Where is the steel line?

Metal Building Steel Line

In the metal building industry, you hear the term “steel line” used a lot, but the thing is—the term is not fully understood. So today, we want to clear up the murky space in which the steel line occasionally exists. Ready? Let’s do the steel line dance.

The Steel Line = the outside face of steel

It’s the outside face of the secondary member or wall girts. If there aren’t any secondary members, it refers to the outside face of the columns or eave strut.

Easy, right? Well…not always. As simplistic as the steel line seems, mixing your terminology, or not fully understanding the function of the steel line, can really affect the building process. For example:

  • Anchor Rod placements for the foundation can be incorrectly placed if the steel line is not understood.
  • When other construction, such as studs and brick, are incorporated into the building, the steel line is critical for locating the support member’s placement.
  • When attaching to existing structures, the steel line may be required to overlap the endframe of the existing building. This is critical when determining the correct building length and in the case of combining multiple buildings.

The term is widely used not only here, but also across Canada, so you would think the correct use and comprehension of the term would be widespread, but it’s not. The confusion starts with metal panels and slinks into concrete notches. So let’s stop the confusion and get ultra clear on two things:

  1. Metal panels are NOT part of the steel line.
  2. The steel line is NOT part of the outside face of a concrete notch.

The confusion often arises when reviewing architectural drawings. Most often, the architectural drawings reference the outside of other construction, or the outside face of the panels. The drawings also often reference the centerline of the anchor bolt pattern—which is NOT the outside face of the steel line.

So considering all the things that get mistaken for it, the next time you’re trying to figure out just where the steel line exists, do this one simple thing: use the structural drawings to determine it. If you do that, you’ll be aces.

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Star Building Systems

Founded in 1927, Star Building Systems has seen and done it all, from supplying tool sheds for oil derrick drilling sites in the early oil boom days to hangar buildings during World War II. We set the industry standard for innovation and technology. Most importantly, we have the best builders in the business.


  • Avatar
    Reply April 20, 2016



    You are spot on about a lot of people getting stuff wrong and not knowing what it is. Sometimes this can create a few issues so an article like this is perfect for the industry and workers at Trobs would be interested in learning about that.

    • Star Building Systems
      Reply April 25, 2016

      Star Building Systems

      We are glad you thought it was helpful!

  • Avatar
    Reply July 4, 2017

    Austin Glover

    I really loved reading your thoughts; obviously you know what you are talking about! Your site is so easy to use too, I’ve bookmark it in my folder. Please keep blogging about steel line.

  • Avatar
    Reply July 17, 2017

    Roy Mayo

    still trying to educate (some) clients on how to dimension building systems – yikes! Yell if I can be of help to you! (structural designer in Auburn, AL, licensed all over the southeast, etc.)

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