Last week we discussed how the location of your vehicle wash helps determine the best construction materials to build with. Let’s take a look at some of the common building materials for vehicle wash construction and the pros and cons of each.
What are the options?
Photo: Car Wash built with CMU
One of the most common construction methods, CMU blocks provide a solid building structure and can be extremely cost effective in areas where labor rates are cheap. As CMU’s are a common building material, it should be easy to source them wherever you are building. CMU’s also provide a degree of flexibility for exterior cladding options, which can enhance the aesthetics of your vehicle wash.
Photo: Moldy Cinder Block wall
CMU construction is generally limited to spring/summer months, as the masonry work required to construct the building cannot be completed in cold weather conditions. You may need to heat and hoard a build that is affected by winter temperatures — an expensive option for many owners. Being quite porous, CMU block will also deteriorate very quickly in the harsh conditions of a vehicle wash unless the wall surfaces are properly protected. This is an extra cost that will often require ongoing maintenance of both the interior and exterior finishes.
Steel and Wood
Steel and wood structures are very cost effective options that are erected quickly and easily. You shouldn’t have a problem finding a local contractor to construct a steel or wood structure. The ability for these structures to incorporate insulation can also provide you with a more energy efficient wash. Building with wood or steel allows for a large degree of flexibility in design. Often these washes incorporate large amounts of glass, which, if well maintained, can enhance your vehicle wash’s appearance.
Rust and rot are the two biggest inhibitors to the life of a steel or wood vehicle wash. The harsh interior environment quickly deteriorates both of these materials and each would require a protective finish and constant maintenance to ensure no water comes into contact with an exposed steel or wood surface. For designs that incorporate glass, a reverse-osmosis water spray will need to be applied after every wash to maintain a clean glass appearance.
Pre-cast concrete walls provide a sturdy structure that can be finished smooth, providing fewer inconsistencies in the finish compared to CMU blocks. The exterior can be easily clad to meet your aesthetic requirements.
You may find it difficult to locate a local pre-cast supplier. If you do pursue this option, you may be paying extra costs for transportation of the pre-cast walls to your location. Structures built of concrete should be considered long-term investments, so if you’re looking for flexibility of land use, then building with concrete is not the most cost-effective option.
Finished Forming Systems
Finished Forming Systems provide both a concrete wall and finished wall surface in one system. Construction is similar to that of regular concrete formwork but instead of removing the forms once the concrete has cured the finished wall panels remain as part of the wall. Wall panels are often made from high grade PVC that is resistant to harsh chemicals and is easy to clean. There is no need for coatings or extra liners. Finished forming systems can decrease construction time and long-term maintenance costs.
Photo:Car wash built with concrete finished forms (Octaform Systems)
Because the finish is incorporated into the wall from day one, upfront costs are generally more expensive. Labor rates can vary depending on whether the contractors have experience with installing finished forming systems. If you want to clad the exterior of your wash in a specific material you will be paying an additional cost to cover an already finished wall.