Interior Applications of Perforated Metals

Metal has become an increasingly popular alternative choice for traditional interior applications. Once used only for roofing and exterior siding, new metal materials, applications and attitudes have moved it inside to produce creative, intricate designs. Metal provides an almost limitless palette of interior design options including thickness, material, color, texture and finish to complement any visual design and style at a price point owners find attractive.

Off-the-shelf perforated, expanded and coil metal solutions can enhance interior spaces

By Mark Robins


“Metal panel options are becoming more popular for interior elements because of how they lend themselves to a more modern look, which is becoming increasingly popular,” says Phil Pearce, vice president of sales and marketing,Lorin Industries Inc., Muskegon, Mich. “Architects often overlook metal as an interior design choice because they are not aware of the options that exist with anodized aluminum. Panels that are perforated and anodized could be underappreciated because architects and designers may not understand how durable and abrasion resistant it is compared to painted surfaces. Coiled anodized aluminum can be formed, stamped and cut into many different custom designs or profiles, making each product unique while not losing the 3-D effects of the anodized surface. In all applications, not only do you get the real metal look, but the natural anodized surface accentuates the metallic features. Once seen and understood, anodized aluminum takes on a whole new meaning and perspective for the metallic look that is desired.”




Perforated metal is a product made from sheet steel fed through a machine that punches out round holes or other designs. A versatile material solution, perforated metal is being used in interiors to create surfaces, partition spaces, enhance privacy, or diffuse light, air and sound. Using solid-core aluminum, perforated metal projects provide a high strength-to-weight ratio that captures bold colors with a polished material quality.

“Perforated aluminum panels are often used for ceilings to help diffuse overhead lighting to reduce its harshness and glare on computer screens,” Pearce says. “They are used to attenuate sound to keep office areas quieter in open spaces. They are used for accent walls, including adding pixilated images to convey specific messages, scenes or people for added emphasis, or enhanced visual interest and aesthetics to the space. Used as sunshading devices, even inside, they can have pixilated images that come to life in different ways as the sunlight moves throughout the day. Perforated aluminum panels can be used to divide space or add elements of privacy without closing off a space entirely, which also allows for improved airflow and reduced HVAC costs.”

Angel Ngan, marketing manager at Accurate Perforating, Chicago, says in addition to aluminum his company can use carbon steel, brass, copper, galvanized iron, nickel alloys, stainless steel and more to create interior applications like signage, ceiling panels, wall panels, divider/privacy screens, office furniture, aesthetic decoration, radiator covers, stair railings, infill panels, lighting components, acoustic elements, column panels, wall wraps and backlit perforations. “You can control the level of privacy by using the percentage of open area in the perforated pattern,” he adds. “This method can be applied to dividers, light diffusers, ceiling panels and other applications. Perforated metal is not only limited to standard patterns, you can also create a custom graphic image by using different perforated hole sizes. You can achieve any design look with perforated metal and varieties of finishing. It can be used as a focal point or backdrop.”



Pearce claims many cutting-edge developments are increasing perforated metal interior applications. “Pixilated images can be created by the hole pattern and the way the perforated panels are put together,” he explains. “If the panels are perforated after painting, the holes can be a source point for accelerating the paint’s chipping, flaking and peeling. Because the anodized layer is grown from the aluminum and is an integral part of the aluminum—and not a coating that is rolled or sprayed on—panels perforated after being anodized will not chip, flake or peel, so they will be more durable. Anodizing after perforating allows for the interiors of the holes to have the same color. Painting after perforating is not always a good option because the paint will create drip marks or run-down marks from the holes, or clog up the holes. The anodic layer is a hard, translucent, crystalline structure from the same family as sapphires, and just like this gemstone, the anodic layer reflects and refracts light in unique ways that can help make the space come alive that paint cannot replicate. The reflective nature of the anodic layer,combined with the metallic surface, allows for light to travel deeper into the space. This helps improve natural daylighting effects, which in turn help improve overall worker/student health and productivity/performance.”

