Types of steel used in construction


Steel is a common construction material mainly due to its durability and high strength. Steel’s relatively low cost, coupled with its high tensile strength, has made it a popular material for civil and structural engineers.

The types of steel used in construction often vary depending on the nature of the construction project. However, the main types include structural steel, rebar steel, alloy steel, carbon steel, light gauge steel, tool steel, and weathering steel.

Are you curious to learn more about the main types of steel used in construction? Read on as we discuss all you need to know about steel and its various usage in construction projects.

1. Steel Rebar

Also known as reinforcing steel, rebar is a mesh of steel wires or a steel bar. This type of steel is used in masonry structures and reinforced concrete to provide extra strength to withstand load pressure. Rebar’s surface is often patterned to enhance the quality of the bond made with concrete.

Rebar is popularly used in construction to add positive properties to concrete. For instance, despite being strong in compression, concrete is usually weak in tension. Therefore, by carefully casting rebar into the concrete, the overall tensile strength increases, thus making it possible to carry heavy tensile loads.

Steel is usually preferred as rebar when dealing with concrete due to their almost similar thermal expansion coefficient, which means the structure won’t buckle or weaken when the overall temperature levels increase.

Uses of Steel Rebar

Advantages of Steel Rebar

Great in Crack Prevention

Rebar steel is a crucial component in structures in need of great tensile strength. When concrete is poured without adequate support down the middle, it is highly likely to develop cracks due to enhanced stress. Placing rebar helps to absorb and distribute tension stress, thus reducing the chances of cracks or breaking.

Ideal for Projects That Require Medium to Small Thickness

Although rebar steel can be used in large structures, it can also come in handy when used in minor projects like driveways or garage floors. Thick concrete isn’t preferred in minor construction projects, which explains why rebars are often used to provide additional support to the reduced quantity of concrete poured in such projects.

Therefore, by placing rebar steel, the resulting concrete can withstand increased compression and tensile loads while still maintaining a thin profile. This also allows for increased savings since the total amount of concrete needed reduces significantly when using rebar.

Durable and Strong

Stainless steel rebar is among the most durable types of steel and can withstand repeated abuse and abrasion during construction work. Rebar’s ability to make strong and smooth bonds with concrete makes it perfect for use in reinforcement.

Rebar steel is reusable but can also be melted down, re-purposed, and recycled, thus promoting green construction.

2. Alloy Steel

Alloy steels are made when carbon steel is combined with one or more alloying elements like manganese, nickel, copper, titanium, aluminum, and chromium. The alloying elements are usually added to produce favorable properties that increase the construction value of carbon steel.

When producing alloy steel, the elements are usually added in varied combinations or proportions depending on the nature of construction. Some alloys help increase the hardness, corrosion resistance, overall strength, ductility, and weldability of steel.

For construction projects, alloy steels are mostly preferred for their increased corrosion resistance and hardenability. Also, alloy steels are perfectly capable of retaining their overall strength and hardness over time.

The Main Alloying Elements and Their Effects

Advantages of Alloy Steel

3. Carbon Steel

As the name suggests, carbon steel is a type of steel with a higher carbon concentration than other steel types. The carbon content in this type of steel can reach up to 2.5%, which significantly increases the steel’s strength, therefore making it ideal for heavy constructions.

The Main Types of Carbon Steel

Advantages of Carbon Steel

4. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a steel alloy with increased corrosion and weather resistance compared to alloy steel or carbon steel. Some of the common ingredients used in stainless steel include chromium, molybdenum, or nickel.

The high chromium content gives stainless steel its impressive corrosion-resisting properties. This is because the chromium allows for chromium oxide formation, a rough film that enhances steel’s corrosion-resisting properties.

Advantages of Stainless Steel

5. Structural Steel

Structural steel is a type of steel produced with a particular shape or cross-section and specific chemical composition and strength values. In most industrialized countries, the composition, strength, size, and shapes of structural steel is usually controlled.

Structural steel can be easily transformed into different shapes, including L shape, I-Beam, T shape, and Z shape, among other shapes. High rise buildings rely heavily on structural steel, but it also makes a great option for light construction work.

Advantages of Structural Steel

6. Tool Steel

Tool steel is another steel type used in construction. However, this type of steel is mostly used for tool manufacturing, which is still crucial in the construction business. Tool steel stands out due to its ability to retain shape at high temperatures, hardness, and abrasion resistance.

Due to its strength, tool steel is usually used in various tool applications, including knives, hammers, molds, and heavy cutting tools.

The Main Grades of Tool Steel

7. Weathering Steel

This unique type of steel contains small amounts of phosphorus, copper, nickel, silicon, and chromium. The use of the above materials allows the weathered steel to form a protective rust layer once exposed to weather, consequently eliminating the need for paint.

The rust that forms once the weathered steel is exposed to oxygen and moisture acts as a protective layer that prevents further corrosion. Therefore, the rust layer acts as a shield protecting the weathered steel from the elements that caused rust.

Benefits of Weathering Steel

8. Light Gauge Steel

As the name suggests, this type of steel stands out due to its lightweight characteristics. Light gauge steel is produced when thin gauge materials are cold-formed into specific section profiles. The section sizes and profile shapes tend to vary but are usually strong enough to avoid local buckling and premature failure.

Advantages of Light Gauge Steel

Winding Up

The best type of steel to use in construction depends on the nature of the project. This is because each steel type has its unique properties that either add value or compromise the structural integrity of a building.

Therefore, to ensure the right type of steel is used, it’s crucial to examine the strength requirements of a structure and other needs such as corrosion resistance, tensile strength, and ductility. Considering these factors ensures the right type of steel is used in construction.