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Brooklyn Houses Clad in Metal - Ducker Weighs In

01.11.16

The day a tire popped off a car, flew off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and hit his house with a loud bang, Vardon Owen Marshall was in disbelief. But he was not too worried about the dent on the facade of his house on Park Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, right across from the busy elevated roadway.

The indentation was quite noticeable, about four feet above the sidewalk. But instead of stressing out about finding money and a reliable contractor for the repair, Mr. Marshall, a cabinet maker, was able to fix his home in a snap because the exterior was made with corrugated metal.

“I had some extra panels I didn’t use during the build-out, so I was able to simply replace one panel and I was done,” said Mr. Marshall, who with his partner, Erin Wilson, a textile artist, built the house they share in 2011. “Even though I knew metal is a very durable material, it is pretty surprising how well it has held up.”

“When you talk about corrugated metal, it’s hard for some people to look beyond the image of a rusty shed,” said Jeff Etelamaki, the principal of Etelamaki Architecture in Brooklyn, who as part of a renovation gave a multifamily house in the South Slope area a new corrugated galvanized sheet metal front, replacing a dated stone facade. “But it has a great texture and gives the building a very contemporary look.” He estimated the cost of the materials, uninstalled, was about $3,000.

Metal siding long has been used around the city to build industrial and commercial complexes, but it is an uncommon choice these days for residential exteriors. In 2014, about 11,000 new single-family houses completed in the United States, or a little less than 2 percent, used materials other than those considered to be primary exterior siding choices, which include brick, wood, stucco, vinyl and fiber cement, according to the United States census.

Katie Janness, an expert on building materials and a principal at Ducker Worldwide, a consulting firm in Troy, Mich., estimated that metal siding, mostly aluminum, totaled 6 percent to 7 percent of the overall residential cladding market in North America, and was likely to total about 7.5 to 8 billion square feet in 2015.

Although aluminum siding is available that resembles wooden clapboards, the recently built or renovated homes with metal facades of Kings County, N.Y., tend to have a funky, artistic sensibility. The idea is not to mimic traditional construction, but to be proudly metallic.

Metal siding caught on when it was first introduced to the residential market in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but its popularity nose-dived once vinyl siding was introduced in the 1950s, Ms. Janness said. Unlike vinyl, which can retain its look and durability for decades, aluminum, though waterproof, is easy to dent or scratch. As for steel, it can rust.

But today, homeowners in the market for a green siding product — siding is often recycled steel or aluminum — might do well to consider metal, Ms. Janness noted. Pricing, she said, is all over the board, as it is dependent on color choice, thickness and market region, but she said installed prices per square foot were roughly $3 to $7 for vinyl, $8 to $12 for fiber cement and $7 for steel or aluminum.

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