What Are the Major Metals Used in Construction?

The construction industry is one of the largest consumers of raw materials in North America, from timber to sheet metal and insulation materials, billions of dollars are spent on material gathering every year.

One of the most important types of material is metal, it is vital to the construction of homes, offices, factories and public buildings. But what are the most commonly used metals?

How is Metal Used in Construction?

As any construction project does, let’s start with the groundwork, to form a solid base to build on, concrete is poured to form the foundations. Steel rebar is used to give the concrete strength in tension, it is often formed into large cages that stretch to every inch of the foundations.

Steel pipes or conduit are also used to form access routes for cabling and other services, these are often galvanized to protect them from rust. These are often pre-set into concrete to give permanent service routing.

Timber-framed buildings are held together by zinc-plated steel screws or nails, with steel beams often being used over windows and to support floors. Corner straps and joist hangers are usually made from punched and pressed sheet metal and speed up the construction of wooden homes significantly.

Wiring and plumbing use copper cabling and piping respectively, as these provide long lasting, reliable service for the life of the building.

For industrial buildings, steel frames are erected, which are then clad in steel roofing sheets, these make for a fast, durable and adaptable shell, which are also often used for offices, manufacturing, retail and more.

Common Metals Found In The Construction Industry

Steel

Steel is one of the most important and commonly used materials in any heavy industry, but no less in construction. It can take many forms, from sheet steel, angle iron, square and round tube and beams and columns.

It is found everywhere from the fixings used to assemble houses, to the structural framework of skyscrapers and smaller prefabricated buildings. In sheet form, it is often used as a maintenance free roofing material, and even exterior wall cladding.

Stainless Steel

For any part that needs the strength and versatility of steel, but is architectural or simply exposed to the elements, stainless steel is usually the first choice material.

Its chemical composition means it resists corrosion from oxidation, preventing it from rusting. Stainless steel is often used for handrailing, balustrades, process vessels and tanks and many other hygienic applications.

Stainless steel is available in most of the same sections as mild steel, including beams, channels, flat sheet and bar, round tube and square tube. Due to its prevalence in dairy and similar industries, there are many standardized tubing, flange and fitting sizes available in stainless steel.

Iron

Since the mass development and adoption of steel manufacturing, cast and wrought Iron usage has dwindled, especially in structural applications. It is still commonly used in automotive and allied industries but finds its biggest application as ornamental or architectural components in the construction industry.

As cast iron is very cheap to make and cast, it is often found making ornate railings, staircases and balustrades for renovation projects. Its resistance to corrosion and high strength make it a long-lasting durable option.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a versatile material that is resistant to corrosion and has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than both stainless steel and steel. It is often used for small bracketry, as well as window frames.

It is also commonly used for fascias and architectural applications for it can be finished in a plethora of colors and finishes using paint or anodizing. Available as a sheet ranging from 0.032” to 0.5” thick, round tube, round bar and flat stock.

Copper

Regardless of the type of building, copper can be found throughout, both for use in electrical wiring and plumbing pipes. Copper is one of the most conductive materials, and is extremely versatile, being available in everything from wire to pipe, flat bar and sheet form.

Copper has seen a recent rejuvenation in use in architectural and aesthetic applications, for things such as handrails and worktops. Copper can also be used for fascias, roofing materials and other ornate components, popular on buildings such as churches and cathedrals.

Brass

An alloy of Copper and Zinc, Brass brings many of the qualities of both constituent metals into one alloy. Commonly used for both architectural components such as door handles, hinges and other fittings, but also in valves and other services hardware.

Brass is available in most of the same shapes and forms as Copper, including flat strips and sheets, round bars for machining, and even box sections, U channel and angle shapes. Brass is easily machinable and frequently cast to make complex shapes.

Lead

Whilst we no longer use Lead for piping, as it is highly toxic, it is often the material of choice for roof flashings. These are to ensure weatherproofing around roof transitions, such as where pitched roofs meet walls or neighboring buildings.

Lead is popular for this application as it is soft enough to be cut and formed to shape on site, and then molded to suit imperfections in the shape and contours. It can also be readily soldered or brazed to produce complex multi-faceted flashings.

Metal Supermarkets



Metal Supermarkets is the world’s largest small-quantity metal supplier with over 125 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. We are metal experts and have been providing quality customer service and products since 1985.

At Metal Supermarkets, we supply a wide range of metals for a variety of applications. Our stock includes: mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, tool steel, alloy steel, brass, bronze and copper.

We stock a wide range of shapes including: bars, tubes, sheets, plates and more. And we can cut metal to your exact specifications.

Visit one of our 125+ locations across North America today.



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