Customer information sheet

Stainless steel is a miss understood material. The public understanding of the product is of a rust proof material, unfortunately this is a fallacy. Stainless steel does not stain, corrode, or rust as easily as ordinary steel it stains less, but it is not stain-proof.

Industry whether it be construction or industrial are usually aware of two grades of stainless steel commonly referred to as 304 and 316. However, these are merely 2 products from a very wide family albeit the most commonly used. The 300 series (the Austentic) make up 70% of the total stainless steel production they contain a max of 0.15% carbon and a minimum of 16% chromium and nickel and/or manganese to retain an austenitic structure at all temperatures. The reason why 304 and 316 are commonly used is because of the minimal corrosion properties when welded.

What most people do not realise is that the surface finish is as important. A product that is highly polished is a lot less prone to staining. There has even been tests in Australia where by 304 material polished to BA (600 grit) standard has be used in an ocean environment and has remained rust free.

The normal rule of thumb is that as 304 is cheaper than 316, it is normally used for interior environments out of harsh conditions. 316 is seen as a more resiliant product and is prefered on exteriors to buildings and essentially if used close to a coastline or in food processing facilities.

The key to retaining the polished shiny finish of stainless steel is maintenance. We recommend that stainless steel (316) used in an exterior environement be washed down with clean water every 3 to 4 weeks, more often if 304 is used. It is an unfortunate fact that the modern environment is highly poluted and these polutants will speed up the corrosion of all materials. As a rule of thumb, consider the exterior of your windows, it is normal to wash them every 2 to 3 weeks. Your stainless steel is also subjected to the same exposure.

People near the coast line or who have a ocean view (irrespective of distance) are also subjected to ocean salts which are corosive. It is therefore essential that powder coated mild steel be avoided as a product as the life span even if it is galvanised is limited. Consider ocean going vessels. Most vessels are made from steel and they are re painted every year, smaller vessels such as yachts use 316 stainless steel and are washed down with clean water on a regualr basis.

We are often asked about Swimming pools as the stainless is subjected to chemicals. We have fabricated many  item for pools and always use 316 material without a problem. Although 300 series stainless steel in a hot salt water pools is illadvised. The correct material to used would be Titanium (although this is very expensive). People who use 316 in a salt water pool should maintain a low temperature (below 22 degrees) alternativly clean daily but do not expect a long life. Although 316 is the prefered material for ocean environemnts the ocean never gets to the high temperature required in a swimming pool. It is the combination of heat and salt that corodes severly.

In general we recommend all customers and designers to discuss their projects with us before buying. At Falcon Hammersley we have very experianced tradesmen and consultants. By discussing your project at an early stage we can often set you on the right track. Remember Falcon Hammersley build to a standard not a price, this is because we believe you get what you pay for and sometimes the cheapest is not always the most cost effective.  

We reiterate - The Cleaning of stainless steel is important, as a rule of thumb clean external stainless steel as and when your windows need cleaning.  We recommend the use of clean water only. cleaning agent containing clorine, clorides, bleaches or hypoclorites as these will accelerate the problem. Note Hydrolcloric acid or spirits often used in the cleaning of tiles should never come in contact with stainless steel as this will corode it. 

Cost is always emotive, but the thing to remember is that with black steel, you have to galvanise and paint, these are. all justifable cost on their own, but also remember the fabricator will add travel time on for taking the item to and from the services. Bottom line, get two prices one for steel and one for stainless you may be surprised.

If you wish for more information please contact us or look up our web page.

a.morgan@falcon-hammersley.com