Galvanized vs Stainless Steel: What’s The Difference?

April 26, 2021 in Blog / Steel Supply
galvanized vs stainless steel

Using the wrong kind of steel in a project can cost your clients up to $100,000 in damages. Knowing when to use galvanized vs stainless steel can affect your company’s reputation and the quality of your construction for decades.

For example, you don’t want your business to become known for using galvanized steel in water pipes. This used to be common practice in the 80s, and now homes across the U.S are likely to have lead in their drinking water. Following this guide will help you avoid causing irreparable damage to your clients and leave them feeling satisfied and secure.

Galvanized vs Stainless: What You Need to Know

Galvanized steel is steel that has a layer of zinc on top of regular steel to help keep out oxygen and moisture. Steel is usually galvanized after it has already been welded and applied, since cutting galvanized steel can cause explosions and make people sick.

Stainless steel, however, is steel that has chromium and carbon mixed into it while it is forged and is usually more reliable than galvanized steel for construction.

What Types of Steel are Appropriate and When?

Different types of metals have varying levels of usefulness depending on what project they’re needed for.

Galvanized steel is appropriate for use in certain car components, railings, and certain types of structural beams. However, galvanized steel is not appropriate for use in anything that will come in contact with water constantly. Galvanized steel also retains most of its anti-rust capabilities when scratched, but sufficient wear on the zinc layer will lead to faster rusting.

But the difference between galvanized and stainless steel is that it mostly only rusts when exposed to chlorinated water. This is why stainless steel is used for fasteners, beams, separators, and flow lines.

Difference Between Galvanized and Stainless Steel Prices 

Galvanized steel is much easier to produce, and is cheaper than stainless steel. Stainless steel has to be made in a complicated process that requires melting the components in very expensive specialized equipment.

This is in stark contrast to galvanized steel, which only needs to be dipped in molten zinc before it’s ready for use. As a result, a single 0.032″ 12×12 length stainless steel costs upwards of $100 usually, while 20 feet of galvanized steel can cost as little as $15.

Depending on the project you have in mind, you may also need to reshape the steel. This means that you have to factor in transportation, weight, and quantity of steel before you ship it out.

When to Avoid Stainless Steel

Although stainless steel has a wide variety of uses, there are times when you want to avoid it completely. If you suspect that there will be any friction between two components both made of stainless steel, avoid letting them come in contact. Friction between two pieces of stainless steel over time can cause the parts to weld together, which could ruin any device they’re used with.

Galvanized steel is also more ductile and less resistant to shaping. Since it’s also cheaper, it functions well in small-scale projects. Galvanized steel is still sturdy enough to use in larger projects as well, especially in ones where you know it won’t be exposed to water or anything else that could cause the zinc layer to come off.

Also, if you did need to cut galvanized steel without heat that could expose you to fumes and explosives, you could galvanize the exposed metal yourself at relatively little cost.

Galvanized Steel is Great for Small Projects

Galvanized steel is great for use outdoors in balconies, staircases, ladders, beds, and car parts. Although cars are exposed to water, galvanized steel still holds up against weather, including acid rain. This is because the zinc layer doesn’t strip away immediately when exposed to the elements.

Even when small pieces of the zinc coating are scratched or stripped away, the zinc coating is still effective. This is because the zinc surrounding the steel still absorbs oxygen and corrupting elements from the air instead of letting it get on the steel itself.

Depending on the process used to galvanize steel, it can also be painted afterward. The paint can be purely decorative or you can use special paint to help protect the steel even more. Paint is partially what keeps the steel on cars safe from rusting. In fact, if the metal is going to be used on a small scale indoors around the house, then it is a much better choice than the more expensive stainless steel.

Industrial Uses for Stainless Steel

In a contest between galvanized steel vs stainless steel, stainless undeniably comes out on top in certain industrial use cases.

There are hundreds of companies dedicated to supplying stainless steel tubing, bars, plates, and sheets. This is especially true of aerospace or other aeronautical companies, since the fasteners, wings, and other parts need to be as strong as possible. High-grade stainless steel is a must-have in those industries since it’s better not to take any risks at all when it comes to something as complex and delicate as aircraft.

Passenger safety is also a top priority, so using galvanized metal would not be appropriate for those kinds of machines. Stainless steel is also easy to weld and recyclable. So if machinery becomes outdated or broken, you can strip it down and recycle the stainless steel.

There’s a Metal for Every Purpose

Now that you know the difference between galvanized and stainless steel, you can make an informed decision about what suits your needs best. Once you’ve decided on the kind of steel you’re going to use, you can decide on how much of it you need, and how it’s treated before you get it.

We offer a wide variety of galvanized vs stainless steel processing so that whatever type you choose, you can begin your project right away. So check out our value-added services where we can help you get any construction project off the ground.