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Last edited 29 Sep 2020
Metal in construction
Metals are solid material that are generally hard, shiny, malleable, fusible, ductile, and have good electrical and thermal conductivity. Metals are commonly used in the construction industry due to their durability and strength to form structural components, pipework, cladding materials and other components.
Steel is an alloy of iron and a number of other elements, mainly carbon, that has a high tensile strength and relatively low cost and is used for structural and other applications in the construction industry.
Types of steel include:
- Stainless steel: Steel combined with chromium (and sometimes nickel). Stainless steels generally do not form rust on their surfaces and do not discolour.
- Galvanised steel: A zinc coated steel that is resistant to corrosion.
- Weathering steel: Has a rust-like appearance that can resist corrosion and abrasion, by forming a protective surface layer, or patina.
- Other alloys.
Because of its ductility, aluminium can be formed into many shapes and profiles. Aluminium wall cladding systems are commonly used for building exteriors, with large wall panels requiring fewer joints, resulting in time-efficient installation. Today, aluminium is the second most used metal in buildings after steel, used for roofing, flashing, wall panels, windows and doors, spandrels, and so on.
Types of iron include:
Copper is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity. It is a pinkish-orange colour. Copper is commonly used in the construction industry to form pipes and tubing, as it is malleable and joints can be easily formed by soldering. It is also used as a cladding material, sometimes allowed to oxidise to a blue green colour.
In construction, lead is used due to its ductility to form roofs and other cladding panels as well as windows, linings for cornices, tanks, copings, gutters and downpipes, flashing, and so on. It is also a component of soft solder.
Historically it was used in paints and pipework. Most lead-based paint was banned from sale to the general public in the UK in 1992. It has not been used for water pipes since 1970, however, it may still be present in older properties. It is recommended that lead pipes should be replaced.
 Alternative meanings
The term 'metal' can also be used to refer to:
- Molten glass.
- Constructing or repairing a highway with road metal (a metalled road). For more information see: Metalled.
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