Hat channel, also known as furring channel or omega section, is a metal framing component used in construction and remodeling projects. It gets its name from its hat-like cross-sectional shape.
Hat channels are typically made from galvanized steel or aluminum and come in various sizes, with the most common being 7/8″ and 1-1/2″ wide. They are available in several gauge thicknesses, like 25 gauge, 20 gauge, 18 gauge, and 16 gauge. The heavier the gauge, the thicker and stronger the hat channel is.
Hat channels serve several important purposes:
- Leveling uneven walls and ceilings – The hat channel’s shape allows it to span uneven masonry or concrete surfaces and provide an even base for attaching drywall or other finishes.
- Creating an air gap – Installing hat channel on walls or ceilings provides a space between the structure and the finish surface. This air gap allows moisture to escape, preventing mold and mildew.
- Increasing sound insulation – Using hat channels with resilient sound clips helps decouple walls and ceilings. This separation improves sound damping between rooms.
- Providing fire resistance – Since hat channels are noncombustible, they protect attached finishes and enhance fire safety.
- Resisting corrosion – Galvanized or aluminum hat channels are highly corrosion resistant, even in damp environments.
Where Can I Use Hat Channels?
Hat channels have many applications in both commercial and residential construction:
Concrete and Masonry Walls
Hat channels create an even surface on concrete or CMU block walls for attaching drywall. They are installed vertically, attached with concrete screws.
On ceilings, hat channels are installed perpendicular to the joists and secured with screws or wire ties. Drywall or other ceiling finishes fasten to the hat channels.
Curtain Walls and Exterior Finishes
Hat channels attached over exterior walls provide drainage and ventilation behind siding, stucco, and other exterior finishes.
Using hat channels along with sound isolation clips improves sound transmission ratings, ideal for home theaters and music rooms.
Noncombustible hat channels protect fire-rated wall and ceiling assemblies, enhancing fire resistance.
An air gap created with hat channels allows moisture to escape from shower and tub surrounds, reducing mold risks.
What are the different types of hat channels available in the market?
Hat channels are typically made from various materials, each offering unique properties that make them suitable for different applications. Here are the most common materials used for hat channels:
- Galvanized Steel: This is the most common material used for hat channels. Galvanized steel is steel that has been coated with a layer of zinc to prevent rusting. This makes it highly resistant to corrosion, which is particularly useful in environments that are prone to moisture. Galvanized steel hat channels are available in various gauges, such as 16, 18, 20, and 25 gauge. The heavier the gauge, the thicker and stronger the hat channel is.
- Aluminum: Aluminum hat channels are lightweight and corrosion-resistant, making them easy to install and durable. They are available in different alloy grades like 6063 and 6005. Anodized aluminum provides better corrosion resistance. Aluminum hat channels can serve all the same functions as hat channels made from wood or steel. They are stronger and are the only choice in towns where the local building code requires fireproof support elements.
- Fiberglass: Some hat channels are made from fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP). These are non-conductive and corrosion-proof, making them suitable for applications where dielectric strength and chemical resistance are needed.
- PVC: PVC hat channels offer high chemical and moisture resistance. They are non-conductive and are a cost-effective alternative to fiberglass channels. PVC channels are available in white and gray colors.
- Wood: Wood hat channels are made from wood like poplar or pine. They are economical but susceptible to moisture damage and have lower strength than metal channels.
Each material offers unique advantages and disadvantages, so the choice of material will depend on the specific requirements of your project. For example, if you need a lightweight, corrosion-resistant hat channel, aluminum might be the best choice. If you need a strong, durable hat channel that can withstand heavy loads, galvanized steel might be more suitable.
How Hat Channels Compare To Other Channel Types
Here is a comparison table summarizing how hat channels compare to other channel types:
|Steel Channels||Strong and rigid, good loading capacity||Heavier than aluminum, can corrode|
|Aluminum Channels||Lightweight, corrosion resistant, easy to cut and install||Less strong than steel|
|Fiberglass Channels||Lightweight, corrosion resistant||Lower strength, more expensive|
|Wood Furring Strips||Inexpensive, easy to install||Can warp, mold, or rot over time|
|PVC Channels||Lightweight, moisture resistant||Lower strength, limited sizes|
- Hat channels are corrosion resistant metal channels that provide an air gap for moisture control. They are commonly used in wall cladding, rainscreen systems, and furring uneven surfaces.
- Compared to steel channels, hat channels are lighter weight but can’t support as much load. Aluminum hat channels are easiest to cut and install.
- Hat channels are stronger and more durable than fiberglass, wood, or PVC alternatives. They resist moisture, mold, and mildew better than wood furring strips.
- For high strength and loading capacity, steel channels are best. For lightweight and corrosion resistance, aluminum or fiberglass channels are good options.
