BoxBolt for Steel Beam Connections

Bolted vs Welding for Steel Beam Connections

Significance of Steel Beam Connections in Construction

Steel beam connections play an important role in construction, adding to the overall stability, safety, and performance of a structure. They ensure that individual steel members, like beams and columns, are securely linked, preventing any failure or collapse of the structure.

These connections provide the structural framework, support loads, enable movement, and contribute to the safety, efficiency, and longevity of buildings and other steel structures. Their proper design and execution are essential for successful and resilient construction projects.

When considering a steel connection method, you need to consider the cost, strength of connection, accuracy, ease of installation, and ease of maintenance.

Two common ways of connecting steel beams are Bolting and Welding.

Bolting

Bolted connections use bolts to fasten steel plates or sections together. They are usually made in a workshop and assembled on-site.

Welding

Welded connections use heat and pressure to fuse steel pieces. They are usually done on-site or in a controlled environment.

Traditionally, welding has been the most common connection method in construction.

However, bolting is rising in popularity given its ease, security, and cost-effectiveness.

This article reviews the two methods in depth, exploring benefits, drawbacks, cost, and installation.

Bolted Connections

Bolted connections join two or more components together with bolts, allowing for disassembly and reassembly. Bolted connections are easy to install, inspect, and maintain. It is widely used in construction. It also allows for flexibility and adjustability in design and execution.

Required Materials for Bolting

nuts and bolts for traditional bolting

Traditional Bolting

Typically, bolting requires nuts, bolts, and washers.

Most installers utilize a torque wrench to apply the correct amount of torque to achieve the desired clamping force.

Individuals should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, gloves, and, if necessary, hearing protection.

 

BoxBolt

The Original BoxBolt®

BoxBolt® offers a robust clamping solution for blind connections and Hollow Structural Steel (HSS) members.

It simplifies steel joining, eliminating on-site drilling or welding, providing greater flexibility.

The system ensures a secure connection every time, with no on-site verification needed when you follow installation guidelines correctly.

Learn More About the BoxBolt

BoxSok™ Installation Tool

LNA’s BoxBolt® solution needs only the BoxBolt, proper PPE, and the BoxSok™ Installation Tool. This unique tool makes installation faster and minimizes the risk of hand entrapment between tools. The BoxSok™ is compatible with all BoxBolt diameters.

Learn More About the BoxSokTM Installation Tool

Advantages of Bolting

Easy Installation

Any form of bolting comes with multiple advantages. Bolting allows for easy installation and disassembly. It allows for future modifications. Bolts also require less on-site labor time compared to welding. Bolting eliminates the need for drilling/tapping, welding, and strapping.

Easier to Finish

For a flawless finish, choose bolting over welding complex parts. Welded structures make it challenging to access all areas during plating, anodizing, and finishing processes.

Easier to Replace

Everything requires some maintenance. Bolt-on parts are easier to replace precisely, unlike welding, which needs cutting. Bolt-on replacements also make onsite reattachment simpler.

Lower Costs

Welding is a manual activity, so it carries a greater risk of human error that could result in costly rework. Bolting is usually an entirely automated process, which reduces labor costs as well as the risk of mistakes.

Equal Strength

There’s a common misconception that welding is stronger than bolting, but that isn’t true. Bolting is just as strong as welding—and can be stronger in some placements. The strength of a weld is largely determined by the expertise of the welder. The chances of an inexperienced welder applying a bad weld are much greater than the chances of a bolt failing.

The BoxBolt® Advantage

Most bolts have issues with corrosion. The BoxBolt® offers additional advantages, including a long lasting, corrosion-resistant finish.

The BoxBolt® is also ideal for steel applications where access is limited to one side only. It is approved for slip-critical connections and suitable for rectangular, circular or square tube.

Read the following case studies to learn more about how BoxBolt® helps steel beam connections.

Case Study: ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER

Case Study: UNIVERSITY OF BUFFALO

Limitations of Bolting

Every method of connecting steel comes with drawbacks. Bolted connections typically require more material, creates holes, and adds stress concentrations in the steel. Bolted connections may also require more space than a weld.

Welded Connections

Welded connections permanently join two or more materials by melting and fusing them together, creating a strong and cohesive bond.

These connections are widely used in construction and manufacturing due to their efficiency, durability, and ability to provide seamless integration between various structural components.

Required Materials for Welding

The welding process is usually time-consuming and requires the use of a skilled welder. Typically, welding requires a lot of equipment.

