Building With Steel Joists

Posts from PDB's forums at

Posted by: RobertCDF (Robert Shaw, the author of "Building with Steel Joists," March/April 2011). Here is a thread for anyone to post questions regarding the article I wrote on steel framing in the March/April issue. A quick update that I missed in the article is that you can purchase Cold Galvanizing Compound (zinc-rich spray paint) from Rustoleum.

Posted by: Bayn Wood. How do you approach the stringers being built of wood when selling the upgraded steel framing?

How do you fasten synthetic products? I cannot imagine self-tapping screws from below working with synthetic products. Do you use decking clips at all?

Posted by: RobertCDF. I usually tell customers that steel-framed stairs are available at significantly higher cost. I usually try to sell them on more deck or other upgrades rather than boring stairs.

Number 8 x 1-inch screws driven from below into the decking work just fine. I use the clips with GAF's DuraLife Siesta (formerly CorrectDeck CX) and have had success using the Invisi-Fast clip with Fiberon Horizon decking. A #7 x 1 5„8-inch stainless steel trim-head screw with a self-tapping head works great with these clips.

Posted by: RayS. Another fastener to check out is UFO's Ballistic NailScrew. For through-fastened decking, it will save a great deal of time. The fastener is driven using a pneumatic nail gun and simply punctures the steel framing. It has a special thread that can then be unscrewed if needed. When I first saw this item at one of the deck shows, I knew that it would help save time on decks with steel structures.

Steel Joists? No Thanks

I read with interest Robert Shaw's article that recommends building decks with steel joists. I accept his opening premise, "it seems silly to put decking with a 20-year (or longer) warranty onto a wood frame that I doubt will last that long." Longevity is important. But the ACQ framing lumber we use - and all readily available pressure-treated wood I know of - is warranted for life. I am very comfortable installing the new synthetic decking on a frame that's warranted for life. He does not identify the warranty for steel joists (nor could I easily find any warranty online), but I doubt it exceeds the lifetime warranty of treated wood.

Mr. Shaw notes that steel joists are lighter to carry and are more dimensionally stable than pressure-treated wood. Good. And the feasibility of screwing decking to steel joists from below is another advantage. But these benefits do not outweigh the major disadvantages that he points out:

His building permits for steel-framed decks require an engineer's stamp, which costs $400 to $600 per project.

Steel joists are objectionably shiny, but you can hide that with extra trim.

The cut ends and drilled holes should be "touched up" with zinc paint.

Steel joists are more expensive.

Steel framing takes more time to assemble.

I had wondered about switching my deck frames to steel. But Mr. Shaw's detailed and thorough article has now convinced me. I'll stay with pressure-treated wood.

Jim Finlay Boston, Mass.

How About Letting Us Know When There Are Building Seminars?

I just got done reading your editorial (Editor's Letter, March/April 2011). I do not remember seeing an advertisement for that Simpson seminar in Connecticut. I would have liked to attend. If it was advertised in your magazine and I overlooked it, that's my fault. If it wasn't, let us know when those seminars are coming. I enjoy learning all I can.

Jon Kuchinskas Milford, Conn.