Ensuring Safe and Optimal Steel Deck Performance

Steel deck is an important part of many structures as it provides a strong and durable solution for both floor and roof systems. However, to ensure safe and optimal functionality of steel decks in the field, it is important to follow the guidelines set forth by the Steel Deck Institute (SDI). By following these guidelines, designers, installers, and maintenance personnel can ensure that steel deck will remain a functional structural element in the building for years to come.

Proper Material Storage

Storing steel deck materials correctly is essential to prevent damage, rust, and corrosion. The SDI recommends storing materials in a dry and covered area, away from moisture and debris. If that is not possible, the bundles should be elevated off the ground and tilted to allow any water to drain off. The bundles should also be covered with a ventilated tarp for best protection from moisture. Note that prolonged exposure to moisture will often result in water wicking within the sheets and causing staining, especially in instances of white primer.  For acoustical batts, the fiberglass batts that are shipped to the site for installation by the roofer must be stored inside out of the weather until the time of installation.

Safe Material Handling

Steel deck materials are heavy and require safe handling practices to prevent injuries. The edges of the sheets can be sharp, and gloves are advised when handling. The SDI guidelines recommend using proper lifting techniques, equipment, and personnel to handle materials. It is important to ensure that lifting equipment is properly maintained and that personnel are trained in safe lifting techniques to prevent accidents and injuries.

Following Installation Guidelines

Following installation guidelines is essential to ensure proper steel deck functionality. The SDI Manual of Construction provides an overview of all of the basics of deck installation. This includes everything from storage and handling of the deck to proper installation with different types of attachment options. Attachment of steel deck can involve welding, screws, and/or pins. Welding procedures are guided by AWS D1.3 – Structural Welding – Sheet Steel. Proprietary screw or pin manufacturers will also have very specific installation instructions for their products. It is important to follow all of these guidelines closely and ensure that all personnel involved in the installation process are properly trained and familiar them.

Concrete Placement on Steel Deck

Steel deck is often used in conjunction with structural concrete to create floor and roof systems. It is extremely important to understand the construction design load assumptions when developing a concrete pour plan. Most industry tables for maximum unshored spans of the deck assume a uniform construction load of 20 psf or a 150 lb/ft load across the center of the spans. An engineer should review the concrete placement plan to ensure that these construction loads are respected and consider any equipment used during the pour. If the construction loads exceed the assumptions, the deck must be reanalyzed to see if shoring is necessary. If shoring is used during the pour it must stay in place until the slab is adequately cured to support its own weight. During the pour, an effort should be made to pump the concrete over the beams and screed it toward the center of the spans. Steel deck offers a very efficient way to create structural slabs provided the concrete placement considers all of this.

Inspection of Final Installed Product

Once the steel deck is installed, it is recommended that a final inspection takes place to review for both proper installation and any damage. The fastening of the steel deck is important when uplift and/or diaphragm forces are resisted by the deck. Therefore, a review of the type of fasteners, frequency, and consistency of fastening is recommended. For concrete pours, the quality of the side lap connections can prevent concrete leakage during the pour. It is also recommended to check for any damaged flutes that resulted from either handling or installation. These can create soft spots in the deck and should be reviewed by an engineer to ensure the structural adequacy of the deck.

By following the SDI guidelines for steel deck storage, handling, and installation, it is possible to ensure both safe and functional performance of steel deck. Steel deck is a very efficient building material used either in a roof deck application or in conjunction with structural concrete in a composite slab application.

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