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The service life of steel structure buildings

The Life Expectancy of Buildings: Why Material Choice MattersDid you know that b

The Life Expectancy of Buildings: Why Material Choice Matters

Did you know that buildings have a “life expectancy?” If you are going to build a new structure on your property, then make sure that you are investing in a design and the right type of materials that will stand the test of time. Whether it’s a small shed or a large manufacturing plant, the building must hold up against weather conditions and other factors that can cause wear and tear.

The Importance of Longevity

Why bother putting time and money into the construction of a building if it will only last a few years? During the design process, it is crucial to evaluate how the building will be used, which will help you determine the right materials to ensure the building's longevity. A well-constructed building should provide decades of reliable service, minimizing the need for frequent repairs and replacements.

Factors Influencing Building Longevity

Several factors influence the longevity of a building, including:

Material Quality: The choice of materials significantly impacts the durability and lifespan of the structure. High-quality materials can withstand environmental stresses and reduce the need for extensive maintenance.

Construction Techniques: Proper construction techniques ensure that the building is structurally sound and capable of withstanding various loads and stresses.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential to address minor issues before they become major problems. Well-maintained buildings have a longer lifespan compared to those that are neglected.

Environmental Conditions: The local climate and environmental conditions, such as humidity, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to harsh weather, can affect the longevity of a building.

Comparing Building Materials

As you are finalizing design details, compare the durability and maintenance requirements for different building materials, including steel, plastic, and wood.

Steel Buildings

Steel buildings are renowned for their durability and longevity. Here are some key benefits of choosing steel:

High Strength: Steel has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it capable of supporting heavy loads and withstanding extreme weather conditions, such as high winds, heavy snow, and seismic activity.Resistance to Pests and Rot: Unlike wood, steel is not susceptible to termites, rodents, or rot. This resistance to biological threats ensures that the structure remains intact and requires minimal maintenance.

Fire Resistance: Steel is non-combustible and can withstand high temperatures, reducing the risk of fire damage and enhancing the safety of the building.

Low Maintenance: Steel buildings require minimal maintenance compared to other materials. Regular inspections and occasional cleaning are usually sufficient to keep the structure in good condition.

Sustainability: Steel is recyclable, making it an environmentally friendly choice. At the end of the building's life, steel components can be recycled and reused, reducing waste and conserving resources.

Wood Buildings

Wood is a traditional building material with its own set of advantages and disadvantages:

Aesthetic Appeal: Wood offers a natural and warm aesthetic that many people find appealing. It can be easily customized and modified to achieve various architectural styles.

Insulation Properties: Wood has good insulation properties, helping to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures.

Susceptibility to Pests and Rot: Wood is vulnerable to termites, rodents, and rot, which can compromise the structural integrity of the building. Regular treatment and maintenance are required to prevent these issues.

Fire Risk: Wood is highly combustible, increasing the risk of fire damage. Fire-resistant treatments can be applied, but they add to the maintenance requirements.

Maintenance: Wood buildings require regular maintenance, including painting, sealing, and repairs to address issues like rot and pest damage.

Plastic Sheds

Plastic sheds are often used for small storage solutions and have their own unique characteristics:

Lightweight: Plastic sheds are lightweight and easy to assemble, making them suitable for DIY projects.

Low Maintenance: Plastic is resistant to rot, rust, and pests, requiring minimal maintenance.

Durability: While plastic sheds are durable, they may not withstand extreme weather conditions as well as steel or wood buildings. They are more prone to damage from high winds and heavy snow.

Aesthetic Limitations: Plastic sheds may lack the aesthetic appeal and customization options available with wood or steel buildings.

Making the Right Choice

When choosing materials for your building, consider the following factors:

Intended Use: Determine how the building will be used and select materials that can accommodate those needs. For example, a manufacturing plant may require the strength and durability of steel, while a garden shed may be suited to plastic or wood.

Budget: Evaluate the initial costs as well as long-term maintenance expenses. While some materials may have a higher upfront cost, their longevity and low maintenance requirements can result in cost savings over time.

Environmental Impact: Consider the environmental impact of the materials you choose. Steel's recyclability and sustainability make it an eco-friendly option.

Aesthetic Preferences: Choose materials that align with your aesthetic preferences and architectural vision.


The longevity of a building is a critical factor that should not be overlooked during the design and construction process. By carefully selecting the right materials and construction techniques, you can ensure that your building will stand the test of time and provide reliable service for decades.

Steel buildings, with their high strength, resistance to pests and rot, fire resistance, low maintenance, and sustainability, are an excellent choice for those seeking durability and longevity. Whether you are constructing a small shed or a large manufacturing plant, investing in quality materials like steel will pay off in the long run.

If you are considering building a new structure on your property, consult with experienced professionals to determine the best materials and design for your specific needs. By making informed decisions, you can create a building that not only meets your functional requirements but also stands the test of time.

