This blog was updated in December 2022.
When it comes to using steel in construction projects, it’s all the same, right?
Steel is an alloy metal, which means it’s a combination of several types of elements. In the case of steel, this is a combination of iron, carbon, and trace elements. It has a number of advantages for construction applications due to the fact that it’s fairly inexpensive to manufacture and has a very high tensile strength.
What determines the type of steel is the ratio of elements used to produce it, and it’s the magic formula of the carbon steel alloy created that makes it preferred for many projects. While there are thousands of different types of steel, these types are generally bucketed into four categories: carbon steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, and tool steel.
What is Carbon Steel?
Carbon steel has a higher level of carbon in relation to iron than other types of steel. This higher carbon content provides greater overall strength in the finished product. While other types of steel may have carbon content as low as 0.05%, carbon steel contains between 2% and 2.5% carbon.
The American Iron and Steel Institute (ASISI) indicates that carbon steel should also meet the following criteria to be considered true carbon steel:
- Copper content must be a minimum of 0.4% and no more than a maximum of 0.6%.
- Manganese content must not exceed 1.65%.
- Silicon content must not exceed 0.6%.
Advantages and Disadvantages of High Carbon Steel vs. Low Carbon Steel
Within the category of carbon steel, there are the subgroups of high carbon steel (0.60% or higher carbon content) and low carbon steel (up to 0.30% carbon content). The advantages of using high carbon steel for construction applications include:
- Durability. The biggest benefit of carbon steel is its durability. It is strong and shock resistant, which is why it makes such a beneficial material for construction projects. Business places, government buildings, and residences constructed with steel materials are more resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tornadoes.
- Sustainability. Carbon steel is sustainable and easy to recycle and reuse.
- Affordability. It’s far cheaper to manufacture certain products out of carbon steel than other metals, as a little can go a long way. Its durability means less metal can be used while still performing the same function as materials – such as piping – that may be made of another metal like copper.
- Safety. Steel is relatively easy and safe to handle. It’s also commonly used in cookware because it does not shed potentially harmful chemicals into food
Because of its lower carbon content, low carbon steel has a lower cost than high carbon steel. However, low carbon steel is not near as strong or durable.
Construction Uses of Carbon Steel
The number of construction uses for various types of carbon steel are virtually limitless, and the modern world as we know it wouldn’t be possible without this alloy.
Low-carbon steel is the metal of choice for building frames in commercial, government, and residential buildings. Bridges, steel piping, and many automotive parts are also made from low-carbon steel. Smaller products made of low-carbon steel include nails, wires, pipes, and chain.
High-carbon steel, with its even greater durability, is often used in cutting tools, springs, coils, wrenches, hammers, and other types of tools and equipment used in the building process.
Explore Our Carbon Steel Solutions
We are the largest distributor of High Carbon Spring Steel Coil in North America, and also stock low-carbon and stainless-steel coil of the highest quality. Check out our resources on high carbon steel, use our metal calculator or contact us for a custom quote.