Structural Steel Detailing

What is structural steel detailing?

Steel detailing is a specialist area of structural drafting in which Steel Detailers interpret architectural and structural engineering drawings to gain a working knowledge of the overall design intent of a building or structure.

Using this translated information she or he then produces an altogether different set of clear, unequivocal and accurate drawings for the purpose of steel work fabrication. 

What is structural steel detailing ?
Who is a steel detailer

Who is a steel detailer?

Steel detailers are specialized technicians who make detailed shop or fabrication drawings that steel fabricators or welders use to manufacture girders, beams, columns, stairways and other steel components of buildings and structures.

Steel detailers, usually called detailers work closely with architects, engineers, general contractors and steel fabricators to produce detailed drawings for steel fabricators and steel erectors.

Steel detailing companies and self-employed detailers subcontract primarily to steel fabricators and sometimes to general contractors and engineers. 

What kind of structural draftspersons are there?


The type of work a draftsperson does depends on his or her area of expertise.

For example, architectural drafters produce drawings for new construction projects. They may specialize in residential or commercial buildings or in the type of material used, such as steel, timber or reinforced concrete.

  • Civil drafters prepare drawings for use in major civil engineering projects, such as highway and bridge construction, sewage systems and flood-control projects. Common drafting fields include aeronautics, electronics and architecture.
Kinds of structural steel detailing
  • Steel Detailers depending on education and experience may hold positions such as Project Manager, Detailer or Checker.
  • A Project Manager will budget, oversee and document all aspects of the specific project to make sure that the scope and direction of each project is on schedule.
  • A Detailer will detailed shop or fabrication drawings that steel fabricators or welders use to manufacture girders, beams, columns, stairways and other steel components of buildings and structures and a Checker will ensure quality control of drawings.
How do steel detailers draw up plans

How do steel detailers prepare plans?

The detailer prepares detailed plans, drawings and other documents for the manufacture and erection of steel members including columns, beams, braces, trusses, stairs, handrails, joists, metal decking used in the construction of buildings, bridges, industrial plants and non-building structures.

A steel detailer’s projects are usually commercial, residential, public, industrial or municipal low-rise residential projects.

What are structural steel detailing techniques?

Traditionally steel detailing was accomplished via manual drafting methods, using pencils, paper, and drafting tools such as a parallel bar or drafting machine, triangles, templates of circles and other useful shapes, and mathematical tables.

  • Today, manual drafting has been largely replaced by computer-aided drafting (CAD).
  • A steel detailer using computer-aided methods creates his drawings on a computer, using software specifically designed for the purpose, and printing out his drawings on paper only when they are complete.
What are structural steel detailing techniques

Many detailers would add another classification for those using 3-D Modeling applications specifically designed for steel detailing, as the process for the production of drawings using these applications is markedly different from a 2-D drafting approach. 


The detailer literally builds the project in 3D before producing detailed shop drawings from the model.



What skills does a structural steel detailer need?

Structural steel detailing requires skills in drafting, mathematics (including geometry and trigonometry), logic, reasoning, spatial visualization, and communication.

A basic knowledge of general engineering principles and the methods of structural and miscellaneous steel fabrication.

A computer-aided detailer also requires skills in using computers and an understanding of the specific CAD software she or he is to use.

Process of Structural Steel Detailing

A detailer’s drawings generally go through several phases.

If there is any unclear information that would prevent the detailer from creating or completing the drawings accurately, a request for information (RFI) is sent to the relevant trades, typically the general contractor, architect or structural engineer.

  • If the required information is not needed immediately, then the detailer may opt to list the questions on the drawings. Following creation of the drawing, the detailer must submit a copy of the drawing to the architect and engineer for review (“approval”).
Process of Structural Steel Detailing
  • Copies of the drawing may be sent to other recipients at this time as well, such as the general contractor, for informational purposes only.
  • The drawing must also be checked for accuracy and completeness by another detailer (for this purpose, the “checker”).
  • To keep track of changes during the drawing creation workflow, the revisions are identified by incrementing an associated number or letter code which should appear in the drawing revision block.
  • Comments arising from approval and corrections made during checking must be resolved, and the original drawing must be updated accordingly (or “scrubbed”). After this, the drawing may be released to the fabricator and/or erector for use in construction.

Structural Steel Detailing Responsibilities

A steel detailer prepares two primary types of drawings: erection drawings and shop drawings.

