Our technical experts talk about the latest issues in your industry, provide technical advice on SFS intec products, and discuss key questions about the impact of fasteners in construction.

Securing Great Aethetics

Posted on:  2015-04-29T10:36:33
By:  Colin Yeates

The UK landscape was once a predictable vision of buildings constructed from traditional, local materials but as the different styles of each era came and went, some good and some bad, building designs have become much more sophisticated due to a combination of technological developments, advancement of design and lessons learnt from previous mistakes of the past, so much so that we now find ourselves with a legacy of more complex and stylish buildings incorporating a huge variety of façade materials and colours.

I'm sure you'll agree that although this produces beautiful buildings, it leads to technical challenges both onsite and at design stage. The need for durability is as important as ever to incorporate both the increasing variety of applications and extensive range colours yet maintaining longevity and consistent high quality aesthetics that will stand the test of time.

Fastener technology has undergone drastic evolution over the years and SFS intec has continually been at the forefront. Using state of the art powder coating, we resolve the issues presented by dated plastic moulded heads or push on caps.

Powder coating is a modern, more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional wet painting. Minute powder particles are applied to a metal object or component using an electrostatic spray process, which causes the powder to adhere to the metal surface. After spraying, the component is cured in an oven at up to 200°C. This process then melts the powder onto the metal creating a highly finished and durable coating and is less prone to chipping, marking and scratching or fading.

The finish  can be applied to a wide range of metals and components and is suitable for both internal and external applications, it is this diversity that is seeing a rapid growth in the demand for powder coatings, combined with the development of new materials, formulations, equipment, and applications advancements. The advantages include:

  • Prevents galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals
  • Rust prevention
  • Extensive range of coverages available
  • Environmentally friendly/non-toxic
  • Applicable to varied metals
  • Resistant to lubricants, fuels, hydraulic fluids and most commercial solvents
  • Durable
  • Complies with major OEM specifications

As a component that forms a highly visible part of the building envelope, as well as playing a structural role, fasteners are crucial in ensuring the desired aesthetic finish, whether being used to accent design with coloured heads or to create a subtle look. The powder specification has been selected for its excellent weathering and colour stability in exposed external applications.

Here at SFS, we have developed and manufactured a wide range of low profile design, high performance, warranted fasteners in 304 0r 316 grade stainless steel, engineered to completely blend in with any colour or material. High performance grade 316 stainless steel is essential with todays requirements for longer warranties up to 40 years, especially as more robust cladding and facade systems move into the residential and commercial sectors. Carbon steel fasteners can be warranted for up to 12 years, with 304 stainless steel warranties offering 25 years.  So making the right choice when it comes to product selection can make the difference between a compliant or failed design.

Working alongside Lester Fabrications and Cladding Ltd on a recent project, we supplied 60,000 of  our high performance range of 316 grade stainless steel fasteners to provide a reliable and secure fix to the new Airbus 166 building in Broughton Chester.

Suitable for even the most stringent environments, our fasteners were able to guarantee superior airtightness and water tightness for the sensitive surroundings in building 166, which is used to assemble airbus aircraft wings, ensuring resistance to wind load and providing optimum security as per the specification.

The powder coating, 316 grade austenitic stainless steel fasteners, not only guarantee a long-lasting fix but reflect the same quality and performance to meet that of the Airbus plane wings, that are being manufactured within the building. and as we are able to supply meaningful 40 year warranties for our 316 grade stainless steel fasteners combined with a 12 year colour stability warranty on the powder coating, providing added reassurance that the building will remain fit for purpose in performance and design as well as structurally for their lifetime.

seven insulation facade 1

Manufacturer Recommendations

Posted on:  21 October
By:  Jamie Lewis

Manufacturer Recommendations

Nowadays, buildings are typically supposed to last between 25-40 years. So, how do we make sure they survive the duration? We know that high performance and warranted products are vital, but product selection alone may not be enough anymore. Choosing the right manufacturer is now equally as important.

Now more than ever, investors and developers require an absolute guarantee that the building envelope will perform as desired, whilst meeting those all important Building Regulations. With this in mind, the industry is starting to understand that it's not just product selection alone that determines the success or failure of the build.