Longevity of Steel Buildings

How long do steel buildings last? A well-built structure with quality materials can easily last more than 50 years, depending on the use of the building over time. If you want to ensure the lifespan of the building, then it’s essential to choose quality materials that withstand seasonal damage.

Steel is an excellent choice for building materials if quality and durability are your priority. But not all steel buildings are created equal. Consider these factors that can affect how long steel buildings last:

Key Factors Affecting the Longevity of Steel Buildings


A well-built steel building helps to minimize wear and tear. For example, when the building includes features that manage water flow and protect the building joints, it’s likely that the steel building will have a longer lifespan compared to a building with poor design. Proper design considerations can include:

Water Management: Incorporating features like gutters, downspouts, and proper drainage systems to prevent water accumulation and potential rusting.

Structural Integrity: Ensuring that the design includes adequate support for loads, such as snow or equipment, to prevent structural failures.

Ventilation: Proper ventilation helps to control humidity levels inside the building, reducing the risk of condensation and corrosion.

How long do prefab buildings last? With a good design, they can hold up just as long as a custom-designed building. Prefabricated steel buildings are engineered with precision, ensuring that each component fits together seamlessly, which contributes to their longevity.


The intended use of the building significantly impacts its lifespan. Different applications can lead to varying levels of wear and tear:

Industrial Use: Manufacturing with chemicals inside the building can take a toll over time because of the corrosion that can affect the steel. Regular exposure to harsh chemicals and industrial processes requires additional protective measures.

Storage Use: If you’re only using your steel building as a storage shed, for example, your building will last longer than manufacturing buildings because there isn’t as much wear on the steel. Storage buildings generally experience less physical stress and environmental exposure.

Agricultural Use: Steel buildings used for agricultural purposes may face challenges such as exposure to moisture from livestock or stored crops. Implementing protective coatings and proper ventilation can mitigate these effects.


Local climate patterns can affect the durability of the building. For example:

Snow and Ice: Areas with heavy snowfall require extra maintenance because of the weight of the snow on the roof. Ensuring that the roof is designed to handle heavy loads and incorporating snow guards can prevent damage.

Coastal Climates: Steel frame buildings in coastal climates can wear out more quickly because of the air’s humidity and salt. Applying anti-corrosion coatings and using stainless steel components can enhance durability.

Polluted Environments: Heavy industrialization in the area can take a toll on the building due to the high levels of pollutants in the air. Regular cleaning and protective coatings can help mitigate the impact of pollutants.


Steel doesn’t require a lot of care compared to other building materials, but it’s important to stay consistent with occasional maintenance-related tasks to extend the life of the building. Without occasional cleaning, maintenance, and repair work, damage to the building can occur because of rust, mold, and corrosion. Key maintenance tasks include:

Regular Inspections: Conducting regular inspections to identify and address potential issues early, such as rust spots, loose fasteners, or damaged panels.

Cleaning: Keeping the building clean, especially in areas prone to moisture accumulation, to prevent rust and corrosion.

Protective Coatings: Applying and maintaining protective coatings to shield the steel from environmental factors.

Repairs: Promptly addressing any damage, such as dents or scratches, to prevent them from developing into more significant issues.

Ensuring the Durability of Your Steel Building

The optimal approach to ensure the durability of your building is to talk to a steel building expert about your goals. Our team can provide recommendations to ensure that your new building performs as needed. Here are some additional tips to enhance the longevity of your steel building:

Choose High-Quality Materials

Investing in high-quality materials is crucial for the longevity of your steel building. Opt for:

Galvanized Steel: Galvanized steel has a protective zinc coating that helps prevent rust and corrosion.

Stainless Steel: For areas prone to high humidity or corrosive environments, stainless steel offers superior resistance to rust and corrosion.

Protective Coatings: Consider additional protective coatings, such as epoxy or powder coatings, to enhance the durability of the steel components.

Implement Preventative Measures

Implementing preventative measures can significantly extend the lifespan of your steel building:

Weatherproofing: Ensure that the building is properly sealed to prevent water infiltration. This includes using high-quality sealants and weatherstripping.

Insulation: Proper insulation helps regulate temperature and humidity levels inside the building, reducing the risk of condensation and corrosion.

Ventilation: Adequate ventilation prevents moisture buildup and helps maintain a stable internal environment.

Regular Maintenance Schedule

Establish a regular maintenance schedule to keep your steel building in optimal condition:

Monthly Checks: Conduct monthly checks for visible signs of damage or wear, such as rust spots or loose fasteners.

Annual Inspections: Schedule comprehensive annual inspections by a professional to assess the overall condition of the building and address any potential issues.

Seasonal Maintenance: Perform seasonal maintenance tasks, such as clearing gutters and downspouts in the fall and inspecting the roof for snow load in the winter.


Steel buildings, when constructed with quality materials and proper design, can easily last more than 50 years. By considering factors such as design, use, location, and maintenance, you can ensure the longevity of your steel building. Investing in high-quality materials and implementing preventative measures will pay off in the long run, providing a durable and reliable structure that stands the test of time.

