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Posted by McElroy Metal ● Jan 25, 2022 8:00 AM

Cold Formed Steel Buildings

There is an old saying that everyone wants a good price, great quality, and fast delivery but you can only pick two of the three. In the past, that old adage rang true, but like much else in the world today, things have changed.  


Customers who historically might have used a pre-engineered building, routinely accepted long lead times as a constant in their building project timeline and instead settled for good prices and quality for their two options. However, a relatively new concept, referred to as cold-formed steel buildings, often allows us to deliver price, quality AND to do so with a much quicker lead-time. 

Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings vs. Cold Formed Buildings

Mechanical Equipment (21)True pre-engineered metal buildings consist of red iron frames and red iron substructural members. The frames are fabricated and welded together in a time and labor-consuming process. Consequently, the typical lead time for these types of buildings is often several months.  In recent times due to labor and supply chain issues, the lead time has extended even further. 

Conversely, Cold Formed metal buildings feature roll-formed members fabricated in McElroy Metal's manufacturing facilities. Roll forming all components eliminates the need for welding pieces into a finished frame. Consequently, cold formed steel buildings allow us to deliver a building in weeks (instead of months) at lower total costs while maintaining, and in some cases, improving overall structure quality.

While Cold Formed buildings offer shorter lead times and ease of installation, pre-engineered metal buildings still have their place.  For structures over 60’ wide or those where wide column spacing is critically important, a  metal building may still be the best fit.  If you aren’t sure which type is best for your project, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Lower Costs

Cold formed steel buildings are easier to install and often require fewer man-hours to complete than red iron frame buildings. There are a number of reasons why including:

  • Building Frame Attachment Method:
    • No pre-set anchor bolts - Traditional metal buildings require structural slabs and footings, requiring multiple pours, to carry the load of columns. and anchor bolts need to be pre-set into the slab to accommodate columns.
    • Drill in anchors - Cold formed buildings spread the loads out over multiple frame lines, resulting in smaller loads at each column. As a result, foundations can utilize post-installed anchors and don’t require footings that are labor-intensive to frame.
  • Lower Concrete Cost:
    • Cold formed buildings use 20-25% less concrete because they spread the loads out over multiple frame lines, resulting in smaller loads at each column. 
  • Reduced Labor 
    • Traditional metal buildings require the welding of frames. However, Cold Formed Buildings don’t require any welding during either the manufacturing or installation process. That step alone is a significant difference.
    • Most pre-engineered metal buildings require a great deal of onsite notching and cutting to modify standard columns to project specifics.  Conversely, most components used in Cold Formed Buildings are precisely produced at the factory which results in reduced on-site labor.
  • Easier to manage components
    • What contractors like about the Cold Formed Buildings is that it is much lighter to lift and move components than a red iron building which requires a crane. Contractors say that at the end of a day working on a red iron building it's hard heavy work whereas it's definitely not heavy work working on a Cold Formed Building and as a result is easier on the body. Red iron buildings have much larger bays, typically 25'-30' whereas Cold Formed Buildings are more in the range of 10'-20'. Instead of lifting a 25' long 8" girt or purlin into a place, contractors are lifting a 15' 6" girt. 
    • In the video below you can see that they lifted one end of a double 18' tall column onto a manlift and then rode it up and how easily they then turned it once it was up. A red iron building would have required a crane.
  • Mechanical Equipment (6)Less Equipment Required:
    • Due to the weight and overall mass of the columns and frames, pre-engineered buildings normally require the use of a crane during installation.  Between the equipment cost and operator, that can represent a costly requirement.  Conversely, Cold Formed buildings are most often erected with simply a manlift, or at most an extended boom forklift, which is cheaper and more easily accessible. 

Improved Quality

Traditional red iron frames have visible weld seams and manufacturing blemishes. Red coating is not a finish coating but is designed simply to protect raw steel during the manufacturing process and also camouflage corrosion.

In comparison, Cold Formed buildings are manufactured from Galvanized material, offering a clean appearance and an effective barrier to combat corrosion. If interior components are left exposed the galvanized finish results in a much better-looking (not to mention brighter!) building.

To see a video installation, click here or contact us to speak with your local sales rep.

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About McElroy Metal

Since 1963, McElroy Metal has served the construction industry with quality products and excellent customer service. The employee-owned components manufacturer is headquartered in Bossier City, La., and has 14 manufacturing facilities across the United States. Quality, service and performance have been the cornerstone of McElroy Metal’s business philosophy and have contributed to the success of the company through the years. As a preferred service provider, these values will continue to be at the forefront of McElroy Metal’s model along with a strong focus on the customer.

Topics: Cold Formed Steel Buildings

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