So, how can the industry ensure it is securing its building's performance for the long-term? Well, by combining the right technical expertise and support, together with strong financial investment from the manufacturer, this could significantly influence the lifetime of the build.

The right original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can provide knowledge, expertise and support in making the correct product specification, whilst taking into consideration the entirety of the build.

An example of where a knowledgeable OEM can assist is with the characteristic value calculation of mechanical fastenings - an area I believe the industry appears to be falling short. Test results should include the arithmetical mean, the standard deviation and the characteristic value. This data then enables the structural engineer to calculate the safe working load.

The industry needs to be aware that a fastener's standard deviation and characteristic value should always be calculated straight from the laboratory or site test results. A competent manufacturer can provide published data and help interpret published and site test data.

Unfortunately, I have seen many fastener re-sellers provide extremely limited data, that does not consider the standard deviation of the product, which according to British Standard 5427:Part 1:1996 and the relevant EN standards, simply isn't good enough.

Disregarding the standard deviation may suggest better values than the product can actually achieve. Many have found this is very misleading and it can carry with it huge risks. If these figures are used to establish the safe working load, the safety of the building can be hugely jeopardised.

To reduce risk, the most sensible thing to do is to specify a fastener directly from the OEM, that way, transparency and reliability can be assured. For all roofing contractors, the key take away should be that standard deviation of a fastener must always be factored in. A fastener manufacturer with the right know-how, can provide the important data and support required, to ensure the performance and safety of our buildings for the future.

New energy efficient solutions suitable for the growing market

Posted on:  17 September
By:  Jamie Lewis

I'm sure the majority have experienced a growth in the economy in recent months, and a healthier economy has meant increased demand in the construction industry - specifically, new housing has soared by 19.4% since last May. Couple this with new revisions to regulations, like Part L of the Building Regulations, which requires the reduction of carbon emissions of new homes by 6%, and challenges are beginning to crop up.

All this has pushed up demand for triple glazing and external wall insulation (EWI), especially in the residential sector. The challenge with EWI is that it involves mounting the window over the insulation; out-board from the structure of the building, to improve heat transmission and U-value readings. This is a great development, of course, but what specifically are the issues?

Well, developers have had to work fast to keep up with demand, and without sufficient knowledge and suitable, purpose-designed solutions available, many are relying on cobbled-together solutions - which simply isn't good enough. Failure to consider window positioning properly can actually have a negative effect on the U-value readings, raising compliance concerns and the cost of fixing associated problems, like the build-up of condensation and growth of black mould. You could even risk failure of the build in the long term.

We've come up with a solution. We've championed a tailor-made, easy-to-install and efficient system to solve these problems: our JB-D window bracket system. We think a great example of its use is the £3 million Hanwell Locks residential development near London. The system enabled the builders to guarantee the stability of the windows over the external insulation until the outer leaf was applied.

The window bracket, specifically designed for EWI applications, ensures a secure fix and counteracts the heavier loads imposed by the increasingly popular triple glazed units, while allowing windows to sit flush with the external façade. This supports the build's requirement to achieve Code 4 Sustainable Homes status.

As we move to the future with growing construction outputs, we as manufacturers have a duty to provide solutions which help deliver buildings of the highest standards, while at the same time catering to the demands of new, stricter energy efficiency requirements.

Induction welding developments

Posted on:  17 July
By:  Martyn Holloway


It is apparent that within the UK, seam fastening remains the most popular means of installing single ply membrane on flat roof projects, followed by adhesive application. However, field fastening installation is increasing in use and I think it is important that the industry is aware of a new, innovative development in this area, in the form of induction welding.

Across the industry, adhesive application of the membrane is still perceived to be an effective method of fixing, particularly for concrete decks. However, these applications rely on the skill of the installer to apply the right amount of bonding agent per square metre, to withstand wind loading. Not to mention the fact that temperature and surface conditions can hinder installation as well. Mechanical fastening is a stronger, safer method for fixing single ply roofs and is unaffected by most of the site issues that adhesives face.

We have developed isoweld™, a sophisticated field fix solution which allows for higher wind loads and offers economic installation costs.

