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What is Steel Detailing?

Updated: May 26, 2023

What is steel detailing?

Steel detailing is a technical term that describes the creation of detailed plans, drawings, and other important documents used to construct buildings, bridges, and other structures.

A steel fabrication company uses this documentation to process raw materials into usable products using any variety of metalworking processes — including cutting and welding columns, beams, braces, trusses, stairs, handrails, joists, metal decking, etc. Steel erection companies use steel fabrication documentation to install the steel members or assemblies fabricated by a steel fabricator.

Why are steel detailers important?

When it comes to construction projects, all of the key players — from architects to engineers — must maintain a level of compliance with industry standards and protocols, including those from American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

Steel detailers often pick up where structural and architectural contract drawings leave off, adding a necessary level of detail. The actual level of detail required to fabricate a column, beam, brace or other steel member in the shop requires a professional with experience to detail and understand typical fabrication and erection practices.

Examples include:

  • Detailing the maximum length or size of material for a galvanizing tank size

  • Describing areas where beams or columns should be painted or otherwise protected to provide for specialized connection or attachment (ie. slip critical bolting, seismic detailing concerns, floor stud attachment...)

  • Converting generic connection details to specific connections required due to actual configurations of material (cope dimensions, slots, brace angles...)

How do steel detailers keep construction projects compliant?

The level of detail required for steel detailing and fabrication is best communicated with manual and computerized documentation, including:

Shop Drawings

Shop drawings take construction documents to the next level, specifying the exact manufacturing requirements for each individual steel member of a structure. These drawings provide material specifications, member sizes, all required dimensions, welding, bolting, and other information.

Erection Drawings

Erection drawings are used to guide the erection of steel while on the construction site with information that typically includes:

  • dimensioned plans that illustrate the location of the steel members,

  • diagrams and design calculations, and

  • procedure manuals used on site for bolting, welding or installing anchors.

Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)

Steel detailers often use such computer applications as Tekla Structures, SDS/2 and Advanced Steel to build 3D models of the project before producing detailed shop drawings. CAD allows steel detailing companies to be more efficient with time and cost while providing increased accuracy compared to manual drawings and more flexibility for professionals who use steel detailing services.

What are the job duties of steel detailing companies?

A typical steel detailing company includes several key team members who work together to ensure accurate and timely completion of project documentation.


The detailer, of course, serves as the main role in a steel detailing business — properly interpreting the contract drawings and properly preparing shop and erection drawings for the client. An experienced detailer understands all of the unique considerations that must be taken into account to convert general steel sizes/configurations in contract drawings to detailed drawings with which fabricators and erectors work.


A checker is an invaluable team member — typically a professional with an extensive amount of experience in the industry. They see what’s missing and know what the drawings should look like. In short, the checker provides “QC” (quality control) in a steel detailing business ensuring that none of the documentation contains errors or missing details that could lead to issues down the road. A steel detailing team with the most experienced detailers should have a good checker who provides a second set of eyes.


A scrubber focuses on a drawing presentation, ensuring that the final client-facing information on the 2D drawings has all of the information needed to fabricate or erect the steel in the field.

Project Manager

The Project Manager (PM) is the conductor that ensures the steel detailing project process is a well-oiled machine. Often, a project manager will be the main point of contact. Their job is to make sure the "trains run on time.” PMs filter information from the client to the internal team to make sure everyone is on the same page and the project is moving toward completion. An experienced PM can manage multiple projects simultaneously and meet project time and financial budgets.

Document Control

Another role in larger detailing companies is the document control seat — responsible for disbursing internally and externally all document submittals, whether RFIs, IFA/IFC Submittals, meeting requests, etc. Any project-related documentation is filtered through this role to make sure that it is properly accounted for.

What sets X Steel Detailing apart?

X Steel Detailing is a U.S.-based detailing company with responsive, professional and high performing team members ready to help. Our PMs and detailers are knowledgeable, experienced and ready to field your questions whether a pre-detailing meeting, existing project coordination or in the bid phase.

Many steel detailers are small, 1- or 2-person operations. X Steel has a large team with more than 15 experienced detailers and checkers. We have the ability to take on large structural and miscellaneous projects, as well as the ability to accommodate multiple projects simultaneously.

X Steel’s differentiating factor includes our valuable team staff members — engineers and detailers — which allow us to better understand the process from the design phase all the way to the detailing phase. With experience working on BIM coordination and detailing of large industrial and commercial structures, we understand the importance of providing better input throughout the process to assist our clients.

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