Using Steel to Reinforce Concrete

Reinforced concrete bridgeConcrete embedded with steel reinforcement bars, plates, or fibers is one of the world’s most commonplace construction materials. Reinforced concrete, as it is known, can be found in everything from massive bridges and skyscrapers to individual home foundations and the roads underneath our feet. Here’s a quick look at why this composite material is so popular, and how it’s made:

Isn’t Concrete Strong Enough? Why Does it Need Reinforcement?

While concrete is an exceptionally tough material, resistant to compression forces, it’s also rather susceptible to cracking under extreme tensile stress. This makes it vulnerable to earthquakes, heavy vibrations, and other calamities against which architects must take consideration.

How Steel Helps

Consider reinforced concrete to combine the best of both worlds: concrete itself, while strong under pressure, is weak when stretched; while steel, somewhat more flexible, withstands bending and pulling forces better. The resulting composite material retains the inexpensive, easily moldable, weather resistant, and fireproof traits of concrete while standing up much more reliably to tensile stress.


How is the Reinforcement Done?

reinforced concreteReinforced steel is most commonly produced by pouring liquid concrete into a mold around a steel rebar or cable skeleton. These steel rods are typically placed at points where the greatest tensile stress is anticipated, if not throughout the entire structure.

Often, construction engineers will create pre-stressed concrete, in which the concrete is poured around heavy steel bars or cables that are already under considerable tensile stress. Once the concrete is poured and hardens, static friction transfers these tensile forces directly into it as compression. Subsequent tensile stress on the concrete is transferred directly onto the reinforcing structure.

Occasionally, small fibers of steel (or even other materials like glass or synthetics) may be incorporated directly into the concrete mix – this results in a material with improved resistance to cracking over regular concrete, though perhaps with less of a strength increase than is found in rebar-embedded concrete.

Questions about rebar or steel-based reinforcement in general? Contact the metal experts at Madison Steel today.

What is Welded Wire Mesh?

Also referred to as welded wire fabric, or simply “weldmesh”, welded wire mesh is a prefabricated grid of low carbon or stainless steel wires. These are welded together at each intersection, providing a highly durable and uniformly structured material suitable for a variety of applications.

weldmeshSteel wires come in an assortment of thicknesses, and depending on the size of the wires themselves as well as the openings between them, the resulting mesh may be sold in either rolls or flat panels. The openings themselves may be square or (oblong) rectangular in form.


Common uses for weldmesh

You’ll find welded wire mesh in a variety of industries, from agriculture and horticulture to transportation, mining, and construction. Here are just a few of the most common uses:

  • Rebar

Thicker instances of welded wire mesh can make a good internal framework for reinforced concrete structures. This addition provides substantially increased tensile strength to a material that is otherwise quite vulnerable to cracking under the forces of vibration, twisting, and warping.

  • Fencing

Those looking for a relatively cheap security solution that’s tougher than chain link and still allows visibility will often turn to welded wire mesh. Application sites range from lower-security prisons and military installations to private offices and residences. It may even be placed within factories and other industrial buildings as a guard material surrounding heavy machinery.

  • Grating

A perfect combination of strength, low cost, and ease of installation makes welded wire mesh a popular choice for grating roads – especially providing ventilation for subway systems – and for covering street-side drains.

  • Decorative purposes

Welded wire mesh is available in multiple colors and coatings, and can in fact make for a visually appealing framework for trellises, flowerbed enclosures, and birdcages – among others. Some find it a perfect fit for elevating plants above the ground, or for shelving in garden sheds, closets, and even retail stores.


Contact the expert suppliers at Madison Steel for all your welded wire mesh needs.

What are Alloys?

Alloys are simply a metallic solution of two or more elements, smelted together or otherwise combined into an inseparable mixture. They’re typically designed to overcome certain weaknesses that might be present in one of the component metals – for instance, a tendency to rust, physical weakness, or poor resistance to temperature extremes. The mark of a useful alloy is that it improves in some manner on the qualities of its individual parts.

