Choosing the Right Sandwich Panel

A sandwich panel is a versatile construction material typically featuring two outer layers bonded to a lightweight core. This composite structure offers superior performance, often combining insulation and durability. Sandwich panels are used extensively as external cladding for buildings, providing weather resistance and thermal insulation. They can also serve as internal envelopes, partitions, and fire-resistant walls in various structures, including industrial buildings, storage facilities, clean rooms, and more. This guide will run through the key sandwich panel applications, materials, and characteristics to help you make the best choice.

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  • How to choose a sandwich panel

    ARCELORMITTAL Sandwich Panel

    ARCELORMITTAL Sandwich Panel

    Your choice of sandwich panel will depend on its intended use and the building regulations it must adhere to. Typical construction applications include facade cladding, roofing, partitions, fitted furniture, as well as wall or floor insulation. Here are the key factors to consider when making your selection:

    • Application
    • Installation
    • Core material
    • Facing material
    • Technical characteristics
  • How will the application influence my selection of a sandwich panel?

    ONDULIT ITALIANA Roof insulating sandwich panel

    ONDULIT ITALIANA Roof Sandwich Panel

    Many sandwich panels are optimized for a specific application, such as roofing or cladding. However, you must ensure they meet local regulations and are suitable for your building. Here are the two most common applications and key considerations:

    Facade sandwich panels provide thermal insulation for the building’s exterior while shielding it from various weather conditions. Keep in mind that fire safety requirements are often stricter for taller buildings.

    Roof sandwich panels must adhere to the aforementioned criteria while also taking into account variables such as roof pitch and roof loads which may include snow accumulation, maintenance equipment, and personnel. Some roof sandwich panels feature profiles that mimic traditional roofs, with tile patterns, a standing seam, or a corrugated design.

    Sandwich panels can also be used for walls, partition walls, soffits, and doors. Your specific needs may influence the material and finish you choose.

  • What do I need to know about sandwich panel installation?

    PANELAIS - Sandwich Panel

    PANELAIS – Sandwich Panel

    Sandwich panels sometimes have special fixing or interlocking systems to make installation much easier and improve performance. Interlocking systems are particularly interesting for insulation, especially for flooring, roofing, or facades, ensuring a continuous barrier and preventing cold bridging. Ensure that the sandwich panel is compatible with other building materials chosen to avoid damage to the panels or compromising the building’s performance.

    Before installing the panels, you should know the workflow and how the panels should be joined to other building elements such as doors and windows. The following is an example of a facade sandwich panel installation (but this can vary according to each type of sandwich panel and manufacturer): Once the first panel is secured, door and window profiles are installed. Subsequent panels must be correctly pressed down for tight fastening and to prevent thermal bridges.

  • Which sandwich panel core material is best?

    PROFHOLOD Mineral Wool Core Sandwich Panel.png

    PROFHOLOD Mineral Wool Core Sandwich Panel

    The core of a sandwich panel can significantly impact characteristics such as thermal insulation, acoustic performance, fire resistance, and strength. The core structure typically consists of foam, honeycomb, or corrugated materials. In contrast to foam sandwich panels, honeycomb core panels prioritize strength over insulation. The most common materials for honeycomb cores include aluminum, polypropylene, or cardboard. For insulating sandwich panels, the most common foam core types are as follows:

    Polyurethane (PUR) core sandwich panels offer high initial thermal insulation but lack optimal fire resistance. The polyisocyanurate (PIR) core is a variation designed to improve this performance by providing better fire resistance, thermal insulation, and stability.

    Phenolic foam (PF) sandwich panels, while more expensive than PIR insulation boards, offer slightly higher thermal and fire resistance.

    Polystyrene sandwich panels are often more affordable than PUR or PIR variants but tend to provide lower thermal and fire resistance. Flame retardants may be added during production to ensure that they meet fire safety requirements. Polystyrene sandwich panels come in two forms: XPS (extruded polystyrene) or EPS (expanded polystyrene). XPS is denser, offers higher thermal resistance, and is also more moisture/vapor resistant compared to EPS.

    Mineral wool core sandwich panels are known for their excellent fire resistance as mineral wool is non-combustible. Although they tend to be heavier and less thermally insulating than PIR, they excel in acoustic performance.

  • What do I need to know about sandwich panel-facing materials?

    Garnica Plywood SIP

    Garnica Plywood SIP

    The facing material of a sandwich panel can impact the performance and appearance of the panel. Below is a summary of the main types including metal, wood, and fiberglass.

    The most common types of insulated metal-facing sandwich panels are aluminum and steel, which are often used for roofing and façades. While aluminum is more corrosion-resistant and lightweight, steel offers greater impact resistance. Metal panels are often finished with coatings for protection or aesthetics.

    There is a wide variety of wood-faced sandwich panels, such as plywood and OSB, each serving different functions. These range from structural insulated core panels (SIPs) for structural wall systems to honeycomb core wood panels, which can be a lightweight alternative to solid wood panels for doors or furniture.

    Fiberglass-faced sandwich panels may be chosen for their lightweight nature and resistance to corrosion, with applications in furniture, wall panels, and partitions.

    HPL or PVC-faced sandwich panels are usually available in different colors and patterns. They are sometimes applied as a protective and decorative coating over other facing materials, such as metal or wood.

  • What technical characteristics do I need to know about?

    BELLOTTI - Flooring Sandwich Panel

    BELLOTTI – Flooring Sandwich Panel

    The technical characteristics you should prioritize may vary depending on how you intend to use your sandwich panel. Here are some of the most common characteristics to consider:

    • Density (kg/m2): Ensure the supporting structure can handle the load.
    • Dimensions and thickness: These factors affect ease of installation and performance.
    • Fire ratings: Euroclasse 13501-1 in the EU and ASTM E84 in the US, as examples, are used to assess the combustibility and smoke emissions of materials. The required rating may vary depending on local regulations and the intended use of the sandwich panel.
    • The λ-value: This measures the thermal conductivity of the insulation in W/mK (Watts per meter-Kelvin). A lower λ-value indicates better insulation.
    • The U-value: This quantifies thermal transmittance or the amount of heat lost through the construction material in W/mK. A lower U-value signifies better insulation.
    • Sound insulation in “dB Dw”: This describes the sound transmission loss between two spaces in dB. A higher value indicates better insulation.

    Other characteristics include water vapor, air, and moisture permeability which could have an impact on the quality of the building envelope. The mechanical resistance and compressive strength could be important for panels subject to diverse loads such as wind, snow, people, or equipment.

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