On the surface, you would never notice a difference between 24-gauge and 26-gauge steel (Galvalume®) metal sheet and coil products.
However, when you look at these two different metal thicknesses a little deeper, you’ll find a variety of differences, especially regarding performance, engineering, oil canning expectations, color options, and more.
So, is 24-gauge or 26-gauge metal best for your project?
For almost three decades, Sheffield Metals has been a supplier of both 24-gauge and 26-gauge metal products used in the standing seam metal roof and wall industry. In that time, we’ve helped thousands of contractors, architects, manufacturers, and property owners choose the right thickness for their project(s).
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- 24-gauge metal, and its uses, advantages, and disadvantages.
- 26-gauge metal, and its uses, advantages, and disadvantages.
- Some specific scenarios and which metal thickness is best for each one.
24-gauge Metal Roofing Material
|24-gauge Thickness (inches)||24-gauge Weight (pounds per square foot)|
|Minimum of 0.023″||Approximately .094 – 1.101 lbs/sq. ft.|
Throughout the industry, 24-gauge Galvalume is usually the standard thickness for standing seam metal roof and wall systems. Standing seam refers to a concealed fastener metal panel system with vertical legs and a broad, flat area between the two legs. Standing seam systems have hidden fasteners, whether the panel is attached to the roof deck using a clip or is directly fastened to the deck under the vertical leg utilizing a fastener flange.
So, why is 24-gauge Galvalume material the standard?
24-gauge metal is the thickness that allows for three important aspects of metal roofing: A high-performance and rigid panel system, an affordable price, and an aesthetically pleasing finished product.
You’ll find 24-gauge metal used for many different standing seam applications, including:
- Commercial buildings – Hospitals, offices, hotels, schools, stores, government buildings, and more
- Architectural structures – Commercial, governmental, residential, and more
- Residential projects – Single-family, multi-family, condominiums, and more
- Structural buildings – Warehouses, manufacturing facilities, storage, and more
Advantages of 24-gauge Metal
Thicker, Stronger, & More Rigid Material
The main difference between 24 and 26-gauge metal is the thickness. 24-gauge metal has a minimum of approximately 0.023,” and 26-gauge has a minimum of approximately 0.018”. While this difference may seem small or insignificant, it’s not — this makes 24-gauge metal about 27.8% thicker than 26-gauge.
The thicker material means that 24-gauge material is stronger and better equipped to withstand rollforming stresses, oil canning (discussed next), denting, and other impacts that can structurally or aesthetically damage a metal roof or wall system. The thickness also contributes to better rigidity, which means it’s more resistant to bending or being forced from its original shape.
Less Susceptible to Oil Canning
Before we get into why 24-gauge is better for resisting oil canning, let’s give a little background on the subject. Oil canning is defined as the perceived waviness of a metal panel and is an inherent characteristic of light-gauge, cold-rolled flat metal products. In other words, it’s a visual phenomenon that makes metal panels look wavy or somewhat distorted, especially in the broad, flat areas of a metal roof or wall system.
Compared to 26-gauge, you’ll likely have better chances of avoiding severe oil canning with 24-gauge metal. As we mentioned, 24-gauge material is more rigid and resistant to shape changes. However, keep in mind that some degree of oil canning is expected. Still, there are ways to combat it with your 24-gauge metal roof or wall system, such as:
- Using a striation or rib roller to break up the flat area of the panel
- Ensuring the roof deck is level, consistent, & in-plane
- Using a narrower width panel
More Likely to Have Engineering & Better Equipped For Extreme Weather
Another benefit of 24-gauge material is that, in most scenarios, 24-gauge material is the minimum for having testing and engineering on a panel profile system (this is the case at Sheffield Metals as well).
This means that you can get engineering on a 24-gauge panel system, but cannot go to a thinner material. You can go to a thicker material like 22-gauge and still have all of the engineering that a 24-gauge system was tested according to, but you cannot go thinner to 26-gauge.
Because of the engineering, 24-gauge material is more equipped to handle extreme weather environments than 26-gauge metal. While it’s not impossible to use 26-gauge material, 24-gauge will perform better, as it’s simply stronger.
- High wind areas/hurricane zones (uplift testing)
- High rainfall or precipitation areas (water penetration, submersion testing, and wind-driven rain)
- Cold and snowy regions (heavier snow loads)
- Regions prone to hail (impact resistance testing)
Larger Selection of High-Quality Paint/Color Options
Most suppliers and manufacturers offer more color options in 24-gauge material, as it’s the standard in the architectural metal roofing industry. Because it’s the standard, most suppliers offer several choices for most colors to fulfill their customers’ needs and designs.
