Think Zinc: Designing and specifying for longevity

When zinc is selected as a long-term, timeless solution for roofs and façades, what can be done to ensure expectations are met? The first and most important suggestion is to follow each manufacturer’s cleaning and maintenance instructions, as they vary from product to product. Following these directives ensures nothing has been done to void any material warranties.

In general, one should keep to the following recommendations:

  1. Always start with the gentlest method to clean zinc. Simply using water will often resolve the issue, followed by a diluted solution of pH-neutral dish soap. Any solution used should be subsequently rinsed with water.
  2. Make every attempt to avoid scouring or scrubbing with anything abrasive, as it can damage one of the coated finishes or the natural patina. Even sweeping or vacuuming areas of zinc can often lead to unsightly scratching.
  3. Test any method in an obscure, minimally visible area.
  4. If the product is young enough to still exhibit a grain, always work in the same direction as the grain.
  5. Should an oil-based product (e.g. strub or façade oil) be used, be prepared to apply this to not only the desired areas, but also the entire elevation to maintain a consistent appearance.
  6. Any debris should be removed periodically from the structure’s roofs, gutters, and drains.
  7. Superficial scratching can largely be ignored; as an alloy, zinc will simply patinate.
  8. To avoid the common problem of fingerprint marks, one should gently clean with a damp cloth or diluted dish soap solution when working with zinc. It is also possible to use zinc with an additional organic clear coating (between 20 and 35 microns thick) to protect the material from fingerprints.

An abundance of caution should be encouraged prior to doing anything more than a light cleaning or rinse. As zinc is a natural product that forms its own patina, time and patience is typically the very best solution.

Ben Kweton, CSI-EP, is vice president of Sheet Metal Supply Ltd., a RHEINZINK distributor and systems partner, located in Mundelein, Illinois. He has been with the company since its inception in 1991. Kweton graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is a member of CSI, Metal Construction Association (MCA), and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association (CRCA). Kweton can be reached via e-mail at

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