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Cadmium-coated type 410 martensitic stainless steel 14-14 self-drilling tapping screws fractured during retorquing tests within a few weeks after installation. The screws were used to assemble structural steel frames for granite panels that formed the outer skin of a high-rise building. Fractographic and metallographic examination showed that the fractures occurred in a brittle manner from intergranular crack propagation. Laboratory and simulated environmental tests showed that an aqueous environment was necessary for the brittle fracture/cracking phenomenon. The cracks were singular and intergranular with little branching. Secondary subsurface cracks suggested possible hydrogen embrittlement. The 410 screws had been introduced to replace conventional case-hardened carbon steel screws that conform to SAE specification J78. Carbon steel screws had a proven record of acceptable performance for the intended application. It was recommended that use of the 410 screws be discontinued in preference to the case-hardened carbon steel screws.

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