In addition to having more color options, 24-gauge metal is usually coated in a high-performance PVDF paint system. For reference, PVDF is a resin made of about 70% polyvinylidene thermoplastic fluoropolymer and 30% acrylic. Commonly referred to as Kynar 500® or Hylar 5000®, PVDF resins are the best protective coatings to withstand extreme temperatures, sun exposure, oxygen, humidity, and pollution particles in the atmosphere.
For reference, at Sheffield Metals, we currently offer 35+ color options in 24-gauge material and a little less than 20 color options in 26-gauge material. Luckily, both 24 and 26-gauge PVDF options come with a transferable 40-year paint warranty.
Disadvantages of 24-gauge Metal
Slightly More Expensive Than 26-gauge Metal
Surprisingly, the price difference between 24-gauge and 26-gauge metal coils/sheets is not all that different. That said, 24-gauge will undoubtedly be the more expensive option.
On average, 24-gauge coil/sheets (not panels or a finished roof) can cost anywhere from $1.20 to $2.15 per square foot. You can expect 26-gauge Galvalume material to cost about 8% to 15% less than 24-gauge.
Remember that these prices can vary and change dramatically due to market fluctuations, and also DO NOT account for installation, fabrication, finish, color, location, or special orders.
Can Be More Difficult to Work With
When compared to 26-gauge metal, you could say that 24-gauge is slightly tougher to cut, hem, etc. — simply because it’s thicker.
We’ll talk more about this in the 26-gauge section of this article, but keep in mind that 24-gauge metal is not difficult to work with for most skilled installers and contractors. It’s just a little more rigid than working with 26-gauge metal.
26-gauge Metal Roofing Material
|26-gauge Thickness (inches)||26-gauge Weight (pounds per square foot)|
|Minimum of 0.018″||Approximately 0.730 – 0.885 lbs/sq. ft.|
Regarding 26-gauge, it’s usually considered the standard metal thickness for exposed fastener metal roofing. Exposed fastener metal roofing is a roofing system where the panels are fastened to the structure through the face of the metal and directly into the roof deck or framing below. The panel edges lap one another, and the fastener goes through both layers of metal. It’s called an “exposed fastener” because the head of the fastener is visible and not hidden by a seam.
You might also see some corrugated/agricultural panels available in 26-gauge (even though 29-gauge is the most popular).
26-gauge metal is utilized in standing seam metal roofing, but it usually does not have the same engineering/testing, so it often can’t be used for designs where engineering is required. A 26-gauge system is typically considered the economical choice of standing seam metal roofing and is classically used for:
- Residential projects – Single-family, multi-family, garages, and more
- Industrial & structural buildings – Warehouses, manufacturing facilities, storage, and more
- Agricultural structures – Barns, animal confinement buildings, feed storage, sheds, and more
Advantages of 26-gauge Metal
Often a Good Choice in Residential Roofing Applications
For most commercial projects, we usually recommend a 24-gauge panel system, as commercial structures have to adhere to more strict building codes and performance requirements. However, it’s a little different in the residential market, as specific engineering is more of a choice for the property owner.
This is why 26-gauge is frequently used as the material for homes, garages, and other residential structures. As we mentioned, 26-gauge metal is slightly cheaper, which property owners often use as the catalyst for making a material decision. Again, there is nothing wrong with choosing 26-gauge for your standing seam metal roof; if it’s installed correctly for your environment and fits your roofing project’s budget, it could be the right choice.
Slightly Cheaper Upfront Cost
As we discussed, the price for 26-gauge Galvalume coils/sheets is usually around 8% to 15% less than 24-gauge material.
If you’re operating on a stricter budget but still want a concealed fastener standing seam metal roof, you can achieve a lower price with a 26-gauge system. Just keep in mind that it will not have the same engineering and testing that a 24-gauge system (minimum thickness) carries.
Easier to Bend & Work With
Before we get into this advantage, we want to reiterate that 24 and 26-gauge metal are standard thicknesses that qualified metal roofing contractors should not have a problem installing.
However, a thinner material like 26-gauge will be a little easier to rollform, bend/hem, cut, and manipulate, especially out in the field. This can make an installation somewhat more straightforward and quicker for installers, which could also cut down on the price.
