Little-known facts about corrugated metal

The drumming of the rain on a metal roof is reminder of this simple material's­ place in everyday life. Here's some things about corrugated metal you may not have known.

Little-known facts about corrugated metal

Practical then and fashionable now

  • Corrugated metal was traditionally used as a cheap, waterproof capping on humble rural cottages or huts.
  • The material has recently earned new respect as modern architects rediscover its practicality and versatility.
  • Little more than a century ago, corrugated metal represented a technological breakthrough.
  • Compared with many of the traditional roofing materials of the time, it was cheap, light, strong, easy to transport in bulk and required few skills to install.

Humble beginnings

  • Corrugated roofing metal was first made commercially in Britain in 1829.
  • Flat sheets of wrought iron were pressed between heavy dies to give it a corrugated profile.
  • Subsequent manufacturing improvements strengthened the finished product. Soon, it was possible for a single sheet to span great distances without support.
  • The technique of galvanizing, where the iron is protected by a coating of non-rusting zinc, made corrugated iron long-lasting and structurally versatile.
  • "Galvo," a nickname it still maintains, was the ideal building material. Enough iron for a whole farmhouse and its outbuildings could be transported in a single horse-drawn dray.
  • It was easily worked, quickly repaired and there was little waste. It could also be recycled and was resistant to bush fires and termites.

The rise of galvo

  • Before the mass ­production of bricks and clapboard, galvanized iron was the ­perfect weatherproofing material.
  • In unskilled hands, the end result of all-iron construction could be a terrible eyesore that worsened as it rusted.
  • Some country ­architects rose to the challenge and produced strange yet graceful buildings that blended perfectly with their rural surroundings.
  • In Australia and New Zealand, wool sheds and shearing sheds became popular and emblematic of the countries.
  • Today, a growing number of architects are again using this versatile material in innovative ways. It deliberately hearkens back to those first ­masters of galvo.
  • The one drawback of galvo, its appearance, has been made a virtue in ­modern architecture.

Galvo, or corrugated metal, has gone through waves of popularity and decline, but it's becoming popular again. Its low price point and versatility is making  it a favourite amongst forward-thinking architects.

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