The system works by using heat induction to bond the membrane to specially coated metal stress plates, which are mechanically fastened through the insulation layer into the substrate.The isoweld™ 3000 tool is really easy to use and has inbuilt default settings to ensure consistently strong welds are achieved.

The stress plates can be installed using thermally broken sleeves to minimise heat loss through the fasteners or should no insulation be present, can be fixed directly to the substrate.

The isoweld™ 3000 tool also features a very useful 'search and control' function, which allows you to identify whether the inductor is correctly positioned over the stress plate. This means we can ensure absolute accuracy, because the welding will only begin when the tool is correctly in place.

We are also conscious that manual calibration can waste time, so have incorporated automatic adjustment abilities according to the ambient temperature, along with compensation factors for current variations.

The isoweld™ 3000 tool and all of the individual components and fasteners have been CE marked.

Heat induction welding as a method isn't new, neither is field fixing, but this latest development is something that the industry hasn't seen before. Feedback on our first UK and Ireland projects has been excellent. I'm looking forward to watching this technique take off, and expect this to bring in a sea of change to the flat roof market.

Facade developments over the years

Posted on:  24 February
By:  Jamie Lewis

The second half of 2013 saw construction output rise considerably, which was mirrored in the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Notably there appeared to be an increased specification for more sophisticated and engineered facades, due to the boost in product choice. And this growth has resulted in clients demanding improved performance and more aesthetically pleasing finishes.

Facade Developments

We believe that this trend is set to continue for 2014 and given the installation challenge this presents, it really is important for the industry to ensure that they are implementing best practice wherever they can, especially at early design and planning stages. Not specifying the correct fastener products and suitable materials grades for installation and long term performance, will inevitably result in expensive consequences. We have seen it all before.

Over the last 12 - 18 months of facade innovation, we've seen many contractors evolve their businesses to meet market demand. As a result we have witnessed a rapid growth of more complex facade specifications, which have placed contractors under pressure to re-invent their businesses.

It is apparent that architectural masterpieces made up of different coloured facades are increasing in popularity, to create really striking aesthetics. So, it is not surprising that old fashioned 'battleship' looking construction, using outdated fastener products with faded moulded heads, are no longer desirable.

The client need has moved on; unobtrusive and colourful facades with warranted, low profile powder coated fasteners now provide the excellent aesthetic finish required.

It is clear that considerable time is now being taken in choosing which material, style and colour finishes are selected, however, in our experience many companies overlook the importance of fastener specification. In the absence of a considered specification, the contractor will buy simply on low price and cut costs. Unfortunately, the consequences of this result in poor performance of the finished rainscreen facade over time; something we've seen time and time again. Far higher rectification and replacement costs are likely for the client.

It is time for all involved to really consider the whole life monetary equation; what are the real total costs when price alone drives product choice? Fasteners must not be considered "the things that simply hold the façade together"; these added value cladding solutions have to perform over time, long after the contractor who fixed them is on the next project.

The roofing and cladding industry has experienced a steep learning curve when it comes to installing innovative and attractive facades, this is not a shed build process. Thought out product specification (and yes even fasteners) to fulfil the design life and ease of assembly, together with quality training, will ensure the client obtains the building finish that the 'computer generated' image inspired them to pay for.

A new language for long term investment

Posted on:  05 June
By:  Colin Yeates

After many challenging and enjoyable years working within the roofing business I find myself discussing the subject of 'warranty' more and more. Never has this word been more poignant in our day-to-day discussions, or for investors' pockets.

CY 500 x 375

Gone are the days when we used to supply mainly carbon steel fixings, maybe with a SELA head. Rarely was life expectancy asked about, "10 years will do" was the norm, and we shipped millions without question. Post recession things have changed, 25 years and even 40 years plus are now very typical for a building's design and "costing" life, and for this, a meaningfully warranted product is essential.

There is no doubt that this has been driven by the increasingly onerous Building Regulations and the concerns of the building owner and/or landlord whose asset value, and/or rental value, is closely tied to regulation compliance. Too many have paid high prices for a poorly performing building; lessons sadly are still being learnt. The investor and developer are increasingly looking for assurance that the structure will perform within Building Regulations and at least achieve its investment and cost plan throughout its lifetime. Therefore, it is increasingly vital that the products being installed combine to facilitate Part L criteria such as reduced air leakage, and be able to stand the test of time and perform structurally and aesthetically for the full 25 years investment period.

