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Structural Connections
6.1 Introduction
A steel structure is produced as an assemblage of the structural members. Individual members of
steel structure can be assembled by means of structural connections. These connections may be:
-Riveted and Bolted connections
-Welded connections
Since these structural connections serve to carry (transfer) joint-load from or to adjoining
members, connection must be adequately designed. In present design practice, the design of
structural connections is largely governed by empirical rules specified by codes. AISC code
recommends to design structural connection for joint-load obtained from analysis but the joint-
load must not be less than half the capacity of the connected member. Joints of structures may be
designed either as flexible, semi-rigid or rigid connections using any methods of fastening
depending on joint-load transferred from one member to other.
Flexible connections are also known as simple framing connections are assumed to transfer shear
only for simple jointed frame or tension or compression only for trusses. Actually, a small
moment may develop at the connection but a flexible connection does not provide any resistance
to moment. For such case, joint eccentricity less than about 60mm is neglected.
Rigid connections, also called the moment connections, resist the shear and moment at the
connections, and retain a constant relative angle between the connected parts under any joint
rotation. Additional stiffener-plates welded to flange are required for rigid joint.
Semi-rigid connections resist the moment in between the flexible and rigid connections. The
moment resistance of such connections is less as compared to rigid connection. Design of these
connections is made for an arbitrary amount of the moment capacity of the connected member
(may be for 50% or 75% of member capacity).

6.2 Riveted Connections

Riveted connections played a dominant role in past engineering construction. However, the
increasing use of welded connection and bolted connection using high-strength bolts due to
economic advantages they offer has caused a rapid decline in the use of rivet as fasteners. In
addition, riveted connection is uneconomical because it requires a large number of labors to drive
rivets (a crew of about 4 persons). Also, high level of noises associated with driving rivets now a
day is not acceptable in most urban area. Riveted construction for railway bridges was among the
last to survive since rivets had a higher fatigue resistance than early bolts.
Rivets of various shapes of heads are made from mild-steel bars are used for riveted connections.
The most common types are as shown below.
d d
d l l l

round or flattend counter sunk

button head head head
Processes involved in driving rivets are:
1. Holes are either drilled or punched in the plate to be connected. The size of hole is 1.5mm
larger than the size of rivets.
2. A hot rivets (between 450 0c to 9800c) or a cold rivets is inserted into the aligned hole. If
diameter of rivet less than or equal to 10mm, cold rivets can be used. If diameter of rivet greater
than 10mm, hot rivets must be used.

1 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

3. Then, the head of the rivet is kept pressed on the rigid plate, while the projected shank is forged
to form other head of the rivet. Forging is may be done hydraulically or pneumatically driven

6.3 Bolted Connections

A bolt may be defined as a metal pin with a head at one end and a shank threaded at the other end
to receive a nut connecting pieces as shown below. The head of bolts and the shape of nuts are
either hexagonal or square. Steel washers are usually provided under the bolt as well as under the
nut to distribute the clamping pressure on the bolted member and to prevent the threaded portion
of the bolt from bearing on the connecting pieces.
washer l 35mm to 200mm
d1 nut b 21.5mm to 45mm
k 7mm to 23mm
d2 d1 10mm to 36mm
head, k thread length, b d2 = d1 + 1mm, except d1 = 36mm & d2 = 37.8mm

bolt length, l
8mm to 28mm
Bolt Assembly
Nutsshould have the same strength of bolt. For
structures under dynamic loadings, there is a danger of
D 21mm to 68mm loosening of bolts. To prevent this problem, either
additional nuts or self locking nuts may be used.
d 11.5mm to 38mm
d s 4.5mm to 12.5mm

Washershould have the same strength of bolt.

AISC Specifications of Bolted connections

-Edge-distance preventing warping damage
C1 C4 C1 C1 2d b
C4 C4
C 2 1.5d b
C 3 1.5d b
3d b

-Spacing between bolts to provide working space for the wrench head
C 4 (longitudinal spacing) 3d b

8d b
C 5 ( gauge) 2d b

6d b

2 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

There are two general classes of bolts in structural applications. These are:
-Unfinished bolts, and
-High-strength bolts
Unfinished bolts (A-307 bolts): -A bolt with a rough shank and bearing surfaces. These bolts
are made mild-steel. These bolts are least expensive and they are used for connection of members
of light structures (like roof trusses) and temporary structures.
High-strength bolts: -a bolt with a uniform shank and their strength is more than that of
unfinished bolt. High-strength bolts are made from bars of medium carbon steel through
processes of quenching and tempering or they are made using alloyed steel. These bolts have high
resistance to corrosion and provide a good fatigue resistance. The use of these types of bolts can
prevent slippage of connected parts if bolts are tightened until they have high tensile stresses
permitting loads to be transferred primarily by friction. High-strength bolts require a use of
washer-plate (disc) to spread large bolt load to a larger area of the softer base metal of the
fastened parts.

