Metal Buying 101: Understanding the 4 Basic Properties of Steel

Men working on a steel product

Anyone would probably agree that steel is one of the most important and commonly used materials in the building and construction industry. Without it, you may not start and complete any of your projects.

While the application of steel in many industries has been long established, people still fail to see the differences between materials based on their properties. The truth is that no steel is created equal. Each type has a specific purpose and not knowing this can cause the project to fail. In order to determine which type of metal you’ll need, you must understand the basic physical properties.

Ductility or Malleability

This refers to the ability of the metal to be drawn or formed into various structures based on the given amount of stress put into it. Identifying the ductility of steel is important for you to understand its limitations. This is important if you’re building colossal structures, such as skyscrapers, bridges, as well as commercial and industrial equipment.


This mainly refers to the metal’s ability to be cut into various forms. Steel suppliers find this important because it allows them to further improve the overall performance of a particular material when formed into a new one. Unlike the other properties, machinability involves many components because the process is too complicated to quantify. Steel fabricators often examine the material’s machinability manually on a case-by-case basis.

Tensile Strength or Hardness

This characteristic refers to the metal’s resistance from breaking or being stretched under tension. Although it is often confused with ductility, its primary focus is the steel’s durability to resist damages and deformity at a given force.

Weldability or Joinability

Some projects may require alterations and that’s where weldability comes in. Being able to weld or join metal components means lesser preparation time and faster completion for the workers.

To understand the complexities of steel buying, start with differentiating the materials based on these four properties. Only by learning these things, you can overcome the challenge of finding a perfectly graded steel material for your next project.