Metal Architecture Home

Fasteners, Cost Versus Quality

Mcn  Bus Feature  Oct16 1

Comparing value fasteners with quality fasteners

The metal construction industry has many specific fasteners for many specific applications. Fasteners are a key component in the overall performance of metal roofs. Construction quality is often found at joint intersections where fasteners bring two pieces of material together for strength and longevity. The wrong fastener can result in a leaking roof or even a complete roof failure.


Not All Are Identical

Not all fasteners are created equal. Fasteners used in metal buildings and roofs are specifically engineered to meet the manufacturer's requirements of the building or sheeting. These fasteners are produced to specifications controlled by various ASTM, ASME, and SAE standards. Many of these standards are based around industrial and residential users, and must be enhanced to meet the commercial construction requirements.

"For instance, construction fasteners used to attach metal roofing and walls are installed in a job-site environment which has many variables compared to industrial fasteners installed in a controlled, assembly- line process," says Joe Stager, vice president of product development and marketing at Cleveland-based Triangle Fastener Corp. "Even though these fasteners may look similar in dimensions, the fasteners used in construction are designed to install more consistently and must be more corrosion resistant. Care should be taken when purchasing fasteners from sources that are not involved actively in the metal roof and pre-engineered metal building markets. Some fastener suppliers may not be aware of additional requirements needed and provide fasteners that install poorly, corrode quickly or fail due to incorrect sizing."


Value and Quality

There are high-quality fasteners, there are offbrand (value) fasteners and there is an in-between range. "Quality fasteners are built to specifications of reputable companies and are known for pull-out values and testing that is done to ensure 'they are what they say they are,'" says Tim Martin, regional sales manager for Levi's Building Components, Leola, Pa. "If your building comes with fasteners as part of the package, it is best to use those fasteners because the snow load and strength of the building will be partly determined by the fasteners provided. Using inferior fasteners could mean a change in these important factors."

Understand what you are trying to achieve with a specific fastener, and what the fastener was designed to do. Metal building fasteners and metal roofing fasteners are similar, but not so similar with value fasteners. "When selecting a fastener for a specific application it is important to understand the expectations of all that is involved," says Keith Self, metal building product manager, Birmingham Fastener, Birmingham, Ala. "Most branded fasteners are manufactured within a specific set of tolerances and must pass very stringent quality standards. Like most products, companies specialize in certain items and oftentimes products may vary greatly in price, but in the grand scheme, fasteners typically comprise less than 2 percent of the expense of the project. In comparison, cutting corners on one of the most important aspects of the job could have very costly returns. Do not skimp on quality."

Quality fastener performance is usually very high. Quality fasteners are designed for a particular application and tested for repeated results before a company releases them for production. "Generic parts are typically made for general purpose and DIY users, not to say they are bad, just that they are not designed and developed with a specific purpose in mind," says Self. "Tolerances play a huge role in repeated success. While any company could have a bad run, branded fasteners typically outperform the off-brand fasteners."

Often times a fastener supplier enters into the market with a low-price imported product. Stager cautions, "[This] is a sure sign that the supplier has not invested in the infrastructure to meet the longterm engineering and quality demands of the industry, or is supplying a product that may not meet the performance requirements of the building system."

Indeed, off-brand fasteners may pass the minimum standards, but have quality issues that cost a contractor time and money. "A screw is not just a screw," says Galen Longley, senior product manager, Simpson Strong-Tie Co. Inc., Pleasanton, Calif. "For example, if the drill-point screw only works half the time or if the heads pop off resulting in using twice as many fasteners. Off-brand fasteners may not be code listed and may not have the same load capacities as high-end quality fasteners. This may lead to structural connection failures."

Martin contends that with the proper thickness of zinc, fasteners will have a longer service life. "Consistent drill points are important because screws will work the same each time," he says. "The inferior ones have lower quality standards; inferior quality control means no consistency in the manufacturing process."


Warranty Fasteners

In some instances manufacturers require their contractors to purchase warranty fasteners as part of a more complete package. This ensures the manufacturer quality products are being used in the installation of its products. From a warranty standpoint, this ensures against the use of lesser quality or off-brand products being used. Other manufacturers will allow substation of their parts in some instances, due to the installers being a certified applicator are deemed competent by the manufacturer.

"Most warranty fasteners are manufactured by the same manufacturer of the same product under a different name, and sold to the installer at a more increased price to help cover the cost of the warranted installation," Self says. "While the product may appear the same, there may be an identifying head mark, of trademarked color or other differences, differentiating it from the other products, to get the warranty these parts must be used. In some instances a spec may allow the use of an equal-to or better-than product to be substituted in certain cases. Some contractors can opt out of the warranty from the manufacturer and warranty the job themselves; this allows them to use whatever fastener they deem appropriate."

Stager contends it is critical that fastener substitutions be approved by the building or roof/wall manufacturer. "Using the incorrect fastener may not meet building code requirements, void warranties, and cause the roof or wall system to fail," he adds. "It's best to consult with a fastener supplier who understands the industry, building systems, and roof or wall systems."

Selecting fasteners from a reputable company allows you to have someone to go back to in the event an issue ever arises. Martin stresses that when purchasing them online or eBay you really have no idea where those fasteners could be coming from and no idea of their quality.


Installation Value

It sounds ironic, but a premium fastener is usually the lowest installed cost fastener, even if you have to spend a little more up front. Longley contends this is due to higher quality connections, reduced failures and being an integral part of an installation system, such as an auto-feed screw driving system (e.g., Quik Drive systems). "Premium fasteners are also engineered for faster, more consistent driving," he says. To ensure a quality installation, quality fasteners often come with highly visible installation instructions or a manual; value fasteners often don't. Most premium fastener companies now utilize video and YouTube to show correct fastener installation.


Sidebar: Material Compatibility

Material compatibility can be a huge factor in determining the proper fastener for a particular project. Most big box stores offer a comprehensive line of value fasteners, and depending on what you are doing, may work well. If you are attaching your new mailbox to the fence post you may not be concerned with galvanic reaction, but if you are adding a new metal roof to your house, you may want to consider the chemicals in the treated lumber. Mixing dissimilar metals can be a very costly expense, not to mention a dangerous combination. In the case of dissimilar metals and galvanic reaction, the products react with one another, possibly to the point of failure. Branded fasteners typically take this into consideration with coatings and other safety factors applied to the fastener of choice.

Keith Self, metal building product manager, Birmingham Fastener, Birmingham, Ala.