6.4 Design of Bolted and Riveted connections

Design of connections is made to prevent the following joint failures:
i) Failure in tension of member along bolts/ rivets holes.
ii) Failure in shearing of bolts/ rivets.
iii) Failure in bearing stress between shank of bolts/ rivets and the connected part.
i) Failure in tension: -The strength of member is reduced by bolt/ rivet holes and the member
may tear-off along the lines of holes. This type of failure occurs mostly for tension members.
To prevent this failure, capacity of member has to be checked for fracture failure criteria over
the net area through bolt/ rivet holes.
ii) Failure in shearing of bolts/ rivets: -Bolted/ riveted joint may fail by shearing of bolt/
rivet. Depending on type of joints, bolt/ rivet may fail with single or double shear plane.
shearing plane
P P/2
t1 shearing plane
P P/2
P t1 t2
Single shear plane (lap joint) t1 t2
Double shear plane (butt joint)
To prevent this failure, the shear stress developed in bolt/ rivet due to the joint-load shall be
less than or equal to the allowable shear stress of bolt/ rivet material. Therefore, equations
used in design of joint for shearing of bolt/ rivet are given by:
fs Fa , s
Ab ---for joint with single shear plane
fs Fa , s
2 Ab ---for joint with double shear plane
At least two bolts/rivets in a line should be provided to minimize the effect of bending of
bolt/rivet in lap joints.
For bolted/riveted connection being sheared on more than two planes, it is unlikely that shear
failure can occur simultaneously on three or more plane. For such case, the usual practice in
design is to consider no more than double shear plane.

3 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

iii) Failure in bearing stress: -A bolted/ riveted joint may fail if the shank of bolt/ rivet
crushes the material of the connected member against which it bears, or if the bolt/ rivet itself
is deformed by the member acting on it. To prevent this failure, the bearing pressure (contact
pressure) acting over the projected area of the bolt/ rivet shank on the connected member due
to the joint-load shall be less than or equal to the allowable bearing stress specified by the
code. Therefore, equations used in design of joint for bearing pressure are given by:
f l1 Fa ,l fl2 Fa ,l
d b . t1 & d b . t 2 ---for single shear plane
f l1 Fa ,l fl2 Fa ,l
d b . t1 & 2d b . t 2 ---for double shear plane
It is desirable to place bolts/rivets sufficiently close for the following reasons:
-To reduce the length of the joint and gusset or connecting plate.
i.e to have a compact joint
-To have uniform stress in the bolts/rivets

6.4.1 Allowable Bolt and Rivet Stresses used in Design of Building (AISC)
Allowable bolt and rivet shear stresses specified by AISC code are given depending on the type
of connection based on the degree to which bolts are tightened. Refer to table 1.
1) Friction-type connection no slip is permitted under service load. This is possible when
bolt is tightened for maximum tension approximately about 0.7F u. For friction type
connection, large tensile forces are developed in the bolts, which in turn provide large
clamping force to the connected elements. Because of the large clamping action, joint load is
transmitted by friction only and the bolts are not subjected to shearing and bearing stresses.
But in present practice, design is made for reduced stress of bolts. Friction-type connection is
an expensive process, as is the inspection necessary to see that they are fully tensioned. Thus,
they should be used only where absolutely necessary, as where the working loads cause large
numbers of stress changes resulting in fatigue problems.
2) Bearing-type connection prevention of slip is not necessary or there may be a little
slippage of connected parts. As a result the part of the connection may bear against bolts.
Tightening of bolts by the full effort of a person using a spud wrench, or tightening obtained
after a few impacts of an impact wrench is enough to get bearing-type connection. Riveted
connection is also considered as bearing-type connection.
Allowable bearing stress or bearing strength for fastened material to the bolt or rivet is given by
AISC as:
Fa ,l 1.5 Fu
--if deformation around the hole is not a design consideration (>6mm)
Fa ,l 1.2 Fu
--if deformation around the hole is a design consideration (<6mm)
where Fu - the ultimate tensile strength of the fastened materials.

