An Overview on Structural Steel

You probably haven’t given much thought to structured steel, but it’s something you likely encounter every single day. In the construction world, few things are as essential and versatile as structural steel. Below, we’re sharing what it is, how it’s used, and how it differs from standard steel.

What is Structural Steel?

Structural steel is a category of steel used in construction and engineering projects where strength, durability, and shape retention are critical. It’s commonly used to create the framework for buildings, bridges, towers, and other large structures.

Due to its high strength-to-weight-ratio, structural steel can support heavy loads while being relatively lightweight compared to other construction materials. Its versatility also allows it to be fabricated into a wide range of shapes and sizes to meet specific project requirements.

How is Structural Steel Different From Regular Steel?

Structural steel is specifically engineered for construction projects where high strength, durability, and uniformity are key. It differs from regular steel in the following ways:


While regular steel is made of predominantly iron and carbon, structural steel is made with low-carbon steel alloys, along with additional mixed metal elements such as manganese, silicon, or copper to enhance its strength and durability.


Structural steel can withstand much heavier loads and harsher environmental conditions than regular steel.


Structural steel is manufactured under much stricter standards than regular steel, ensuring uniformity across different batches. This creates more predictability and reliability in construction projects.

Shape and Size

While regular steel is available in more shapes and sizes, structural steel is available in specific shapes and sizes designed to efficiently support heavy loads and resist bending and twisting.

Shapes of Structural Steel Commonly Used

Structural steel is available in a variety of shapes, each serving its own specific function and application in construction projects. Some of the most commonly used shapes include:

  • I-Beams, used in building frames, bridges, and other load-bearing structures due to their high strength-to-weight ratio
  • Wide Flange Beams, similar to I-beams but feature wider flanges offering greater stability and load-bearing capacity
  • Channels, C-shaped sections used where a flat surface is required for attaching other components
  • Angles, L-shaped sections commonly used for bracing, framing, and supporting structural components at right angles to each other
  • Tee Sections, often used as beams or columns in building frames and industrial structures
  • Plates, commonly used as base plates, gusset plates, and floor plates

Where is Structural Steel Used?

Structural steel is used in a wide range of construction projects due to its incredible strength, durability, and versatility.

Common applications of structural steel include:

  • Bridges and infrastructure, including beams, decks, piers, and other components providing support and stability
  • Industrial facilities, including manufacturing plants, warehouses, distribution centers, and storage facilities
  • Commercial and retail spaces, including shopping malls, office buildings, hotels, and entertainment complexes
  • Sporting facilities, including stadiums, arenas, and indoor sporting complexes
  • Energy and utility facilities, including power plants, refineries, and transmission towers
  • Marine structures, including offshore platforms, oil rigs, and port facilities

Structures Built Using Structural Steel

Structural steel has been used in the construction of some of the most iconic structures around the world, including:

  • The Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
  • Empire State Building (New York City, New York)
  • Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, California)
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge (Sydney, Australia)
  • Millau Viaduct (Millau, France)
  • Burj Khalifa (Dubai, UAE)

And here are a few of our favorite projects in the Washington, DC-metro area featuring structured steel construction by the team at Metrol Steel, Inc:

4 Benefits of Using Structural Steel

Structural steel offers many benefits due to its unique properties and versatility, including:

1. Strength and Durability

Because of its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, structural steel is one of the strongest building materials available. It can withstand high loads, including heavy snow, wind, and seismic forces. This translates over time to reduced maintenance costs. This structural stability ensures the integrity of the building under various environmental conditions and reduces the risk of structural failure over time.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

While the initial cost of structural steel may be higher than some other materials, it can provide huge cost-savings over time. Why? Reduced construction time, minimal maintenance requirements, and the ability to recycle steel components at the end of their lifecycle.

3. Design Flexibility

Structural steel’s versatility allows for more innovative and complex structures, including bridges, skyscrapers, and stadiums. This flexibility also allows projects to be easily modified, expanded, or retrofitted to accommodate changing needs or future expansion, without compromising the integrity of the existing structure.

4. Faster Construction Timelines

Unlike traditional building materials, structural steel components can be manufactured off-site and delivered to a construction site ready for assembly. This can significantly reduce construction time, providing faster project completion and reduced labor costs.

Structural Steel Erectors in Northern Virginia

Metro Steel, Inc. is family-owned and operated, specializing in steel erection, welding, shear stud installation, and crane rentals. What began as a small operation with used equipment has grown to be one of the strongest and most capable steel companies in the Washington, DC metro area. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you on your next construction project.