Natural copper – Metal Cladding Systems Material Focus

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Natural copper is one of the most dividing materials within Metal Cladding Systems’ offering. While many are enchanted by the metal’s longevity and ability to change over time, others find the material unpredictable in it’s ageing process, or they enjoy one stage of the material’s patina journey, but not another. No matter your personal preference, most people can agree mill finish copper cladding offers each project application something truly unique.

Let’s take a closer look at the systems and applications natural copper is suited to and discover how the material’s aesthetic offering changes over time.

System suitability

Copper is commonly found in European architecture. Structures featuring copper date back to 1280 A.D, buildings such as Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany, are not unusual. Italy, France, Holland, Spain – almost every major European country flaunts examples of natural copper cladding. Due to the material’s durability, low thermal movement, weight and lack of maintenance it became, and still is a popular roof material specification in Europe and across the globe. Most European roof applications use mill finish copper in Double Lock Standing Seam, Batten Seam, Flatlock or Shingle cladding profiles. Here in Australia we see copper roll formed and folded into these these systems, as well as Single Lock Standing Seam and Interlocking.

Copper is a soft alloy compared to steel and therefore best suits metal cladding profiles that don’t rely on clicking or snapping fixing methods. It could also be argued the materials’ beauty is best displayed when rolled and folded into the more traditional cladding profiles.

Metal Cladding Systems offer Single Lock Standing Seam, Double Lock Standing Seam, Interlocking, Batten Seam, Flatlock and Shingle in natural copper.

Natural Copper Batten Seam Roof by Metal Cladding Systems

Natural copper applications

The expected lifespan of copper is 100 + years. The material is one of the most durable and long lasting cladding options available. With a rich European history as evidence, consumers trust the long term performance of copper cladding applications. Suitable for roof and wall panelling, mill finish copper is a strong performer in coastal and harsh industrial environments.

Over time copper skin will patina. Instead of corroding or rusting in the way other cladding materials might, copper patina builds on itself, altering its appearance without sacrificing integrity.

Atmospheric conditions play an integral part in determining how quickly copper will patina and how it will patina. Everything from site specific weather patterns to the location of the material and its exposure to other contributors of change, such as human touch (the oil from our hands will affect copper patina), car exhaust, chemicals, salt spray etc. all play a role in natural copper’s visual evolution.

No matter the application location or how quickly copper shifts from bright and brassy to green or brown, the material’s performance won’t be compromised.

Natural copper patina process

One of the major attractions for copper cladding admirers is the material’s unique ability to alter its appearance over time. Mill finish copper takes each facade on a unique visual journey – an offering no other material can rival. Copper will never look the same as the day it was installed, it provides an evolving aesthetic specific to each project application.

While every facade will patina at a slightly different rate and way, as every application will have it’s own unique atmospheric influences, the images below help to demonstrate how copper cladding may alter and change over time.

Freshly installed

natural copper standing seam metal cladding
New natural copper installation. Standing Seam wall cladding by Metal Cladding Systems

12 – 24 months after installation

natural copper standing seam metal cladding
Natural copper 12-24 months after installation. Standing Seam wall cladding by Metal Cladding Systems

5-10 years after installation

natural copper standing seam metal cladding
Natural copper (located in coastal environment). Standing Seam cladding by Metal Cladding Systems

10 + years after installation

natural copper standing seam metal cladding
Patina Standing Seam copper roof. Image source: Interior Design Assist

Natural copper alternatives

Natural copper’s popularity has motivated the creation of many ‘copper look’ materials. Copper alternatives offer an opportunity to achieve the look of natural copper without the natural copper price tag; in addition to offering specific patina aesthetics which won’t continue to change over time. Pre-coated aluminium and steel cladding materials are the most popular natural copper substitutes. Via a layered lamination process aluminium and steel can be made to look like partially aged copper, aged copper and even green patina copper.

Aluminium and steel won’t offer the same lifespan as natural copper, but both will satisfy most project requirements with warranties of up to 40 years on aluminium and up to 20 years on steel (coastal environments will have reduced warranty periods, consult Metal Cladding Systems for more information). A more budget friendly price and the fixed appearance of substitute materials allows these alternatives to compete with natural copper.

Metal Cladding Systems fabricate copper look panels in Vestis aluminium and Unicote Lux Steel in addition to genuine natural copper.

natural copper alternative
Vestis Aluminium Aged Copper by Architectural Metals Australia
Vestis Aluminium Copper by Architectural Metals Australia
Vestis Aluminium Testa Di Moro by Architectural Metals Australia
Vestis Aluminium Verde by Architectural Metals Australia
UNICOTE LUX Weathering Steel

Want to know more?

Our in-house expert team is made up of engineers, architects, sheet metal craftsmen and construction professionals, and we would love to discuss your copper cladding options in more detail. Metal Cladding Systems is open Monday – Friday to talk all things cladding via phone or email. Alternatively, you can book an appointment to visit our manufacturing facility in Braeside.