Steel Building – Learn The Basics

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steel-building-the-basics-1Whether your are jumping into the world of steel building for a personal, business, government, or house of worship project, you are probably going to think you are in a different world; a world that doesn't speak your language!
 
The steel building industry has its own language, terms, and definitions. Taking time to learn the lingo of steel building will allow you to:
More effectively describe your project to the companies you speak to
Better understand the quotes that you will be provided
More effectively compare quotes between companies
Ultimately be in a better position to select the best company to work with
 

Steel building sides, which side are you on?

Of course, the very first thing that needs to be noted about steel building is that in the industry, all 4 walls have a very specific name - that never changes. Using a small 30' x 60' simple steel building as an example and going clockwise starting at 6 o'clock - the steel building's 4 walls are properly referred to as:
Front Sidewall - the front wall running the length of the steel building
Left Endwall - the left wall running the width of the steel building
Back Sidewall - the rear wall running the length of the steel building
Right Endwall - the left wall running the width of the steel  building
 
It does not matter where you are standing or what your point of reference is - these names do not change. When using these terms to describe the walls/sides of a steel building, Buck Steel often abbreviates them as: FSW (front sidewall), LEW (left endwall), BSW (back sidewall), and REW (right endwall). Advanced note: when discussing steel building projects that have a single slope or steel building projects with a lean-to, the high-side will be referred to as the FSW.
 
In addition to referencing the walls as above, each wall is divided into "bays". A bay is simply the space in between frame lines. In the above picture, the front sidewall has 3 bays referred to as bay 1, bay 2, and bay 3. The left endwall has 2 bays as well.
 

Steel building framed openings

With a discussion of the basic steel building dimensions completed, the next time to address in designing your steel building is the size, quantity, and location of framed openings for roll-up doors, walk doors, and windows. All steel building framed openings are not the same. A standard framed opening consists of a header (horizontally across the top of the opening), a sill (horizontally across the bottom of the opening), a left jamb (vertical member on the left of the opening), and a right jamb (vertical member on the right of the opening). In addition, the framed opening will have a piece of j-trim on all 4 sides so that the bare edges of the wall panel are hidden and that the framed opening looks finished.
 
Framed openings for the commercial roll-up doors used in steel building are a little different. Because steel building roll-up doors are installed on the inside of the steel building they are located "behind" the framed opening. As a result - the jambs and header of the framed opening would be visible and look unfinished. For this reason all Buck Steel building framed openings for commercial roll-up doors come with what is called full cover trim in addition to j-trim. The full cover trim covers the jambs and header of the roll-up door framed opening providing a "finished" appearance. When reviewing quotes for your steel building project, make sure that the framed openings for the roll-up doors include full cover trim.
 
A steel building needs to have each of its 4 sides braced in order to stiffen the structure. For most small to mid-size steel building projects, bracing one bay on each wall is sufficient. The most inexpensive and common form of steel building bracing is by using diagonal cables in the form of an "x" - often referred to as "cable bracing" or "x-bracing".

Steel building framed openings (continued)

With this in mind and using the image of the building at the top of this page as a guide - you can see that the placement of the two roll-up door framed openings on the front sidewall was done in a way that allowed Bay 2 to be used for cable bracing. If the customer would have requested 3 roll-up doors on the front of their steel building - then it would have been impossible to use cable bracing in Bay 2 and more costly forms of bracing would have had to have been considered.
 
The point of this is that placement of framed openings in a steel building affect the ability of the steel building engineer to brace the building - and can ultimately affect the cost of the steel building. If during conversations about your steel building project, the designer is not asking you for details about location of framed openings - be very suspicious.
 

Steel building drawing confusion

While discussing steel building and the process of completing a project, you will no doubt come across the use of the word "plans" and/or "drawings" several times. Those not dealing with steel building every day can easily get confused when discussing anchor bolt plans, approval drawings, permit drawings, final drawings, and foundation drawings. Additionally, when reviewing and comparing quotes for a steel building, it's important to be able to see which drawings/plans are included in the quoted price - and which might cost extra.
 
Building Drawings - the general category that describes the engineering for the steel building in the project. Buck Steel refers to these as "Stamped Engineered Building Drawings". There are several different types of steel building drawings so lets look at each in greater detail:

  • Approval Drawings - these steel building drawings that are NOT stamped by a licensed engineer but rather are a preliminary set of building drawings that are subject to correction and/or modification by the client or their architect. These kinds of drawings are most often seen on projects involving more complex steel building projects where one or more architects is involved.
  • Permit Drawings - these steel building drawings that ARE stamped by a licensed engineer and are the drawings that will be submitted to the local building department when applying for a permit.
  • Final Drawings - sometimes also referred to as erecting drawings are drawings that are NOT stamped and are used for on-site assembling of the pre-fabricated steel building. Final drawings show in greater detail (and identify) the connections and components to allow for proper erecting of the building and might also reflect minor changes made after the permit drawings for the steel building were produced and stamped by the Engineer.

Foundation Drawings - are the engineering for the foundation on which your steel building will sit. They are stamped by a licensed engineer and will be submitted to the local building department when applying for a permit. Buck Steel refers to these as "Stamped Engineered Foundation Drawings". If you are required to obtain a permit for your project - you will be required to produce a set of foundation drawings stamped by a licensed engineer.
 
Anchor Bolt Drawings - are the drawings that specify the exact placement of anchor bolts in the concrete slab for your steel building. Buck Steel refers to these as "Anchor Bolt Plans". The anchor bolt drawings and the Foundation Drawings serve as a set of very detailed instructions for the concrete contractor so that the concrete pad is ready to accept the steel building when erecting starts.
 
Generally speaking, it is highly likely that the steel building you are getting quotes on will INCLUDE a set of building drawings and a set of anchor bolt plans. When comparing quotes though, be sure that they all clearly specify in writing that both are included.
 
Many smaller companies and companies that are only brokers will likely NOT provide or even quote you on the needed foundation drawings - leaving it up to you to find a local engineer to provide you with them. Buck Steel is proud to be able to quote you on foundation design for your steel building as we have an in-house engineer who's only job is to design concrete slabs for steel building projects!


Now that you know the basics, why not call us?

With a primer on the language of the metal building industry under your belt - no doubt you are now feeling a little more comfortable. Our dedicated staff is only a phone call away and will be glad to discuss your metal building ideas even if you are NOT ready for a quote just yet. We are here to help you make an informed decision about the metal buildings in your future. Our design team is knowledgeable, experienced, creative, and customer focused. Call us today to discuss metal buildings or simply fill out our easy online quote request to get started!

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