Why Chinese Steel is Unsafe For Your Next Steel Building Project

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More and more people arrive in the U.S. everyday looking for work. According to CNN, the number of Chinese expat employees in the U.S has spiked dramatically over the last decade. In fact, in the same report, which references an analysis of government data by CNNMoney, the U.S. granted 10,258 L-series visas to Chinese workers and family members in 2015, more than four times the number approved in 2005. The L-1 visa allows for companies with U.S. and foreign operations to move their staff to America. This is extremely prevalent in the steel building industry.

Now, Chinese firms are buying up and partnering with American companies behind the scenes. Several steel building brokers – expensive middlemen purely in the business of outsourcing – now turn to their foreign partners for steel because it’s cheaper, and because of their partnership, it’s in their best financial interest. Whether you agree or not, that is a danger to American companies who refuse to be bought and strive to deliver a 100% American-made product. But a few questions still remain for the average builder. What is in YOUR best interest? Does it matter to you where companies get their steel? Do you even know where your steel building comes from?

You get what you pay for when it comes to the construction industry. We’re talking about a huge difference in quality between American and foreign steel, and it’s going completely unnoticed to first time builders. I can’t stand for something that puts American lives and American jobs at risk. These American companies that sell out to foreign steel manufacturers are making a conscious decision that price and profits are more important than quality and safety. What are you left with if you, as a first time builder, unknowingly buy cheap, foreign steel? You’ll have a cheap product that breaks down and doesn’t last. That’s why I implore you to do your research when it comes to choosing a steel building manufacturer. Come ready to ask your steel building supplier these hard questions.

Are you a broker?

Go ahead. Come right out and ask, because you deserve to know. Do you know the difference between a steel building broker and a steel building manufacturer? Brokers might refer to themselves as “contract manufacturers,” but they don’t actually manufacture anything. Brokers don’t employ personnel to design, engineer and fabricate a pre-engineered steel building. Instead, the main function of a broker is to take your desired dimensions and shop them around to manufacturers. Think of it like this – Brokers are only working as ‘middle-men’ who want to sell you the cheapest building. They are essentially mediators between contractors, manufacturers, companies, and the customer. In fact, that’s all some steel building companies can do. They’ll send out for all of the other important aspects that other manufacturers, like Armstrong Steel, can do in-house. Buying from a broker means you could be buying from an unknown source. That unknown source could very well be providing cut-rate, unsafe steel from China.

Where do you get your steel?

Low quality or cheap buildings might not be structurally sound. They have the increased potential to break or collapse. Now we’re talking about your safety, your family’s safety, or the general welfare of your business. I’m not saying that a quality project can’t be inexpensive; I’m just advising that you should pay attention to exactly what you are being quoted. Not all steel buildings are created equal, and you don’t want to choose a low-end product because it’s cheap! Believe me when I say this – cutting corners for the sake of profit in construction is one of the most misguided approaches to an industry that hinges on the safety of its products and the overall concern for its customers.

Chinese steel doesn’t have to go through the rigorous testing that American steel goes through. It’s usually not held up to the same standards, specifications or regulations, and it’s often not quality controlled the same way. As recent as 2015, some Chinese steel companies even added Boron to their steel so they could earn a tax rebate. The problem? Adding the element made welds more likely to crack, and that’s a safety hazard for construction workers and builders! Any company says it will stand behind its product, but how long will they do it for? One year? 10 years? How about 50 years? Armstrong Steel offers a 50-year structural warranty. Ask the steel building supplier where they get their steel. Is it from overseas? Is it cheaply dumped steel from a foreign country and disguised as an American product? Or is it actually manufactured right here in America? Make no mistake; buying from Armstrong Steel is buying American.

Why don’t I want a cheap building?

Most of the time, the cheapest building will be the lowest quality building. Whether it’s not designed for your particular area, or if it’s a red iron building, a cheap building could become a very expensive mistake. Why save money on an initial purchase, just to see those savings vaporize because labor costs increase, or you incur unplanned bills due to maintenance or replacement parts?

American made steel loaded on an Armstrong Steel delivery truck.

American made steel loaded on an Armstrong Steel delivery truck.

With cheaper buildings, there is much more potential for design flaws due to poor engineering. When holes don’t line up properly or pieces are missing, the construction delays can add up. Now the cheapest building is causing headaches on the back end of your project! Remember, you’re planning for a whole project here! Consider the source of your pre-engineered steel building, pay attention to the details and ask questions until you’re satisfied with the overall quality of the material.

It’s important, as a country, to really put our purchase decisions under a microscope in these situations. In a time when our budgets are tighter, we must be more thoughtful with our spending, and take a closer look about who or what makes the products we use every day.

You have many options when it choosing a steel building supplier. Be confident in your choice to Buy American, not just because it fulfills your innate patriotic ideals, but also because that company values your safety and your general well-being over markets and profits. That’s about as American as you can get.

Photo courtesy: Jessica Syrena

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