While there are many different styles of metal panels out there, there are virtually only two types to choose from: exposed fastener or concealed fastener systems. Each of these options has benefits, as well as drawbacks. Here is an honest comparison of exposed fastener and concealed fastener metal panel systems.
What is the Difference Between Exposed VS. Concealed Fasteners?
Fasteners refer to the hardware used to secure metal panels to the building or structure beneath them. This includes a wide variety of different mechanical securement devices and assemblies. Everything from nails and screws to clips and bolts are considered to be part of the fastener family.
Exposed fasteners are able to be seen on top of the panels after installation is completed. This is more of a “classic” metal panel look and makes for an easier installation process. The hardware will be directly secured through the face of the metal panel to the structure below. The panels will overlap one another, the fastener will be driven through both panels, and the head of the fasteners will be visible on the outside of the building.
Here is an example of an exposed fastener system using Bridger Steel’s 7/8" Corrugated panels. The hardware is visible on the outside of the roof here post-installation.
Concealed fasteners are unable to be seen after installation is complete. The fasteners are secured beneath the metal panels, making for a smooth, uninterrupted surface. This system is secured with a fastening clip underneath the panels, making installation a bit more tricky for those without experience. No metal panels are penetrated by hardware for this system, as the panels are laid over and attached to the clip system, and are then mechanically or hand locked into place.
Here is an example of a concealed fastener system using Bridger Steel’s 2" Mechanical Lock panels. As you can see, no hardware is visible on the panels themselves.
Pros & Cons of Exposed Fastener Roofing Systems
Easier Installation — Exposed fastener systems are a favorite among DIYers because of how easy the panels are to install. This system doesn’t require specialty tools like hand or mechanical seamers to complete the installation. Most people, including contractors, already have the tools to install exposed fastener systems.
Less Expensive — Since this type of panel system is easier to install, it's also less expensive compared to concealed fastener systems. Both the materials and installation costs are a bit lower. There are also less accessories needed, which lowers the price too. If you choose to install the panels yourself, that also drastically lowers the total cost.
More Contractors to Choose From — With an exposed fastener system’s easier installation process, and the fact that they don’t require special tools, there’s likely going to be more contractors around you that can install the panels. When choosing a contractor, you should always do your research, read reviews, and be sure to confirm that they’ve worked with metal roofs or siding beforehand. Read this blog for more tips on hiring a contractor.
More Chance of Fastener Issues — Exposed fasteners have the potential to cause issues if not installed properly. If an exposed fastener is under-driven, off center, or driven into the panels too tightly, it can lead to problems later down the road. That’s why it is so crucial to hire a contractor who’s worked with exposed fasteners before, or if you’re DIY installing the system yourself, you have thoroughly read through the installation instructions.
More Maintenance — To piggyback off of the potential fastener issues, this can also lead to a little more maintenance when compared to concealed fasteners. By maintenance, we mean that you’ll likely want to inspect your hardware at least once a year, if not twice, to ensure they’re in top condition.
Pros & Cons of Concealed Fastener Roofing Systems
Sleek & Modern Appearance — One of the biggest advantages of concealed fastener systems is the aesthetic they provide. This system creates seamless, sleek lines without any interference from hardware. Those looking to achieve a modern look tend to go with a concealed fastener system rather than exposed.
Reduced Damage to Fasteners — Since the fasteners are hidden beneath the panels, there is no chance of them being damaged by rain, wind, or other types of weather conditions. Even though exposed fasteners are typically treated for ultimate rust-resistance, over the decades they stay intact and are continuously exposed to the environment, they can become more susceptible to damage. With concealed fasteners, you don’t have to worry about those issues.
Reduced Temperature-Caused Distortment — Metal panels will naturally expand and contract with the changing temperatures throughout the seasons. Concealed fastener systems are able to better flex and adapt to the changes compared to exposed fasteners. This is due to the fact that the fasteners are underneath the panels rather than on top, reducing the chance of them being screwed through the panels too tightly, which wouldn't allow for much movement. Concealed fastener roofing systems are designed to flex and move with the changing temperatures.
Trickier Installation — Concealed fastener systems require a special tool called a seamer, which can either be mechanical or run by hand, in order to install the panels. Due to the need for this tool, it can make installation a bit trickier. If you’re hiring a contractor to install your roof or siding, you want to be sure they’ve worked with this tool and type of metal panel system previously.
More Expensive — Concealed fastener systems are a little more expensive in comparison to exposed fasteners systems due to material and labor costs. These systems are considered to be a bit more high-quality and of course, because of the trickier installation, are more expensive. However, these system’s unmatchable performance paired with lifespan usually help alleviate some of the pain points with pricing.
Difficult to Repair/Replace — After your panels are installed, it may be difficult to repair or replace a single panel if it undergoes damage. You’ll have to go in and separate the individual panel that needs replacing. This can be difficult as each panel will have to be unseamed from one another with a seamer. If you don’t have that tool, you’ll likely have to call a contractor.
What Panel Profiles Use Exposed Fasteners VS. Concealed?
Bridger Steel has a variety of different panels profiles available to choose from for any project. Whether you’re installing a new roof, replacing siding, adding a privacy fence to your property, or simply updating your interior with a wainscoting, we have many different options that use concealed or exposed fasteners.
Exposed Fastener Panels Available:
Corrugated — Available in ⅞”, ¾”, ½”, and ¼” profile variations
This home used ¾” Corrugated Metal Siding in Galvanized finish
Box Rib — Available in 7.2 Structural Box Rib, 7.2 Fencing, and Valley Box Rib profile variations
This home used 7.2 Structural Box Rib Siding
All Purpose — Available in 3’ Tuff Rib, Platte River, and Purlin Bearing Rib profile variations
This metal roof used 3’ Tuff Rib panels
Concealed Fastener Panels Available:
Standing Seam — Available in 3” Trapezoidal, 2” Mechanical Lock, Mechanical Lock, Tru Snap, and Nail Strip profile variations
This metal roof was made with Nail Strip panels
Batten — Available in Ultra and Snap profile variations
This commercial building used Ultra Batten panels
Flat — Available in Shiplap Wall, V Groove Wall, and Custom Flat profile variations
V Groove Flat panels were used on this building
Soffit — Available in V and Flush Soffit profile variations
This building used V Soffit panels to create a seamless look
So, Which One is Best?
As both concealed fastener and exposed fastener metal panels have their benefits and drawbacks, it’s truly dependent upon your project’s specifications when it comes to which one will be best. Both panel variations have high-performing characteristics, similar lifespans, and of course, the durability of metal.
Typically, deciding which one fits more with your intended style and appearance will help you decide which panel is best suited for your project. You’ll also want to take your budget into consideration, as the costs are different between the two options. Whether you’re planning on DIYing your project or hiring a contractor will also affect your choice.
If you are trying to achieve a sleek, modern look, you’ll likely want to go with a standing seam vs. exposed fastener panel. With their uninterrupted lines and ability to easily expand and contract with changing temperatures, they’re a great choice for both residential and commercial property owners.
If you want a more classic metal appearance, exposed fasteners are the way to go. They’re strong, easily stand up to tough weather conditions, and hide imperfections better. Exposed fastener systems also usually work best for those wanting to install the panels themselves.
Ultimately, both options are a great choice and will last for decades to come. However, if you need some help deciding between the two, our team of Product Specialists can make expert recommendations. We’ll take into consideration your environment, desired aesthetic, and other factors to recommend the best panel type for your project, including the best gauge and color or finish.