Note that allowable bearing strength of bolted/riveted connection as given above is not
determined from the strength of bolts/rivets themselves; rather it is based upon the strength of the
parts being connected.

4 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

Table 1: AISC allowable bolt & rivet shear stresses for the two types of connections

Shear stress, Fa,s (MPa)

Fastener Friction type Bearing type Tension stress, Fa,t
connection connection (MPa)
Rivets A-502 Grade 1 - 120 160
Grade 2 - 150 200
A-307 Unfinished - 70 138
A-325N 120 150 305
Bolts A-325X 120 205 305
A-490N 150 193 370
A-490X 150 275 370
Note: N threads included in shear plane.
X threads excluded from shear plane.
If length of joint exceeds 1.25m, the allowable shear stress given in the table is to be
reduced by 20%.

6.4.2 Design of Bolted/ Riveted Joints

i) Connection Subjected to Normal Joint-load
Design of connection subjected to normal joint-load is made based on the premise that each bolt/
rivet carry equal share of joint load. For a joint with constant size of bolts/ rivets in a symmetrical
pattern and loaded such that joint-load passes through the center of the bolts/ rivets pattern, the
share of joint load in each bolt/ rivet may be given by:
Pbolt total Pa , s or Pa ,l
where n number of bolts/ rivets
Normal joint load may be either joint shear force in simple framing connection of structures or
joint forces of trusses.

ii) Connection Subjected to Eccentric Joint-load Lying in the Plane of Bolts/ Rivets
Generally, when the eccentricity of the joint-load from the center of bolts/ rivets group is less than
about 60mm, the effect of eccentricity can be neglected. Connections with a large eccentricity of
joint-load on bolts/ rivets group as shown in the figures below, the eccentric joint-load is
distributed to each bolts/ rivets according to elastic or vector analysis resolving the joint-load into
two part.
-Due to concentric load, and
-Due to pure moment

plate M

Bracket connection Framed connection

(b/n flanges of column & plates) (b/n web of beam & angle plates)

5 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

Consider a joint shown below subjected to an eccentric joint-load, P applied at eccentric distance,
e to the center of bolts/ rivets group. To determine the share of the joint-load on each bolts/
rivets, the eccentric joint-load is resolved into concentric load and pure moment as shown in the
1 4 P Ps Ps
P Pm4
e Pm2 M=P.e
Ps Ps
2 5 +
c.g c.g Pm5
d3 d6
Ps Ps
3 6 Pm6

Due to concentric load Due to pure moment

For equal sized bolts/ rivets, the share of bolt/ rivet force caused by the concentric joint-load is
given by
where n number of bolts/ rivets
The share of bolt/ rivet force caused by pure moment, M ( P . e ) is obtained by equating the
applied moment with the rotational moment as
M (P mi . di )
i.e i 1 ---(1)
Pmi --force at each bolts/ rivets
d i --distance of each bolts/ rivets from the center of bolts/ rivets group
Pm1 P P
m 2 ... mn
Pmi is proportional to d i , we have d1 d2 dn
In terms of mi , we have
d1 d d
Pm1 Pm1 . Pm 2 Pm1 . 2 Pmn Pm1 . n
d1 , d1 . d1 ---(2)
Substituting Eq.(2) into Eq.(1)
2 2 2
d d d
M P . e Pm1 . 1 Pm1 . 2 .... Pm1 . n
d1 d1 d1
Pm1 P
2 2 2
( d 1 d 2 ... d n ) m1 (d ) i

Simplifying d1 d1 i 1

M . d1
Pm1 n

i 1
Rearranging the equation,
M .d2 M .d3 M .dn
Pm 2 n
Pm 3 n
Pmn n

i 1
) (d
i 1
) (d
i 1
Substituting Pm1 into Eq.(2), ,

6 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

Therefore, bolt/ rivet force due to pure moment is given by
M .di
Pmi n
(d i )
i 1 ---(3)
Resolving Pm into x- and y-axis,
yi p mi . y i
sin Pmxi
Pmxi Pmi . sin & di di ---(4)
x p .x
cos i Pmyi mi i
Pmyi Pmi . cos di di
& ---(5)
2 2 2
and, d i xi y i ---(6)
Substituting Eq.(3) & Eq.(6) into Eq.(4) & Eq.(5)
M .y M . yi M .x M . xi
Pmxi n i n Pmyi n i n

i 1

i 1
( xi y i )
i 1
i 1
2 2
yi )
Therefore, resultant bolt/ rivet force is given by
Pbolt Pmxi 2 ( Pmyi Ps ) 2 Pa , s or Pa ,l

iii) Connections Subjected to Combined Shear and Tension

Common cases of connections subjected to combined shear and tension are illustrated in the
figures as shown below.
bracket-plate (double-angle)

hanger (double-
angles or cables)

