all to discuss the best way to go about achieving the final product. Our drawings are complete and typically follow manufacturer’s recommended installation requirements but when you have someone who has been doing nothing but this one thing for 30 years, it’s time to listen to what they have to say. 

  • Anonymous

    I cant wait to see the finished product. I think Im going to try and swing this on my next studio project.

    • Good luck – it only took me 12 years!

      • Anonymous

        Haha, guess Ill have to show you how a young gun does it. 

        Hey btw whats the wrap under the panels, never seen it before

        • Hi Andrew,
          The wrap is WrapShield SA by VaproShield. It is a self-adhered vapor permeable membrane and air barrier. http://www.vaproshield.com/

          If you would like more information, let me know your location and I will get you in touch with your area rep.

  • Cdellinger

    Great post! Very informative. You should be getting a product rep. commission soon.

    • My rep for this product (Lenora Hamilton) came in last week to drop off new information and samples – she’s been great. I even asked for some supporting information from her when I was writing this post! Good products reps are sometimes hard to come by so if I have one that’s attentive it’s like hitting the lottery!

      • *blushing* Thanks, Bob! And it’s getting to work with passionate designers like you that really appreciate the unique beauty of a material like zinc that make my job a ton of fun!

        Any of you Texans out there that would like more information on VM Zinc, Wade Architectural Systems is the source.  We will be more than happy to help your zinc dreams come true!

        Visit us at http://www.wadearch.com 

        Twitter: @WadeArch:twitter  or @lenorahamilton:twitter