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Types of Metals – A Quick Reference Guide

A wide range of types of metals are present in the building industry, however iron, steel, copper, lead and zinc are the significant metals. Metals are opaque in nature and high melting point. They are bright and lustrous materials that shine. They are solid at room temperature and produces a sound when two metals strike together.

Metals are extracted from the ores and are compound substances. Hundreds of different types and alloys (mixtures) of metals are available. They are very versatile, as they can be shaped by melting and casting, rolling, extruding, machining, welding, drilling, bending, and so on.

Metals are used for structural and decorative purposes, either alone or in combination with other materials. They are reusable.

Properties of Metals

The strength of metals contributes to their utility in slender, durable shapes not possible with other materials, such as wood, masonry, or ceramics. Metals are inorganic materials that do not rot, decay, or support combustion. However, they melt at high temperatures and some can rust If not protected from moisture and chemicals.

Most metals are good conductors of electricity and heat. However, when two dissimilar metals come into contact in a moist climate, a galvanic action can occur and disintegrate one of the metals.

  • Durable and Weather resistant
  • Hard, stiff and has high density
  • Less Porous
  • Can be easily molded into any shape
  • Easily drawn to sheets/wires/rolls for any lengths
  • Malleable and ductile
  • Rusts easily
  • Easily hardened and tempered
  • Good conductors of heat
  • Used as a structural element rather than infills and facades
  • High tensile and compressive strength

Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Metals can generally classified into ferrous (iron-bearing) and nonferrous (ironless)types.

  • Ferrous Metals – are defined as the metals in which the element iron predominates.
    • Cast ion and wrought ion, steel

Iron takes high tensile strength compared to Non-Ferrous Metals. Steel can be reused and recycled.

  • Non-ferrous Metals
    • Aluminum, Copper, zinc, Tin, Lead,

Common Types of Metals Used In Interiors


  • Produced as alloys for specific properties; can be brushed or highly polished.
  • Lightweight; easily worked; corrosion resistant; ductile; silvery luster to soft gray.
  • Uses – Cooking utensils; building components; screens; hardware; furniture


  • Alloy of copper and zinc; takes high polish, but tarnishes readily; re-polish or add protective coating.
  • Easily shaped by casting, rolling, and stamping; yellow color.
  • Uses – Lighting fixtures; hardware; bolts; screws; furniture; accessories.


  • Originally copper alloyed with tin, but now alloyed with various elements of tin, silicone, aluminum.
  • Fairly hard and durable; patinas with age; brownish-red.
  • Uses – Sculpture; bells; hardware; plaques


  • Used mostly as alloying element; can be brushed or polished.
  • Durable; doesn’t readily tarnish; used in plating blue-white.
  • Uses – Lighting fixtures; furniture; small appliances


  • Resistant to corrosion; surface will tarnish unless polished or protected with coating.
  • Ductile; malleable; good conductor of electricity and heat; reddish-orange color that oxidizes to dull greenish-blue/brown.
  • Uses – Electrical wire; water piping; roof flashing, gutters; cookware; accessories.


  • Considered a precious metal; takes high polish.
  • Easily worked; made in thin sheets for gold leading.
  • Uses – Accessories; inlays; decorative elements.


  • Pure iron oxidizes rapidly; galvanized or painted to resist rust; produced as cast or wrought iron.
  • Strong; malleable; ductile; easily cast or worked; grayish.
  • Uses – Building hardware; railings; furniture; cookware; grilles; fences.


  • Resistant to corrosion; alloyed with tin to make pewter.
  • Soft; very dense; easily worked; vapors can be a health hazard; bluish-white.
  • Uses – Waterproofing; radiation shields; stained-glass work.


  • Resembles aluminum; alloyed with other metals.
  • Easily worked; resists corrosion.
  • Uses – Furniture; hardware


  • Used primarily as an alloy with other materials; takes a bright polish.
  • Makes other metals harder, corrosion resistant, ductile; grayish-white.
  • Uses – Cooking utensils; sinks; hardware.


  • Alloyed with other metals to increase hardness; alloyed with copper for sterling silver; takes high polish.
  • Ductile; malleable; tarnishes easily; white metallic.
  • Uses – Accessories; jewelry


  • Iron alloyed with carbon; surface deteriorates unless coated or other alloys added.
  • Very hard; alloyed to make stainless steel; resistant to rust and tarnishing.
  • Uses – Structural forms; furniture; cookware; door and window frames.
  • Three Types –
    • Low carbon steel
    • Medium carbon steel
    • High carbon steel


  • Important alloy; titanium oxides used in materials to make them white, bright.
  • Easily worked; used as alloy for structural material.
  • Uses – Furniture


  • Used mostly as alloy with other materials.
  • Easily worked; bluish-white.
  • Uses – Major uses are in galvanizing or plating for corrosion-resistant finishes

1 Comment »

  1. I like that you talked about how metals are opaque in nature and have a high melting point. We are planning to do some projects in our house and we are going to need some metals for it. We don’t exactly know what kind of metal to use yet, so we should probably look into a metal supplier first.

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