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Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. It is used widely as a significant component in the modern world due to its high tensile strength and low cost. The low cost also relates to the making, forming and processing of the material for a wide range of applications. Steel can be commonly found in buildings, machinery and transport systems such as cars, aeroplanes and trains. Until the widespread use of aluminium started in the 1900s, steel was often used in the production of gates and fences. It is still used over aluminium in applications where strength is of a high priority for security reasons.
As an alloy of iron and carbon, steel is formed by combining the two elements. Steel formed with low amounts of carbon will have similar properties to iron – soft and easily shaped. The more carbon that is added hardens the metal grains and increases its strength, but it becomes less malleable and more difficult to weld.
Steel is susceptible to rust, which is the result of the chemical reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or moisture (iron oxide). Rusting reduces the integral strength of steel, and over time, with the presence of water and oxygen, rust will eventually convert the entirety of the iron mass. It is therefore incredibly important to maintain steel correctly, to limit the ingress of water and oxygen. Rust is an essential factor to consider when maintaining a steel gate.
When it comes to maintaining a steel gate, there are two main things to consider relating to the properties of iron. Firstly, rust must be prevented with the regular application of a surface barrier such as paint. If rust is already established, the rust must be removed with a wire brush, emery cloth or sandpaper to provide a smooth surface for painting. The surface is then painted with two layers of rust-inhibiting primer, allowing sufficient time to ensure the first layer has dried before applying the second. Once the second layer is dried, a surface colour can then be used over the top. Simply painting over the rust will not work, as the rust will continue to grow underneath the coating. This can act as an incubator and accelerate the spread of the rust.
Secondly, due to the weight of steel, lubrication of the hinges must be performed on a regular basis. This is done to ensure the correct operation of the gate. The part of the hinge that moves is not usually painted, but if the hinges are made from iron, greasing will deter rusting. Many hinges are made from bronze alloys which do not rust. Furthermore, heavy gates must be checked regularly to ensure the gates have not dropped and become misaligned.
Steel gates are incredibly strong, which means they don’t get damaged easily and can withstand pressure being applied by, for example, a vehicle. Steel can easily be welded, shaped and cut, and therefore there are a wide variety of designs available. With a good fabricator, these designs can become innovative and ornate, and their traditional appearance can be very ascetically pleasing.
The possibility of rust means steel gates must be kept well maintained as per the points listed above. Maintaining steel can often seem like an endless task due to the frequency of required works, and it is often difficult to ensure that intricate designs are fully protected. Due to their weight, an automated steel gate requires powerful gate motors and hinges, as well as strong accompanying posts or pillars. While the designs can be ornate, because steel is very hard, it takes a lot of effort to cut and shape into a gate, making it much more expensive than an aluminium alternative. Where a steel gate is in a very poor state, it may have to sandblasted back to raw metal and refinished, this may mean the gate has to be removed from the site.
Linkcare supplies a wide range of gate automation products including gate motors, access control systems and accessories. For more information, please browse our blog and website or contact us on 01895 232626. In addition, Linkcare can recommend trusted professional automated gate installers across the UK, and also provides and safety training course for gate installers.