Steel vs Copper – What’s the Difference

Regarding durability, steel and copper are two of the most popular metals in the construction industry. Steel has been a common choice for buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure for centuries, while copper is a reliable option for roofing, gutters, and electrical wiring. But which is more durable? In this blog, we’ll compare steel and copper’s properties, advantages, and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision.

What is Steel?

Steel is an alloy of iron, carbon, and other elements that is one of the most common metals on Earth. It has a high tensile strength and versatility for construction, automotive applications, tools and cutlery, among many others. Steel is often treated with various coatings to make it more corrosion-resistant or give it certain properties beneficial to manufacturing processes.

What is Copper?

Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity. Historically, copper was the first metal used by humans for tools, weapons, building materials, coins, artworks and everyday items like jewellery. Its ability to resist corrosion and transmit electricity is still used in plumbing systems, electronics circuits and wiring. It also has many health benefits, such as helping form collagen for bone development and aiding iron absorption.

Difference Between Steel and Copper


Steel and copper are both metals, but they have different compositions. Steel is an alloy made of iron and carbon, with other elements added to enhance its strength and corrosion resistance. Copper is a pure metal with good electrical conductivity but is relatively soft and prone to corrosion. To increase its strength, copper is often combined with other metals, such as zinc or tin, to create brass or bronze.


Steel is known for its exceptional strength, stiffness, and toughness. It can resist high loads, pressure, and impact without breaking or deforming. Additionally, steel can be heat-treated and cold-formed to improve its mechanical properties and achieve different shapes and sizes. On the other hand, copper is weaker than steel and can deform or crack under stress. However, copper alloys like brass and bronze can have good strength and ductility, making them suitable for both applications.

Corrosion resistance

Steel is susceptible to rust and corrosion, especially in humid, salty, or acidic environments. Steel is often coated with galvanization, powder coating, or paint to prevent corrosion. On the other hand, copper forms a natural patina when exposed to air and water, which can protect it from further corroding. Moreover, copper is an antimicrobial metal, meaning it can kill or inhibit bacterial growth, making it a good choice for pipes, sheets, and surfaces that need to stay hygienic.


Steel is generally cheaper than copper, both in terms of raw materials and fabrication. Steel production is more efficient and scalable than copper, as it can be recycled, reused, and produced in large quantities. On the other hand, copper is a non-renewable resource mined from specific locations and requires significant energy and labour to extract and refine. Additionally, copper prices can fluctuate due to global supply and demand, geopolitical tensions, and other factors.


Steel and copper have different applications in the industry, depending on their properties and costs. Steel is often used for structural components, such as beams, columns, trusses, tanks, pipelines, and machinery. Copper is used for electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing, and decorative features like kitchen countertops and backsplashes. Moreover, copper has high thermal conductivity, making it ideal for heat exchangers, radiators, and refrigeration systems.


Another advantage of steel over copper is that it is much more durable. Steel is corrosion-resistant and can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for various environments. On the other hand, copper is susceptible to corrosion and can only be used in relatively moderate climates.


A final advantage of steel over copper is that it is much lighter. This makes it easier to transport and work with, which can be a significant advantage in many applications. On the other hand, copper is quite heavy, making it more difficult to move and work with.

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In conclusion, it’s hard to say which is more durable, steel or copper, as it depends on the specific application, environment, and budget. Steel offers superior strength, toughness, and affordability but requires extra maintenance to prevent corrosion. Copper is softer but can form a protective patina and has good electrical and antimicrobial properties. Ultimately, choosing between steel and copper depends on factors like the location, design, purpose, and aesthetics of your project, as well as your long-term goals and budget. So, before you decide which one to use, consult a professional contractor or engineer to get the best advice and solutions.

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