July 10, 2024

Steel Detailing: Overview Guide and Resources

Ari Baranian
Ari Baranian
CEO & Co-founder of Pirros
Construction workers

Steel detailing might sound complex, but it's really about creating detailed plans and drawings for building steel structures. These plans are then given to steel fabricators and erectors to make sure each part fits perfectly during construction.

However, there's a bit more to the process that every architect, engineer, and contractor must know. 

Let's talk about steel detailing in more detail, how it's done, and why it's important to the overall construction process.

What is Steel Detailing?

Steel detailing is the process of creating detailed plans and drawings for building steel structures, which are then given to steel fabricators and erectors. 

These drawings ensure that each steel part fits perfectly during construction, which, in turn, makes the building process smoother and more accurate.

Steel detailers play a key role in connecting the design phase with the construction phase. They work closely with architects and engineers to turn design ideas into clear instructions that fabricators and builders can follow.

Essentially, the central goal of steel detailing is to produce accurate, easy-to-follow drawings that ensure the steel components are made and put together correctly. This cuts down on errors, avoids delays, and keeps the construction project on track and within budget. 

Plus, it helps make sure the final structure is safe, stable, and built to high standards.

Erection Drawings

Erection drawings are the foundation of steel detailing. Detailers create drawings showing how to assemble the fabricated steel members on the construction site and provide the exact location and position of each steel piece, which makes everything fit together perfectly.

Erection drawings also include the sequence in which the parts should be assembled to help the construction team understand the order of operations.

Key points in erection drawings:

  • Member placement: Clearly marked spots for each steel piece.
  • Connection details: Instructions on how pieces are joined.
  • Assembly sequence: The order to assemble the pieces.
  • Fieldwork instructions: Tips for any on-site adjustments.

Shop Drawings

Shop drawings are used by fabricators in the workshop to create each steel component. They provide detailed instructions on dimensions, materials, welding, bolting, and other fabrication processes, so that each steel part is made right before it gets to the construction site.

Detailed shop drawings include every measurement and specification the steel fabricator needs to produce each steel piece accurately.

Elements of shop drawings:

  • Dimensions: Exact measurements for each piece.
  • Material specifications: Details of the steel and other materials.
  • Fabrication instructions: How to cut, weld, and bolt each individual steel member.
  • Quality control: Standards and checks to make sure everything is spot on.

What is Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD)?

Instead of sketching plans by hand, detailers use CAD software to create precise and detailed digital drawings. This software lets them make both 2D drawings and 3D models of steel structures, which makes it easier to see and tweak designs.

What are the benefits? For one, CAD software ensures highly accurate drawings and measurements, which cuts down on errors. 

Additionally, with 3D models, everyone can visualize the final structure and catch any issues early on (especially before producing detailed shop drawings). 

CAD also speeds up the creation and updating of drawings to save time and resources.

How to Find a Reliable Steel Detailer

From the dozens of steel detailing companies out there, how do you find the best one that will meet your needs? Here are some things to keep in mind when on the hunt for the best steel detailer:

  • Check their experience: Look for a detailer with plenty of experience. More years in the field usually mean better quality work and problem-solving skills.
  • Review their portfolio: Ask to see their previous work. A good portfolio will show they can handle projects like yours and pay attention to the details. Also, see if they have experience working directly with a fabrication shop or steel erector before.
  • Ask for references: Talk to past clients to see if they were happy with the detailer’s work. Positive feedback is a good sign of reliability and competence.
  • Verify their credentials: Make sure the detailer has the necessary certifications and training. Membership in professional organizations can also show their commitment to the industry.
  • Evaluate their communication skills: Good communication is key. Ensure the detailer is responsive, can clearly explain their process, and addresses any concerns you might have.
  • Consider their technology use: A detailer who uses modern CAD software is likely to produce more accurate and efficient drawings. Ask about the tools they use to stay up-to-date.
  • Assess their attention to detail: Detailers need to be meticulous. Look for someone who shows strong attention to detail and precision in their work.
laptop and a pen

The Role of Detail Management

Structural steel design drawings can take a lot of time to complete. That said, it makes sense to save those details and drawings so you can reiterate them for future projects.

However, don't just shove them into a random folder–make sure you can find those drawings later on with detail management software. Here's why it's so important:

Better Coordination

This software keeps everyone on the same page. It centralizes all the information, which makes it easy for architects, engineers, fabricators, and construction teams to collaborate effectively.

For example, team members can access structural engineering drawings wherever they may be, and can therefore work together seamlessly. Plus, the software makes communication clear and consistent. 

It keeps everyone updated on changes, updates, and any issues to prevent misunderstandings and keep the project on track.

Improved Quality Control

With regular checks and reviews built into the software, mistakes can be caught early. 

Automated quality control features help ensure that the final product meets all the necessary standards.

Easier Data Management

Detail management software keeps all your data organized and easy to access. It helps manage large amounts of information efficiently, so all the important details are right at your fingertips when you need them.

Also, it's easier to find specific details. Whether you're looking for a particular drawing, a communication thread, or modification history, the software’s search function lets you locate information quickly and accurately.

Spend Less Time Managing Details With Pirros

Spend Less Time Managing Details With Pirros

Focus on innovation and creativity instead of spending hours managing thousands of design details.

With Pirros, you can log your design details in one place—one with advanced search, organization, and collaboration features, so you won't have to spend hours searching for every detail you need.

Spend less time on detail management and more time pouring creativity into your designs. Book a demo today!

FAQs About Steel Detailing

Why is steel detailing important?

Steel detailing is key because it ensures that every steel part fits together just right on-site. Without detailed drawings, construction projects would experience major delays and mistakes.

What's the difference between erection drawings and shop drawings?

Erection drawings show how to put steel parts together on-site, while shop drawings give detailed instructions for making each piece in the workshop.

How does CAD help in steel detailing?

CAD software makes creating and changing drawings precise and quick, which helps detailers produce accurate and clear plans.

What is detail management in steel detailing?

Detail management is about organizing, coordinating, and communicating all parts of steel detailing to make sure everything is accurate and efficient in the construction process.

Can steel detailing be done manually?

Manual drafting is possible, but most steel detailers use CAD software, which makes it much more accurate and efficient.

Ari Baranian
CEO & Co-founder of Pirros
Ari is the CEO and Co-founder of Pirros, a detail management system for structural engineering & architecture firms. Before Ari co-founded Pirros, he was a practicing structural engineer working at KPFF where he created the Software Development Group to develop tools that streamline commonly encountered design problems to maximize efficiency and profits. Now, Ari spends his days developing Pirros, web based platform that makes it easy to reference info you need to detail.

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Spend less time fussing with details, and more time designing with Pirros.