If you are considering building a new steel structure, consult with experienced professionals to determine the best materials and design for your specific needs. By making informed decisions and following a regular maintenance schedule, you can create a steel building that not only meets your functional requirements but also provides lasting value.

How to Maintain a Steel Building

Maintaining a steel building is essential to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Regular maintenance helps prevent minor issues from becoming major problems and extends the lifespan of the structure. Here are some comprehensive recommendations for maintaining your steel building:

Regular Inspections

Inspect the building regularly to identify areas that require maintenance or repair work. Maintenance requirements vary depending on location because seasonal changes can play a role in the building’s durability. Consider these common recommendations for steel building maintenance:

Frequency: Conduct thorough inspections at least twice a year, ideally in the spring and fall. Additionally, inspect the building after severe weather events, such as storms or heavy snowfall.

Wall Pressure

Find anything that might be touching the walls of the building. You want to avoid unnecessary weight that might strain the building, such as equipment leaning against the wall. Excessive pressure on the walls can lead to structural damage over time.

Action: Ensure that equipment, tools, and other items are stored away from the walls. Create designated storage areas to prevent accidental contact with the building’s exterior.

Wall Contact

Avoiding undue contact is essential to prevent water from staying on the surface of steel buildings. Moisture is one of the most significant vulnerabilities that threaten the durability of the steel. Clean up the landscaping and other things that are coming in contact with the steel building.

Action: Trim back any vegetation that is in contact with the building. Ensure that there is adequate space around the perimeter of the building to allow for proper drainage and airflow.

Roof Limitations

Know the roof limitations so you know when snow needs to be cleared. If you think that the roof is reaching the weight threshold because of accumulated snow, then have a plan in place to clear the snow safely. It’s a good idea to check the roof during the warmer months as well because a buildup of muck and leaves in the rain gutters can cause undue wear and tear.

Action: Regularly inspect the roof for debris, leaves, and other materials that can obstruct drainage. Clear snow from the roof promptly to prevent excessive weight and potential structural damage.

Regular Cleaning

Avoid rust and corrosion on steel buildings by cleaning off the grime and dirt that accumulates. Washing the steel panels regularly will keep the materials in top-notch condition. You can buy industrial cleaners designed for steel buildings or create a homemade solution using water and ammonia. Steel buildings should be cleaned every few months, inside and out. Ideally, your building should be washed a minimum of once a year to remove substances that could cause harm to the building.

Action: Use a soft brush or sponge to clean the steel panels, and avoid abrasive materials that can scratch the surface. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any cleaning solution residue.

Fresh Paint

One way to protect the building is by adding a fresh coat of paint. After the steel panels are washed thoroughly, add a quality exterior paint to act as an extra layer of protection against the weather elements.

Action: Choose a high-quality paint that is specifically designed for metal surfaces. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application, and ensure that the surface is clean and dry before painting.

Repair Work

Scratches and scuffs might seem like minor issues, but these points of damage can become weak points in the building. When the damage is continuously exposed to the weather, it can lead to corrosion and rust. Buff out the marks and be proactive about repairing any areas of damage.

Action: Use a rust-inhibiting primer to treat any exposed metal before applying touch-up paint. Regularly inspect the building for signs of wear and address any issues promptly.

Advantages of Pre-engineered Steel Buildings - Continuous Savings

Pre-engineered steel buildings offer numerous advantages that contribute to their longevity and cost-effectiveness:

Efficiency: Pre-engineered buildings are designed for quick assembly, reducing construction time and labor costs.Customization: These buildings can be tailored to meet specific needs, including insulation, ventilation, and other features that enhance durability.Quality Control: Components are manufactured in a controlled environment, ensuring consistent quality and reducing the risk of defects.

Steel Building Warranty

When you choose quality building materials, you can know that the building will stand firm for many years. Many manufacturers of steel buildings offer solid warranty coverage, including 40- and even 50-year structural warranties (depending on the type of building you construct).

This written guarantee ensures that if anything goes wrong with the materials, then repair or replacement is offered within a specific timeframe. Keep in mind that the warranty doesn’t necessarily last for the lifetime of the product and won’t cover every issue. Read about the available warranty when deciding on the type of steel building you’d like to construct.

Action: Review the warranty terms and conditions carefully to understand what is covered and any maintenance requirements needed to keep the warranty valid. Keep records of all maintenance and repairs to provide documentation if needed.


Minor problems can start creeping in, which is why you need to be proactive with repairs and maintenance. These seemingly small tasks can go a long way to add years to the life of your building. By following these maintenance guidelines, you can ensure that your steel building remains in excellent condition for decades.

At Norsteel Buildings, we’re committed to providing our clients with the best solutions in the steel building industry. If you’d like to learn more, then contact us to talk to an industry expert. We pair you with a building consultant for personalized recommendations about the specific products and materials that will best suit your needs. We’re proud to be a leader in the steel building industry and look forward to helping you achieve your goals.


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