9 Important Facts about Less-Than-Prime Steel in Houston
Without the strength and durability of the iron-carbon alloy known as steel, the modern construction industry, and many other industries for that matter, would not exist. Yet, the high cost of production makes steel far too valuable to waste, which explains why more than 60% of the steel produced worldwide ends up getting recycled. In the U.S., the recycling rate is even higher, exceeding 80%
Although melting and reforming used steel is a cheaper process than its original production, it’s still a costly and time-consuming one. For this reason, the modern steel market includes a third option: less-than-prime, or LTP, steel. Knowing the basic facts about LTP steel will enable steel-using businesses to know when and where to use it, allowing them to benefit from significant savings. In short, less-than-prime steel is hardly sub-par, as it’s suitable for many applications at a reduced cost.
1. LTP Steel Is Perfectly Usable
Much of what is labeled “less-than-prime” or “secondary” steel is in such good condition that it’s perfectly suitable for many purposes. When steel is going to be covered with other building materials or given a coat of paint, a few aesthetic flaws won’t matter. For this reason, sub-prime steel is widely used in the modern construction industry.
2. Most LTP Steel Was Never Used
Some steel products get labeled less-than-prime because they don’t meet a set of standard specifications. The steel may be very high-quality, but it may have been cut or formed into slightly non-standard dimensions. Even when it’s cut or formed correctly, brand new steel can still be considered LTP because it lacks the inspection guarantees of prime products, meaning that top-quality steel is rejected solely because it lacks a “pedigree” or “paper trail.”
Much of the LTP steel market is derived from surplus framing and structural steel that was over-ordered by construction project managers. This leftover steel is often put back on the market at highly discounted prices. By buying up this low-priced steel, you can save big without compromising the integrity of your end-product.
3. Downgraded Steel Can Be “Cleaned Up”
In some cases, steel products are damaged but still usable. They may have surface flaws, like nicks, dents, burs, small scratches, roll marks or pitting. These imperfections may not be a problem at all, or they may be fixable via trimming, minor metal-repair work or by painting them over. In other cases, specialized protective coatings, like tin, chrome, aluminum, lead or galvanization, have failed. If, however, you did not need such coatings to begin with, you could save by picking up these “defective” products.
4. A Poor Paint Job Can Make Steel Less-Than-Prime
In the painted-steel business, the steel’s surface has to be near-perfect, and the paint job must be flawless. When the color is off, the coat is too thick or too thin, the adhesion level is inadequate, or “micro blisters” cause paint to peel or pool, the steel product can be rejected. This steel, however, is still suitable for applications that require no paint or that can tolerate less-than-perfect paint.
5. Minor Rust Can Turn Steel Less-Than-Prime
When steel is stored for a long period of time or is not properly oiled, small rust spots will form and reduce the steel to LTP status. Such rust can be removed and painted over, so this still is still sufficient for many uses.
6. LTP Steel Comes in Every Grade and Type
Whether you need angle beams, channeled beams, wide-flange or standard-sized I-beams, tees, sheets, floor plates, square or rectangular tubing, pipes, flat bars, rebar, hex bar, or almost any other type of steel product, you can use LTP steel. Many sub-prime steel dealers carry a large, diverse stock. If you search hard enough, you can find deals on the steel products you need.
7. LTP Steel Pipe Is Especially Common
Unused pieces of pipe from underground installation projects are typically discarded as less-than-prime. Yet, much of this piping is perfectly good and serves a wide variety of purposes, though it may need to be cleaned, welded, re-cut and painted. Some common uses of sub-prime pipes include: fence posts, sign posts, bridge rails, dock piles, road barriers and numerous construction applications such as sign poles.
8. LTP Steel Is the “Greenest” Option
In today’s construction industry, many customers are asking about sustainability and environmental impact. By reusing materials from demolition projects or other sources, you choose the greenest option of all. Even melting metal scrap for recycling requires significant carbon emissions and energy usage, but reclaiming steel is 100% environmentally friendly.
9. Less-Than-Prime Steel Involves Both Risk and Reward
It’s true that buying steel without mill certification or prime status involves a certain degree of risk. It’s important to assess where this kind of steel can be safely used and where it should be avoided. However, it’s possible to buy LTP steel at discounts of 10% to 40% and end up with a fully functional end-product. Assessing the risk-reward quotient and using prime steel where required but sub-prime as much as possible everywhere else is the wisest approach.
Finding an LTP steel and metal supplier with a voluminous and diverse stock is key to integrating this steel option into your regular business operations. In the Houston area, Texas Iron & Metal has been supplying both less-than-prime and prime metals for more than 75 years and is one of the largest suppliers in the region. They also offer same and next-day delivery, as well as free delivery in the Houston area.