Structural steel is an incredibly versatile and durable building material. It's commonly found in everything from bridges to skyscrapers, and many of these structures remain viable for centuries.
The very versatility that makes steel such an impressive material can also make it difficult to choose the right products. The average metal supplier offers a wide range of options. Engineers, architects, and contractors need to understand the difference between various grades and product shapes if they want to choose the right ones.
Another reason carbon steel is an effective metal material for building projects is that it is also eco-friendly. It's very quick and simple to recycle, making it a respected material that is also sustainable for the environment because of how easy it is to recycle it when it is no longer needed for a particular purpose. Its lightweight and slim composite makes it easier to recycle and reuse it for other purposes, so you'll never run out of reasons not to use your carbon steel. If and when you do decide to recycle your carbon steel, the process is pretty straightforward and doesn't require as much effort or preparation like it does with other metals that are heavier or denser. Less power required to recycle the material means that carbon steel is a top material for eco-friendly metals in comparison.
If you want a material that will last you for years to come, then you'll definitely want to invest in carbon steel. Carbon steel is known for being long-lasting and doesn't require much maintenance, meaning that you don't have to worry about replacing or repairing it, or even keeping it clean, in order to ensure that it will fulfill its purpose accordingly. Carbon steel remains one of our most popular metals that can be used for several building and industrial projects where you need a solid and trusted metal that doesn't require much upkeep thereafter.
Core Product Shapes
Let's start with the easier of the two distinctions between different steel building materials: core product shapes. These building materials can be manufactured using a variety of grades, but more about that later. For now, let's discuss the eight most common product shapes.
1. American Standard Steel Beams (S-Beams)
S-beams are composed of a rolled steel section with two flanges. The flanges are parallel to one another and tend to be narrow. Measurements for S-beam are designated with the letter "S" and two numbers. The first represents the beam's depth in inches, and the second its weight in pounds per foot.
2. Angle Beams (L-Beams)
L-beams feature two legs of equal or unequal sizes that join up at a 90o angle. They're most commonly found in flooring systems and other applications with reduced structural depth.
3. Bearing Piles (H-Beams)
Bearing piles are designed to enhance shallow foundation systems in dense soils. Each H-beam can hold up to 1,000 tons thanks to its shape. The "H" configuration transfers loads through each pile to its tip.
4. Structural C Channels (C-Beams)
C-Channel feature web-connected top and bottom flanges that form a C-shaped cross-section. They were designed for use in bridges, but are now common in marine piers and other short- to medium-span structural applications.
5. Hollow Steel Sections (HHS)
HHS units come in shapes ranging from squares and rectangles to circles and ellipses. These tubular cross-sections have walls that are approximately half the thickness of their radii. They are common in load-bearing welded steel frames with multiple load directions.
I-beams look like H-beams flipped on their sides. I-beams are lighter than H-beams and have greater web-to-flange ratios. The two beam types share many common applications.
7. Steel Pipes
Steel pipes are cylindrical hollow tubes. They're most frequently used to accommodate the movement of water, gas, and other liquids. They can also be incorporated into construction projects to add strength and stability.
T-beams consist of a vertical web and horizontal flange. They are able to withstand heavy loads, but the lack of a bottom flange compared to an H-beam can put them at a disadvantage.
Steel sheet is available in hot rolled, cold rolled and galvanized, this material is a great choice for any fabrication project due to it being easy to weld, form and drill, the most popular uses for steel sheet are automotive panels, tool equipment, drip pans, fuel tanks, trailer siding.
We supply many different types of steel plate, including steel smooth plate, floor plate - commonly known as tread plate or diamond plate. Smooth plate is a great choice for any industrial or fabrication project due to it being easy to weld and form, common uses are fuel tanks, trailer beds, tool boxes, sides etc. Steel floor plate is commonly used to create a slip resistant surface or cool industrial look.
Steel Rebar is used to reinforce concrete to help prevent cracking and extend the longevity of your foundations, slabs, roads, sidewalks etc. Steel rebar comes in two grades, grade 40 and grade 60, sold in stock lengths of 20' in length or cut into smaller rebar pins for wall and column support.
Steel Grading Systems
Structural Steel can contain anywhere from 0.10 to 2% carbon. Some varieties are also combined with additional metals to import desirable characteristics such as corrosion resistance or improved hardening.
The purpose of defining steel grades according to set standards is to ensure material quality and consistency. There are two forms of steel grading systems: the ASTM system and the SAE system. The average US metal supplier uses the ASTM system, but most industry experts are conversant in both grading systems.
The ASTM grading system utilizes the letter "A" to designate a metal as an iron or steel material, followed by a number that defines the steel's particular properties. The SAE grading system uses four-digit numbers in which the first two digits define the steel's type and element concentration and the last two indicate its carbon concentration.
Common Steel Grades and Applications In the United States, there are four commonly used categories of structural steel according to grade. Each category has different benefits, drawbacks, and unique applications.
1. Plain Carbon Steel
Plain carbon steel contains no additional alloys. The products in this category can be further divided into four grades of carbon steel:
Plain carbon steel is defined using an AISI numbering system. The first two numbers for plain carbon are always "10," while the last two digits offer an approximate concentration of carbon.
2. High-Strength Low-Alloy Steel
Sometimes referred to within the industry as HSLA, low alloy steel is stronger than plain carbon steel and offers better corrosion, fatigue, impact, and abrasion resistance. They're commonly used to manufacture structural shapes, plates, pipes, and tubing. Some forms of HSLA steel can also be used to construct H- and S-beams.
There are three primary alloys added to HSLA steel to enhance its strength and reduce its bitterness. Plain carbon steel can be mixed with up to 1.65% manganese, up to 0.6% silicon, and up to 0.6% copper. In the ASTM grading system, HSLA steel is designated by an "A."
3. Alloy Steel
Alloy steel is used primarily in thin-walled parts that would otherwise be prone to distortion. It is less common in steel structural supports. The AISI grading system designates steel alloys using the following system:
4. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is perfect for fixtures but less-than-ideal for structural supports. The alloy contains between 10 and 30% chromium to improve its corrosion resistance. It can also be mixed with chromium-nickel and other alloys.
What About Hot Rolled Steel?
There is some confusion surrounding cold vs. hot rolled steel. These terms do not denote a particular grade of steel, but the manufacturing process used to create products. Hot rolling steel is easier, and thus less expensive. It's often used to form structural beams that don't require precise shapes or tolerances.
The Bottom Line
Engineers, architects, and contractors don't have to make decisions about which steel products to buy alone. They can contact a reputable metal supplier with questions or concerns.