what you didn't know about structural steel

What You Don’t Know About Structural Steel

Structural steel beams form the backbone of many construction projects. But what is structural steel and how is it used?

Many people don’t know that structural steel is not one single alloy. Different concentrations of alloying elements are added to accomplish different objectives. Here are some of the most commonly found structural steel alloys:

Cold Rolled ASTM-A1008 is a low carbon steel material that comes in formed shapes such as channel and angle, for general structural applications. The additional steps for cold rolling give the steel a finer finish and improved dimensional accuracy.

Hot rolled (HR) ASTM-A36 mild (low-carbon) steel contains up to 27% carbon – more than standard mild steel. It has a minimum yield point of 36K, and is easily weldable and formable. It is one of the most widely used structural steels in a range of applications, including support frames, machinery and equipment braces, and transportation frames. HR A36 is also available in Galvanized form, for added corrosion resistance.

Hot rolled (HR) ASTM-A529 Grade 50 steel is stronger than A36, meeting the standard of 50K minimum yield strength. This steel is used for supports and structural components in bridges, buildings and other structures requiring increased strength. It can be welded, bolted, riveted, machined and fabricated easily.

Structural Cross Sections

Structural steel comes in different cross sections, including channel, angle, beam, and tee. These cross sectional shapes can either be formed or welded. Because they’re available in a huge variety of sizes and styles, steel structural shapes are used to build everything from furniture to skyscrapers. Common applications include:

  • Marine piers
  • Architecture & building construction
  • Shipbuilding
  • Truck trailers & shipping containers
  • Furniture
  • Heavy equipment
  • and more

Steel Angle Shape

Angle – Steel angle is available in different grades, including Cold Rolled ASTM A-1008, Hot Rolled ASTM-A36 Steel Angle, and Galvanized A36. Steel angle is used for a wide range of applications, including construction equipment, farm implements, manufacturing and repair, and fabrication. Its 90° angled shape adds an abundance of strength and rigidity to numerous projects and it is easy to weld, cut, form and machine.

Tee Shape

Tee – The “T” shape of hot rolled steel tee makes it favorable for applications where large loading bearing capabilities are a must, including fabrication, manufacturing, frames, trailers, etc. The top (flange) provides compressive stress resistance while the vertical section (web) resists shear stresses and bending. This product is also easy to weld, cut, form and machine.

Channel Shape

Channel – Steel channel can be constructed with cold rolled mild steel, hot rolled mild steel or hot rolled ASTM-A36 steel alloy. The interior may be fabricated with radius corners or 90° angled corners. Hot rolled steel channel has a mild steel structural C shape with inside radius corners that are ideal for all types of structural applications. The shape of this product is also ideal for added strength and rigidity over steel angle when a project’s load is vertical or horizontal, and can be easily welded, cut, formed and machined.

Beam Shape

Beam – Hot rolled steel I-beams provide great load bearing support when used horizontally or standing as columns. They are also used regularly throughout the construction industry when heavy load support is required, such as bridges and skyscrapers.

Industrial Metal Supply offers a full line of durable, long-lasting, and versatile structural steel shapes, including steel channel, steel angle, steel beams, and steel tees, a range of standard sizes and lengths. We also provide cut-to-length services as needed to give you steel shapes that match your design requirements.


hot rolled steel vs cold rolled steel

What is the Difference Between Hot Rolled and Cold Rolled Steel?

Both hot rolled steel and cold rolled steel start out in essentially the same way and both can have the same grades and specifications. But cold rolled steel undergoes additional processing steps, resulting in improved properties that can be exploited for different applications. Each type of steel has its advantages and disadvantages and costs for the two types of steel are also different.

How It’s Made

Both cold rolled and hot rolled steel start out as large steel slabs or billets cast from hot liquid metal. The billets are then heated, eventually reaching over 1700°F. At this high temperature, they are easily flattened into a long sheet using a set of rollers, and then wound up into large coils. To make bars or plates, the heated billet is rolled to the desired thickness and cut into sections before cooling.

As the rolled or cut steel cools to room temperature, it shrinks slightly, making the final dimensions of each piece less exact and the edges somewhat rounded. The surface is slightly rough and covered in scale. At this point, hot rolled steel products are ready for shipment, and require no further treatment.

Cold Rolling Processes

But cold rolled steel products are destined for further processing after the steel has cooled. Cold rolling is most often used to decrease the thickness of plate and sheet metal in the manufacturing stage. This “cold forming” occurs either by re-rolling at around room temperature and then coiling into sheet, or else drawing into bars or tubes. Additional steps such as drawing, grinding or turning create the desired finished product.

Work hardening of the metal at room temperature increases its hardness and yield strength by introducing crystalline defects, but also may cause internal stresses that must be relieved by heating, or else the final product may warp.

Finishing Touches

Cold rolled or cold formed steel has a smooth, shiny finish with an oily texture that is free of rust or scale so it can easily be painted or chromed. The dimensions of the final product are more precise and square, with a sharper edge, and cold rolled steel sheet can hold tighter tolerances than hot rolled when machined or otherwise fabricated.

In general, cold rolled and cold formed steel costs more than hot rolled steel because of the extra processing steps.

Industrial Metal Supply stocks hot rolled steel in the form of structural shapes, bar, sheet or plate, as well as cold rolled steel structural shapes, sheet and plate.