Structural Steel Detailing Responsibilities

Erection drawings are used to guide the steel erector on the construction site in the field as to where and how to erect the fabricated steel members. These drawings show dimensioned plans to locate the steel members and details such as bolting, welding or installing wedge anchors. Since the erection drawings are intended for use in the field, they contain very little specific information about the fabrication of any individual steel member.

Shop drawings, also called detail drawings, are used to specify the exact detailing requirements for fabricating each individual member (or “piece”) of a structure, and are used by the steel fabricator to fabricate these members.

Complete shop drawings show material specifications, member sizes, all required dimensions, welding, bolting, surface preparation and painting requirements, and any other information.

Requirements in the Steel Detailing Industry

The detailer must comply with the requirements of the design drawings and with all industry standards and protocols, such as those established by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and the American Welding Society (AWS).

  • The detailer is usually not responsible for design, including structural strength, stiffness, and stability which are the responsibility of the structural engineer), major dimensions of the structure and compliance with relevant building codes (which are the responsibility of the architect).
  • A detailer is generally required to submit his drawings to the structural engineer and/or architect for review prior to the release of drawings for fabrication.

However, to complete his drawings, an experienced steel detailer usually suggests connections subject to the approval of the structural engineer in cases where the structural drawings have insufficient information.

In these situations, the steel detailer is guided by his experience and knowledge of existing engineering codes such as the Steel Construction Manual published by AISC.

Requirements in the Steel Detailing Industry
What are structural steel detailing qualifications in the USA

What are structural steel detailing qualifications in the US?

In the US Collegiate Degree programs specific to structural steel detailing are limited but more general degree and certification programs may be found pertaining to design, manual or computer-aided drafting in general, or specific computer-aided drafting software.

A college degree is not required to become a steel detailer in the U.S. but training is usually provided on the job, with a new trainee usually needing about five years of practice under an experienced detailer to become proficient with all of the requirements of the trade.

Practitioners of this occupation in the U.S. may be licensed, civil/structural engineers to those with little or no formal academic training who nevertheless possess extensive industry experience.

Certification of structural steel detailers is not required in the United States.

The National Institute of Steel Detailing (NISD) offers a selection of certification programs for steel detailers and detailing companies, but these are strictly voluntary.

What are structural steel detailing qualifications in Canada?

In Canada there are college courses specifically for Steel Detailing including Vancouver’s Community College which offers a one year Steel Detailing Certificate.

British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) also offers training in two areas of specialization including Architectural CADD and Graphics Technician and Structural CADD and Graphics Technician.

In Ontario Conestoga College offers a two-year graduate Structural Steel Management and Detailing Certificate in Kitchener.

Otherwise there are related programs such as an Advanced Diploma in Civil Engineering at Cambrian College in Sudbury or at Fanshawe College in London.

More courses and online webinars can be found at the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction.

Structural steel detailing USA
Steel Detailing Affiliations Associations
Steel Detailing Affiliations Associations

Structural steel detailing in the USA


AISC Structural Steel:

An Industry Overview outlines four distinct components of the structural
steel industry including: Producers of structural steel products, Service Centers, which function as warehouses and provide limited preprocessing of structural material prior to fabrication, Structural Steel Fabricators, which physically prepare the structural steel for a building or a bridge through a process of developing detailed drawings based upon the construction drawings provided by a structural engineer and Erectors, which assemble the structural steel members into a structural frame on the project site by bolting and field welding structural steel components together according to the construction documents.

The United States structural steel industry supplied fabricated and erected structural steel framing for over 10,000 buildings, bridges and industrial facilities through a network of producers, service centers, steel fabricators and erectors in 2015 down substantially from a peak of nearly 15,000 in 2006 and 2007.

The decrease in market volume was the result of a downturn in overall construction activity.

Total industry employment in 2015 was estimated to be in excess of 160,000 individuals in 2,300 firms down approximately 22% from 2006.

Total industry revenue in 2015 was estimated to be in excess of 20 billion dollars. It is anticipated that industry employment and revenue will expand by three to five percent during 2016.
Affiliations and Associations

The National Institute of Steel Detailing (NISD) is an international association that advocates, promotes and serves the interests of the steel detailing industry. We are comprised of company owners and professionals in the steel industry and offer membership to steel detailing firms and associated companies and individuals.

The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) is the national industry organization representing the structural steel, open web steel joist and steel platework fabricating industries.

