Aulcobond panels have been used as a cladding material and system for quite some time now, they have graced our industrial offices, retail premises, residential apartment buildings and even some residential homes in varying degrees.
The building industry had first started using these panels in the early nineties and the from a design perspective they have potential to bring to life some dramatic shapes and forms that create art works out of mere dwellings, with colorful paint options and any shape that you could think of, very similar to how my dramatic titles bring life to an otherwise bland topic.
The building industry or installers of these panels first had to master the art of installing them to form the façade of a building. The system which forms a bracket to hold the panel in place is a difficult task mainly due to the panels coming painted and precut from the factory, meaning that the brackets would have to be pretty accurate. That is the correct length, distance apart on top of that they also have to be level.
For a property consultant like me it all seems too much, however the builders and installers have done a great job of installation and mastered the correct bracketing, the only area in which they had lacked early on had been the transport of the panels, with pre installation damage sometimes being caused by incorrect stacking and packing while on a truck.
This damage usually became apparent after the first building wash, which was always far in excess of the manufactures specified period which leads to more problems.
On every building I have had been involved with taking care of these panels have been perfectly installed; the prior maintenance and repairs are been a whole different matter.
Many building managers or property managers had not known what to do about these panels and how they should be looked after let alone how they should be repaired.
The panels are made up of sandwiched aluminum between a plastic core, sometimes a few layers deep.
The coating on the exterior face of the panel is applied in the factory and is very thin, almost like car paint, and like car paint is applied with a spray gun.
The joins between each panel is sealed with bitumen type silicon sealant that is designed to resist the uv rays of the sun and to not break down, but of course the sun is a powerful and constant foe.
The sun over time did affect the sealant and caused it to shrink in some cases, this by itself was not too big of a problem because the panels are double sealed, where the clipping system with the bracket forms a good seal and keeps the water out.
But this Phenom was not alone;
dirt was attached to the profile between the panels that the sealant had caused when it had retreated from the sun. These ledges were are meeting place for dirt and when rain came and moved the dirt from there they caused their damage in the form of streaks almost like water marks or a stain where somebody had burnt the panel with chemicals.
The maintenance industry had scratched its head asking what the hell is causing this weird marking.
After many many foul attempts to polish, to clean with chemicals, even sanding.
The collective lesson had been learnt.
You cannot polish, paint or sand these panels at all; trades men are not able to repair the finishes of these panels, ever.
A manufacture had tried to develop a spray painting system to enable tradesmen to repair the finish to these panels but it was to no avail.
Many people applied a vinyl coating to each panel building wide as the vinyl was not subject to such easy damage from dirt and it was easier to clean properly.
Cleaning of the panel is another chapter in this epic saga, the panel being aluminum does build up a static charge and when it is wet it hold on to dirt like a magnet.
The dirt then moves around the surface of the panel and abrades it in the weirdest way.
When it is water blasted the static charge is even more apparent due to the fact that a water blaster bombards the surface of the panel with water molecules, meaning the same method that is used to remove material from a surface in this case causes it to stick harder.
The only way the panel can be cleaned is with a very soft brush (think car brush), and detergent. The softer the brush the better as it softness reduces the static build up and the detergent cancels out the static charge and allows the water to carry away the dirt and itself, because sometimes the panels are so charged that they don’t even let the water drip off.
The panel’s only start to dry when the sun evaporates the water off.
The repair of the sealant is no big deal and just requires the cutting out of the old and application of the new.
I have seen entire sides of buildings with a really really matt appearance even after correct washing, the finish is as if the panel has been sand blasted, this is not caused by water blasting it is caused by the building not being washed often enough and the dirt sticking to the panels and moving around and around scratching the panel to death.
The best thing that can be done for ACP is that they are washed often and thus remove the risk of environmental misting as I have coined it.