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Concrete or Steel?

Concrete or steel? If you’re planning a new structure, you’ve likely wondered which is best suited to serve your needs. Both are known for their durability and for their cost-effectiveness, and it may seem like a difficult decision to make. Here, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each to show you why steel is likely to be the best option for you.


If you’re working on large-scale construction jobs, like building a tunnel, damn or bridge, you’ll find that concrete is often your best option. Concrete can mold into the forms for most any shape necessary for a job. However, concrete is not always the right choice for building construction, where its weight presents several difficulties. The weight of concrete puts limits on the available span width of a structure, and the concrete columns necessary to support that immense weight don’t do any favors for usable space, restricting a great deal of interior floor space. Concrete builds also require reduced verticle floor to floor heights, again due to the weight. Features like overhangs and balconies becomes difficult when working with the weight of concrete, and you’ll often have difficulty installing large panels of glass.

Steel, on the other hand, leads all construction materials in strength to weight ratio. This opens a lot of possibilities unavailable in a concrete build. For example, steel frame garages can span much greater widths, sometimes up to 300 feet, without any need for interior columns to support the load. Steel can also easily accommodate greater vertical space needs, sometimes exceeding 40 feet. With steel, there is also no limit to the length of a building, as additional space only requires additional frames and bays. This makes expanding buildings down the road as simple as adding new bays, an option that isn’t available to concrete builds.


The cost of a concrete structure often fluctuates with the price of steel, as the majority of concrete structures require steel reinforcement. However, concrete on its own is made of readily available materials with generally fixed costs. Concrete structures typically cost more to erect not because of the cost of concrete, but because of the manpower required to handle the large quantity of concrete necessary to build. Steel has an advantage here because of its superior strength. Simply, less steel is necessary to create a sturdy structure. Because steel is a cost-efficient and 100% recyclable building material, its cost stays consistent, as well. Steel structures require less material, less time and less manpower, which often makes for a much cheaper build.

Long-term costs also have to be considered here. While concrete structures often do a nice job of regulating temperature and reducing the cost of heating and cooling, they do require a great deal more maintenance and repair than steel. Steel buildings are known to not only be low-maintenance, very rarely in need of any costly repairs, but also to hold their value for decades.

Environmental Considerations

Concrete and steel are both recyclable building materials. However, concrete is more expensive to recycle and its end product is not reusable for future construction, which leaves a lot of it ending up in landfills. Steel, on the other hand, is cheap and easy to recycle, and it retains its strength through recycling. In fact, it is cheaper to recycle steel than it is to make it a new, which is why nearly 100% of structural steel is recycled steel.


Concrete and steel both stand strong against wind, pests and fire. However, the strength of steel provides a major advantage in the event of an earthquake, where dangerous, deadly collapse is often a reality for concrete structures.

So What Now?

For strength, flexibility, cost, safety and more, steel is the clear choice for your building. So, give us a call and speak to an expert today. Our engineers will work with you to create the perfect building to meet your needs.