Modern structural steel can be seen as a marvel of innovation and engineering. From its versatility to eco-friendliness, steel has definitely evolved into a major component in our society. While a relatively simple product, modern steel has evolved with a plethora of industry terms and nicknames, all which can become intimidating and even confusing for those who do not partake in the trade. Sanilac Steel is proud to be your experienced group of structural steel fabricators in Michigan, working diligently since 1967 to provide our clients with steel structure design, mobile welding services, and everything in between. Whether you need structural steel fabrication or erection, Sanilac Steel is here to help!

Today, we’ll continue our look into a few of the many terms related to industrial steel. When you’re in need of a quality steel fabrication company, be sure to reach out to us for a project quote!

Galvanized Steel

This common term is used all across society, yet many people do not understand what the term actually means. Any steel that is galvanized is coated with a layer of zinc with the purpose of providing resistance to corrosion. This can be very helpful in applications where the metal will be exposed to the elements, among other material interactions. From the wire on your fence to the parts that compose your automobile, galvanized steel is useful for many applications in today’s society. Zinc is typically applied through one of two processes:

  • Hot-dipped steel is run through a bath consisting of molten zinc in order to coat the surface. An air stream then comes in to control how much zinc is left on the steel to determine its thickness.
  • Electrogalvanization is a more intensive process that utilizes chemistry to coat. The positively charged molecules from a zinc anode are attracted and subsequently attached to the negative charge that is held by the steel. Steelmakers have much more precise control in this more costly process, as they can increase the electric charge or slow down the speed at which the steel passes through the application zone. Automobile makers prefer this process and take up a majority of the galvanized steel that is produced.


One term you’ll definitely hear on a regular basis is the gauge of the steel being used. Simply put, the gauge is the thickness of your sheet metal. While it may sound counterintuitive, higher guages actually indicate thinner sheets of steel. 4 gauge steel, for example, is close to 15/64 of an inch. 7 gauge steel, on the other hand, is only about 12/64 of an inch. The consistency of the gauge of steel you use will indicate a higher quality, as imperfections can result in weak spots.


The heat-affected zone is a welding term that is used to describe the area around a weld or cut that has not melted yet has had its properties changed due the proximity to the action. Part of resistance welding relives on heating two different components, making HAZ an inevitable part of the welding and cutting processes.

Heat Treatments

Steel’s versatility and customization options make it an amazing source for meeting unique structural demands. Heat treatments are an effective way of altering the product’s properties by subjecting the steel to numerous temperature changes. Based on your specific needs, the steel can be changed to increase strength, hardness, or ductility. When your steel is ductile, it is better able to be stretched and manipulated with breaking. Gold and copper are examples of very ductile metals.

The specific process of repeatedly heating and cooling your steel helps to change its physical properties. How long the metal is heated and how long it is allowed to cool will greatly affect the final product.

High-Carbon Steel

Another common term, any steel that is composed of more than 0.3 percent of this material classifies as high-carbon steel. When you introduce carbon into the mix, your final steel product will be much tougher with the tradeoff of being less malleable. Any products that sustain a high level of wear and tear can benefit from carbon, including tools such as drill bits and saws.

When it comes to structural steel and its many uses, you are sure to come across a number of foreign terms and acronyms. It can be helpful to know some of these common concepts to enable you the ability to communicate more effectively with any steelworkers on your project. Next time, we’ll continue this process by looking at more steel terms and how they can affect daily operations. Anyone in need of quality structural steel fabricators in Michigan can benefit from contacting Sanilac Steel. Our team of designers, fabricators, and erectors are all here and ready to ensure that your project is done on time and under budget. With integrity and safety as our main themes, we work to optimize the safety of your site while delivering efficient, honest results that are sure to make any contractor happy. Contact us today to learn more!