By Kathi Miller, Director of Marketing & Sales Training, McElroy Metal

Customers routinely ask us to compare the price difference between metal panels installed with exposed fastener versus concealed fasteners.

While that question may seem very straightforward, many different variables impact the answer. Things like the roof geometry, project location, panel gauge, panel width, and even paint system can impact cost comparisons between the two system types.

With that said, concealed fastener systems (also called standing seam) generally cost approximately 50% more than a comparable exposed fastener system.

Factors Impacting the Cost Difference

Concealed fastener panels require the construction of solid wooden crates. Packaging is more extensive than through-fastened panels, resulting in higher shipping costs.

Numerous factors contribute to the roughly 50% cost difference between exposed and concealed fastener panels. To help broaden your understanding, let’s unpack a few of the most significant factors.

• Labor.

Concealed fastener panels typically cover 16-18” whereas exposed fastener panels routinely cover 36”. That simple difference means the panel manufacturer and the installer experience significantly reduced efficiency when working with concealed fastener panels.

• Transportation Costs.

Exposed fastened panels can be nested and lay flat on the trailer for shipment. This approach maximizes the amount of product that fits on a load. In contrast, standing seam panels ship on their side in wooden crates to ensure they arrive undamaged. As an example of this impact, we can typically ship 40,000 pounds of exposed fastener product on a load, but we might only be able to fit 10,000 pounds of standing seam panels on the same type of trailer.

Exposed fastener panels loaded on a flatbed trailer. Panels nest for more cost-efficient shipping. Photos courtesy of McElroy Metal.

• Packaging.

As mentioned previously, packaging requirements vary greatly between the panel styles. Concealed fastener panels require the construction of solid wooden crates. Consequently, part of the 50% estimated upcharge for standing seam style panels is rooted in the additional labor and cost of supplies demanded by the enhanced packaging.

Benefits of Concealed Fastener Systems

While the roughly 50% upcharge might feel substantial, standing seam systems offer numerous benefits over an exposed fastener system. Since no exposed fasteners are used to attach the panels, concealed fastener panels provide a lower opportunity for leaks caused by improper fastener installation.

Additionally, while the neoprene washers on the fasteners have greatly improved, ultraviolet rays from the sun can still cause them to shrink and crack over time (generally at least 20 years). When this occurs, water can infiltrate the building. It’s important to note that this problem is easily repaired by simply removing and replacing the fasteners. Consequently, if your customer is not opposed to some light maintenance every 20-30 years, the upcharge to move to a concealed fastener panel may not be cost-effective.

Ultimately, it is up to the customer to decide if the 50% upcharge to move from exposed to concealed fastened panels makes sense.