The Metal 

Building System

Most customers who are looking for a steel building have a very good idea of what they want their end project to look like. Many customers are familiar with the basic concepts and terminologies that are used to discuss structures in the Metal Building industry. All customers can benefit from a good understanding of measurements and dimensions as they process the information that they receive from their metal building provider and interact with their building consultants.


In this blog, we provide an overview of the pre-engineered steel building system. We will share some of the more popular steel building designs and go over the basic concepts of a metal building system. It is important to take some time to explain the important measurements that customers need to know and understand before they begin their search for a metal building provider. 


The Metal Building System

Steel, also known as red iron, is used across a multitude of industries in the construction segment.


The Properties of Steel – What Makes Steel so Great?


The primary advantage of steel is its strength. Steel, as it comes from the steel mill, is incredibly versatile. It is this versatility that provides engineers with the flexibility to design steel structures with a high degree of accuracy. Steel is a plentiful resource - we have an abundance of it, and it is a well-accepted material world-wide. Steel has a very high degree of workability, and can be manipulated easily. It can be cut and welded, shaped and formed so that it satisfies an endless array of requirements. And steel is resilient. It can take a great deal of abuse and it doesn’t wear down like other materials. 


Finally, and perhaps best of all, steel is recyclable, and through the recycling process, it does not lose strength.


Building Designs

All our consultants here at Norsteel Buildings are trained to identify each customer’s specific structural requirements. Requirements are then matched to the structural design which will fit that customer’s particular building specifications. Different applications and different site locations may require different designs, and not all steel buildings are created equally. Even what looks like a simple box has to be engineered to exact specifications.


At Norsteel, we supply pre-engineered steel structures in all shapes and sizes. Because of their versatility, these steel structures can be engineered to join to each other and to existing structures, creating an unlimited array of shapes and configurations.



Here are some of the more typical metal building designs:



I. Double Slope/Gable Steel Building


The gable steel building is a symmetrical steel structure – it is by far the most common design produced. It offers an unlimited number of optional features and is used for an unlimited number of applications.


Double slope buildings can also be designed to be a-symmetrical, when customers require that the peak be off-set for a specific application.


II. Single Slope Steel Building


The single slope building is used for several specific applications ranging from agricultural storage, to commercial facilities with solar panel installations. Single slope structures are well suited in spaces with multiple structures to accommodate snow shadow from existing buildings. The single slope building is designed to be self-supporting.

III. Lean-To Steel Building


A lean-to steel building is designed to attach to another steel building system, or to an existing structure. It typically uses the structural support of the existing structure on the attaching side. Typical uses include car ports; porches; and drive through windows for fast food restaurants.

IV. Steel Structures with Mezzanines


Several metal building projects require a second floor. When the mezzanine is attached and supported by the metal building, it must be engineered to maintain the structural integrity of the metal building system. Norsteel can supply pre-engineered steel structures with up to 3 floors. These can be designed as partial mezzanines for viewing galleries, or full mezzanines to provide complete upper floor space.


V. Steel Structures with Cranes


Several metal building projects are designed for warehouses, mines, and manufacturing plants and must be pre-engineered to support 5-, 10-, or even 20- ton, cranes. Some steel structures have several cranes in each building. Our crane buildings are designed with a standing seam roof system to prevent leakage resulting from vibrations caused by the auxiliary load of the moving crane.

Basic Concepts of Pre-engineered Steel Structures

Most metal building systems have four outside walls. Two of these walls we call the sidewalls and the other two walls we call the endwalls. As their names imply, the Sidewalls of a steel building are located where the roof meets the walls in a line that is parallel to the ground. In other words, Sidewalls are a consistent height. In contrast, the endwalls are not a consistent height (unless the roof is perfectly flat – which is not typically the case in pre-engineered steel buildings). The height of the endwall changes where the walls meet the roof line. Endwalls are named either left or right. Sidewalls are either front or back.


Tip: Many customers think of the left endwall as the front of their building. Make certain you are in alignment with your consultant when you are discussing each wall of your steel structure.



The line where the sidewalls meet the roof on a steel building is called the eave. It usually has trim to make it look nice in appearance and gutters to remove rain flow from the roof. The distance from the bottom of the base plate to the point where the roof meets the wall, or the eave, is called the eave height.


