Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled Steel: A Comparison Guide

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled Steel: A Comparison Guide

hot rolled vs. cold rolled steel

If you’ve ever needed construction components or custom steel parts, you may have asked, “What’s the difference between hot rolled vs. cold rolled steel?” These are two standard methods of steel sheet and bar production, each offering distinct characteristics.

Each has unique structures and best-use applications, so understanding these differences is vital to deciding the appropriate type of steel for your project. Whether automotive or manufacturing, knowing which type of steel to use can impact the quality, durability, and cost-effectiveness of your work. In this comparison guide on cold rolled vs. hot rolled steel, we’ll cover everything you need to know to help you make informed decisions for your specific needs.

What’s the difference between hot rolled and cold rolled steel?

When learning the difference between cold rolled and hot rolled steel, you must compare their physical properties and ideal-use cases. Factors such as processing costs, weldability, and surface finish all play a role in determining which type of steel is best suited for your project. For each of the various factors to consider, we’ll compare hot vs. cold rolled steel.

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled: Strength

Cold rolled steel is one of the strongest types of steel available. It’s often used in aerospace structural components after additional hardening treatments to reduce deformation risks.  

Even though cold-rolled steel is superior in strength, hot-rolled steel has a higher stress tolerance because it’s cooled slowly at room temperature. Cold-rolled steel isn’t manufactured at high temperatures as hot-rolled, making it weaker in tension resistance. It’s why post-processing hardening treatments are required to enhance cold-rolled stress tolerances.  

Hot rolled steel is designed for durability and strength because it can be put under high-stress applications without wear and tear. The automotive industry often uses hot rolled steel applications for vehicle frames because of its power to withstand high-stress applications.  

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled for Welding

Hot rolled steel is known for its malleable properties, which simplifies the welding process compared to cold rolled steel. Both hot and cold rolled steel are manufactured using similar initial processes; however, cold rolled steel undergoes additional post-processing steps. Despite these differences, each type of steel has its specific advantages depending on the requirements of the project at hand.

Since cold rolled steel has a lower stress tolerance to work hardening than hot rolled steel, more processing is required to reduce warping from internal stresses in heavy-use applications. Although cold rolled steel is one of the strongest types of steel, it can warp if overworked. To strengthen its tension- resistance, it goes through rollers at room temperature after initial processing. 

Due to their weldability and processing differences, cold rolled steel costs are higher than hot rolled steel. The average price of a cold rolled steel sheet is over $400, and a hot rolled steel sheet is around $270.  

Hot rolled vs. Cold rolled steel

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled Steel: Distortion

When hot rolled steel cools, it becomes distorted through shrinkage, rounded edges, and scaling. However, it has a higher stress tolerance to work hardening once cooled than cold rolled steel. Hot rolled steel is wear and corrosion-resistant under heavy-use applications.  

The food and beverage industry commonly uses hot rolled steel in dinnerware because precision isn’t prioritized, can be subject to heavy use without damage, and is more cost-effective than cold rolled steel. Although cold rolled steel is one of the strongest types of steel, there are warping risks if it’s overworked from internal stress.  

Unlike hot rolled steel, cold rolled steel isn’t subject to distortion during processing with sharper edges and no scaling. Cold rolled steel is known for its smooth surface properties. Industries prioritizing appearance and functionality opt for this steel option because of its precision. 

The automotive industry commonly uses cold rolled steel for smoother body part aesthetics. The food and beverage industry also uses it for food-processing appliances for its smoother surface. Aerospace sectors also opt for cold rolled steel for aircraft parts due to its precision and lack of distortion.   

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled Steel: Pros & Cons

So, when deciding between hot rolled vs. cold rolled steel, which option is better? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer, as whether cold rolled or hot rolled steel is superior depends largely on the specific application. Each type of steel offers its own unique advantages, disadvantages, and best-use cases, making it important to carefully consider the requirements of your project. Understanding these differences can help you make a more informed decision on which steel type will best meet your needs.

Hot Rolled Steel Cold Rolled Steel 
Lower costs from less welding processing  Higher costs from more welding processing 
Easier weldability  Lower weldability  
Higher stress tolerance  
once cooled to work hardening 
Weaker stress tolerance  
to work hardening 
Scaled surface and more shrinkage Smooth surface and more precision 
Lower strength Higher strength  

When determining if hot rolled vs. cold rolled steel suits you, consider their physical properties and how they impact how you need it to function. Cold rolled steel is ideal if your project requires sleek appearances and superior strength. Hot rolled steel is your best bet if you need a cost-effective option that can withstand heavy applications without damage. 

Find the Right Tools For Your Pipe Welding Projects

Here at H&K Fabrication, we have a wide range of pipe welding tools that’ll make your pipe welding projects easer and more efficient. If you’re in need of quality welding tools for your pipe welding projects, you can find anything you might need here. From Roll Out Wheels to Pipe Fitter Squares, we’ve got you covered.

Hot Rolled vs. Cold Rolled Steel FAQs

What is Hot Rolled Steel?

Hot Rolled Steel is steel that has been heated to at least 1,700º Fahrenheit, where is is processed and rolled at these high temperatures where it is more malleable.

What is Cold Rolled Steel?

Cold Rolled Steel is when the steel is processed and rolled at room temperature, rather than extremely high heat. This process required much more pressure, as it is not nearly as malleable at cooler temperatures.

Is Hot Rolled or Cold Rolled Steel stronger?

Cold Rolled Steel is stronger than Hot Rolled Steel, however, it does have a weaker stress tolerance than Hot Rolled Steel.