A welder usually works with a welding torch which requires a significant power source, electrodes, a shielding gas cylinder, protective gear, a workbench, and more.

Advantages of Welding

Greater Load-carrying Capacity

Welded connections are strong, rigid, and durable. Welded connections can efficiently transfer and distribute loads between structural members. The fusion of materials creates a strong bond that can withstand various forces, including tension, compression, and shear, making welded structures well-suited for applications with high load requirements.

Enhanced Structural Rigidity

Welded connections provide a continuous and homogenous joint between components, leading to better structural integrity. The fusion of materials reduces possible weak points and offers a seamless transition of loads, leading to a more robust and reliable structure.

Seamless Appearance

Welds improve aesthetics by creating smooth and continuous joints. Welded connections often look cleaner compared to bolted connections. The absence of protruding bolts and nuts allows for more compact designs, making welded connections preferable in situations where space is limited or a sleek aesthetic is desired.

Limitations of Welding

However, welded connections also have some challenges, such as requiring skilled labor, additional expenses, and quality control.

Expensive

Welding requires a higher level of skill and precision, and skilled welders command higher wages. Bolting is generally simpler and requires less skill, making it less labor-intensive.

Welding equipment, including welding machines, electrodes, and protective gear, costs more than the tools required for bolting. Additionally, welding machines may need regular maintenance and calibration, adding to the overall cost of ownership. The mess left behind by the process also requires expensive cleaning services.

Welding demands rigorous quality control measures to ensure the integrity of the welded joints. This may involve non-destructive testing methods, such as X-rays or ultrasonic inspections, which are expensive. Bolting connections, while still requiring quality control, involve simpler inspection processes.

Bolted connections are easy to modify or disassemble, making them more suitable for projects that require frequent adjustments. The permanence of welded connections makes modifications more challenging, potentially leading to higher costs if alterations are needed.

Requires a Skilled Laborer

Welding requires businesses to hire a skilled worker. This is an additional cost to the project and also leaves the steel beam connection vulnerable to human error. Full penetration welds also run the risk of not achieving their intended design strength.

Hiring an unqualified welder may lead to subpar welds, compromising structural integrity, safety, and project timelines.

Steel Distortion

Welds also introduce leftover stresses and distortions in the steel, and may affect its ductility and fatigue resistance.

Welding Messes

Welding leaves a huge mess, including weld spatter, slag, and fumes, which may require extensive cleanup efforts. Proper ventilation and protective measures are essential to mitigate the environmental impact and ensure the safety of the welding process.

Difficult to modify or disassemble

Welding connections are challenging to modify because the fusion of materials through welding creates a permanent and integral bond, requiring significant effort and potentially causing structural damage to alter the connection.

What to Consider When Choosing Between Bolting and Welding

Structural Requirements

When choosing structural steel connections, you need to consider the type and magnitude of loads, the geometry and alignment of members, the serviceability and reliability of the structure, and the applicable codes and standards. These requirements can determine the best steel connection for your project.

Time constraints

If considering deadlines, bolting takes significantly less time than welding. The bolting manufacturing process is more efficient and automated compared to welded joints.

Budget

When managing a project, keeping costs down while maintaining structural integrity is usually a main objective.

The cost of bolted and welded joints varies by project, but bolted joints are usually the less expensive option.

The price of bolted joints is more sensitive to steel prices, but their manufacturing process is more efficient and automated, compared with welded joints.

The Winner: Bolting with the Boxbolt

Steel beam connections form the backbone of structural stability, safety, and overall performance. The choice between bolting and welding is important. Each method comes with its distinct advantages and limitations.

Bolting, especially with the BoxBolt® system’s ease of installation, cost-effectiveness, and adaptability, emerges as the superior option.

This innovative solution not only simplifies the construction process but also significantly reduces labor costs.

In contrast, welding has higher costs, takes longer to complete, and carries difficulties in modification or disassembly.

When deciding between the two methods, project managers should strongly consider the benefits of bolting, especially with solutions like BoxBolt®, ensuring a cost-effective, efficient, and safe construction process that aligns with the specific needs of the project.

So, Boxbolt is

  • Less expensive
  • Faster to install
  • Equal strength
  • Easier to finish
  • Easier to replace

Reach out to our engineering experts to get personalized advice for your next steel-to-beam connection project.

References

https://www.ny-engineers.com/blog/structural-engineering-comparing-welded-and-bolted-unions
https://www.linkedin.com/advice/1/what-advantages-disadvantages-using-bolted

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structural beam clamp connections during construction