WhAt is Structural Steel?
At Walser Contracting, we deal with structural steel on a regular basis. Whether it is a demolition project or performing some cutting or coring, it is something that we deal with on a daily basis. People have asked us, “what is structural steel” and we share the following:
Structural steel is basically steel that has been shaped specifically for use in construction or building projects but there is much more to it than this simple definition. As something that we come across when performing our services, we felt it would be valuable to better understand what sets structural steel apart from other forms of fabricated steel and this can be covered by looking at its two main characteristics which are its composition and shape.
Structural Steel Composition
Structural steel is a carbon-based steel which means that it has a carbon content of up to 2.1% by weight. Carbon is the most important element in carbon steel, following iron. By increasing the amount of carbon in the composition of steel, you are left with materials that have high strength and low ductility (Ductility is when a solid material stretches under tensile stress.). Depending on what the steel will be used will determine the carbon level or content needed.
Low-carbon steel or mild steel, is the most widely used form of carbon steel and what is most commonly used for construction purposes. It is for this reason that low-carbon steel is what most people think of when referring to structural steel. Low-carbon steel typically contains 0.04-0.30% carbon content, which allows it to be strong however more ductile than other forms of steel with higher carbon content. Although both medium and high-carbon steels (steels with carbon content ranging from 0.31-1.50%) can also be considered structural steel, these are typically used for mechanical engineering purposes.
Structural Steel Shape
When discussing structural steel, it is important to consider the different shapes that are used. As mentioned previously, structural steel is simply steel that is designed for different uses in building construction.
A structural steel shape is a profile formed with a specific cross section. Below are a few common structural steel shapes:
S-beams consist of two equal flanges connected by a web to provide depth. These flanges tend to be narrow and sloped which provides ideal resistance across many applications.
I-beams are available with wide, medium or narrow flanges and come in a variety of sizes to provide a versatile range of building support such as use in bearing piles and more. I-beams feature parallel flanges with a thickness equal to the web. This provides ideal support for heavy structures. I-beams can also be used for bridges, machinery and even frames for heavy-duty trucks.
L-beam or Angle beams are L shaped beams that are available in a wide range of sizes to meet a variety of building needs. With a 90-degree angle, these beams are commonly used to anchor floor systems, as they provide ideal support without a lot of depth. Angle beams can be used in masonry applications and repair projects due to the fact that they are light weight to minimize the load.
Channel beams are often referred to as C-beams or structural C channels. This structural steel component features a C-shaped cross-section with flanges on one side. These beams typically feature sloped inner flange surfaces and are often mounted to a different flat surface to maximize surface contact while providing superior strength. Channel beams are very reliable for use in walls, roofs, framework, trailers and even vehicle frames.
T-beams are typically used in load-bearing applications to reinforce other building materials. While not as commonly used as other shapes, T-beams can provide serious support when implemented by professionals. You can think of this steel piece as an I-beam that has been cut in half, with the web now serving as a stem. The shape of your T- beam will depend on the original beam it was cut from, which can include WT beams (wide flange), ST beams (from S-beams), and MT beams from other shapes.
Often referred to as hollow structural sections, HSS-beams come in a variety of shapes, grades and sizes. These beams are of a circular or square shape and have been growing in popularity in recent years. Many builders have come to rely on this shape for truss structures, vertical bracing, columns and more. While not as strong as typical steel beams, HSS-beams offer superior resistance to lateral-torsional buckling.
A rectangular, cross-sectioned long piece of steel.
A round or square long piece of steel.
Due to the ductility of structural steel, the variety of shapes, thicknesses and even sizes can be customized to meet specific building needs.
For any advice related to structural steel, contact Michael at Walser Contracting Ltd!