Roni Cohen, national director of sales at Accurate Perforating, cites the New York City-based Cornell Tech auditorium as a good demonstration of designing visually interesting acoustic panels using perforated metal. The perforated metal not only acts to support the acoustic baffle, it also assists in sound diffusion. “Perforated metal is a very effective sound diffusion material and offers the ability to target different ranges by varying the hole size and pattern,” he says. “It also can easily be customized to fit the design of the space. For example, these perforated sheets were formed into triangular shapes to match the shape of the light fixtures. The seamless result is very futuristic.”

Pearce cites a Lorin anodized aluminum decorative panel at Austin Central Library, Austin, Texas, that allows light through a perforated design to cast literary shadows on the library floor. He says the library makes full use of the functional and aesthetic benefits of perforated anodized aluminum panels. One large panel incorporates literary quotations visible on the building’s floor as light shines through the metal.


Expanded metal can be specified in a wide variety of materials and can be custom cut using traditional shears, laser, plasma or waterjet for custom geometries and traditional panel sizes.


Limitless pattern choices with expanded metals are providing a wider range of open-area options and opening apertures. Also, expanded metal is more than just a 2-D product. In its 3-D (raised) form, the sheet offers four views depending on how you view it. These 3-D patterns provide a unique and creative means of filtering light, while providing a striking visual appearance. Colors can be added to expanded metal with an anodizing coatings and it can also come in original mill finish, powder coating and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) finishes.

Manuel E. Menchaca, MBA, senior marketing manager at Wallner Expac Inc., Ontario, Calif., says he’s seen a dramatic increase in requests for expanded metal to be used as ceiling and wall panels, partly because of its ability to be manufactured to order. “The architects and designers like this because we provide the ability to fine-tune all specs, especially the openings and strands to effectively conceal elements, provide privacy, and minimize sounds, or to allow for the free flow of light and air,” he says. “They also favor its high recycled content—coupled with little to no waste in the manufacturing process—its use can earn LEED credits.”

Menchaca contends contrary to popular belief, expanded metal is not punched. He says it’s slit and simultaneously pulled using his company’s Shear-Form process, which produces its uniform diamond-shaped pattern and following advantages:

• It’s environmentally friendly: little to no waste is produced and the typical yield of finished to raw product is three-to-one, and in many cases, much more

• Its single-piece architecture makes expanded metal lightweight and very strong

• Has no points at which the material can fray or separate

• Decorative patterns are available; new designs can be designed by the in-house engineering team

• Can be formed or stamped into different shapes

• Although no components or additives are required, post-production coatings such as powder coating can be applied to match décor

• Can be made from aluminum, steel, copper, nickel, painted material and other metals


Recently, a major financial institution installed Wallner Expac’s expanded metal as ceiling panels in its executive suites. “The strands were adjusted and painted black to blend in and obscure the black conduit and sub-ceiling while the openings were optimized so the spotlights could provide ample illumination,” Menchaca says. “The results were not only dramatic and sleek, but also functional.”


Because of its design versatility, material flexibility and wide range of forms, designers are using coiled wire fabric to enhance interior spaces in a variety of ways.

Tualatin, Ore.-based Cascade Architectural’s(a division of Cascade Coil) Fabricoil coiled wire fabric ceiling treatments can be installed vertically or horizontally to achieve different effects. Coming in a variety of Fabricoil colors and tones, designers can create attractive effects when combined with interior light sources. For natural light coming through large window expanses, the functional coiled wire fabric is used for solar control, allowing a controlled amount of sunlight to pass through creating perfectly day lit spaces. Also, sources at Cascade Architectural explain coiled wire fabric is being used by interior designers as an interior partitioning device for wayfinding and path guidance.

“The unique, semi-transparent coiled wire fabric is ideal for segmenting open rooms while still maintaining a visually open feel for occupants,” they add. “In terms of spatial design, this path guidance is great for creating the ultimate user experience by directing occupants through interior environments. With operable partitions, building owners have the option of fully segmenting sections when needed, with the added ability of opening the curtain for full usage of the entire space, giving building occupants more options than solid partitions or walls.”

Cascade Architectural provides both fixed- and track-engineered attachment systems. “These systems secure the fabric in unique ways: allowing for movement with their operable systems; more free-flowing fabric with looser (yet secure) attachment configurations; or fully tensioned coiled wire fabric panels with options of top, bottom, and side attachments to pull the material taut,” Cascade Architectural sources say.