- Hat channels are a versatile option that provide strength, moisture resistance, and ease of installation compared to many alternatives. They are commonly used in commercial construction and remodeling projects.
How To Install Hat Channel
Installing hat channel is a relatively simple process:
- Mark the wall studs or ceiling joists where hat channels will be installed. They are typically spaced 16″ to 24″ apart.
- Use a laser level or chalk line to mark a level line to guide the hat channel installation.
- Cut hat channels to length using tin snips. Remove any burrs from cut edges.
- Position hat channels along the level line and attach with suitable fasteners like concrete screws, Tapcons, or self-tapping metal screws.
- When used for soundproofing, resilient sound isolation clips fasten between the hat channels and wall/ceiling framing.
- Install drywall or other finish material, securing it to the hat channels per manufacturer specifications.
- For fire and sound assemblies, caulk perimeter gaps before taping and mudding drywall.
Proper hat channel installation is crucial for optimal performance. Take care to space channels correctly and keep them level. Follow manufacturer instructions for fastener type and spacing. With attention to detail, hat channels will provide many years of durable service.
How to Install Hat Channel to the Frame step by step
Here are step-by-step instructions for installing hat channel to the frame:
- Hat channel furring strips (typically 25 gauge galvanized steel, 7/8″ or 1-1/2″ wide)
- Self-tapping screws (length depends on thickness of frame)
- Hammer or screw gun
- Chalk line
- Tape measure
- Utility knife or metal snips
- Determine spacing for the hat channel strips based on your project requirements. Typical spacing is 16″ to 24″ on center.
- Snap chalk lines on the frame to mark the placement of the hat channel strips. Measure and mark the lines evenly across the entire surface.
- Cut the hat channel strips to the desired length using a utility knife or metal snips. Cut pieces longer than needed and trim to exact size during installation.
- Place the first hat channel strip along one of the chalk lines and attach it to the frame using self-tapping screws. Screw through the center of the furring channel into the frame.
- Continue installing hat channel strips along the chalk lines, overlapping ends by 6 inches. Use two screws where pieces butt together.
- Make sure the hat channel strips remain straight and level as you install. Use a level to check periodically.
- Trim any overhanging ends of the hat channel strips flush with the frame using metal snips.
- Your material (drywall, wood, etc.) will now attach to the hat channel strips which provides an even surface spaced off the frame.
How to choose the right size of hat channel for a specific project?
Here are a few suggestions for sourcing the custom hat channel you need for your project:
- Check with metal suppliers or metal fabrication shops in your area. Many can make custom hat channels to your specifications, either by bending sheet metal or extruding the shape. Provide them the dimensions and material specs you need.
- Order custom hat channels online. Companies like MetalsDepot.com or OnlineMetals.com allow you to input custom dimensions and will fabricate the hat channels for you.
- Make them yourself as you suggested. Use a finger brake or press brake to bend 10 gauge sheet metal into the hat channel shape. This gives you full control over dimensions.
- Modify standard hat channel sizes to work. Get the closest size available (e.g. 1-1/2″ x 1/2″ x 10 ga) and modify as needed. For example, you could1 weld two pieces together to double the flange width.
- Consider alternate channel shapes like C or U channel. These may be easier to source than a custom hat channel. You can combine channels to create the structure and dimensions needed.
- Use steel tubing or square tube to make channels. Cut to length and weld into a rectangular frame to create a rigid channel shape.
The key is being flexible on the shape and material while still meeting the structural requirements. Get creative with combining and modifying standard metal shapes from suppliers. And leverage local metal fabrication shops if you need truly custom hat channels. Let me know if you need any other suggestions!
Top Brands of Hat Channel
Based on the search results, here are some of the top brands for hat channels:
- ClarkDietrich – A major manufacturer of metal framing products, including galvanized steel hat channels in various sizes and gauges. They offer the ProSTUD and ProTRAK brands.
- MarinoWARE – Produces steel, aluminum, and stainless steel hat channels. They have a large selection of standard sizes and can do custom extrusions.
- Johnson Brothers – A leading roll former that makes steel hat channels and other metal shapes. They offer various gauges, widths, and finishing options.
- Eagle Aluminum – Specializes in aluminum hat channels and furring channels. They have a wide range of standard extrusions and also do custom shapes.
- M.P. Metal Products – An ISO certified manufacturer offering custom roll formed steel hat channels. They work with materials from 0.005″ to 0.165″ thick.
- Central Steel Buildings – Sells galvanized steel hat channels for metal building applications, like steel framing. They have standard sizes in gauges up to 18.
The most popular and widely available brands are ClarkDietrich for steel and Eagle Aluminum for aluminum hat channels. Major manufacturers like these can provide various standard sizes and gauges as well as custom fabricated hat channels. They offer high quality products for commercial and residential construction applications.