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What Is Structural Steel?
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What Is Structural Steel?

You may already recognize the benefits of using steel in many construction projects, especially large-scale, because you’ve seen the strength and durability it provides for buildings. It is one of the most commonly used building materials in America.

You may also prefer structural steel for its recyclable properties. The average steel beam made in American steel mills is composed of around 93% recycled material, making it one of the most sustainable building materials on the market.

But what takes structural steel to the next level and makes it so dependable for nearly all types of commercial construction?

The answer may be more complex than you realize, so the structural steel experts at STR Constructors offer these insights.

Composition of Structural Steel

First, it’s important to know what structural steel is composed of so that you can better understand why there are so many grades of steel and their benefits for different projects.

Steel is an alloy composed of iron and carbon. While iron ore is the main component, it’s actually a pretty soft metal. What gives iron its strength and creates steel is carbon.

Through an intense heating reduction process, carbon is reduced to less than 2.1% of the materials’ weight and becomes steel. Further reduction decreases the carbon rate to approximately 0.05-0.25% to become what you know of as structural steel.

Structural Steel for Flexible Building

While higher levels of carbon can make steel stronger, that also increases the rigidity of steel, which is often not right for buildings. No matter where you are planning to construct, buildings need both strength and flexibility to safely perform and function at their best.

Where you are building, though, can affect the grade of structural steel chosen for your project. Factors like soil shifting due to neighboring construction, natural earth movements, even earthquakes have to be considered when designing and selecting materials.

The height of buildings, high winds, and other weather phenomena also require buildings to balance their strength with flexibility, which is why low to mid levels of carbon are best in structural steel for construction.

Types of Structural Steel

The way to improve steel’s structural strength, hardness, resilience, durability, and more is to add other elements to the alloy, including tungsten, zirconium, cobalt, nickel, aluminum, chromium, molybdenum, and titanium.

Incorporating additional elements allows more properties to enhance steel’s functionality and creates unique types or grades of structural steel.

A few common construction types include:

  • ASTM A36 with a 0.25-0.29% carbon rate
  • ASTM A572 with a 0.21-0.26% carbon rate
  • ASTM A514 with a 0.10-0.21% carbon rate

Shapes of Structural Steel

With structural steel having so high a strength to weight ratio but also being so ductile, the shapes, thicknesses, and even sizes used in construction projects can all be customized to best suit the demands of the structure.

The most common shapes for construction include:

  • Universal beams and columns: commonly known as I-beams and H-beams
  • Parallel flange channels: have a U-like shape with right angles
  • Hollow sections: can be circular, rectangular, or square
  • Angled sections: resemble an L-shape and the sides can be equal or unequal lengths
  • Flats: also known as plates, reinforce sections for added strength
  • Bars and rods: Long rectangular, round, or square pieces of steel

Applications of Structural Steel

By partnering with industry leading steel companies, like Nucor Steel, the applications for structural steel are endless. As a recyclable and even reusable material, it is sustainable.

With its alloy composition and innovations in manufacturing, it has become one of the most common building materials on the market. With the strength and durability to build skyscrapers, structural steel is perfect for large-scale hotels, office buildings, and state of the art medical facilities.

Its cost effectiveness also makes it an ideal choice for smaller scale buildings, like restaurants and retail spaces.

Build With Confidence With the Structural Steel Experts at STR Constructors

See how your construction project can benefit from structural steel. Talk with one of our experienced contractors to find out how to incorporate better building materials and a value engineered approach to your building.

Contact us online or call 512-515-0254 for a fair bid today!

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