“Cost is a significant factor, but the premium for using stainless-steel fasteners is less than 2% of the total project cost in most cases. When the homeowner or builder looks at that deck, they’re buying a picture, and that picture will be realized only if the fasteners last as long as the deck boards. Homeowners today want this, and builders know their reputation is on the line.”
Stainless steel’s cost has customers and manufacturers looking at other options. “Most companies have increased their galvanization from G90 to G185, which is a much heavier level,” says Martin Ruch, vice president of retail sales at USP Structural Connectors. USP adds another layer to provide additional protection. “The fasteners are a bit more expensive, but not as much as stainless steel.”
Fastener manufacturers also must cope with the rise of steel substructures.
“We’re seeing some interest in the steel-substructure market,” Prime- Source’s McFarland says. “We’ve had self-drilling screws that will attach faster to steel frames for some time. Customers weren’t aware of them because they didn’t have a need.” Adds USP’s Ruch, “Steel substructures will take a while to take off, but they’re out there and growing. We’re looking at how they develop.”
Safety Concerns Rise
Steel substructures and more attention to securing deck boards are indications of the emphasis being put on safety. That focus is heightened by the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) promoting May as Deck Safety Month. “Safety is one of the biggest concerns right now, with varying degrees of enforcement across the country,” says USP’s Ruch, pointing to some high-profile collapses in Chicago that spurred the city to upgrade its code and inspections. To that end, USP created a heavy-duty bracket it calls the Chicago Deck Angle. “There is definitely more focus on secure structural requirements overall and code enforcement than in the past.”
Those requirements lead fastener makers to provide more information. “Structural standards for decks and patios are becoming more prevalent,” Grabber’s Wulfenstein says. “We’re focusing our efforts on testing and getting our products certified.”