Steel Specs and Characteristics: 304 Stainless Steel, 316 Stainless Steel

November 06, 2013 in Blog, Pipe by

Stainless steelSteel. It’s resistant to corrosion and staining. It’s low-maintenance and attractive. It’s even recyclable. Simply put, steel is an incredibly useful material.

As such, it’s used in a variety of applications, from household items to industrial equipment, and even in the automotive, aerospace and architectural industries. There are over 150 grades of the material, offering the perfect steel for nearly any project, but two types tend to set the standard. Take a look at them below, as we examine their properties, differences and most popular uses.

304 Stainless Steel

The Formula

304 stainless steel contains .08% Carbon, 2% Manganese, .045% Phosphorus, .03% Sulfur, .75% Silicon, 18-20% Chromium, 8-12% Nickel, .10% Nitrogen and is Iron-Balanced.


304 stainless steel boasts high ductility and excellent drawing, forming and spinning properties. It’s nearly non-magnetic, but can become slightly magnetic when cold worked. It also has a low carbon content, which tends to result in less carbide precipitation in areas affected by heat, making it an excellent choice for welding. Additionally, 304 stainless steel offers lower susceptibility to intergranular corrosion, and is resistant to most oxidizing acids and salt spray.


Fun fact … this type of steel is used in the St. Louis Arch and the Unisphere constructed for the 1964-5 World’s Fair in New York. It’s good for kegs, bellows, chemical equipment, coal hopper linings, cooking equipment, cooling coils, cooking equipment, cooling coils, cryogenic vessels, dairy equipment, evaporators, flatware utensils, feedwater tubing, flexible metal hose, food processing equipment, hospital surgical equipment, hypodermic needles, kitchen sinks, marine equipment and fasteners, nuclear vessels, oil well filter screens, refrigeration equipment, paper industry, pots and pans, pressure vessels, sanitary fittings, valves, shipping drums, spinning, still tubes, textile dyeing equipment, tubing.


316 Stainless Steel 

The Formula

316 stainless steel contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum.


The last element in the above formula–molybdenum–gives 316 steel two of its most important properties: resistance to corrosion and impressive strength. It’s more rugged than 304 stainless steel, which doesn’t contain molybdenum.


This ruggedness makes 316 stainless steel a material of choice in a variety of applications. These include marine architectural panelling, threaded fastener, chemical containers, springs, water softener tanks, phosphate industry parts, heat exchangers, pulp and paper processing equipment, pharmaceutical processing equipment, woven or welded screens for quarrying, mining & water filtration, boat fittings, food preparation equipment, photographic film processing equipment, railings and trim, smokestacks and laboratory benches & equipment.

That’s just an introduction. Clearly, there’s much more to learn about both 304 and 316 stainless steel, and we may delve deeper into their properties in another blog post. Check back to find out, and in the meantime, please leave us a comment or get in touch here.

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