Steel structure design, fabrication, and installation are all valuable parts of the construction industry that progress our society on a daily basis. The complexity of the steel industry may be confusing for many people, especially when it comes to the myriad of terms and definitions surrounding structural steel. Sanilac Steel is an experienced company comprised of some of the top structural steel fabricators in Michigan, combining for decades of experience in a field where know-how is invaluable. While not necessarily vital for the success of your project, knowing some of the terms associated with metalwork and welding can prove to be useful for more efficient communications and, worst case, impressing friends at your barbeque. Today, we’ll begin to cover a few of these definitions. When you’re ready, contact our steel experts for a quote on your project!


A commonly used phrase, an alloy is a material that is mixed with at least two elements, one of which is a metal. When you hear metal alloy, you can deduce that a metal product has been combined with another component to create a specified material for construction purposes.


This term encompasses a wide range of activities that all work to essentially heat and cool steel in its solid state over a predetermined amount of time to create a much better result for cold-rolled steel. The process of heating metal is set by time and temperature to produce the specified benefits that are required. Annealing aims to remove any stresses remaining from the cold-rolling process, to alter the malleability and softness of the material, to change chemical, physical, or mechanical properties, alter toughness, and more. Most importantly, though, is the value derived from recrystallizing the structure of the steel. When a coil is cold-rolled, the bonds between metal materials are stretched out, making the metal weaker and more brittle. The slower process of heating and cooling allows the grain of steel to bond back together at a higher temperature, creating a much better product.

Base Metal

Any metal that is in place to be cut or welded is considered your base metal. When it comes to alloys, the metal that makes up the largest percentage of the material is considered the base metal.


We’re confident that nearly everyone has heard of metal bars, which consist of long steel pieces that are crafted from billets (see below). One common example of this is rebar, which consists of long cylindrical pieces that are primarily used to reinforce concrete for buildings, highways, bridges, and more.


A billet can be summarized as a piece of steel that is used for longer items, such as bars and channels. Unlike slabs, billets tend to comprise an area of less than 36 square inches while also remaining semi-finished.


The process of casting steel consists of pouring metal in its molten state into a specific container that, when cooled, results in a piece of solid metal that remains in the shape of said container.


One useful way to remember this term is to imagine the process of cladding your steel with further armor. In this case, though, cladding involves coating lower alloy steels with a stainless steel layer to protect it from the elements. Carbon steel, for example, is more susceptible to corrosion and rust. Cladding this material in stainless steel will create a surface that aims to maximize the protective properties of the metal.


Another term that is often used in the steel industry is coiling, or the process of winding up steel after it has been rolled to optimize its size for storage and transport. When flat, these metal coils can take up an expansive amount of space, creating the need for a smart storage solution. When ready, the metal can be uncoiled via a machine for the specific material.

The world of structural steel is full of complex processes and techniques that all combine to create an industry of unique terms. Understanding these definitions can help many people to better understand how the metalworking process works. Knowing what your steelworkers are talking about can save time and even reduce the odds of suffering a costly miscommunication. Next time, we’ll look at a few more terms that you may hear in your work. Those needing a top team of structural steel fabricators in Michigan can benefit from working with Sanilac Steel. Our proven fabrication system, coupled with expert steel design and installation processes, help to make Sanilac a steady source for quality steel products and services. Contact us today to receive a quote on your job!