Industrial/Warehouse- Metal Building Terminology

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A few days a week, I catch myself looking through the commercial forum for articles or posts of people making investments or asking questions on industrial/warehouse style buildings. With the lack of information on the BP forums, I am devoting one day a week to providing more information on these type of investments to the BP Community.

While warehouse and industrial-style buildings can be made up of many different types of materials, including block and bar joist, structural steel, tilt-wall concrete and wood, the make-up I am going to be specifically discussing is pre-engineered metal buildings. Metal buildings are considered the most popular solution to low-rise commercial building construction. A few of the benefits of this type of system include

  • Design and fabrication from a single source manufacturer.
  • Materials come pre-punched with each piece marked for quick construction.
  • The interior and exterior elements can be easily altered to accommodate the end user’s choice of cladding.
  • Minimal waste
  • Building packages come with an engineer stamp of the state in which the building is located.

With that being said we are going to start with some basic building terminology, so that the next time you go inspect a warehouse or consult with a contractor you will both be speaking the same language!


As you can see from the above picture, the metal paneling of the building is pulled back revealing the framing members and their proper names. One thing to note about a metal building is that this picture depicts a gable style building, but the pieces can easily be re-configured to form a single slope or lean-to structure.

An item not listed on this page and one I see mentioned in several posts are the clear heights and what that actually is on a metal building. If you notice the two center frames on the building, you will see that they are much larger than the one at the end. Reason being is that these frames are carrying half the load of the roof on each side of the frame. The clear height is measured from the finished floor to the underside of one of these frames where the column and rafter come together. So, while this area is much shorter, note that this only occurs every 20’-30’ on metal buildings so your height actually steps back up everywhere else.

Well, this concludes the 1st of my weekly post. Be sure to check back next week as we continue to deep dive into industrial/warehouse investments. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. 

Great article. I just bought a commercial property with similar structures, metal roof, metal siding. Looks like this kind of metal structure. Any idea where to get the maintenance items or build another one like this?

@David Song If you look at the top of the building on the outside, you should see some kind of box at the peak that has the manufacturer's name listed on it. Depending on the age of the building and if the inside has been painted or covered up, you should be able to find a job number listed on some of the framing members. If you call the manufacturer and give him the job number, the should be able to pull all of the job information up and can easily get you the dimensions for the pieces you need. They also should be able to pull the job up by the address. 

Originally posted by @Cole Bigbee :

@David Song If you look at the top of the building on the outside, you should see some kind of box at the peak that has the manufacturer's name listed on it. Depending on the age of the building and if the inside has been painted or covered up, you should be able to find a job number listed on some of the framing members. If you call the manufacturer and give him the job number, the should be able to pull all of the job information up and can easily get you the dimensions for the pieces you need. They also should be able to pull the job up by the address. 

 Super. The building is very old and some of the siding start to pop out.

I am considering building another one on the same parcel. 

Originally posted by @David Song :

Great article. I just bought a commercial property with similar structures, metal roof, metal siding. Looks like this kind of metal structure. Any idea where to get the maintenance items or build another one like this?

 Do you need rafters or just R panels? You can buy them anywhere, and prepainted.

Thanks! I always wasn't sure about clear height on a sloped interior. Now I know!

@Cole Bigbee

Great post and helpful information. I’ve noticed some of the “better” flex/industrial space around my area has an 8-10’ skirting out of block.

Can this be done with the type of pre-fab building manufacturers that you’re working with?

The skirt seems to add value to the long term maintenance of the building and adds some protection in places where fork lifts or heavy equipment are used. Would you agree?

I’m trying to find out if the market rents are worth the investment and still in research mode for metal vs metal with block skirts.

Thanks again.

@Luke Grogan My best guess is the municipality where the building is located requires so much % of the building be masonry vs a standard metal panel. I actually have some metal buildings that have cmu up to 12' with metal panels up above, same as you are describing. On protection of the framing from forklifts and heavy equipment, you can actually put metal liner panels to the inside of the building. They are most cost effective and easier to replace if damaged. Cost wise, it does cost more for the CMU. One thing to keep in mind is it has to be sealed very well to keep water from intruding into the building.