How to make a design statement with metal mesh
Architectural metal mesh can be used for a variety of different applications, it is an extremely popular and versatile product. Common applications include balustrade in fill panels, façade systems, wall cladding and many more.
Picking a pattern of metal mesh that looks attractive is easy, however it is crucial that the mesh you choose is suitable for your application.
There are two main categories that metal mesh falls into, and these are Rigid and Flexible. Within these categories mesh can be split down into further categories, which relate to their manufacturing techniques, look and appearance.
This is also known as Pre-Crimped Woven Wire Mesh, Welded Mesh and Woven Mesh. Rigid Metal Mesh is ideal for applications such as:
- Balustrade In fill panels
- Ceiling Panels
- Interior Wall Cladding
- Façade Systems
- Safety and Security
The reason why rigid mesh lends itself to these applications is due to its ease of use. Panels can be manufactured or fabricated into pre designed shapes and sizes. Rigid mesh also lends itself to being coated far easier, this is because it is a rigid panel and does not move during coating processes such as powder coating and anodising.
A single rigid mesh panel cannot be physically rolled or bent by hand and requires some force to distort. Once a rigid mesh panel is welded or secured into a suitable structure or frame, it can help assist with fall protection and will withstand day to day knocks and wear and tear. One huge bonus is that is requires minimal maintenance and can be manufactured into modular panels and easily installed on site.
It is very uncommon for rigid mesh panels to be installed under tension, so there are cost savings to choosing rigid metal mesh over flexible metal mesh. However, one down side to rigid mesh is that you are limited to the size of panels, typically 1.5m wide x 3m high panels are the largest that can be produced.
With the introduction of new manufacturing techniques, new specifications and materials are constantly being used and trialled to create truly unique patterns.
Flexible architectural mesh’s origins can be traced back to the conveyor belt industry conveyors and a lot of the specifications seen and used around the world for architectural applications are still used for industry conveyor belts.
Flexible metal mesh is suitable for applications such as:
- Balustrade in fill panels
- Interior wall cladding
- Façade Systems
One of the most common applications that flexible metal mesh is used for is external façade systems. The sole reason is the size the panels can be manufactured to, a typical flexible metal mesh can be manufactured 4m wide x 10m high, in most cases the same height as a building. The mesh would then be used as a secondary façade, typically in front of a curtain wall system, with the purpose of creating a unique look, but also offering hidden benefits such as solar shading and sun control.
As flexible metal mesh is still used for industrial conveyor belts, the material choices can be very limited and often stainless steel or mild steel is the only viable material. Aluminium flexible mesh is slowly making an appearance in the market, but aluminium is not as strong as stainless steel, so cannot be used successfully for external façade systems, due to the amount of tensioning forces required.
A positive of flexible metal mesh is that it requires less fixings points than a series of rigid panels of the same size, however the mesh does need to be installed under tension. The tensioning systems can sometimes be upwards of 100mm to 200mm at the top and bottom of the panels and can be very obviously on buildings. However, some architects and designers love this and others loath it, but there is always the option to hide the fixings systems.
Using a flexible mesh can be far more cost effective than a series of rigid mesh panels and also far easier to install on site. The mesh can be rolled up after construction and transported with ease to site. The top of the mesh is installed first and then rest is rolled down the face of the building, finally securing at the bottom.
Flexible meshes also lend themselves very well to interior metal curtain applications, metal curtains can be manufactured in panels upwards of 10m high by an infinite width. Metal mesh curtains can be installed on manual or electric track systems and can help to create instant partitioned sections in a large open spaces.
Knowing your mesh types
Rigid mesh is ideal for smaller interior and external projects where modular sized panels are required. Typically, they would need to be framed or connected to a substructure, finishes are endless and materials available are very varied. Flexible metal mesh is ideal for covering large spaces, such as external facades, it can be far more cost effective to clad the façade of a building in a flexible mesh over a rigid mesh. However, material and finish choices are limited and large tensioning systems are required.