Curtainwall Vs Storefront


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When it comes to selecting the right exterior for a building the options can be overwhelming.

Two of the most popular choices are curtainwalls and storefronts.

We often get asked which one is better but the truth is it depends on your specific needs.

In this article we will dive into the differences between curtainwalls and storefronts to help you make an informed decision for your building project.


Curtainwall Vs Storefront


Table of Contents

Curtainwall Basics

Curtainwall systems are architectural systems used in non-residential buildings that are designed to span multiple floors of a building while providing thermal and structural performance and an all-glass appearance.

These systems are engineered for better energy efficiency sustainability and higher performance requirements compared to storefront systems.

Curtain walls utilize extruded aluminum framing which can accommodate metal and stone panels for a more customized appearance. They have larger dimensions than storefront systems and can cover longer spans between anchor points. Curtain walls can be pre-assembled and crane-hoisted into place which reduces field labor and installation options.

Storefront Limitations

Storefront systems on the other hand are typically used on ground floors or low-rise buildings. Storefront frames are made of extruded aluminum with a maximum height of 10 to 12 feet.

Water management in storefront systems involves weeping water to the exterior of the building which limits the system’s height due to the weight of the water.

Storefront systems are limited in height with most installations placed below the fourth floor of a building. Storefront systems are generally less expensive than curtainwall systems due to their modest performance requirements and limitations in height.

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Storefronts are more suitable for smaller commercial buildings and retail stores that prefer entrance and elevation preference.

Water Management Differences

Water management is a critical aspect when deciding between storefront and curtainwall systems. Storefront systems are limited in height because they use a weeping system where water is directed to the sill flashing keeping the water out of the building.

This system is effective for low- to mid-rise installations but may not be ideal for larger buildings. Curtainwall systems on the other hand use weep holes that are created separately for each glass sill allowing water to exit the building at each glazed level.

This separate weeping of each glass sill is critical because it prevents water from getting trapped in the framing channels between panes.

Cost Factors

Cost is one of the most significant factors when choosing between storefront and curtainwall systems.

In general storefront systems are less expensive than curtainwall systems because they use fewer materials and require less labor to install. Storefront frames are made from extruded aluminum and can accommodate single span structures up to 10 feet high.

The frames are also restricted to a weight load that cannot exceed 2 inches which limits the size of the glass lites.

Curtainwall systems on the other hand have higher performance requirements and therefore require stronger materials. These systems are typically more expensive in both material and labor costs.

Curtainwall frames use thicker aluminum framing with larger dimensions than storefronts allowing for wider spacing between anchors. Additionally curtain wall systems can accommodate metal and stone panels not just glass offering more design flexibility.

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So while storefront systems are an excellent and cheaper option for buildings with modest performance requirements or budget objectives curtainwall systems are the ideal solution for buildings that require higher performance systems taller than three stories or have unique qualities or preferences for entrance and elevations.

Performance Comparison

Choosing between storefront and curtainwall systems can be complicated as each has unique qualities and features.

One of the main differences between the two is their performance in terms of air water and structural performance as well as thermal performance.

Storefront systems are generally cheaper and have modest performance requirements. They are limited in height due to their water management system making them ideal solutions for ground-floor structures or low-rise buildings. Storefront frames are usually made of extruded aluminum and can reach heights of 10 to 12 feet.

Curtainwall systems on the other hand meet higher performance requirements and can span multiple floors.

They have better air water and structural performance as well as thermal performance. Curtainwall frames are larger than storefront systems and usually made of extruded aluminum.

They can accommodate metal and stone panels and offer longer spans between anchor points. Curtain walls have a frame height of at least 13 feet and are thicker ranging from 2.5 inches to 8 inches.

Choosing the Right System

Choosing between a storefront and curtainwall system depends on a variety of factors such as architectural styles budget objectives and aesthetic goals. Additionally the building structure and requirements of the business owner and their businesses must be considered before any decision can be made.

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If the building requires natural light control both systems are excellent options. Storefront systems offer an all-glass appearance that can be modified to match the building’s aesthetic needs while curtain wall systems offer additional flexibility in both design and performance.

When it comes to durability and longevity curtain walls outperform storefront systems and require fewer repairs.

Curtain walls also provide excellent protection from external elements such as rain wind and solar heat management.

For business entrances and elevation preference storefront systems are typically cheaper and allow for customization to the facade’s interior and exterior.

When choosing curtain walls professionalism and project scope must be considered. The system usually requires more expensive material and labor costs.

  • Storefronts are cheaper and have limitations for elevations and entrances on ground floors
  • Curtain walls offer superior functionality and design
  • Crucial Engineering offers expertise in aluminum fabrication for both systems

Ultimately whether storefront or curtain walling is chosen the system must meet the specific requirements of the retail property. Consultation with an expert is necessary when deciding on the best system to use.

System Pros Cons
Storefronts Cheaper Limitation in height and thermal performance
Curtain Walls Higher performance requirements and better thermal performance More expensive in material and labor costs
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