Maximizing the Metal: Why all Metal is not Created Equal

Pole Barn Guru Blog

This article, by my friend Sharon Thatcher, was originally published in the  September 2016 issue of Rural Builder magazine and appears unedited. I’ve opined upon many of these areas in previous articles, however here Sharon ties it all together:

You may be the best builder on the planet, but if you use inferior products your stellar reputation could only last as long as those products. Because the larger percentage of a post-frame and steel-frame building is metal, doesn’t it behoove you to know a lot about it?

At Steel Dynamics, Don Switzer, sales manager and Dan Knight, marketing manager for construction products, believe so. Their presentation “Not all Metal is Created Equal” was well received back in 2014 at the Frame Building Expo, so Rural Builder recently caught up with them again to offer an overview of the topic.

Steel Dynamics is a major steel coil provider in the construction industry. Like builders, getting the right product to the customer to use for the right purpose is crucial to maintaining its reputation.

So what is it they want all builders to know?

 GAUGE IS NOT A GOOD GAUGE OF QUALITY

“At the start of the process is the steel, and it’s making sure that the strength is correct, and making sure that the gauge is correct,” Switzer said.

There are four general grades of steel but in the rural builder industry, most common is Grade 50 used for trim and Grade 80 for building panels.

“All the product from a mill is certified from a strength level,” said Switzer, “meaning that when you order a panel, it has an 80,000 yield strength or it has a 50,000 yield strength. Wherever you order it from, it’s important to ask your steel supplier for a test report.”

In addition to the strength of the materials, the test report will reveal how much coating is on the steel, the gauge and the width.

Gauge is where many problems arise. There is a legitimate decimal range of thickness that panels can be made within a given gauge. A Gauge 29 panel, for instance, might range from .0142 all the way to .020 in thickness, but most people are selling in the .0145 to .0152 range. The lower the gauge, the heavier (stronger) the panel.

“Some [suppliers] are always trying to be on the skinniest side of that gauge so they can still call it 29 gauge,” Switzer said.

There are legitimate uses for both ends of the range, yet builders should not be fooled into thinking that one-gauge-fits-all.

Switzer is a strong believer that builders should stop thinking in terms of gauge and start thinking in terms of actual decimal thickness.

But even then, it’s important to know that the measurement of thickness never includes the paint.

“When you measure thickness or gauge of a panel, you have to take away the paint,” Switzer said. “The paint doesn’t provide any structural value.”

An even better method than measuring thickness, is actual weight since weight leaves little room for exaggeration.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru: Come back Monday when I continue to share Sharon’s article as she talks about the importance of paint.

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