Aluminum and Stainless Steel: Trusted Materials in High Moisture Areas

By: RK Steel

Aluminum and stainless steel are considered non-ferrous materials, in other words lacking iron, which means they don’t rust or corrode and are much more malleable than ferrous metals. These materials are commonly used in place of carbon steel for areas of high moisture, salt or architectural exposure to the elements.

Aluminum originates from bauxite ore.  Once mined, it is chemically extracted into alumina which is then smelted to form pure aluminum metal.

Aluminum was used for building and construction beginning in the 1920s primarily for decorative detailing and artistic structures. However, in the 1930s, structural elements of the Empire State Building were built with aluminum opening up the material to new opportunities.

Weather-proof and corrosion-resistant aluminum structures require no painting, little maintenance and, unlike concrete, require no framework or cure time. Aluminum is lightweight yet durable which allows it to support large glass structures and solar panels. Structures built with aluminum can weigh up to two-thirds less than steel, while providing the same amount of strength. Aluminum is pliable which means that it can be formed into a variety of shapes. Its flexibility also makes it less susceptible to stress fractures than other metals. The modern skyscraper could not exist without aluminum.

Aluminum is now mainly used in construction for windows, roofing, curtain walling, cladding, architectural hardware, prefabricated buildings, shop fitting, partitions and HVAC. In addition, the material is still used for decorative detailing applications from facades to ornamental trim, windows, doors and balconies.

Stainless steel is made by adding ten percent or more of chromium to low carbon steel. This combination is what gives stainless steel its unique ability to resist stains and corrosion.

One of the most impressive properties of stainless steel is that it’s self-healing. The addition of chromium provides an extremely thin transparent layer on the exterior of this alloy. If the surface is scratched or damaged it will immediately begin to rebuild itself, as long as there is oxygen present.  For this reason, stainless steel will remain shiny after many years of use without needing an additional coating to protect it.

Another major benefit of stainless steel is its strength-to-weight ratio, which allows for a thinner and lighter finished material.

Stainless steel provides a good-looking and low maintenance material that many industries rely heavily on for its durability, easy cleaning and sterilization. It can be made into bars, wire, sheets and tubing, making it ideal for surgical instruments, appliances, hardware, cookware and cutlery, industrial equipment, building material and more.

The fact that these materials can be melted and reused time and again makes them a great choice for eco-friendly construction projects. As much as half of all new stainless steel and aluminum made in the United States is created from melted scrap metal. The sustainability of these alloys can often assist projects in qualifying for green building status under the LEED standards.

It is important to segregate these materials from carbon steel materials, which contain iron, while cutting and welding so that they do not incur carbon precipitation which would cause rust and potential weld failures. For more information about RK Steel and our aluminum and stainless steel capabilities, contact us at