Types of Standing Seam Metal Roof Clips & Why They’re Essential

Posted on December 1, 2020 by MBCI

A successful standing seam metal roof project goes beyond the obvious panels, substrate and frame. In order for the roof to look great and perform properly, don’t neglect the importance of selecting the proper roof clips for your given project. What may seem like a minor detail is, quite literally, what’s holding it all together. Here we’ll take a look at the key factors that go into selecting the correct clip type and see why this is so essential for the well-being of any standing seam metal roof.

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When you are looking at the installation manual or if you’re ordering your materials directly—or even if you’re submitting the order to MBCI to do the engineering for you—you’re going to need to know and identify certain details. The roof clip selection criteria will be based predominantly on two main factors: 1. What is your insulation system and 2. What are the expansion and contraction requirements for your roof? You’ll also need to know your project’s roof geometry and how the panel you’ve selected is able to meet the roof clip range on a particular plane, because the distance the panel spans impacts what type of clip you would use. Additionally, the type of substrate you are attaching the clip to will dictate what type of clip you should use. Is it going over wood, metal decking, open framing?

With that information in hand, you’re ready to do your due diligence. MBCI classifies clips in two ways: high or low; fixed or floating.

The high and low clips are predominantly determined by insulation systems. For a low clip, for instance, MBCI will typically will go up to a maximum of four inches of insulation; a high clip will go up to six inches of insulation.

Here’s a bit of a caveat. What we’re referring to is how much insulation you’re trying to compress between the roof panel and the substrate—and particularly the purlins or the steel frame you’re attaching it to. The clips are designed with a “stand-off” that elevates the roof panel above the substrate to permit insulation to pass between the roof panel and the substrate at the structural attachment points. A low clip is typically a 3/8-inch stand-off; a high clip, depending on panel type, can be 1-inch, 1-3/8-inch or even possibly 2-inch.

Knowing this helps determine whether you’re choosing the right clip because, let’s say, you go with too tall of a clip or not tall enough to accommodate your insulation system, then the system’s going to be difficult to install and will not perform correctly. And watch out for roof systems that have roof clips with no stand-off that do not permit fiberglass insulation to be installed or is discouraged from being installed at the clip lines due to impact on the panel appearance.

Another factor here is if you are putting the roof over a solid substrate, such as wood or metal decking. In this case, we will typically default customers to a low clip system because they don’t need to accommodate for any sort of fiberglass insulation systems. We’re assuming the insulation is occurring elsewhere below the decking or incorporated with the decking, such as rigid board insulation. In the case of rigid board insulation over decking, a low clip is still utilized but with an added bearing plate. The clip is attached through the rigid board insulation into the decking or structure below.

The more particulars you know of your intended insulation system to determine the clip height needed, the better prepared you will be in determining the right clips. Will there be fiberglass insulation or rigid board insulation or no insulation? What is the insulation thickness? What type of insulation system? Share these details with your MBCI sales rep to help you get started selecting the right clip height.

You can also find much of this information on the MBCI website by searching the roof type and then reviewing the corresponding installation manual and details to determine what clip height to use based on your insulation and substrate.

Which brings us to the other main factor in selecting the right clip. A fixed or floating clip is dependent on the substrate and how much anticipated movement is needed for the roof size.

With fixed clip systems, there are no moving parts in the clip. The ability for that clip to expand and contract as the roof expands and contracts is dependent on the substrate. In layman’s terms, if you were to screw that clip to a purlin, as the purlin heats up and cools down, it’s going to allow for some of the movement of that roof. Generally, when a fixed clip is installed over a metal building purlin, the manufacturer advises a limit of 100-foot maximum on a single roof surface. This is an average and can be impacted also by roof color and geographic location of the roof install that control temperature swing ranges, i.e., 100-foot maximum is a guide.

It is advised that the fixed clip always be installed over open framing in order to permit the greatest ability to accommodate roof panel expansion/contraction. It is not advised to use fixed clips attached to a solid substructure because those don’t accommodate roof panel movement.

If the roof needs to be installed over a solid substrate OR if the roof plane is over a slope more than 100 feet, then the manufacturer would prescribe a floating clip system. [Note: A floating clip can also be used even if the slope is less than 100 feet.] The floating clip system permits the roof panel to move (expand/contract) independent of the substrate to which the clip is installed. The system either contains a clip with a tab seamed into the roof panel rib that is able to float/slide where it attaches to the clip, or the clip is such that when it engages the panel seam is doesn’t restrict the panel movement. The only thing controlling for floating clips is the maximum range of the clips that allows it to float. In other words, how far can the clip tab or panel slide at the clip attachment. The panel manufacturer again will have information as to this amount. You will need to make sure they’re aware of what the maximum single panel run distance is from low side to high side.

One more thing to note is that not every roof system is available with fixed clips and not all systems have high and low clips (although the majority do). That said, educating yourself and researching the panel you’re looking at will give you the information you need to make the determination as to which clip will not only work best, but potentially will work at all. Every panel has its own roof clips, so the roof clips are not interchangeable across all systems. An essential part of selecting a roof panel is verifying that its clip attachment is suitable for your project.

It might not be immediately obvious that you have the wrong clip. For instance, let’s say you ordered an Ultra-Dek®  roof and you ordered an Ultra-Dek®  clip. That sounds straightforward, but did you order the RIGHT Ultra-Dek®  clip for your particular project? The roof may even be able to be installed regardless, but, after installation you may discover it doesn’t perform properly or as intended due to the wrong combination of clips, insulation and substrate. That’s why it is so critical to check with the manufacturer that you have the right clip before you purchase or start putting down the roof.

For more information, reach out to your local sales rep or go to the MBCI Ask An Expert site to confirm the clip you need to make your project a success.

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