How do I select the right kind of steel?

How do I select the right kind of steel?

Selecting the right kind of steel for your job requires you to consider a number of factors: both current and future. Sometimes you will be able to do this yourself with the help of a detailed product guide, but most often it will be better to consult a professional.

How many different kinds of steel are there?

  • Hot rolled coil
  • Cold rolled coil
  • Metallic coated coil
  • Prepainted coil
  • Sheet steel

Not only are there many different types of steel and steel products, many of these products will have been graded for a number of different factors, including malleability, strength and structural gradings. So, you will need to understand the grading nomenclature as well if you are to make the correct choices.

Steel Gradings

  • Formable grades which give the extent of forming and the surface condition of the steel
  • Hardness grades which specify a minimum Rockwell scale indentation hardness and the hardening process employed
  • Structural grades which give a minimum strength yield in mega-pascals and describe the surface condition
  • Analysis grades which refer to the level of carbon present
  • Strength grades for other than structural steel, also refer to a minimum strength yield in mega-pascals and the surface condition of the steel.

When ordering steel the following needs to be considered to ensure you specify the right product:

  • Product and end use
  • Dimensions
  • Pack mass
  • Coating class
  • Quantity
  • Certification
  • Lead time

Product and end use

Just about every steel product type will have characteristics suitable for a range of functions, such as framing and bending, and different levels of corrosion protection or strength performance. Therefore there are likely to be a number of different products which will be suitable – to some extent – for you requirements. When ordering your steel products you need to think, however, about which product best suits the purpose of your end application.


Specify the width and thickness in millimetres, to two decimal places. You should also quote the required measurement tolerance – usually as Class A for standard tolerance or Class B for tighter tolerances.

Pack mass

Pack mass specifications together with the pack type required, this needs to be decided for each product you intend to order.

Coating class

When ordering coated sheet or coil products you will need to specify the required coating thickness, colour and surface protection. Your requirements should be stated in metric thicknesses, to two decimal places and should also specify the base metal required.


Most steel orders are expressed in metric tonnes, however you should speak to your steel merchant or steel distributor about minimum order quantities, particularly if you are ordering a specialty grade of steel or coating.


If your job requires a steel product with individual test certificates, you will need to specify this when you place your order. This level of certification is more common for coil rather than plate products.

Lead time

Lead times will often vary between products or due to individual specifications. You should always discuss lead times with your steel merchant as early as possible so that you are not disappointed.

When choosing steel for your next job, if you need to consult a professional, start with your steel merchant or steel distributor, they should have all the knowledge to help you make the right choice.



Yellow Pages. (2015, May). How Do I Select the Right Kind of Steel? Yellowpages.com.au. https://www.yellowpages.com.au/articles/steel-supplies-and-merchants/how-do-i-select-the-right-kind-of-steel



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