Disadvantages of 26-gauge Metal
More Susceptible to Oil Canning
One of the more significant disadvantages of 26-gauge material is that it’s more susceptible to developing visible oil canning.
It’s the metal’s nature to try to revert to its original form after being rollformed and installed, which means the metal will begin to move. And because 26-gauge metal is thinner and less strong/rigid than 24-gauge, it’s easier for the metal to warp to create the “bumpy” look of oil canning.
One of the easiest things you can do to help with your decision is to understand your tolerance for oil canning before you choose a material. If you’re okay with a little more oil canning or plan to have a striation or rib roller in the flat of the panel, you can probably feel comfortable choosing a 26-gauge metal. However, if you want to minimize the chance of oil canning development as best as possible, choose a thicker metal and follow the best practices for reducing oil canning.
The next disadvantage to 26-gauge material is that it often doesn’t have the same engineering as 24-gauge systems. We’ve talked at length about this, but to reiterate: 24-gauge is often the minimum thickness for engineered standing seam metal roof and wall systems. Therefore, you cannot go to a thinner metal and still have the applicable engineering.
That said, 26-gauge metal does still carry other testing and ratings (similar to 24-gauge) showing that it will perform well in some environments, including:
- Impact resistance – Class 4
- Fire rating – Class A
- Paint and substrate warranties
More Likely to Dent
As mentioned, the thinner the material, the easier it is to dent. This could be an issue if you live in a region with threats of significant hail storms, such as Oklahoma, Kansas, or Texas.
Additionally, if your structure is beneath trees or other things that can drop debris onto a roof system, you might want to consider a thicker material.
At Sheffield Metals, our 26-gauge standing seam systems are tested according to the UL 2218 Standard for Impact Resistance of Prepared Roof Covering Materials. This standard tests a metal panel’s resistance to puncturing or failing when it comes into contact with items such as hail or other small debris.
Luckily, 26-gauge material has a Class 4 rating, which is the best and means the metal is the least likely to puncture completely through the surface. Keep in mind that this test DOES NOT measure denting likelihood. At the end of the day, a 26-gauge system is still more susceptible to denting than a thicker metal.
Fewer Color Options (Depending on the Supplier)
This last disadvantage depends on the supplier, but most engineered standing seam metal roof material suppliers have more 24-gauge color options because it’s the most standard thickness.
Also, while Sheffield Metals’ 26-gauge material is coated in a high-performance PVDF paint, some 26-gauge is coated in a silicone-modified polyester (SMP) paint. SMP is usually considered a step below PVDF in terms of performance, as SMPs are more likely to experience chalking and fading sooner than PVDF-coated roof systems. Paint system types are something to keep an eye out for when purchasing material.
24 vs. 26-gauge Metal – Which Should You Choose?
To help with the decision process, we wanted to lay out some common scenarios that might influence the material thickness you choose for your project.
Scenario #1: You want to avoid as much visible oil canning as possible.
Best thickness choice: 24-gauge
Scenario #2: You want the cheaper material option.
Best thickness choice: 26-gauge
Scenario #3: You want/need an engineered metal roof or wall system.
Best thickness choice: 24-gauge
Scenario #4: Your project is residential and/or is in a non-extreme weather environment.
Best thickness choice: 26-gauge (24-gauge as well)
Scenario #5: Your project is commercial and/or is in an environment with high wind, high precipitation, hail, or otherwise.
Best thickness choice: 24-gauge
Scenario #6: You’re concerned about visible denting in the panels.
Best thickness choice: 24-gauge
Final Thoughts on 24 vs. 26-gauge Metal Roofing
Is 24 or 26-gauge material the best choice for your project? It depends.
Choose a 24-gauge system if:
- You need an engineered panel profile.
- Your project is commercial or architectural.
- You’re concerned about oil canning.
- Your project is in an area with extreme weather (wind, heat, cold, etc.).
- You want a high-performance PVDF paint system and many color options.
Choose a 26-gauge system if:
- You do not need an engineered roofing system.
- You have a smaller budget.
- Your project is residential, agricultural, or structural.
- You’re not concerned about oil canning.
- Your project is in a mild environment.
For the most part, Sheffield Metals recommends a 24-gauge system because that is what our engineering applies to. But we understand that not all projects have strict requirements, which is why we offer both 24 and 26-gauge material options.
Have a question about gauge or material thickness, and how that applies to your project? Contact one of our helpful metal roofing specialists today!