Formed in 1930, CISC was granted a Federal Charter as a non-profit industry association in 1942. CISC operates as a technical, marketing and government relations organization. CISC works to unite and improve the industry through teamwork while distributing industry leading technical information.

CISC addresses emerging needs and embraces changes as opportunities.

The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry in the United States.

AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural-steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development.


What is the difference between a structural steel detailer and an architect?

  • An architect designs and builds structures in aesthetically pleasing and structurally safe, functional and economical way. They are often involved in every phase of the construction projects, from initial planning to project completion.
  • Draftsmen, also called drafters, perform some of the same tasks as architects and often work with architects. Draftsmen, like architects, prepare CADD drawings. However, drafting can be applied to many other areas besides construction and architecture. Drafting can be used to create drawings of circuitry or mechanical designs. A draftsman’s CADD drawings include technical details and specifications such as materials, dimensions and procedures. In addition to using CADD, draftsmen also use calculators, tables and technical handbooks.
What is the difference between a structural steel detailer and architect

What is the difference between design and detailing?

  • Design is the creative process of taking an idea from conception and producing a visual drawing or sketch for the purpose of manufacture while Detailing is the first practical step of steel fabrication to ensure its effective erection by interpreting architectural and structural engineering drawings.

What does MCS Structural Steel Detailing offer?

MCS Structural Steel Detailing offers Detailing Services with fully automated steel detailing shop drawings using the latest 3-D software and ensures quality products are produced efficiently and in a timely manner.

best structural steel detailing services
best Structural Steel Detailing company usa



We deliver a quality product based on a strong understanding of the pressures fabricators face.

Meeting schedules and producing quality drawings is of top priority.


MCS Detailing values both new and existing clients and handles each job with respect, accuracy, and attention to detail.

We establish a strong relationship with our fabricators, and work hard to ensure they emerge profitable and impressed.


MCS Structural Steel Detailing also uses SDS2; this 3-D program allows us to Model and Detail the Structure, perform Clash checks, Design connections with calculation output, generate CNC, KISS files, and Fabtrol exports. SDS2 is also BIM-compatible.



Communication with our clients is important to MCS. We set clear project goals and keep our clients regularly updated on project developments and milestones.



The bottom line is that by using MCS to Detail your project, you can be sure that all of your schedule needs will be met and we will produce quality work. Our reputation is built on it.

What kind of projects has MCS Structural Steel Detailing completed?

MCS Structural Steel Detailing has completed both commercial and industrial projects throughout North America.

We work on commercial and industrial buildings including schools, hospitals, churches, retail stores. Past clients include The Salvation Army, The Chicago Blackhawks, Bass Pro Shop, Cabellas, Walmart, Apple.

We also work on mining head frames, pipe bridges, and do platform framing. From a multi-tenant residence with Beauce Atlas in Boston, Massachusetts to a Headframe in Timmins Ontario with Noront Steel, MCS Detailing has led both small scale and large scale projects.

“View MCS Detailing Project Gallery to see our portfolio.”

Why hire MCS Structural Steel Detailing for your project?

  1. MCS Structural Steel Detailing works on both commercial and industrial projects using SDSII Modeling technology.
  2. MCS Structural Steel Detailing has completed hundreds of detailing projects throughout North America.
  3. With over 50 years experience in the industry they value quality and reputation and face projects head on.
  4. MCS Detailing is eager to work with clients to and be one the industry’s top performing detailing firms.

Structural Steel Detailing Testimonials

“Detailing on numerous projects and they are the most reliable and one of the
most accurate detailing firms we use” – Darrin Grabek, President, Iron Works

“MCS Detailing has a very dedicated group of detailers. They are committed to meet schedule!” – Danny Lefebvre, GM, P.Eng

“The MCS Detailing team, under the direction of Tim McAuliffe has always risen to the challenge to provide Noront with quality detailed shop drawings in a very timely fashion. A true 5-Star detailing company, MCS Detailing comes with Noront’s highest recommendation.” – Lou Ornella, VP, Noront Steel

“MCS’s quality, attentiveness to detail, personal touch, honesty and professional way of conducting business is unparalleled in the fabrication business” – Eugene Huddleston, Fabrication Manager, Synergy Steel Structures

“Working with MCS enabled us to experience their top performance within budget and on time within a very tight schedule. This project presented some unique design challenges which were all seamlessly overcome” – Tim Verhey, Walters Steel