An Introduction to Rebar Detailing

The question, “what do you do for a living?” is a simple one that any working professional can answer. however, there are professions within the AEC industry that are not commonly recognized—a rebar detailer is one of them.

A Little-Known Profession

The question, “what do you do for a living?” is a simple one that any working professional can answer. Most reply confidently, knowing that their job is one that others have heard of and are familiar with. As it pertains to the AEC industry, occupations such as architect, engineer, plumber or electrician are self-explanatory. However, there are many jobs within the AEC industry that exist alongside of the architects, engineers, and contractors that are not commonly recognized—a rebar detailer is one of them. Many people mistakenly believe that rebar detailers are engineers. In North America, rebar detailers are not engineers, nor are they required to be.




What is a Rebar Detailer?

Most people have seen aspects of the work that rebar detailers do, but they would never know it. If you live in a condo building, if you’ve ever parked in a parking garage, if you do your grocery shopping at a strip mall, and whenever you drive past a construction site, you are seeing the finished product or work in progress of rebar detailers. The concrete poured at each of these job sites and locations must contain reinforcing. Rebar is the steel rods used to reinforce the concrete. They are a vital element to the structural integrity of the building they inhabit.


A rebar detailer is responsible for creating the drawings that tell the field personnel, known as placers, or rod men, where to place the bar prior to concrete being poured. This is done by interpreting information in the structural engineers’ drawings. While it may seem simple enough, the process to get the drawings into the hands of the placers is rather complex.


The structural engineer is responsible for determining what rebar content is needed in each component of the structure, starting with the footings and working up. Their calculations reveal the size, spacing, zoning, layering of bar, and other crucial data. These calculations show what they need in the concrete for it not to fall. Field personnel are not able to work from these types of drawings, so it’s the rebar detailers job to take the drawings, interpret the data, and create new drawings that are more practical in the field.


Mastering the Art of Interpretation

Interpret—that is essentially what rebar detailers do. They must have a good understanding as to what is on the engineered drawings and what their intentions are.  Then, new drawings are created that a placer can read and comprehend; drawings that reflect the fabricated steel that has been sent to a site. Knowing that there are some struggles when trying to interpret, consider the following analogy:


When someone decides to be a language interpreter as an occupation, they first need to study the language they wish to translate. Once they have a base knowledge of the language, and with the help of a dictionary, they set out to take on their first job. They might struggle at first, but they get by. As time passes, they gain a more experience, become more fluent, and doing their job becomes easier. The need to rely on that dictionary becomes less and less. 


Imagine a fluent-speaking Spanish interpreter, with a dictionary, is given a novel to translate to English. For some reason, let’s say the Spanish dictionary is missing half the words. The experienced interpreter would have little problem translating the novel. Consider this same scenario with someone just starting out as a language interpreter, and you have a problem. How can they completely and confidently translate if they don’t have all the information they require?


Rebar detailers see this problem on a constant basis. There is a lack of certain information that they require to do their job effectively, and although they cannot interpret the whole job, for those with more experience there is less of a struggle. However, the fact remains there is a gap in communication, and that poses complications all along the building project’s life cycle.

Many mistakenly believe that rebar detailers are engineers. In North America, rebar detailers are not engineers, nor are they required to be. There is no formal schooling that one can take or needs to take to become a detailer. 

A general knowledge of construction, or a diploma in some discipline of construction or architecture, is enough to suffice. This knowledge or degree tends to be enough to land an interview with an employer offering a junior detailing position. Once hired, the training begins. The important thing to note here is that the clear majority of detailers start their profession with no experience or training in the job at hand.


Climbing the Detailing Ladder

As a junior, beginning to learn and understand what rebar is and what its’ importance is in construction, the learning curve is steep.  Detailers learn about placement, the common methods of communication in the field, and how to create the drawings for the field personnel.  They can move up the ranks after a few years, with some small to medium projects under their belt, and be considered an intermediate detailer. With six to seven years of experience, and many more projects completed, they could then be considered a senior detailer. At an Intermediate or Senior level, you may even take on the role as a Rebar Project Manager; which is a person who is not only responsible for their own work, but also the work of the juniors’ and even some of the intermediates.


A Shortage of Skilled Labor

Our industry, like any trade position, is facing a worker shortage. There are jobs available and the companies have the work, but they don’t have a viable pool of candidates to choose from. As more jobs become digitized, there is less interest in this type of hands-on work. What’s more is that these companies would love to hire someone with experience, but all the experienced professionals are already employed with a company that needs them. These companies are finding it difficult to hire a junior and get them trained, without taking a hand away from another job, just to get them up and running. It’s difficult to try and convince a graduating college student to come and work for you when you are using 2D CAD. The generation entering the workforce now has grown up with technology. To get them interested in reinforcing detailing, the Steel companies would have to be willing to accept and adopt a form of 3D rebar software, ideally, one that is intuitive to use and highly effective.


Software & Rebar

Any existing or aspiring software company needs to understand the job and complexities of detailing rebar, and the workflow the detailers adhere to when creating the placing drawings. We understand, and we want potential clients to know we will do what is necessary to adapt and develop the essential tools that a detailer needs to effectively do their job. We truly believe that our software is the best available option on the market. We strive to be innovators who understand the needs of our customers, their customers, and the industry at large. We believe that behind every good detailer should be a great detailing program. Welcome to Allplan.


Learn more: Register to watch our webinar titled, "A Smarter Way to Create a BIM Model for Concrete Reinforcement"



A Smarter Way to Create a BIM Model for Concrete Reinforcement

webinar-recording-concretereinforcementIn this webinar, Frank Holz describes the industry’s move from 2D to 3D modeling, and explains how structural engineers, rebar detailers, and project managers can seamlessly integrate 3D and BIM into existing 2D workflows.
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Advanced 3D Rebar Modeling, Detailing & Scheduling

reinforce webinar headerThis webinar looks at an advanced approach to modeling and detailing 3D rebar. We demonstrate how combining parametric 2D drawings with a 3D model can result in time savings, better material takeoffs and more accurate drawings.
Watch the webinar