Tip: The eave height is important because in steel structures, we measure the height of the building according to the eave height (not the peak height). Some municipalities impose a total height restriction. If this is the case in your municipality, then your building consultant needs to be informed so that your eave height can be calculated accordingly.


In steel buildings, we refer to the spot where the two sides of the roof meet on the highest point of each endwall as the peak or ridge. The gable instead is the triangular section that runs from each eave line to the peak and from the eave line on one sidewall to the eave of the other sidewall.


Metal Building Packages from Norsteel all come equipped with trim to enhance appearance. The line where the endwall meets the roof is finished with a piece of trim known as rake fascia. The line where the sidewalls meet the endwall is finished with a piece of trim known as the corner trim. And the peak receives a plastic or metal cap that we call a peak cap.


Tip: Trim packages can be an effective way of enhancing the appearance of your steel building system. Trim is available to customers in several standard colours.

Measurements of Pre-Engineered Steel Structures

A thorough understanding of the measurements that determine size and appearance of a steel building is incredibly important both from an aesthetic and functionality point of view.



Roof Pitch


The roof pitch or slope is usually shown as rise over run.


Typical steel buildings can be designed in several different pitches, but depending on their width and application, most steel buildings are designed with a pitch that is ½-in-12 (.5:12 or .5/12), 1-in-12 (1:12 or 1/12), 2-in-12 (2:12 or 2/12) and 4-in-12 (4:12; 4/12).


For small steel buildings, like in the case of a backyard shop and garage, a roof pitch of 2/12 is by far the most common. Larger steel buildings, like warehouses or arenas, typically call for a 1/12 pitch. For buildings requiring a more traditional, residential appearance, a more defined peaked appearance such as an 8/12 pitched roof may be desirable.


Tip: When we are speaking of roof pitch we are looking at how much of a peak the roof will have. Although many customers consider the roof pitch to be incredibly important in order to establish the ideal aesthetic appearance for their steel building, the degree of slope also has intense importance in terms of snow and rain accumulation.

Inches are used as the basic unit for roof pitch. For example, a 2:12 roof pitch means that the roof rises 2 inches for every 12 inches measured horizontally.


Dimensions & Measurements 


Like every other product in this world, steel building systems have three basic dimensions: width, length and eave height. The width is the distance from the outside of the sidewall girt on one side to the outside of the sidewall girt on the other side. The length is the distance from the outside of the endwall girt on one end to the outside of the endwall girt on the other end. The eave height is the distance from the finished floor to the point where the roof meets the sidewall.

Tip: When you are speaking with your steel building consultant, make absolutely certain that the dimensions you are discussing are clear. All metal building providers use out-to-out measurements. The interior space will be reduced in order to compensate for the rigid frame itself. If you require a definite clearance within the building, you must make certain to tell your consultant.


The most important message here is that all dimensions are taken from the outside edge of the girt to the outside edge of the girt. Clarifying these “out-to-out” measurements is crucial.

Final Thoughts

When we first meet with our customers, most of them already have a basic understanding of their structural requirements. They know how they want to be able to use their building and what needs it has to satisfy; and they have a good idea of how they want their finished structure to look.


When you are collaborating with your steel building consultant, be sure you are on the same page. When discussing locations for windows and service doors, it is important to be clear where they should be located; when talking about garage door openings or hangar door locations, it is important to understand the clearance factors involved; and when you are discussing interior clear-span, usable space, it is important that you are calculating dimensions based on out-to-out measurements.


Having a basic understanding of the concepts and terminologies used in the Metal Building industry will help customers to ensure that they are communicating the essential information to their steel building consultant. But don’t be overwhelmed.


Your building consultant is an instrumental resource in assisting you to ensure that all your needs are communicated and met. It’s our job to walk you through the entire process and to make sure that your finished steel building is exactly as you envisioned it.

Contact Us Today!

When you buy a building from Norsteel, we become your partner throughout the construction process. We work with you, or with your general contractor, to ensure that all your building requirements are met. Your project is our project, and we’ll be with you the whole way through.


For more information on specific building applications, click here to learn more about our line of products. If you have any questions or comments, click here to contact us today.

Michelle Keenan
Director of Operations