The Properties of Sheet Steel

Sheet steel is a modern occurrence in many different industries and has become just as specialized as other components.

Gauges

Sheet steel comes in many forms for specific applications.Sheet steel comes in many forms for specific applications.
Understanding the exact requirements of sheet steels is directly tied to the cost and performance of the material. With different grades, thickness and chemical compositions, sheet steel can be either disregarded or specially tailored to a specific application.

One of the most common ways to categorize sheet steel is in the thickness of the sheet. This thickness is measured in gauge. The gauge ranges from approximately three to 36 with higher numbers correlating to thinner sheets of steel. Though the gauge doesn't have a direct relationship to the thickness, the gauge creates a terminology that is easier to use than precise measurements since it is easier to say 18 gauge steel sheet rather than .0403 inches thick sheet steel.

Composition

Sheet steel, like other forms of steel, comes in a wide variety of compositions ranging from mild steels, which will rust, to rust-resistant stainless steel. It also comes in a variety of specialty steels with specific properties such as toughness, flexibility or rigidity. In addition to different chemical properties, sheet steels come in a variety of physical finishes such as polished or diamond-plate steel, which has a raised pattern.

Coatings

Because sheet steel is used in many different applications there are a number of different coatings applied. While simple mild sheet steel readily rusts, coating the steel with another metal protects the underlying steel. This process is called galvanizing. By coating the steel with a more reactive metal such as zinc the coating reacts to the outside environment first and creates a protective oxide coating. Galvanized steel is less expensive than the more resistant stainless sheet steel, but it cannot be polished since this would effectively remove the coating. In addition to galvanizing, sheet steel can also be painted or powder-coated to inhibit rust.

About the Author

Writer, photographer and world traveler James Croxon is a jack of all trades. He began writing in 1998 for the University of Michigan's "The Michigan Times." His work has appeared in the "Toronto Sun" and on defenselink.com and globalsecurity.org. Croxon has a bachelor's degree in English from the American Military University.