Aluminium vs. Steel: A Comprehensive Comparison in Construction

When it comes to construction it is always important to choose the right materials. In this blog, we are going to compare aluminium vs. steel and their benefits in construction. At LA Metals, we can help you find the highest quality aluminium materials whatever your construction project may be.

Properties and Characteristics of Aluminium vs. Steel

When it comes to the argument of aluminium vs steel, there are always going to be differences and it will always depend on your specific construction project to which material is better. However, steel is harder than aluminium, with spinnable tempers and alloys of aluminium denting or scratching more easily in comparison to steel. However, aluminium has many other benefits that will be discussed throughout this blog.

Density and Weight

When it comes to the difference between aluminium vs steel properties, there are many differences between the two materials. In comparison, aluminium has approximately one-third of the density of steel, making aluminium lighter in weight. Steel is typically around 2.5 times denser than aluminium and is less likely to deform underweight, heat or force.

Strength and Load-Bearing Capacity

Aluminium vs steel strength, when it comes to the strength of these two materials, aluminium is usually seen as a more desirable metal as it is more elastic and malleable in comparison to steel. Aluminium is able to create shapes and move in places that steel cannot, usually forming more intricate spinnings. Steel is a very resilient metal and can stand the test of time, however, it cannot be pushed to the same dimensional limits as aluminium and can tend to crack or rip during the spinning process.

Corrosion Resistance

When it comes to manufacturing, malleability is very important and as mentioned above, aluminium is more malleable than steel. Another benefit of aluminium is that it is corrosion-resistant without any further treatment once it’s spun. Aluminium also doesn’t rust, whereas steel has to be treated or painted after spinning to protect it from rusting and corrosion, especially if the steel is set to be used in a damp or abrasive environment.

warehouse aluminium and steel metal profiles

Common Applications of Aluminium vs Steel in Construction

Aluminium and steel have a varying selection of applications when it comes to construction depending on the metal grade. The most common applications for aluminium consist of

  • Kitchen appliances
  • Highway and road signs
  • Marine
  • Food packaging
  • Architectural components
  • Sheet metal
  • Chemical equipment
  • Steel is most commonly used for
  • Restaurant equipment
  • Heating systems
  • Food processing equipment
  • Laboratory benches and equipment
  • Dishwashers
  • Heating system components

Structural Applications

Aluminium is regularly used in construction due to its intrinsic properties – corrosion resistance and low weight. Usually used in roofs, walls, windows and doors, aluminium is a firm favourite within the industry. When it comes to aluminium vs steel in construction, both metals have many different uses, however, steel is also commonly used in construction for steel frame buildings, steel beams and staircases, steel can also be used in a variety of industries. Different structural applications will use different grades of aluminium. To understand why, read our aluminium grade guide.

Architectural Applications

A prized choice of architects for nearly a century, aluminium, more notably a hollow aluminium extrusion, has all the right characteristics that make this material a firm favourite of architects. As mentioned previously the alloys in aluminium are highly valued for being lightweight, environmentally friendly and extremely easy to work with. Used primarily in almost all of the construction and architectural works of the 20th century, steel can be fabricated into versatile designs to create an aesthetically pleasing finish to any architectural building. When it comes to architecture, there are many aluminium vs steel pros and cons to consider.

Cost Considerations

Of course, the cost of a material is always likely to change your material choice, the aluminium vs steel price should always be taken into account before deciding on the right material for your project. As both aluminium and steel are in general high demand, the price of both materials can fluctuate depending on the global supply and global demand.

c channel custom aluminium profiles

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

As there is a growing cry for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to almost everything we do and every material we use, it is important to take this into account when looking at aluminium vs steel. As aluminium is a longer-lasting material and is easily recycled at the end of its life, aluminium supports a more circular economy in comparison to other metals. Steel production is highly polluting and requires large inputs of coke (a coal-like material) which is highly damaging to the environment, therefore, in the battle of aluminium vs steel, aluminium is the ideal material if you’re looking to offset your carbon footprint.