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Fastener Update: The Latest from the Fastener Industry

As the pieces that help hold a structure together, fasteners are an important part of the construction industry. To that end, fastener manufacturers are continually advancing and expanding their products to meet the demands of various building materials and environmental conditions. As we look forward in 2008, people in the fastener industry seem to be putting an emphasis on quality as much as cost. Having the right fastener can benefit a project even if it requires a premium product.

To gauge the latest trends, new products and biggest challenges in the industry today, Metal Construction News gathered input from five fastener manufacturers: Sealtite Building Fasteners, Tyler, Texas; Simpson Strong-Tie Co. Inc., Pleasanton, Calif.; Threaded Fasteners Inc., Mobile, Ala.; Triangle Fasteners Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Dynamic Fasteners, Kansas City, Mo.

While the many details involved in choosing fasteners will vary from project to project-and a complete list of manufacturers and suppliers can be found at the end of the article-the following are some key points our contributors came up with:


MCN: What are some of the new trends/issues in the fastener business? Is anything happening that's changing the way things are done or will be done in the future?

Joe Stager, corporate marketing and product development, Triangle Fasteners: Fasteners today are offered with improved plating and coatings to meet the demand of the panel producer and suppliers. Today, most exposed fasteners are more corrosion resistant, and when tested, will achieve a minimum of 1,000-hours salt spray. Painted fasteners are now available with a powder finish that is more durable, will withstand more severe weathering environments and will perform as well as the panel.

Tom Hulsey, director of technical services, and David Quehl, marketing manager, Sealtite Building Fasteners: With the improvements in paint systems that protect metal roofing and siding and with the more extensive warranties that accompany these improvements, there is a greater need to protect that investment with a fastener that can provide equal performance. Carbon steel fasteners are still the predominant screw used on metal roofing and siding. Protective coatings range from electro-plating covered by a barrier coating to mechanical zinc plating. All provide corrosion resistance but not equal to the paint warranties on metal. Installation of the fastener will degrade the coating. The extent is dependent on the installer. As a result, more pre-engineered building companies and components manufacturers specify fasteners that will match the warranty of the metal panel. These include stainless-steel caps and zinc-aluminum alloy heads that provide lifetime protection against red rust. Carbon steel screws generally carry no warranty against red rust. Depending upon the size and scope of a building project, fastener cost is a small percentage of the overall project. However, statistics point to the improper selection of fasteners as a cause of a high percentage of liability claims due to corrosion and thread failure.

Jerrad Douberly, assistant general manager, Threaded Fasteners: One of the more interesting trends we see is manufacturers wanting to reduce costs by reducing inventory levels. This in turn is encouraging fastener manufacturers and distributors to adopt Vendor Managed Inventory. This allows customers to tailor their inventory levels to their satisfaction. We are also seeing "just in time" orders coming through the system. The value-added services fastener distributors are offering is taking the place of just having the cheapest price. The distributors who offer more value-added services to their customers will be the ones who prevail over the competition in the future.

Clark Allen, product manager for Quik Drive, Simpson Strong-Tie: A lot of people are looking at areas where they haven't looked before, like composite decking. There are 80 companies offering lumber that's a mix of recycled material and wood, and there's some unique challenges to fastening [to] that. You have to have especially tight fasteners to cap off that mushroom instead of having a balloon of plastic wherever you insert a screw. In the last six or seven years [composite decking] started to take off. In the last two or three years, it's exploded. It's recyclable, green-friendly, lasts forever, but you need a premium product to fasten it.


MCN: Are there new products/advancements coming into the market?

Ken Webb, sales manager, Dynamic Fasteners: Recently, Dynamic Fastener introduced the Fenderhead #14 Diameter stout T-5 with 5/8 inch [26 mm] drill capacity. The giant washer face measures 5/8 O.D. and provides superior pull-over values and creates more than 100 percent additional bearing area as compared to the common 7/16-inch [11- mm] O.D. washer face.

Simpson: Quik Drive PROPP150, an auto-feed screw driving system for precision placement fastening for standing-seam metal roofing. This is a tool that the industry has been begging for. You have a guy on a metal roof. With standing seam it's fastened with clips. You have a guy trying to hold his screwgun, trying to hold clips and with his fourth hand trying not to fall off the roof. The challenge is to precisely put the screw in the hole of the clip. You have to have a tool that can get up close to the seam but also put a screw in the hole that attaches the clip. [The Quik Drive PROPP150] will allow you to fasten the standing-seam roofing in half the time.

Sealtite: For exposed fastener buildings, low-profile, round head screws with an internal drive are now available. They provide a more attractive appearance than traditional Hex Washer Head screws, especially on sidewall applications.


MCN: What are some challenges facing the industry? Are there installation problems? Other things people should consider?

Threaded: One of the more common problems we discovered is that some customers are not always aware as to what types of fasteners and accessories are available to them. Often a customer will ask for a fastener or accessory that is simply not readily available or is obsolete. If the customer knows what types of products are available to them before a plan is finalized, they may be able to save money and time throughout the construction process. When the contractor chooses fasteners for metal building projects it would be well advised to require a fastener that compliments the material being fastened. For example, if you have a panel that has a lifespan of 30 years, you want to make sure you choose a long-life fastener. Cheaper is not always better.

Simpson: If you're fastening metal to pressure-treated wood you've got to make sure you have the right coating or the right material, stainless steel or coated otherwise. ACQ [lumber] is harsh on a traditional fastener. A regular screw somebody would've used 10 years ago won't work on the ACQ (which most people still use for things like decks and docks).

Sealtite: Proper installation techniques continue to be a challenge for builders. Investments in proper tools and accessories can ensure a finished appearance that will please any building owner. Cost is an important issue, but the proper fastener specified and installed at the beginning of the job will act as insurance for many years to come.