Perforated Metal 101: Getting started with perforated metal
Perforated metal is an extremely flexible material for DIYers. From partitions to balustrade panels or furniture, the applications are extremely diverse. Whatever your project, there are a few things you’ll need to take on board before starting work on your perforated metal sheets – particularly if it’s your first time using the material. Here you’ll find the dos and don’ts of perforated metal, your go-to guide for getting the job done.
Before we go any further, a reminder about safety. Be sure to wear protective gloves, clothing, goggles and a face mask as the project demands. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re in doubt on whether or not to gear-up, you’re best to go ahead and do it.
Designing your project
DO: Consider the most appropriate material for your application. Whether your project is indoor or outdoor should play a role in your selection. Aluminium is our most popular choice for outdoor projects, while many prefer the rigidity and strength of steel for indoor projects. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s galvanised or anodised if you’re using it outside.
You’ll also want to think about the weight of the metal and how this will affect its performance as a finished product, Obviously, the thicker the sheet, the heavier it will be. The strength of the sheets will be dependent on the shape and size of the open areas. Open areas are those parts of the sheet that have punched out to create perforations. The more open area, the weaker the sheet.
DON’T: Forget that trimmed sheets will have sharp edges. If your sheets need to be cut to size, you should consider where the sharp edges will be placed. You could use a border or a trim to cover the exposed edges and prevent nasty cuts.
Another key factor to remember during the design stage is that the metal will expand slightly when hot. You’ll want to allow a small amount of space to account for thermal expansion. It shouldn’t require more than three to five mm per side, depending on the type of metal (you can always get in touch with us to find out the ideal distance).
Cutting your perforated metal sheets
DO: Measure twice, cut once. A jigsaw will generally do the job but you should absolutely not attempt it unless you have experience working with metal and are skilled in the use of a jigsaw. The best way to cut perforated metal sheets is with a guillotine. We realise most DIYers don’t have a guillotine in the shed, so what we recommend is reaching out to a fabricator in your area. They should have a guillotine and will be happy to make a few cuts for you.
DON’T: Assume you know what you’re doing and try it yourself. The jigsaw tip above is for those with more experience. The “she’ll be right” attitude won’t work here. Avoid unnecessary risks and you’ll get to enjoy all eight fingers and two thumbs for years to come.
How to finish your perforated metal sheets
DO: Make sure you clean your perforated metal sheets before applying any paint. Sometimes when you get uncoated sheets directly from the factory, they’ll have a thin layer of grease on them. This can be removed with a solvent, though make sure you follow it’s directions for use.
We’ve touched on galvanising and anodising for extended life, but for stainless steel sheets used in outdoor projects, we highly recommend having them electro-polished to ensure they retain their appearance over time. When it comes to applying some colour to your project, your best bet is to powder coat or apply wet paint.
DON’T: Paint your sheets with a brush. It’s just too difficult to ensure an even spread and to get it inside the perforations. A spray gun is the best way to achieve an even coat. Don’t forget to use the appropriate primer.
How to fix your perforated metal sheets
DO: Ensure that there’s isolation between dissimilar metals. If you’re fixing aluminium to a steel frame for example, you should use nylon washers to ensure there’s no direct contact. There are few alternatives to nylon washers you can use instead; neoprene strips, electrical tape, even a 3M double-sided tape will do the job (though it’s best to use when you have a solid border).
If you’re welding, make sure you’re using the right materials. It takes a lot of skill to weld aluminium without ruining the surface of it, so we would advise against this unless you have surgeon-like skill with a torch. A low carbon stainless steel (marine grade, for example) will be more suitable for welding, though again, don’t attempt this if you don’t already have the know-how.
For projects better suited to screwing, we recommend using rivets or self-tapping screws. When you start the process of fixing, make sure you screw from the centre out to ensure the sheet stays in place while you work.
DON’T: Forget that perforated metal sheets have a smooth side and a burr side. Typically, the smooth side is more visually appealing so in projects where cosmetics are important, be sure to check the right side is facing out. In addition to the smooth and burr sides, most of our perforated metal sheets have a grain. You’ll also want to make sure these are placed in the right direction so they don’t appear mismatched upon completion. We also sell sheets in 145 degree or square pitch patterns, so these are a good choice if you want to skip over the grain issue.
Keep in mind that if you’re undecided on what perforation pattern you want, you can always check out the specials on our website to see what’s available for cheap. If what you’re looking for isn’t listed on the site, you can always drop us a line – there’s a very good chance we’ll be able to source what you need.
Ready to start your project? Jump onto our online store to browse the range!