Subjected to direct-tension & shear Subjected to tension caused by moment & shear

Connections subjected to combined shear and tension can be treated similar to beam-column
condition for combined stresses. Such connections shall be proportioned using the following
stresses-interaction equation:
2 2
fs f
t 1
Fs Ft
f s and f t are shear and tensile stresses in the bolt/ rivet
Fs and Ft are allowable shear and tensile stresses of the bolt/ rivet
AISC provide allowable tensile stress of bolt/ rivet in terms of shear stress of bolt/ rivet for
bearing-type connection as:
A 307 bolt : f t 180 1.8 f s Ft 138 N mm 2

7 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

A 325 N bolt : f t 380 1.8 f s Ft 303 N mm 2
A 325 X bolt : f t 380 1.4 f s Ft 303 N mm 2
A 490 N bolt : f t 470 1.8 f s Ft 372 N mm 2
A 490 X bolt : f t 470 1.4 f s Ft 372 N mm 2
AISC provide allowable shear stress of bolt/ rivet in terms of tensile stress of bolt/ rivet for
friction-type connection as:
f .A
A 325 bolt : f s 121 ( 1 t b ) Fs 120 N mm 2
f .A
A 490 bolt : f s 152 ( 1 t b ) Fs 150 N mm 2
Tb --bolt proof-load specified by code as given in table below

Table 2: Minimum prescribed bolt proof-load by AISC

Bolt diameter A-325 A-490

(mm) (kN) (kN)
12.5 52 73
15 75 105
20 141 200
22 170 250
25 220 310
28 275 388
30 322 454
35 438 618
38 591 834

Connections subjected to combined shear and tension caused by moment may treated in one of
the two ways:
1) Assuming initial tension in the bolts (which is always holds true for high strength bolt
N . Tb M
fb ft f c 0.0 plate do not separate
b.h S
Tb b.h2
Tb S
h 6
Tb +
The assumption of initial bolt tension allows the connection to act as an elastic unit and the
M .c M
stresses can be calculated using the usual bending stress equation, I S , which is

8 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.

valid up until the connection plates separate. Since the joint is never designed for a moment large
enough to separate the plates, the method is adequately conservative for design use.

2) Assuming no initial tension in rivets/ bolts

This assumption is used to design or analyze a joint made of rivets or lower strength bolts because
there is no guaranty for the plate to separate.
For location of neutral-axis (N.A), equate the
first moment of bolt-area above the N.A and the
first moment of the contact area of plate below ith bolt/ rivet
the N.A. Ti
| |
( A . y ) (b . h . h / 2)
bi i yi
above N . A below N . A
h h
Then, moment of inertia used for analysis is h| to
determined using 6 7
b . h' 3
( Abi . y i )

below N . A

Therefore, tensile stress developed in the top most bolt/rivet due to bending moment is
determined by
M .c

6.5 Splices of Members

Rolled sections are available in some convenient standard length. If the required length of
member is more than that commercially available, splicing will have to be done. Splicing of
members is done using the splice-plates connected to both the flanges and web of spliced member
section. Splice-plates on the web do the work of the web; splice-plates on the flange do the work
of the flange. Splice connections are designed for internal-forces of member (moment, shear &
axial-force) developed at the splice point. Splices are preferably placed closed to the location of
zero-shear in flexural member or in the case of column just above the floor of building between
At splice point of two members, let it is subjected to moment M, shear V & axial-force N.
Joint-loads used for design of the splice-plate are determined as follows.
For web splice-plate:
M.Iw N . Aw
Mw V.a Nw
I , A & Vw V
For flange splice-plate:
M I f N. A f Mf N. Af
N f .
M f M M w h I A

h A


9 Chapt.-6: Structural Riveted & Bolted Connections by Haftom G.