Commonly Encountered Alloys

Alloys actually comprise the great majority of metals in commercial use today – here are just a few common examples:

• Steel

SteelDid you know that steel itself is an alloy? By adding small amounts of carbon to iron and burning off common impurities like nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicon, smelters create a product with greatly increased strength and resistance to rusting – there’s a reason that the advent of steel-making technologies was such a turning point in the development of industry! Today, steel is one of the most common materials in the world, and is used in everything from building construction and industrial machinery to home goods like automobiles, appliances, and tools.

• Solder

This mixture of tin and lead is heavily used in the manufacture of electronics, as well as in plumbing and for various sheet metal constructions. Different forms of solder are created from the combination of varying ratios of these two metals, but all work similarly to join together metal components. Combining tin and lead grants solder a hardness that exceeds that of either element alone, and also gives it a melting point lower than that of both metals – making it very easy to work with.

• Bronze

BronzeThis distinctive alloy is one of humanity’s earliest breakthroughs in technology, and still very much in use today. Bronze is primarily made of copper, with other metals (usually tin, but occasionally arsenic – especially in the past) added in smaller amounts, and appends additional strength and durability to the malleable and rust-resistant properties of regular copper. Though it’s been displaced in some aspects by the superior strength of materials like steel, you’ll still find it used in statues, musical instruments, and electrical contacts.  

If you have additional questions about alloy creation or uses, contact the experts at Madison Steel today.

Solid vs. Stranded Wire

Even with all the various sizes and shapes of wire, and their massive number of applications, it’s possible to break them down into just two basic categories – solid and stranded wires. Solid wires are exactly as they sound: a single, (relatively) thick thread of metal; while the alternative is actually a series of extra-thin wires wrapped together.

Though both styles are equally effective in conducting electricity, they do have some subtle distinctions that make them suitable for different purposes. Learning the differences will help you make the best pick for your specific situation.


When the need of the hour is flexibility, stranded is the way to go. This loose rope of minute wires is highly flexible, easily bending and wrapping around corners. Extension cords and other long appliance cables are typically made of stranded wire, as Stranded Wirethey’re frequently folded, twisted, and tucked out of the way. For more static applications, where the wire won’t be subjected to repetitive movements, a solid wire is an excellent alternative.


Stranded wires tend to be larger than solid wires with the same current-carrying capacity (as defined by area of conductive material). This is because stranded wires are composed of rounded wire threads, which do not fit neatly against one another and will thus have small air-filled spaces between them. Solid wire offers a more compact option, if the rigidity is not an issue for you.


Though this will, naturally, be dependent on a number of factors like width, stranded wire tends to be slightly pricier than solid wire, as additional processing is needed to assemble this wrap of conductive threads. Of course, you should weigh installation costs against maintenance costs – running solid wire is cheaper initially, but in high-motion environments it will not last as long as stranded wire. Careful planning will ensure the most economical selection for your needs.

If you have questions or other inquiries regarding steel wires, contact the experts at Madison Steel today.

Is Recycled Metal as Strong as New Metal?

Almost all types of ferrous metals can – and should – be recycled. The process serves to reduce not only landfill waste, but also manufacturing costs and the labor and energy required to extract additional raw materials. Fortunately, this recycling can even be done without compromising the strength and integrity of the reclaimed product. To see how, let’s run through an example with steel – the most recycled metal in the world, and easily the most widely used and versatile, with applications from theRecycle Metal creation of common household items to the building of massive skyscrapers.

How is Steel Manufactured?

The creation of steel solely from raw components requires the combination of iron ore, limestone, and coke (a coal-based fuel) in a furnace, where it is smelted down to remove impurities and add carbon. Today, much of the steel we use is produced by recycling existing materials – for each ton of reused steel, we’re able to save 120 pounds of limestone, 1,400 pounds of coke, and 2,500 pounds of iron ore, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute

There are two primary methods of creating steel with reclaimed scrap: through an EAF (Electric Arc Furnace) or BOF (Basic Oxygen Furnace).