It is then no surprise that the demand for a genuine performance warranty from contractors is drastically on the increase and will influence tender acceptance. This is becoming a part of the pre-qualification process. While some contractors may be happy to offer any warranty in order to gain advantage, street wise developers will probe to ensure that the warranty is valid and securely backed, not just a simple headline.

So, what can the responsible contractor do? My advice is to seek detailed equivalent warranties from the manufacturers; the devil is in the detail, we all know this! Taking just a few minutes to go over a short check list will minimise potential liabilities for the solid and successful contracting business, be very careful:

  • Is the product and warranty supplied by a manufacturer or a re-seller?
  • Check who is really manufacturing your purchase and to what performance standards and warranty term?
  • Check the fasteners are of 304,305, 316 or a conforming A5 grade. Product described simply as A2 is misleading and suggests it is a cheaper softer grade of wire like 302.
  • A number of re-sellers only 'manufacture' a very limited range in the UK and source the bulk of their products from lower cost providers around the globe. Be thorough and check that the paper warranty you get from a UK manufacturer really covers the product that they have out sourced.
  • Which business is responsible for the warranty liability?
  • What is the genuine full warranty term? Is it decreasing liability?
  • Does the issuing business really have the financial strength to support the warranty? If not, is it in fact worthless?
  • Are there limitations in the event the warranty is invoked? E.g. claims are limited to the value of product supplied on the project. Claims are limited to the free issue of replacement fasteners or sealant only. There is some sort of excess due by the contractor?
  • Are consequential costs covered in any way?
  • Beware insurance backed warranties, this is a minefield, most companies fall back on product liability insurance, however, very few have specific insurance for a warranty and those that really do have cover for a maximum of 10 year periods.

I appreciate that small components such as fasteners are often seen as an insignificant part of the total value of the materials purchased, yet I cannot reiterate enough the essential role they play in sustaining the building's long term integrity.

It remains bewildering therefore, given the lesser value of these components, that contractors significantly increase their total risk in order to save only a few pence short term. The pursuit of profit for further investment in any business is an obvious driver, but one that must be balanced with common sense risk management decisions. Investors are trying to find ways to minimise their risk and building component warranties are a tool here to stay.

So even when times are tight and contracts are fiercely contested, we all need to think carefully about critical product specification compromise. Developers and management contractors will be scrutinising contracts and tenders ever more carefully, looking for unacceptable corner cutting; that competitive edge you think you hope to get may cost you much more than you save.

Have you had any similar experiences with warranties or building failures? It would be great to hear feedback on the challenges others face when matching Building Regulation criteria and cost so please share your thoughts below.

Top five rainscreen innovations

Posted on:  29 November
By:  Jamie Lewis

rainscreen blogThanks to the typically British weather, the increasingly popular application of rainscreen cladding is consistently put to the test. However, many contractors which have adjusted their businesses and skills in order to take on the new application of rainscreen cladding, have come across many installation challenges due to the major differences to traditional metal roofing and cladding.

But, by removing some of the complexity of handling and installation, from the design process through to its construction, system and component suppliers are now taking rainscreen to the next level and ironing out any existing imperfections.

I have compiled my top five innovations in rainscreen fixing systems which are helping to ease the installation of this popular system.

1. Primary fixings for masonry substrates: Universal fasteners cleverly designed for all masonry substrate applications eliminate the risk associated with installing the wrong anchor. They feature a unique 'fin' design on the fastener sleeve which gives additional grip, preventing the fastener from rotating and providing high pull out resistance in application. The unique collar design also ensures "knock in protection", avoiding premature expansion of the fastener which would ultimately lead to loss of function.

2. Self drilling fastener for aluminium subframes: For secure fastening of aluminium to aluminium subframe components, look for a self drilling fastener with a 6mm diameter body, as it will give an increased shear load value over traditional rivets and fasteners. With specially designed thread geometry, installation error is eliminated as it prevents overdriving or unwinding due to dynamic loading, and gives the user a quick and secure fixing.

3. 316, 316, 316: When specifying fixings for high design led materials like rainscreen, they have to be grade 316 stainless steel. It's worth paying a little bit more at the outset to ensure optimum performance in all but the harshest chlorine environments. This grade of steel will protect your build against corrosion from class C1 - indoor, no environmental stress, right up to Class C5-l - severe industrial environment and pollution. The large headed rivet for example, gives long lasting, high performance attachment to steel and other materials. With a 15mm diameter head and a body and mandrel made entirely from 316 grade stainless steel, the rivet will deliver high tensile value strength and prevent corrosion in even pollution and coastal environments. And with the additional benefit of colour matching the rivet head to the façade panel, you can create a truly blended fixing design.

4. Panel fixing kit: A panel fixing kit is a must for every façade installer - whether a professional or rainscreen newcomer - as it incorporates a drilling tool with interchangeable self-centring nosepieces. The kit ensures the installer will have accurate hole centralisation on every face fix, allowing for optimum build speed in even the most demanding façade designs.

5. The "blind" rivet: New innovations on the market are making the invisible attachment of high pressure laminate façades much quicker and increasingly error free. Unlike many screw type fasteners available for this application, the new "blind" rivet cannot be overdriven. The new mandrel design pulls back through the body of the fastener expanding it radially, creating a hollow fastener body. This ejects any moisture or debris collected in the pre-drilled panel hole through the fastener and not the front of the panel, leaving a perfectly smooth, dimple free panel front, just as the design intended.

All good things take time to bed in, but now that rainscreen has evolved, these new advancements will make things much easier for the industry overall.

Green Deal or No Deal

Posted on:  31 October
By:  Peter Reilly

In my mind, the Green Deal could be a brilliant policy, making a positive step change towards energy efficiency. So, when the scheme launched in October with little interest, I think it's safe to say that disappointment was felt across the industry.

Green Deal or No Deal

However, recent announcements of a cash-back incentive due to launch in January, should give the scheme the injection needed to raise interest and encourage uptake.

While installers can apply for Green Deal certification now, the New Year will see business owners, homeowners and social and private landlords able to take advantage of a 50 per cent cash-back offer on installation work commissioned under the Green Deal - specifically after the 28th January 2013 - with a total of £125 million aside.

This will enable the installation of roof insulation, solar PV and triple glazed windows, for example, with a significant amount of money returned on the initial cost outlay.

So while the industry gears up for launch, it is important that we focus on the finer details of the Green Deal, ensuring that we have total clarity.

With confusion over ownership and responsibility at this stage, and uncertainty around details such as finance, lease holders, tenant's rights, warranties and regulations - especially for installation on commercial builds - there is a lot of outstanding questions.

For example, unlike residential properties, factory roofs are generally light in construction and require a lot more technical know-how from the contractor and installer to cater for large scale frames and equipment. Consideration must also be given to old roofs and rooflights - would these need to be replaced, in order for the solar panels to be installed in compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations? And, above all, who decides?

It is imperative that these are ironed out and the industry is fully armed with the relevant facts and information, before 2013 is upon us, so that we can all begin to see the potential that I think the Green Deal has.

20% savings on C02 emissions is a big ask

Posted on:  2012-06-21T09:53:05
By:  Peter Reilly

In January a consultation document on Part L of the Building Regulations was published by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and after digesting the proposal, we had a few suggestions ourselves.

Building Regulations

The Government's proposed revision to the Building Regulations 2013 will set companies the challenge of saving 20% on CO2 emissions on non-domestic buildings, but we feel this is an unachievable target. An alternative 11% is surely a much more sensible and achievable first step for the industry; it ensures energy savings without asking too much.

Whilst we agree with the consultation documents proposals for improvements to the buildings fabric overall, such as walls, windows and airtightness, it is important that the targets reflect a realistic goal for the industry.

It has been well documented that half of the UK's emissions are caused by the effect of buildings, from the construction through to the finished working building. This significant figure has resulted in the Government's long-term goal to reduce emissions by 80% in 2050, so it is understandable that stricter legislations are now being introduced to ensure that this target can be achieved.

But when you consider that non-domestic buildings are already fairly energy efficient, a further 20% reduction is a big ask and not one that many will find very easy to meet in the short term. For example, simple solutions such as extra insulation to reduce U-values may only save approximately 1% of CO2. So for this to be achieved, the proposed target would need much larger measures, such as renewable energy generation technologies which require greater investment.

So, whilst the long-term goal of -80% emissions requires significant steps to make it happen, it also has to be a reasonable 'ask' in the current day, without requiring companies to stretch themselves too thin in order to meet these strict standards.

Something I also feel strongly about is the issue of compliance; refining the regulations will be pointless unless there is stricter monitoring to ensure compliance of airtightness standards across the board.

While improving a building's airtightness is important and makes a huge impact on the overall energy performance, there are still a large number of companies who do not operate correctly when fulfilling onsite testing, resulting in the non-compliance of airtightness requirements.

It is important that the Government takes extra measures now to ensure that all buildings signed off by building controls have fulfilled the required legislative factors, in order for it to pass. There is little point in continually refining the regulations and making them stricter, when many still aren't adhering to the parameters imposed on them today.

It is certainly an interesting time in the industry and only time will tell whether many are able to handle the new measures, or if we will see more companies struggle under the added pressures. We teamed up with the MCRMA to draft and submit our comments to the Government, so we'll be watching closely to see how these changes are finally laid out. Along with all other industry responses this will be published by the DCLG in July.

If you, like us, feel strongly on this topic please visit our LinkedIn page to join in on the discussion here 

Batten down the hatches

Posted on:  30 April
By:  Martyn Holloway

The waves of bad weather and treacherous winds during the first quarter of this year made me realise that we are increasingly becoming victim to severe weather conditions that threaten the safety and security of our buildings. Due to inadequate applications, many buildings just aren't being designed to resist dangerous and damaging weather; a worrying prospect indeed.

Batten down the hatches

One reason why buildings may not always be fully protected is down to cost and the fear that a project can be won or lost on the price of the ancillary products. For example contractors will sometimes specify minimal quality, generic fastening systems that are manufactured and imported in large quantities, just to keep costs to a minimum. But, what they may not realise is that by using these cheap fixings, safety margins are being compromised. The risk of roof failure is significantly increased; possibly resulting in damaging remunerations in the long run.

Some think that using adhesive systems to install membrane and insulation layers over a flat roof, offers cost savings compared with mechanical fix systems, particularly on concrete decks. In fact, in my experience, mechanical fix applications additionally offer substantial cost saving on most projects. Also remember, that adhesive solutions universally require an installation temperature above 5° C and the substrate to be dry and dust free. This is not always possible with the rigours of the UK climate and there are few dust free building sites!

Mechanical fixing in comparison is fast, less weather dependent and is not affected by dust or moisture present on the substrate. Modern, high performance fixing systems offer 40% less drilling and faster installation.

So how are mechanical fixing and adhesive systems tested on site for quality assurance purposes?

Adhesive systems require that the correct measure of adhesive is applied on site by the contractor for a successful installation. There is generally no accurate application apparatus that measures applied adhesive weight and I've never come across an adhesive site test kit being used in the UK to measure the resulting bond strength. So what happens when such systems are faced with strong winds? Have wind load calculations been undertaken for the project? Is the system wind load limitation known? Have the bond strengths of all individual layers on site been measured? Particularly for refurbishment projects never forget that "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link!"

What about mechanical fix systems? By comparison, for example, with concrete decks site pullout testing can be undertaken and the safe design load per fastener for each substrate can be calculated. Using the wind load calculations the correct fastener placement can therefore be determined.

To ensure maximum security against wind uplift it is imperative that the right system is selected. Yes, cost is an important factor to consider, but what about safety and durability? With these issues in mind I feel that adhesives just don't measure up for some projects because they simply do not provide adequate protection against threatening weather conditions, (as the above image demonstrates).

So how can we make sure that a building's quality and safety isn't compromised? Well the answer is to use a high performance, purpose designed product, developed for the right application and installed correctly. I want to stress the importance of specifying high performance mechanical fastener solutions to ensure that risk is reduced and buildings are protected, it's a straightforward solution.

Are you still using adhesive applications? And if so tell us why. Maybe you can prove me wrong.