The Look of Wood vs Metal in Building Exterior Design

Building Exterior Design

A building’s exterior materials play an essential role in the impression it makes on visitors. Woodgrain and metal building exteriors evoke very different feelings about a building.

The look of wood delivers an earthy, sometimes rustic aesthetic, while metal points to a clean, sleek design. But the impressions and emotions of wood and metal also go far beyond these simple descriptors.

Before you choose the look of wood or metal for your building’s exterior design, consider these important differences between the images and emotions wood and metal create.

What Impression Does the Look of Wood Portray in Exterior Design?

When you think of corporate America, you probably don’t picture wood. However, woodgrain is an eye-catching exterior design choice that can create a positive impression for first-time and returning visitors alike. The look of wood exterior designs can portray the following images:


Perhaps one of the most obvious images a wood exterior evokes is rusticism. Wood has been a popular building material for centuries — long before metal became widely accessible. As such, a bare-wood exterior design can create a rustic impression of your company. This impression can translate into a feeling that your company is honest, authentic, and down to earth.


Wood also evokes images of Americana, acting as a subtle representation of American culture, traditions, and values. Building visitors often create a positive association between American businesses and their offerings.


Wood is perhaps the most natural building material still widely used today. While most commercial buildings don’t use actual wood for their exterior, implementing a wood-like design can create a positive, natural impression.


Woodgrain exterior designs can also create a feeling of sustainability that can reflect on the company positively. Wood is a sustainable, often recyclable building material. Even if your building exterior design doesn’t use pure, natural wood, a wood-like aesthetic can portray a commitment to environmentalism.

What Emotions Does the Look of Wood Evoke?

What emotions do you want your building to evoke in visitors? Choosing the look of wood for your building’s exterior design is an easy way to create positive feelings and other good vibes from your building visitors.

Woodgrain as an exterior design choice can evoke the following emotions in visitors, employees, and customers:


Picture yourself in a rustic cabin filled with wood paneling, cabinetry, doors, and fixtures. It’s a comfortable feeling, right?

Wood is an overwhelming symbol of comfort in interior and exterior design. When visitors first pass your wood-inspired building, they may feel a subtle sense of comfort that can put them at ease.


While woodgrain exterior designs can come in both warm and cool tones, wood as a whole can evoke a feeling of warmth. After all, wood is a necessary component of building a fire.


Relating to its natural, comfortable impressions, the look of wood also produces feelings of familiarity in visitors. When entering your wood-inspired building for the first time, visitors may feel a sense of relaxed friendliness or recognizability.

What Impression Does Metal Portray in Exterior Design?

In many ways, metal is a stark contrast to woodgrain in exterior designs. Steel, aluminum, and other metal building materials can portray the following images of your business:


While wood is can be considered rustic and old-fashioned, metal is decidedly modern and contemporary. A metal exterior creates an image of newness and innovation that can positively reflect on the building occupants. People will instantly associate a metal building with fresh, high-quality, and modern offers from the business(es) inside.


Traditionally, metal was a more expensive building material than wood. While rising wood prices across the globe have altered this sentiment, most people still subconsciously view metal as a more costly, high-end material.

When you choose a metal-like material for your building’s exterior design, you portray an air of class, extravagance, and even luxury. Metal shows that your company is committed to quality and doesn’t sacrifice durability for cost. Whether you sell products or provide services, your metal exterior can produce a high-end impression on guests and potential customers.


Metal is a sleek and clean design choice with sharp angles and sometimes a shining, polished aesthetic. This impression also evokes feelings of innovation and newness.


Whereas the look of wood is a warm-feeling building material, metal produces cooler impressions and images. This coolness can translate to a matter-of-fact impression and any of the emotions we discuss below.

What Emotions Does Metal Evoke?

Using metal in your building’s exterior design draws the eye directly to your building and produces the following emotions:


Metal’s sleek, clean nature often evokes feelings of calmness and serenity. Many commercial buildings pair metal with minimalist design choices, keeping the focus on their business offerings while minimizing distractions.


Customers who pull up to your steel-facade building will instantly recognize your company’s commitment to innovation and forward-thinking.


Metal also creates feelings of power, both in guests or visitors and employees. You can harness this emotion to help customers feel more informed and in control of their purchase decisions and give employees the tools to sell your products and services well.

Final Thoughts

Making a purposeful choice between the look of wood and metal (or choosing a combination of both, which is very popular here in the Pacific Northwest) can contribute to your building’s style, impressions on visitors, and overall impact in many ways.

When you work with AMS, you don’t have to sacrifice durability for design. Our high-performance exterior construction materials can achieve your exact vision for your building’s exterior while maintaining long-lasting durability and requiring little maintenance.

You don’t have to consider whether metal would be more durable than wood on your building’s exterior. With our Woodland Planks material, you can benefit from a wood-like appearance and zero legacies of maintenance.

Choose from a wide range of architectural metal solutions to bring your building exterior design dreams to life. Contact AMS today at 360-825-2404, or fill out our online form, to request more information.

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