The Frustrating Truth About Deliberate Low Bids – No One Really Wins!

While there has been modest growth in the construction industry, it remains extremely competitive and deserves its reputation as a “dog-eat-dog” way to make a living.  The continued practice of awarding contracts to low bidders reinforces this reputation but also, strangely enough, results in no long-term winners.

In our experience, it has become increasingly difficult to be the low bidder as a material supplier. Anyone can win a bid by submitting a low (but often unrealistic) price. The low bidder may not grasp the complete scope or may deliberately exclude scope from pricing to later increase the contract sum through change orders. Or, as a result of rough economic times, a suhomeless bidderpplier in survival mode may desperately seek any work for their shop and intentionally drive the low bid.

Many general contractors have learned the hard way that selecting the supplier with the lowest price may get them the job but not necessarily add to their bottom line. Alternatively, the general contractor who selects a supplier with a proven track record of good quality and service ultimately discovers that the bid is truly “firm”, matches scope of work and, therefore, is less expensive.

A quality vendor protects their reputation and that of the general contractor by telling the truth. This vendor will tell the general contractor what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. The vendor may point out that the requested delivery schedule is problematic and overly optimistic due to site conditions (what the contractor needs to hear) versus the low bidder agreeing to an unfeasible delivery schedule (what the contractor wants to hear). Reputations and esteem go down while costs go up when the low bidder misses the agreed schedule. This directly impacts the other trades involved. If a low bidder is replaced mid-stream with a better performing supplier, overall costs are higher than if the General Contractor had selected the quality vendor in the first place.

For Macuch Steel Products, Inc. and our Family of Steel, low-bidding is not part of our strategy. Our strategy is long-term growth built on a practice of providing realistic prices for high quality services and products. Our diligence to protect our reputation will, in turn, protect yours.

Kelly May

Vice President

Macuch Steel Products, Inc.


Industry Voices – Achievable Tolerances for Mortal Builders of Handrails

Negative handrail tolerances

People build buildings.  However, being human means that nothing we do is perfect.  With this thought in mind – why do designers of buildings require handrails to be installed without negative tolerances?

“Buildability” is a valid design objective that includes, among other factors, achievable tolerances.  Life Safety Code supports buildability of handrails, but it is ignored or misapplied in most contracts and designs.  It becomes low hanging fruit for the inspector.  Life Safety Code, as published by The National Fire Protection Association, states in section “New Handrails on stairs shall be not less than 34 inches, and not more than 38 inches, above the surface of the tread, measured vertically to the top of the rail from the leading edge of the tread.”  Most contract documents specify for the top of the handrail to be 34 inches.  When we draw the handrails to anything other than 34 inches, the approver typically marks up this dimension, specifying the minimum 34 inches (no negative tolerance).

Tee Center – handrails by Macuch Steel’s affiliate Southeastern Stair and Rail

In the real world of construction, nothing is perfect.  You add the bevel of a stair into the equation and problems become magnified.  Life Safety Code also allows variance in the placement of treads ( * dimensional uniformity).  This variance alone can cause the Fire Marshal to fail the height of the handrail above the treads when the handrail is designed at the minimum height.  When you add in variances in the surface flatness of poured-in-place treads, you can experience more variations in the dimensional uniformity.  Finally, many treads are covered with vinyl or terrazzo.  This allows another possibility of the leading edge of the tread being slightly different than the designer’s intent.

In conclusion, being human, we need both negative and positive tolerances when constructing buildings, and designers need to specify the tops of handrails to be at 36 inches.  This will provide tolerance both ways and will allow the best chance for success in passing the Fire Marshal’s inspection.

Macuch Steel – inherently imperfect humans.

William L. Macuch “Bill”


Macuch Steel Products, Inc.

Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement

Tappan Zee BridgeTappan Zee Bridge Replacement
New York / Hudson River

Macuch Steel Products, Inc. was chosen by Bayshore Concrete Products Corporation in Cape Charles, Virginia to supply components for the concrete “tubs” in the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge. This cantilever bridge is part of Interstate 87 and spans over the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York at one of its widest points. It is also the longest bridge in the state of New York.

Tappan Zee Bridge ReplacementAfter undergoing an arduous approval process by Tappan Zee Constructors and the New York Thruway Authority, we were approved to provide integral components that act as anchorage in Bayshore’s concrete casting. It is utilized to attach to the support pilings of the bridge to Bayshore’s “tubs”.

This project has Bayshore Concrete Products single largest pours cast in their facility, weighing in at 470 tons.

Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, concrete tubs

Hospitals Across the Country are Starting a Construction Boom

Presbyterian HospitalAccording to a recent article in Fierce Healthcare, US hospital construction is booming. States including Ohio, Kansas, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Maine are all planning hospital construction projects, many which will begin in 2014. The construction and growth is due to assessing the needs of the population and finding a changing demand in healthcare services.

According to the article, New Jersey’s population is aging more rapidly than the rest of the country and is therefore focused on building more outpatient services. In Ohio the state is upgrading its hospitals to better reflect patients’ needs as well as updating to keep pace with advancing science. And other hospitals are expanding to keep up with a growing population.

Presbyterian Hospital3

At Macuch we’re always excited to hear about more construction projects and we suspect that as the economy continues to improve more hospitals will be able to start construction projects, even our neighboring county, Columbia County, is starting the process to build a new hospital. As a full-service steel provider we have helped build hospitals from the ground up, whether it’s providing rebar or our installation services our Family of Steel can handle it all. To learn more about steel services and to view past projects, visit our website.

