July 13, 2008

Is It Steel or No Steel?

By Donny Sheridan

When it comes to precious metals, most people think gold or platinum. But for the DIYer, you can't get better than simple steel.

The big secret with metals is knowing where to use a particular metal to its best effect - for example a stainless steel splashback in your kitchen as opposed to tiles.

People seem to think cutting and welding require specialist skills - and they'd be right.

And if you know a good steel fabricator you can get pretty much everything you need, from copper sheeting to stainless steel worktops or even structural steel.

It's important to bear in mind that the cost of steel is going up so you are better going direct to a fabricator as this cuts out the middle man - i.e. builders' merchants.

The main things to look out for are as follows:


Used to provide support where a wall has been removed. A structural engineer will do the calculations for size and type of steel beam needed, so you can satisfy building control.

The main points to consider if you are knocking down a wall between two small rooms to create a larger room is making sure the floors are properly propped and shored and steel is the ideal material as it can be cut to any length.

For this, you may need permission from building control, so you can't just have guys turning up at your house with sledge hammers to knock the wall down.

If you go direct to a steel fabricator they will cut the structural steel to size and install it for you, again cutting out the middleman.


Everybody has their own taste. That's why steel is so popular because the styles and design are endless.

If you have an idea of what you want simply sketch it down and the gates can be made to your design, the sky really is the limit.

There are two main types of steel - wrought or cast.

Wrought can be worked on site, bending or turning the steel bars into shape.

Cast is molten steel poured into a mould. Once cooled the design is then welded or slotted and screwed to the gate.

Probably the most important consideration is corrosion. Failing to control it will affect the length of time your gates will last.

The cheapest form of corrosion protection is priming and painting the bare steel, however any knocks to the gate that result in chipped paintwork need to be repainted or the gate will very quickly rust and they will require repainting every five years orso.

Galvanising gates - coating them in zinc - after fabrication and before fitting is the way forward as the gates will never corrode but it is more expensive.


Aluminium, copper, brass and stainless steel can all be used for decoration.

The cheapest and most used of these metals is stainless steel, which can be finished to a variety of looks whether it be dull, highly polished or circle polished.

For a kitchen splashback, give your fabricator the size and they'll cut it. Then just take it home, cut out the gaps for electrical sockets using a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade and stick the stainless steel to the wall. How easy is that?

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