The Most Common Metal Building Erection Mistakes

Published December 29, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

metal building erection mistakes

Erecting a metal building is a significant undertaking. You have invested in a site, purchased the steel building system, and hired people to assemble it. What you don’t need are mistakes.

Mistakes result in rework and a building that may not last as long as it should. Plus, mistakes are expensive. The longer it takes to erect a building, the less time you have to make your investment back through using the building. Your budget is shredded, and your reputation as a quality builder is at stake.

Common metal building erection mistakes

There are several steel building erection mishaps that can be avoided with a little planning and common sense along with experience in performing the job. Below are eight common metal building construction mistakes.

1. Unprepared building site

Don’t be in such a hurry to start building that you don’t prepare the site properly.

  • Clear the location for the building and a substantial area around it so you have room to unload and store parts.
  • Give the concrete for the foundation plenty of time to cure before carrying a load. The rule of thumb is to allow concrete to cure for at least a week in fair weather before placing a load on it.
  • Provide adequate roads and access ways for delivery trucks, construction equipment and workers. Mark all utilities especially overhead power lines and underground lines.

If the site isn’t cleared properly, your crew will have no room to unload or move parts and equipment, creating a safety issue from the beginning. Lack of access could lead to steel building erection accidents and delays in delivery and construction. And if the foundation is not properly cured, your anchor bolt connections may suffer instability or failure.

Not a good start to a building project.

2. Neglecting to read the directions

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but there are builders who either believe they know enough to put together the building without looking at the instructions or building plans. Or they simply believe they can figure it out as they go along.

The instructions and plans are included for a purpose - to ensure proper assembly from the beginning. Experience will not help to piece together a custom pre-engineered steel building. There is no such thing as cookie-cutter construction; even stock prefabricated buildings require changes according to the local building codes and the site requirements.

The manual that comes with the building is written to include correct techniques used by the building industry, the metal building manufacturers' requirements, as well as equipment requirements and safety tips. Which leads to the next mistake…

3. Not following safety protocols

The construction industry is a leader in job-related injuries and fatalities. In nearly every case, the issue could have been avoided by following the appropriate safety protocols and using the right safety equipment.

Every engineer, contractor, subcontractor and worker on a site is responsible for following all safety procedures. Make sure everyone receives the message.

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4. Unloading without a crane or forklift

Don’t jeopardize your investment by increasing the risk of damage to your building components. Steel building components are heavy and unwieldy; there is just no good way to move them efficiently and safely around a jobsite without the right equipment.

From bent members to scratched panels, you are risking both the integrity of your building and the safety of the crew by attempting to move components into place without a crane or forklift. Use this equipment safely by ensuring loads are balanced, cables are at the right angle, and spreader bars are used when needed.

And another safety reminder: don’t stand beneath a load that is being lifted. Being squashed by a heavy load is only funny in the cartoons. You won’t spring back to life once the load is lifted.

5. Cutting components in the field

OMG! Why would you even consider doing such a thing?  Why?

A premanufactured steel building has been precision fabricated for fit and function. Every component in the kit is already the right size and shape; field modifications are a strict no-no. Not only are you risking the stability of the building by cutting primary members, you run the risk of creating areas where oxidation and rust can occur on beams, columns, and panels.

We’re begging on bended knee here. Don’t do it.

If you absolutely must have a modification, go back to the building manufacturer before putting your cutters and saws to work.

steel building erection mistakes

6. Not bracing rigid frames

We understand; it’s the end of the day, your back is aching, and all you want to do is have dinner and go to bed. However, before you leave, brace every rigid frame you have erected. If you do not, you risk significant damage to the frame and other components if the frame is shifted by the wind.

Every piece should be braced and supported before you leave the site.

7. Incorrectly installing fasteners

Fastener installation is crucial for a stable roof installation. Fasteners aren’t difficult but you do need to take care to drive them in until tight and firmly seated on the washer. You may see a bit of neoprene around the edge of the washer, but that’s OK.

Use the right tools for the job and don’t overtighten or under-tighten. All fastener holes for pre-engineered buildings are pre-drilled, so don’t pull Mistake #5 and drill new ones.

8. Walking where you should not

If the roof panels are not attached to the purlins do not take a stroll across the roof.

  • Walking on incompletely secured panels can damage the panels and create the potential for injury.
  • Stepping on skylights and translucent panels is expressly forbidden.
  • Once panels are fastened walking on the panels is best at a purlin location. Also, do not walk on the panels at the eave as this may cause the panel to distort and water may pond at this location.

So watch where you put your feet.


Now you know…

  • Prepare the building site correctly.
  • Read the directions.
  • Follow all safety procedures.
  • Use a forklift or crane to unload and move components.
  • Do NOT cut members or panels in the field.
  • Brace rigid frames before leaving for the day.
  • Install all fasteners correctly.
  • Watch where you walk on the roof.

Erecting a premanufactured steel building is easy relative to traditional construction, but that doesn’t mean it’s mistake-proof. As you can see from this list, there are several commonly made mistakes that can spell disaster immediately or down the road.

Make sure you and your team avoid them. You have enough to do without creating rework.

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