When building a structure, choosing the right structural steel is vital.

Without a solid foundation, you risk compromising the integrity of the building and setting yourself back in both time and money.

So, you’ll need to know whether you need to use red-iron or cold-formed steel. 

It’s difficult to know where to start, though. 

Let’s look at everything you need to know about these two types of structural steel.

What’s The Difference?

As previously mentioned, it’s crucial to make the right decision when choosing the metal for your building due to the differences between cold-formed steel and red-iron.

While neither is inherently wrong as a choice of metal for your project, there will often be one that has its advantages over the other. 

Making the wrong decision can cost you extra time and money, so it’s important to learn all that you can about each type.

Let’s dive in.

Cold-Formed Steel

Well-known for its durability and reasonable price, this steel is mostly used in buildings meant for residential or agricultural use. However, cold-formed steel can also be used for the frame of larger buildings depending on how much weight the frame needs to bear.

The term ‘cold-formed’ refers to how this metal is manufactured. Sheets of steel are rolled into various products, such as studs, headers, and truss members.

As the name implies, no heat is used to manipulate the shape of the metal during the manufacturing process.

The absence of heat results in noteworthy structural integrity. Cold-formed steel is renowned in the industry as being one of the most reliable options when it comes to choosing the metal for your building.

Cold-formed steel also has a significant resistance to high and low temperatures, which can significantly reduce your energy costs in cooler and warmer months.

Reliability is one of the most important factors to consider for your structure, both for the safety of the occupants and your overall productivity.

Cold-formed steel doesn’t come without its disadvantages, however. While none of them are particularly outstanding, they’re something you need to keep in mind while planning.

Since this metal is manufactured without heat, the process is more difficult. This extra time results in an increased cost, which is something to keep in mind when developing the budget for your project. 

Additionally, cold-formed steel has the potential to experience a complication during manufacturing where the steel hardens incorrectly while it is being rolled. As a result, a separate machine must be used to correct this error.

Regardless, this steel has a handful of advantageous factors that you should keep in mind when planning your project.


Despite what the name may imply, this metal isn’t iron. Since steel’s durability is greater than iron, it wouldn’t be a difficult choice to make.

The name is a reference to the protective layer of red iron oxide that the manufacturer applies to it at the end of the manufacturing process. This coating helps protect the steel from water corrosion– a preemptive step that pays off greatly in wet environments.

Since this steel is structurally sound and protected against water, it will maintain its integrity as the years go by. This makes red-iron steel a highly-reliable selection when building large commercial structures.

It’s also less expensive to manufacture than cold-formed steel. Cheaper manufacturing leads to greater accessibility, which is why the use of red-iron steel is so widespread.

Like cold-formed steel, though, red-iron steel has its share of disadvantages.

Although many contractors are familiar with working with red-iron steel, it can still be costly to install larger frames due to the sheer weight of the material.

So, keep this in mind when forming your budget for your project. It can be easy to overspend if you don’t properly plan for the installation costs. Since red-iron steel is such a powerful thermal conductor, it is more vulnerable to both high heat and low temperatures.

Heat and cold will flow through the frame of the building easily, making it more difficult than normal to regulate the temperature of the structure.

This may or may not prove to be an issue depending on the climate where your building is located. If it does, however, you may need to consider investing more in your structure’s insulation to mitigate the issue.

So, Which Should I Use?

That’s highly dependent on the project that you’re pursuing, your budget, and the timeline you have planned for everything to take place.

For both large and small budgets, though, both types of metal have their use in 

As previously mentioned, you should also consider how the climate in your area is during the warmer and colder months of the year.

For example, if you need a smaller building in a shorter period of time, cold-formed steel is your best bet. Bigger projects with larger budgets and longer deadlines will most likely require red-iron steel to be used as the material for the frame.

So, consider the above factors before making your decision to ensure that you get the greatest return on investment (and meet your deadlines).

Knowing How to Choose The Right Structural Steel Can Seem Difficult…

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about structural steel in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making the right decision for your next project.