Aluminum is abundant in rocks, gemstones, and soil, but it does not occur in nature in its metallic form. Rather, aluminum is derived from the ore bauxite. Aluminum is an excellent thermal and electrical conductor. It is lightweight and strong, but also ductile, malleable, soft, and flexible. This makes aluminum easy to fabricate, although it is not easily welded or heat treated.
Aluminum develops a thin oxide coating or corrosive layer that does not provide adequate protection, so it must be treated or painted. A common option for treating aluminum is anodizing, an electrostatic process that thickens the coating. Anodized aluminum may be clear, maintaining its natural silvery white color, or it can be dyed as series of colors ranging from bronze to black. Aluminum may also be painted, usually with a factory-applied electrostatic or powder coat, or it may be painted on site. Aluminum is easily recyclable and resists rusting, but it should not come in contact with concrete and masonry. Aluminum alloys can be hard, light, and stronger than structural steel. It may be alloyed with copper to create aluminum bronze.
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Most aluminum used in decorating is extruded, squeezed through a die to create continuous shapes or sections, or used in sheet form. Extruded aluminum sections are used for door and window frames, as well as framing for exterior glazing systems (storefronts), light fixtures, and exterior cladding. It may also be die cast into large shapes, mold cast, or sand cast. Aluminum composite panels can be used for exterior cladding, and curtain walls or sheet aluminum may be used for siding. The metal is used for flashing, and can be used for electrical wiring. Aluminum has many uses in an interior, including furniture, light fixtures, signage, and the horizontal louvers in blinds. Pressure cast aluminum is used as a substitute for cast iron for interior and exterior products, including lighting, handrails, brackets, and hooks. The metal will most likely be painted for these functions.
Because copper is found in nature in a free metallic form, it was easy to retrieve and work with in the Copper Age. The word copper is from the Latin word meaning “metal from
Cyprus,” cuprum, shortened from “cyprium.” Copper is easily fabricated and has high ductility and malleability. Its high thermal and electrical conductivity make it ideal for electrical wiring. It is also commonly used for water supply pipes. Copper resists alkaline chemicals, so it can be used in contact with masonry. On the exterior of a building, copper is used for roofing, gutters, and downspouts. On an exterior, copper should be used with copper or brass fittings. On an interior, in addition to its use for water pipes and electrical wiring, copper is used for hardware, range or fireplace hoods, bar or kitchen counters, sinks, and decorative accessories. Copper is generally corrosion resistant, but it weathers from brown to green unless treated. The final stage of weathering is a verdigris patina that will continue to protect the metal indefinitely. The original color can be restored by polishing or it can be preserved at any desired stage by applying a transparent coating. For interior finishes, copper can be treated in several ways: