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Custom Cold Formed Steel Connectors - When to Fabricate & When to Have Manufactured

September 19,2018

Tags:Design, Build

Most construction professionals that deal with Cold Formed Steel have faced a situation where custom clips are required. Sometimes it's as simple as needing a standard product modified, and sometimes it's entirely custom. Once it's discovered that a custom clip is required, the question often arises of whether to make your own clips or have them manufactured. In this article, we will briefly discuss when its best to make your own vs. have them manufactured.

Factors to Consider when Making a Decision about Custom Connectors:

  1. Quality & Load Rating: Are there specific load requirements this clip needs to meet, and do I have reasonable certainty that this clip will meet those loads?

  2. Resources Used: How many custom clips are needed? If you only need a handful of custom clips, it could be worth attempting to fabricate something in the field that will do the trick (with your engineer’s blessing). If you have more than a handful, you will probably find that what you are paying hourly to the workers cutting up and bending angle, and then trying to use these clips that are not professionally made (no guide holes, etc) probably exceeds what you could have paid a professional to deliver exactly what you need.

 Example Custom Clips

Custom cold formed steel connectors


Resources Used

Time required to cut up angle?

How long does it take to cut up a 12-foot piece of 12-gauge material? How many band saws do you end up going through? How much man power is required to produce what you need. What else could those people have been doing with that time? (i.e. opportunity cost.)

Material Waste?

Most likely, if you are having someone to fabricate parts on the job site, it will not be very efficient from a material waste stand point. You’ll need to account for all the scrap that is generated through the fabrication process when deciding to make your own light gauge steel clips or buy them from a manufacturer.

Space taken up on the job site? 

How much space does it take to set up a station to make clips? Some jobs sites have plenty of space, and this is not a problem. Some sites, say in a downtown scenario, have very little space, an this quickly becomes an issue.

Extra time used to install clip with no guide holes? 

Ever pushed a screw through 2 layers of solid steel? What about 12-gauge steel? Spoiler alert, it’s really difficult! It can be done, but it’s going to take twice as long as it should, and you’ll go through screw guns like free popsicles on a hot day.

Quality of Fabricated vs. Manufactured CFS Clips:

Really the conversation is all about quality. Working with field fabricated connectors is inherently harder and less efficient. It can be cheaper on the front end, but usually only if you are dealing with a small quantity.

Custom Connector Testing 

Depending on the application, engineers can be insistent that you have load data on your custom clips. In this scenario, it will not be possible to have a field fabricated clip. A factory fabricated clip can usually be load tested, allowing both you and the engineer peace of mind.

Often when all of these questions are asked, it becomes obvious that it makes sense to spend a little more up front, and save labor hours on the back end. If on the other hand you realize you only need a few pieces of angle, and you are not worried about loading issues, it would probably make sense to fabricate the clips yourself.

Need a Custom LSF Connector?

If you have a custom clip you need fabricated, please fill out the Request Custom Clip Form below or give us a call at (919) 845-1025.

Request Custom Connectors