Industry Voices – Don’t Let Roof and Floor-Opening Frames Create Discord

Welcome to the first post in our “Industry Voices” series, where experts from Macuch Steel will address topics that are relevant to the steel industry. This blog is from our President, Gary L. Cowart, who discusses the importance of cohesion between General Contractors and Subcontractors.


Most contract documents are clear on the requirements for roof and floor-opening frames. The documents will identify the structural shapes that make up the frame, the general configuration of the frame, and how the frame attaches to the structural framing.  What is not commonly found in the contract documents is the dimensional location and size of the frames.  This information is generally not available at the time of the structural design, and, for the most part, is dependent on the suppliers and subcontractors chosen by the project’s “General Contractor”.  Long story short: at the time a building contract is awarded, the information required for the floor and roof-opening frames is simply not there.  As a subcontractor, we receive a contract that has some language (and I paraphrase) along these lines: “you must coordinate with other trades”.  On the surface, this sounds great.  Have you ever heard an orchestra without a conductor?  It just does not work!  I have seen the construction progress on very large structures such as high schools, hospitals and office buildings come to a screeching halt because of the lack of floor and roof-opening information.  So what is the answer?

It’s simple!  Someone has to OWN the problem before a solution can be found.  I believe that, as a team with the General Contractor coordinating the input from subcontractors, the issue could be resolved.  But until someone acts as a good conductor and pulls it all together, it is nothing more than noise.  Floor and roof-opening frames should never be a show stopper on construction projects.

Call Macuch Steel…we can help your orchestra make beautiful music!

Gary L. Cowart


Macuch Steel Products, Inc.

Macuch Steel Celebrates Made In America Steel

Recent news has focused on reshoring efforts, and at Macuch Steel, we’re proud to say we have always supported the Made in America initiative. All our projects are not only fabricated in America, but we use steel sourced from the United States. We purchase our steel from service centers throughout the Southeast, and also from mills located in GA, SC, NC, VA, IN, AL, FL, TN, and AK.

As an American, family-owned business, we understand the challenges of running a business.  We believe it is necessary to support our fellow business owners. Our CEO, William L. Macuch, feels it is extremely important to buy steel made in the USA for three reasons: it helps maintain infrastructure in the USA, it provides jobs in this country, and it supports our economy.  If we continue to outsource and purchase products made outside of our country, we eventually lose our capability to manufacture on our own soil.

At Macuch Steel, we can help you with everything from the initial concept to the final build, providing everything from estimating, detailing, fabrication, welding, bending, painting, installation, and more. To view recent projects that have been completed with American made steel, visit our website.

Commercial Construction Industry Continues to Grow in 2014

Cabela's Construction

As we start 2014, we’re excited to see what the New Year will bring!  According to several reports, one thing 2014 holds is growth for the commercial construction industry.  Jones Lang LaSalle reported that the outlook for the U.S. commercial construction industry at the end of 2013 was positive and has identified four key trends which are helping it grow: more financing, rising construction costs, green building features, and funding for infrastructure updates from public-private partnerships (PPPs).

And according to McGraw-Hill, moving into 2014, the construction market should see an increase of 17%, up slightly higher than the 15% gain seen in 2013. The increase is attributed to the building of more warehouses, hotels, stores, and office buildings as well as more bank lending for commercial projects.

Macuch Steel Family at Brandon Wilde

At Macuch Steel, we certainly predict these reports to be true as we continue to stay busy.  Our current local commercial projects include the new Cabela’s store in Augusta, GA as well as a wellness center expansion for the Brandon Wilde Senior Living Community in Evans, GA. To view more photos of our current projects, visit our Macuch Steel Facebook page. You can also find out more about our services by visiting our website.

Welcome to the “Family of Steel” at Macuch

The Macuch Steel "Family" enjoys the 65th Anniversary celebration.

The Macuch Steel “Family” enjoys the 65th Anniversary celebration.

At Macuch Steel, we like to call ourselves the Family of Steel—and it’s not just because our company is in the hands of the fourth generation of family owners. We’ve seen tremendous growth since 1948, and we’ve been able to employ local citizens and neighbors thereby expanding our “family.”

Macuch Steel employees enjoying BBQ catered by Sconyers Bar-B-Que

Macuch Steel employees enjoying BBQ catered by Sconyers Bar-B-Que.

In addition, we’ve added various affiliated companies to the family, including: Em-Co Metal Products, Inc., Shewmake Steel Erection, Inc., Southeastern Stair & Rail, LLC, and Macuch Structural Steel Detailing. These affiliates can help us handle everything from stairs to installation allowing us to offer our clients a full range of “in-house” services to complete the entire building process from inception to completion.

Although our main focus is providing steel beams and rebar for commercial construction projects, we haven’t forgotten our foundation. Our founder, John Macuch, started Macuch Steel by making ornamental steel rails and stairs, which the company made, delivered, and installed. Now, we’re proud to say that we fabricate more than 10 thousand tons of structural steel each year for commercial construction projects, and our steel can be found across the U.S. from a warehouse in Portland, Oregon to a production facility in Rhode Island, down to a hospital in Arcadia, Florida.

And this year, as we celebrate our 65th anniversary, we hope to continue to see our family grow. In house, we celebrated this momentous occasion by inviting our employees to bring their families to the steel plant—and more than 200 people attended, taking tours to see what their family members do each day at Macuch while enjoying a barbeque, which you can see more about on our Facebook page.

As we move into our 66th year, we’d like to invite you to join our family as well and see how Macuch can help you. Learn more about our products and services by heading over to our website, and don’t forget to subscribe to these posts on the top right of this page.