What Building Materials Can be Used as Steel Alternatives
When it comes to building materials, steel has long been one of the primary players in the market. Steel is strong, durable, and relatively inexpensive. However, steel is extremely rigid with no give, meaning it is likely to dent or get damaged when faced with impact.
Steel has a limited duty life, particularly in corrosive environments, meaning it needs to be replaced fairly often. This article will explore some of the materials that can be used in building applications as steel alternatives.
FRP as the Optimum Steel Alternative
FRP is an excellent material for use in construction, offering surprisingly innovative and durable solutions. When compared pound for pound, FRP is a stronger steel alternative, whilst being an extremely lightweight material. This means that FRP is easier to install in building applications, minimizing time and overall labor costs.
FRP also works as a steel alternative as FRP has high tensile and compression strength. Steel is often lower in price initially than FRP, until installation costs are factored in, and the knowledge that over time steel requires maintenance, upkeep, and ultimately replacement; FRP is far more cost-effective in the long term.
Using FRP structural shapes or building panels as a steel alternative offers significant structural advantages as they are easy to assemble, low in maintenance, and have a high aesthetic appeal.
Wood as a Steel Alternative
Wood has been used in construction for thousands of years, being a steel alternative before steel was even widely used. Engineers have successfully harnessed this natural resource throughout history to build a range of structures.
Whilst wood is favored as a material due to its ready availability and strength, FRP is far stronger overall. FRP works better than wood as a steel alternative because FRP does not easily chip or crack from impact and does not splinter like wood.
Both wood and FRP are beneficial as a steel alternative as they are not conductive. However, wood is rarely a viable steel alternative as it can warp or crack when subjected to higher temperatures, dryness, or excessive moisture. In applications such as waterparks or pools, FRP is much better as a steel alternative not only is it not affected by heat (up to 150 F, generally) or a broad range of chemicals, and it does not splinter or become harmful to users in normal use conditions.
Wood also often requires dangerous chemicals to permeate or coat it so it becomes resistant to mildew, fungus, or rot. FRP is a safer, more viable steel alternative as it is not vulnerable to any of these things, even without any specific coating.
Whilst wood is relatively strong, it cannot be used as a steel alternative in harsh environments such as structures adjacent to marine environments FRP outlasts both wood and steel in these areas, as it will not corrode, rust, splinter like wood, or be subject to insect infection.
Initially, wood is a cheaper steel alternative than FRP, but this is only true at the point of purchase. When installation costs, maintenance, sealants, and wear and tear replacement are factored in, FRP is the most cost-effective solution.