Behind the scenes with the latest generation of synthetic architectural panels.
By Rodney Jarboe
Curb appeal is no longer just a bonus. It now can make or break a business. The façade of building exteriors is going through a “design renaissance period” and is evolving away from utilizing a single style material for the full cladding such as an EIFS/stucco system, decorative CMU or metal siding to combining traditional materials such as stone, brick and wood textures with these dated designs.
Emerging popular designs such as stone columns and wainscots, interior reclaimed wood walls, and brick exteriors and interiors can be expensive and are very hard to incorporate into an already existing building. Many businesses have turned to the use of synthetic composite panels to improve the aesthetics of their building.
Innovations in Renovation
The latest generation of synthetic architectural panels is based on a new “dual density” composite technology and is produced with a two-layer process starting with a tough, durable, plastic shell followed by a high-quality, polyurethane foam backing. The composite is lightweight but is more durable and impact resistant than an EIFS system and conventional mono-density faux synthetic panels products. The system has numerous advantages over the present traditional cladding systems:
• Large Panels Sizes: The new system is primarily produced in 4-foot by 8-foot panels which incorporates over 200 stones or bricks per panel.
• Innovative Pre-Engineered Panels: Wainscot panels and columns, pilasters, accent corners and custom factory produced elements eliminate intensive on-site labor.
• Multi-Step Coloring System: This synthetic composite architectural panel system is based on a unique five-layer coloring process and utilizes the latest high-performance plastic and coating process for the ultimate depth in realistic stone colors and long term weather ability.
• Insulation Value: Unlike cementitious products, the system provides an R-value of 5-6.
• Custom Fabrication: Custom textures and coloring specifically available for your brand and building.
Beyond the product technology outlined above, some other key benefits are economic. The system can be installed by carpenters and eliminates the need for more expensive masonry contractors. The combination of the panel size and wide variety of pre-engineered accessories allows the system to be installed in a fraction of the time compared to traditional materials, which dramatically reduces installation time and costs.
Here are some businesses across the country using this architectural panel system:
Exterior Wainscot & Columns
Convenience stores often use a decorative split face concrete block for their building exteriors. In the latest refresh program for Circle K, they are updating their sites with stone accent elements. Prior to them using the panel system wainscot and pre-manufactured accent pilasters/corners, they were using manufactured stone — which was very labor intensive, especially the accent corners. This project was an example of one of the best features of this system: pre-engineered panels and components that produce a consistency and quality appearance and install faster and easier than alternative materials. The wainscot panels are one-piece, 8-foot-wide panels that are designed at 42 inches high and have the top ledge built into the panel. The accent corners and pilasters were factory fabricated at 32 inches wide and in 8-foot-high sections. The installation was accomplished in just a few days.
A Zaxby’s restaurant façade design originally had a full EIFS system. It was upgraded with a fresh paint job, a metal awning motif over all the windows and doors and the addition of brick wainscot panel around the entire building. The brick was supplied in 8-foot-long panels and all the corners and columns were pre-fabricated to provide a natural looking transition and a fast and easy installation.
Metal buildings are a key target for renovations with the architectural panel system. In larger cities, a simple metal siding façade typically does not meet most city architectural codes. In smaller cities, the all-metal siding façade lacks character and curb appeal.
A spring 2016 ACE Hardware project in Fort Recovery, Ohio, is a good example of how a stone wainscot panel and pilasters along with a new metal soffit addition dramatically upgraded the appearance. Both the wainscot and 32-inch-wide by 8-foot pilasters were installed by carpenters in 3 to 4 days.
In August 2016, a Farmington, Michigan, auto shop used a reclaimed wood panel system for both the exterior and the interior of the 6,200-square-foot auto shop. The waterproof wood is lightweight and can be mass produced with consistent results. According to James Snider, the owner of the auto shop, real reclaimed wood is hard to find in large quantities. It was hard to tell the difference between the fabricated wood and real reclaimed wood. “Yesterday I had a customer that works for a lumber yard ask me where we bought our reclaimed barn wood. The final product really speaks for itself,” Snider says.
Renovations of Dumpster enclosures are relatively expensive to do. Many restaurants and retailers seek to install new projects or upgrade existing projects by putting in footings, installing CMU block and then adding a stone or brick veneer. This direction can cost $15,000 to $20,000. But there is a new process of using pre-fabricated support walls and attaching the lightweight brick and stone panels.
In early 2016, a Petro chain (Circle K) in Indianapolis decided to upgrade more than 100 of its Dumpster enclosures, which still utilized chain linked fences. The process of remodeling this type of enclosure starts with removing the chain linked fence, gate and hardware, followed by adding a 6-foot sheet metal angle to each of the round posts and then attaching a metal stud wall (with a 26-gauge metal skin) to the four posts. Once this structure has been added, a system of decorative metal trim and brick or stone panels can be added. An upgrade tubular steel gate is added that is available in a wide range of color and textures.
This transformation can be done in one day and the materials are a fraction of a masonry cost alternative. The availability of bricks, stones and wood panels in combination with or without columns allow an infinite amount of design versatility.
The dual density synthetic composite panel system is rapidly growing in across a wide range of markets and projects and is revolutionizing the way remedial construction is done.
— Rodney Jarboe is president of St. Louis-based Replications Unlimited, a manufacturer of faux stone that services the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.urestonepanels.com.