Metal vs Steel; Is There a Difference?

I know what you’re thinking, surely steel is a metal? This is a common misconception, and especially in the world of building. Often buildings that are constructed with steel are referred to at ‘metal buildings’ but there is actually a big difference between the two. If you have ever come across the periodic table, it will tell you that things like titanium, copper or nickel are classed as metals, whereas steel is actually an alloy of iron. Steel is not a pure element due to the levels of carbon it contains it can’t technically be classed as a metal.

metal vs steel
Image by Janno Nivergall from Pixabay

So that’s the science of it but what does that mean in terms of construction? Steel is much stronger than metal, which is why it’s the go to option when it comes to building big structures. Steel structural beams are near  enough indestructible so are the perfect material for large buildings from houses to skyscrapers, steel is the one to use. Metals can be much weaker so would be better suited to smaller uses like surgical implants, or decorative products.

In household building steel is often used in combination with Timber to reinforce the structure. Steel is becoming a much more popular material to build with as it demonstrates its long waring abilities.

Metals are generally found in the crust of the earth and have been mined for hundreds of years for their endless uses. Copper for example is frequently used for internal piping of power supplies as it can be manipulated to bend and wind around the structures of a house. Metal is also nonmagnetic which is why it has the ability to be used surgically as it won’t affect the body as a long-term implant.

One of the main differences between steel and metal is its likelihood of rust. Metal does not rust at all as it is pure and already accustomed to the earth’s different climates, whereas steel is prone to rusting over time, especially if it is subject to condensation. Therefore, when being used to build large structures, there are many precautions that need to be taken to ensure the steel is not exposed to elements that will subject it to rusting and weakening.

To summarise, there are many differences between metal and steel despite the common mistake around steel being a metal of its own. But the overriding difference is its strength and integrity, steel is the one you want when thinking about building a solid structure, whereas when it comes to interior design a lighter metal will make a fascinating feature, or even a great piece of golden jewellery to gift someone special.

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