In the EAF process, the raw material is almost entirely scrap steel. High-powered electric arcs quickly melt the material down to liquid crude steel, after which it is refined further in secondary steelmaking processes. Much of the steel used in construction, such as reinforcement bars, steel plates, and structural beams, is made through the EAF process, since the end result produced is incredibly strong.

The BOF process, on the other hand, uses only about 30% recovered steel at most. Here, molten iron is combined with pure oxygen to blow out impurities. The steel produced by this method is used to make industrial drums, pails, cans, refrigerator encasements, and automobile fenders.

What Type of Scrap Metal can be used?

Thanks to steel’s versatility and popularity, there is a huge supply of scrap available cheaply. Common sources for recycled steel components include:

  • Scrap MetalBodies of old vehicles
  • Old machinery, engine blocks, pipes, and iron baths
  • Domestic scrap, such as old appliances, cans, water tanks, roofing sheets, etc.
  • Factory waste that remains after shaping or drilling metal
  • Industrial waste and commercial scrap such as old columns, beams, channels, plates, implements and more

How is this Material Recovered?

Since iron and steel have magnetic properties, they can be easily separated from other waste. Once segregated, these metals are kept in scrapyards and by heavy machinery, for ease of transport and to reduce necessary space on the conveyer belts that feed blast furnaces.

Recycling steel is both the economical and environmental choice, and provides an incredible end product for use in any application. For more information, contact Madison Steel today.

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Metals

Metal building materials can be separated into two general categories depending on whether they do, or do not, contain iron – referred to as ferrous and non-ferrous, respectively. The strengths and weaknesses of iron lend these two groups both certain advantages and disadvantages. Though each is valued for its own specific qualities, note that ferrous scrap is frequently in ready supply, thanks to the massive popularity of iron and steel in the construction and automotive industries. Non-ferrous metals
, including aluminum, copper, zinc, and titanium, have a lower availability for recycling, and as such tend to be more expensive even in scrap form.

Differentiating between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

There are a couple of steps that you, as a consumer, can take to determine whether or not a given metal or piece of scrap is ferrous. Rust is, by definition, an iron oxide – so it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you see rust, you’re dealing with a ferrous metal. Note that wrought iron – a form so pure that it will resist oxidation – and stainless steel – with its high chromium content – are both ferrous materials that are protected against rust. Another method for differentiation is the use of a magnet. Though exceptions exist on both ends, most ferrous metals are magnetic, and nearly all non-ferrous metals are not.

Uses of Each Type

Generally speaking, ferrous metals are used for high-strength applications, such as engineering, construction, and automobile manufacturing. You’ll also find them in just about any appliance or component that needs a magnetic feature, like the household refrigerator.Ferrous Metal

Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, are typically best for applications that require a combination of strength and low weight. Metals like aluminum and magnesium are commonly used in the manufacture of aircraft, for instance. Resistance or immunity to rust is a useful characteristic as well, and one of the primary reasons that aluminum is used in the canning industry. The non-magnetic properties of most of these metals also make them ideal for electrical and electronic insulation applications.

Recycling Processes

Millions of tons of metal scrap, both ferrous and non-ferrous, are recovered each year. Modern recycling processes are generally quite efficient at reclaiming usable material – and, in fact, even new metals can sometimes require recycled ones as a component. Elements like aluminum are so prized that the value of scrap can easily exceed the cost of the recycling process. Metals must first be sorted into ferrous and non-ferrous groups – magnets are often helpful here – and like materials are then melted down and re-shaped into ingots.

Madison Steel is a leader in the supply of steel and non-ferrous recyclables and reclaimed material. Contact us today for more information on our services.

Carbon Steel: Low vs High Carbon

Carbon steel is basically steel that is alloyed with carbon. It may also contains trace amounts of manganese, copper, or silicon. It is one of the most common and popular types of steel used in industries ranging from manufacturing to construction. Carbon steel usually falls into one of two categories: low carbon steel and high carbon steel.

