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Fasteners for Metal in Construction

   Author: MetalMag

Though often unnoticed and unappreciated by the general public, fasteners play a key role in the safety and structural integrity of metal buildings and roofs. Fasteners also can speed building erection by expediting the installation of cladding components.

To determine what’s new in this important market, metalmag gathered input from representatives of several companies that produce fasteners.

Their insights indicate a focus on fastener integrity and performance. Some manufacturers produce fasteners of high-quality stainless steel or carbon steel with special platings or coatings to improve rust resistance and corrosion resistance. Many also are conducting rigorous performance tests on their products to confirm compatibility with building design life-span criteria.

Manufacturers also are responding to the architectural concerns of metal builders by introducing new head designs that minimize fastener visibility and offering powder coat finishes in custom colors so builders can match fasteners to architectural metal cladding colors.

Installation is being improved and simplified by the availability of super-sharp, fast-drilling points that readily can penetrate harder, thicker purlins. Some manufacturers also provide installation tools specifically designed for their systems.

For many companies, a top priority is providing training and technical assistance to help customers properly match fastener, application, and installation tools and techniques. Some have facilities dedicated to training metal building and roofing professionals about fastener application and installation.

Tom Hulsey, director of technical services and applications engineering, Sealtite Building Fasteners

Sealtite, a Tyler, Texas-based supplier of fastener systems for metal sheeting, focuses on meeting customers’ demands for quality and aesthetics. Last year, the company introduced Eclipse, a low-profile self-driller for attaching metal panels to purlins and other substructural materials.

“It has a six-lobe drive and virtually disappears into a panel. We also can custom color the fastener to match any wall or roof panel,” says Hulsey. The fastener is made of heat-treated carbon steel and has a concealed EPDM washer underneath the head to seal it and prevent leaks.

Hulsey says though many fastening systems for metal in construction have been around a long time, misapplication and improper installation frequently are responsible for problems that occur in the field. “There’s always someone trying to use the wrong tool to install self-drilling fasteners— usually it’s a tool that’s too fast (too high in rpm speed) for the fastener, and it burns the tip.”

Overlapped materials also can present a problem. “People are trying to use self-drilling fasteners in some applications in which they haven’t used them before, such as installing heavy pieces of 12 gauge together without first drilling a clearance hole in the top piece. Engaging the fastener threads in the top piece before you finish drilling the bottom piece tends to separate the materials rather than pull them together.”

Hulsey points out contractors often get into trouble trying new techniques. “Experienced contractors know how to put up metal buildings. But sometimes they’ll run into specialty details they haven’t encountered before, and that’s where the problems tend to occur—not with the plain vanilla panel-to-purlin connections.”

Contractors can avoid such problems simply by asking the fastener supplier for assistance. “We are more than happy to talk to contractors about their applications and help them determine the right tools and installation techniques so they don’t experience costly delays,” explains Hulsey. “We also will go to their jobsite if they are running into a problem. It’s part of our duty to help them solve it.”

Gary Martini, vice president of sales and marketing, SFS intec Inc.

SFS intec, a Wyomissing, Pa.-based nationwide supplier of engineered fasteners for roofing and metal construction, is focused on longer fastener life. “More building owners are looking for greater assurance of long life for the entire fastener—not just the head but the shank and threads you don’t see,” Martini says.

Among the company’s most rapidly growing product lines are the SX Austenitic Stainless Steel fasteners with bladed drill points for metal-to-metal applications and welded-point bimetal Woodgrips for metal to wood. “Austenitic-grade stainless steels are unbeatable when it comes to corrosion resistance. Other cheaper options, such as martensitic-grade (400 series) stainless simply aren’t going to resist rust and corrosion like the 300-series stainless steels,” Martini says.

He finds that many customers are confused by the term “long life” because it’s often not defined well. “We use these terms too widely. Some of us call certain coatings applied to carbon steel fasteners ‘long life.’ This may be true, but we as fastener manufacturers need to get better at explaining this. If a building owner wants a ‘long-life’ product, he probably means he wants it to remain rust free for as long as his steel panels. This means the right materials must be specified, whether it’s a zinc/aluminum cap or a complete stainless steel screw; he should know what he’s getting.”

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