Buying Used Steel Beams – Risky Business or Responsible Behavior?

Every day across the UK, thousands of building companies are revelling in how easy the web has made it to pick up anything and everything needed for construction jobs of all sizes. From the tiniest of screws to the largest of RSJ shipments for huge building projects, every last need across the board can be fulfilled with nothing more than a few clicks. Perhaps even more interesting, there really also isn’t anything that cannot be picked up second-hand online for a vastly lower purchase price than its brand-new counterpart. Again, anything from large-scale building supplies right down to the smallest hand tools are up for grabs having been used once already and are now on the lookout for a second life somewhere else.

The market for second hand steel beams and RSJs is absolutely huge these days – the web is simply flooded with sites selling them. You can even just go to pretty much any popular auction site and find exactly what you’re looking for, which on the surface at least appears to be the beams you need for a price that’s almost too good to be true. Bargain-hunting builders are right now having a field day with the kind of stuff that’s going for next to nothing, in many cases overlooking a few important questions having been completely won over by the ultra-low prices.

The trouble here is that when you apply a little common sense to the scenario and think about how these beams are going to be used, you have to ask yourself if second-hand suppliers represent too big of a risk to take. After all, it’s not as if these are smaller, more easily-replicable parts we’re talking about – these are the very beams that will to a large extent hold the structure in its entirety together.

Buying Used Steel Beams – Risky Business or Responsible Behavior?

Is it therefore worth taking chances with second-hand beams from unknown sources?

The Pros of Buying Pre-Owned

Those that have been buying pre-owned beams for much of their time in business will of course swear by the practice, suggesting that the kinds of savings that can be made to make the idea a no-brainer. The beams and RSJs are there and in need of use, the buyer needs exactly such products to go about a build and so it simply makes sense to make the savings available and benefit the seller at the same time.

Not only is there the argument for saving money, but also that of doing that all important ‘bit’ for the environment. Quite simply, there is no better form of recycling in the world than reusing an item as many times as possible. As such, to buy and use second-hand beams represents a quite brilliantly eco-friendly approach as for every beam that gets reused, there’s no need for another new beam to be manufactured. Assuming the beams are therefore in good enough condition, it’s a pretty admirable array of positives.

The Cons of Buying Pre-Owned

On the other side of the fence, however, critics insist that to buy pre-owned beams represents a risk that quite simply is not worth taking. The first and most important reason for this is of course the fact that when you buy a second-hand beam or RSJ, you effectively have no idea how old it is, who made it in the first place or how it has been used over the years/decades. As such, it is 100% impossible to ascertain the quality and integrity it presents today, which in turn means you’ll be going about a build with products you cannot vouch for. Sure, you’ve been given the word of the seller, but how much is that word actually worth?  It’s extremely rare to be lied to when buying such crucially important products, but unless you can be 100% sure of this, you’re rolling the dice.

What’s more, the eco-argument gets somewhat diluted by the fact that the overwhelming majority of new steel beams and RSJs being manufactured across the UK right now is indeed made largely of recycled steel, which means that to buy new-build beams from a good supplier means to do at least a little ‘bit’ for the environment without even having realised it.

In Summary

The simple takeaway from the debate revolves around risk – exactly what would be the consequences if the beams you bought turned out to be inadequate after all? For smaller projects and hobbies the consequences may be minimal, but if you were looking to go about a large construction job where the safety of those present was of any real importance to you, these are the kinds of risks that are really not worth taking.