Low Carbon vs. High Carbon

Carbon steel under microscope

Carbon steel under microscope.

Low carbon steel usually has a carbon content of between 0.05 percent and 0.30 percent, while high carbon steel usually has a carbon content of between 0.55 percent and 0.95 percent. So how does that make them different?

Low carbon steel, sometimes referred to as plain carbon or mild steel, is the more common of the two. It is inexpensive compared to high carbon steel, and it can be used for a number of projects and applications. It is more pliable and has a lower tensile strength, though it can be heat treated or carburized to increase its strength and hardness.

High carbon steel is more finicky than low carbon steel. Carburization can lead to other impure elements, such as sulfur, becoming alloys to the steel, which may make it brittle. However, in pure situations, high carbon steel is extremely strong and works great for products like springs and wires.

Other Points on the Carbon Range

Medium carbon steel is steel that has a carbon content between 0.30 and 0.55 percent. It is often used for car parts. Ultra-high carbon steel is steel with a carbon content above 1.0 percent but below 2.0 percent. It is often used for knives. Any type of steel that contains over 2.14 percent of carbon becomes cast iron.

To learn more about carbon steel or to receive a quote on steel products, contact Madison Steel at 404-343-4855.

Why Steel Wire is a Better Reinforcement than Wood


From concrete and asphalt to walkways and flooring, almost all types of construction need reinforcement. The question is whether you should use wood or steel wire. History has proven that steel wire works much better than wood. Here is a look at why:

The Price

Steel wire tends to be less expensive than wood or any other quality product that can be used for reinforcement for that matter. Though prices are always changing and may be affected by a number of variables, steel can be up to 20 percent less expensive than wood.


Steel also tends to be more versatile. Wire mesh, for example, is available is a range of weaves and strengths. Rebar is available in a variety of strengths and diameters. PC Wire, which is often used to counteract concrete’s low-tension qualities, is also available in a variety of diameters and strengths.


Steel wire has also proven to be more effective than wood reinforcements. It is quick and easy to install and work with, but it also brings a unique quality to any project. For example, wood might be prone to pest problems, but wire is not and wire mesh may even prevent certain pests from entering a structure. For projects where the steel reinforcements may be exposed to weather and other elements, it can be epoxy-coated or galvanized. This process makes it last for a long time.

Rotten Wood

Common Uses for Steel Wire Reinforcements

Whether you are working on a commercial or residential project, you might be surprised to learn just how many structures and projects can be built using various types of steel wire reinforcements. These include buildings, cement poles, railroad tracks, bridges, mines, crane beams, homes, roads, and much more. If you are in need of steel wire reinforcement products for your construction projects, Madison Steel can help. Call us a 404-343-4855 to learn more about our competitive prices and wide variety of products.

Why Chrome Silicon is Great for Springs

If you need a type of steel that can handle any type of extreme, you may want to choose chrome silicon. It is usually used to make springs for items like firearms, race cars, and other high-performance vehicles. Here is a look at why:

It Can Withstand High Temperatures

Some types of steel might be more durable or can withstand stress, but they can only be used in certain temperatures. Chrome silicon works in both extreme heat and cold. For example, when a gun is fired, it gets hot and can even cause first degree burns if handled improperly. Its parts, including the chrome silicon springs, need to be able to withstand this kind of sudden temperature change. The same thing happens when a race car is driven around a track over and over again. The engine heats up, and all parts connected to it must be able to withstand that extreme heat.

It Can Withstand High Stress and Impact  

In addition to extreme temperatures, chrome silicon can also withstand the stress and impact associated with products like guns and race cars. Unlike high-carbon steel, it absorbs shock and impact associated with these items. This can also help cut back on unwanted and unnecessary noise and vibration.

Purchasing Chrome Silicon

Because it often performs when other types of steel won’t, chrome silicon is not always readily available at some supply companies. However, Atlanta-based Madison Steel has the resources and the logistics to get it to you as soon as you need it. Give them a call today at 404-343-4855.