Types of Steel Used in Construction

Types of Steel Used in Construction

Steel is a common material for many electrical and mechanical applications. From kitchen appliances to tools to heavy construction equipment, you can use steel in various ways to create durable, long-lasting products. 

Steel, an iron alloy, mainly consists of iron and one or more alloying metals added to impart the final product with different properties. Many subgroups of steel serve various purposes, and the material's properties can change depending on the heating and cooling methods and the elements that create the metal. There are four main types of steel. Learn more about them below.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a durable material containing carbon and iron. This metal is categorized according to its carbon content. 

Low carbon steel is the most common type on the market. This material is often inexpensive, and you can easily form it for applications where tensile strength is not a primary concern, like structural beams. You can also improve low carbon steel's properties by adding other elements. This material is common in applications like piping, machinery, wires, bolts, structural components and stampings.

Medium carbon steel offers strength but has low ductility and toughness. These properties make welding and forming medium carbon steel more challenging than low carbon steel. This material is suitable for applications like railway tracks, gears, machinery parts and pressure structures. 

High carbon steel is ideal when you're looking for toughness and hardness. This material is difficult to cut, form or weld, but it's useful for a variety of applications demanding extreme hardness. For example, you can use high-carbon steel for railways, spring steel, plates and bars.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel features nickel, chromium and other metals to give it additional characteristics like corrosion resistance. This steel has a well-known role in manufacturing appliances and medical equipment. Stainless steel includes chromium, which gives it its characteristic shiny appearance and ability to resist rust. The more chromium in the metal, the higher the gloss will appear when you polish it. Higher chromium amounts will also equate to greater corrosion resistance. 

There are several subcategories of stainless steel to know:

  • Martensitic alloys: A primary characteristic of this alloy is toughness. These materials are often used to create pliers, cutlery and medical instruments. 
  • Austenitic alloys: These alloys have a higher nickel and chromium content, improving their corrosion resistance and causing them to be non-magnetic. These materials are easy to clean, making them ideal for commercial appliances. 
  • Ferritic alloys: Ferritic alloys are less expensive and contain lower amounts of nickel and carbon. Automotive industries often use this material because it has enhanced strength and sheen. 
  • Duplex alloys: These alloys are a combination of ferritic and austenitic metals. The result is a duplex material that delivers both properties, along with enhanced strength. Duplex alloys have corrosion resistance and are common among chemical, gas and oil industries that rely on durable pipework and instruments. 

Alloy Steel

This category of steel is incredibly diverse because it encompasses steels combined with various elements to create unique products. The most common alloy steels include chromium, nickel, vanadium, copper, molybdenum, cobalt and tungsten. Manufacturers also produce steel alloyed with silicon for its magnetic properties, creating a material that's ideal for large machinery. Depending on the properties your project demands, you can find a range of alloy steels to suit your needs. 

Tool Steel

The tool steel category includes high carbon steels that are perfect for creating manufacturing tools. Cutting tools, drills and saw blades are all examples of tool steel in action. There are six types of tool steel:

  • Shock-resisting: This steel is suitable for creating riveting and punching tools due to the addition of silicon, carbon and molybdenum to give it additional hardness. 
  • Hot-working: This material can withstand extreme heat, making it suitable for casting and forging. 
  • High-speed: You can find high-speed tool steels in power saws, drill bits and similar products because they are both impact-resistant and abrasive. 
  • Oil-hardening: These steels are wear-resistant, and you can often find them in shear and knife production.  
  • Water-hardening: Often the least expensive option, water-hardening steel is used to make many common tools.
  • Air-hardening: These materials contain a high amount of chromium and can withstand high temperatures without distortion. 

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