There are several pitfalls a Steel Erector will face on almost all projects over and over again. These pitfalls cost a Steel Erector money job after job and even though the Erector will take steps to avoid these issues they still come up as the Erector has no control over them.

Unfortunately, all an Erector can do is bring them to the attention of the General Contractor and hope that they will be handled.

Another thing to note here is back-charges cause hard feelings and create enemies. It is best to always have conversations up front about these known issues that come up, in attempt to not have back-charges. At least if you bring the known issues out up front you have done your part to avoid them and can reference back to your efforts if/when the back-charge comes through.

  1. Roof Opening Dimensions the issue with roof openings is that typically the mechanical contractor has to supply the GC with the dimensions for the location of roof openings. More times than not, this is delayed by the mechanical contractor.

The problem – is if the Erector does not have the locations for roof openings before the deck goes down. In that case, the Erector has to come back from underneath the deck and install roof frames which triples the time it takes to install a roof frame or they temporarily attach the deck in areas that the openings are in then pull the deck back up and install the roof openings.

The solution – is to ask for the roof opening locations 2 to 3 weeks prior to erection starting so that there is record of them being asked for. (Bring this up again in a pre-job meeting) The Erector can try to get a back-charge for having to install from underneath but all that really does is create hard feelings, but at the same time, when you are losing money you have to balance feelings and money- and from my experience, loss of money always wins.

Just beware it is an continual issue to get locations prior to the deck being placed. Instruct foremen to always ask for the roof-opening dimensions in the weekly job site meetings.

  1. Mobilizing the Job Too Early the issue with mobilizing too early is that the Erector gets geared up with crews and equipment and will catch up to the foundation, masonry walls or metal stud-bearing walls.

The problem – is you have to stop the erection process, potentially lay off men and have equipment on site that is not being productive. This completely kills the erectors momentum which is important to build when doing erection.

More times than not, projects are running behind schedule and the General Contractor hopes to pick up time with the Erector and will jump the gun on getting the Erector on site, if for nothing else than to just make a showing. I don’t know if it is just human nature, but once you get momentum going and then stop it, trying to pick it up again is a challenge and what will make it even worse is to stop a project’s momentum several times.

The solution – is to make site visits 2 to 3 weeks in advance of the start date and again 3 to 5 days prior to the start date. Talk with the GC and get their thoughts but also speak with the concrete, masonry, steel stud framing contractors to verify what their thoughts are on being ready. It is pretty easy to see how the job has progressed from the 3-week visit to the 3 to 5 day visit.

If it looks like it is on track for a start date- great; if not, have the conversation with the GC and try to push the start date out. If that does not work, make sure to ask what the plan will be when we catch up to the foundation, masonry walls or metal studs and see who will cover the cost of equipment that will be down as well as the cost of re-mobilizing.

  1. Stairs the issue with stairs is more times than not, they are not on the project so they can be erected as the steel goes up.

The problem – is the majority of jobs an erector bids on are in the competitive space and when pricing stairs, the erector will price stairs to erect them as the steel goes up, NOT erecting them by hand from underneath (unless are told to before job bids).

It is a completely different process. If you are erecting stairs as the steel goes up you simply drop them in with the crane. If the stairs are not done and on site, you have to drag them into the building and hand rig them into place, which will take 3 to 4 times longer to erect. Of course, you did not bid the stairs to be hand rigged in.

The solution – on the first visit to site (and in pre- job meetings) ask the GC if the stairs are on track to be on site to hang as the steel goes up and inform him that is how you have it priced. It’s good practice to include this language in your proposal and see it incorporated in the contract.

If told that the stairs are delayed, ask how the additional expense to hang the stairs from underneath will be handled.

  1. Steel Deliveries there are multiple issues that can affect Erectors which will be listed below. It should be noted these issues are more prevalent when an Erector is NOT working directly for the Fabricator. When the Erector and Fabricator are jointly tied to a contract there seems to be much better communication that avoids many of these issues.

The problem – the steel not arriving to the site at the time it was scheduled to be there. This is very costly to an Erector as when a Erector is scheduled to erect steel they typically show up ready to hit the ground running (and are expected to by the GC) with crews and equipment. If there is no steel to unload or it shows up late, you might as well be driving down the road throwing $100 bills out the window.

The solution – emphasize the importance of timely deliveries in the Pre-Job meeting, and call the fabricator personally to verify the date of delivery and verify what is shipping.

The problem – No erection bolts or erection drawings on the first truck of the steel. This will typically only happen on smaller jobs, which has an even bigger impact due to the dollar amount of the contract.

The solution – stress the importance of erection bolts and erection drawings on first truck of steel in the Pre-Job meeting, mention it to fabricator when you call to verify the date of delivery and verify what is shipping.

The problem – trucks with beams showing up to the site before the columns do- once again, this is more typical to smaller projects. If columns were to show up first, an Erector can start hanging them while waiting on other steel to come in which allows for some productivity while some trucks are still in route.

The solution – stress the importance of columns being on the first load of steel in the Pre-Job meeting, ask the fabricator if they can make this happen when you call to verify the date of delivery and verify what is shipping.

The problem – when a project is sequenced, and the deliveries come out of sequence. When this happens, the Erector will be set up with cranes and equipment to do the required sequence and the steel comes in un-sequenced, there is a potential that it will be for the other side of the project (this seems to be the case more often than not) and that portion of the project may not be ready or the Erector has to pick up and move to that sequenced area- which causes lost time and productivity.

The solution – stress the importance of sequences coming in order in the Pre-Job meeting, mention it to fabricator when you call to verify the date of delivery and verify that they are on track to ship sequences in order.

As I mentioned at the start of this, back-charges cause hard feelings and creates enemies. I do not think any Professional Erectors out there want to make out back-charges; in fact, an Erector can never completely recover the losses they inquire though back-charges.

Below is a chart that will clearly show why an Erector, when caused lost time and lost productivity, has no choice but to try to recoup though back-charges. It also demonstrates why it is in the best interest of an Erector to try to eliminate known issues before they become legitimate issues.














Steel Estimating Solutions

Vince Hughes



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