California Contractor Forecasts Pre-Aged Architectural Metals Trend to Continue

The use of weathering steel — so named because of its ability to quickly deliver the look of a metal that has been exposed to harsh elements — is also becoming popular in a region known for its lack of such weather: Southern California. 

Weathering steel has become so popular that California Sheet Metal has a structure on its property dedicated to giving the metal its aged look.

The use of weathering steel — so named because of its ability to quickly deliver the look of a metal that has been exposed to harsh elements — is also becoming popular in a region known for its lack of such weather: Southern California. 

Mark Austgen, president and CEO of California Sheet Metal in El Cajon, Calif., said more designers and architects in the area are choosing weathered steel for its ability to quickly deliver a look that would otherwise take years to develop. 

“We’re seeing a lot of it,” he said. “Whether it’s on some of the facades on the building, or with people using it for planters and art pieces around their buildings.”

It’s become so popular that California Sheet Metal has a structure on its property dedicated to weathering steel to give it the look the company’s clients are looking for. 

It’s one of the many trends that Austgen has witnessed during his time working on buildings in the Golden State. California Sheet Metal has a 100-year history of performing architectural work, ranging from building panel systems and handrails to artistic designs. 

Its current projects include residential and commercial developments, as well as renovations of cultural institutions. The company is involved in a large, mixed-use development in downtown Los Angeles called the Grand L.A. Designed by well-known architect Frank Gehry, plans call for more than 176,000 square feet of retail space, a 309-room luxury hotel and a 39-story, 400-unit residential tower. 

“A lot of the exterior skin is a metal facade,” Austgen said. 

One exterior feature that Austgen said is becoming common in Southern California is using metal to simulate the look of wood. 

“We’re seeing a lot of requests for metal that has a woodgrain finish on it,” he said. “Some of our paint vendors will try to put that wood finish look on the metal by a coil coat process.” Others use a printing process or use aluminum extrusions to mimic the look. 

California Sheet Metal Vice President Joe Isom said it’s been a steady progression from adding simple colors to creating the multifaceted metal surfaces today’s designers demand. 

“It seems like in the past it was painted metal,” Isom said. “(Now) I think the trend is towards finished, natural materials as opposed to paint. It will be a chemical process or some type of anodizing process. So it’s natural materials with some type of finish that enhances the actual material.”  

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