Fasten-Ating Facts: 6 Stainless Steel Fastener Myths

With nature's most recent onslaughts, we're reminded of the need for fortitude in our structures, and dependability from the fasteners that secure them. One--of many--reasons why so many opt for stainless steel. It outlasts the elements better than other fasteners, and offers corrosion resistance where others don't.

In addressing 6 myths about this durable metal, we uncover the qualities that make stainless steel fasteners among the most reliable you can buy.

Families of Stainless Steel Fastener

Myth 1. Stainless Steel is coated.

Stainless steel is a solid material throughout. In fact, it’s a self-healing metal, which means that if the surface is scratched, the metal naturally creates a transparent, protective layer. This layer of chromium oxide keeps the metal beneath from corroding.

Myth 2 - Stainless Steel Doesn't Stain.

The name “Stainless Steel" is actually a bit deceiving. Grease can leave its mark, minerals like calcium carbonate can build up (think of an old shower head), and hydrochloric acid, for example, can eat away at steel.

Keep in mind that while stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, it’s not corrosion-proof (no metal is). Once it oxidizes, stainless steel does corrode, but at a much slower rate than other metals.

Stainless Steel Fastener Myths

Myth 3. Stainless Steel is a “pure” metal.

Like many metals, including brass and bronze, steel is not an element itself. Rather, it’s an alloy or mix of metals. Regular steel consists of iron + carbon, often with other elements added to achieve desired characteristics. Steel is a strong material, but it’s also prone to rust.

In 1913, Harry Brearly discovered that adding a specific mix of chromium to steel made it resistant to the effects of certain acids. The element chromium is added (at least 10%) to regular steel to make it stain-resistant.

Myth 4. All stainless steel is the same.

There are more than 100 grades of stainless steel, each sub-classified into its own “family."

The most common kind of stainless steel is grade 304, part of the austenitic family, which contain 15 to 30% chromium. Grade 304 stainless steel contains 18% chromium, 8% nickel and a mix of other elements. This versatile material is known as 18/8 stainless, and is typically less expensive than higher-grade stainless steel, as it has less built-in chemical resistance.

You may also be familiar with the second most common type of stainless steel. Grade 316 stainless steel has a greater portion of nickel--and the addition of molybdenum. Molybdenum is resistant to chloride, making it suitable for areas with exposure to harsh chemicals, salted roadways or coastal environments.

Myth 5. Stainless Steel is stronger/weaker than regular steel.

Stainless steel has a low carbon content and can’t be hardened by heat treatment, as regular steel can. So regular, untreated steel isn't as hard as stainless. However, in its hardened state, regular, heat-treated steel is in fact harder than stainless.

Grades of Stainless Steel Nail

Myth 6. Galvanized fasteners are just as good as stainless

Even a well-coated steel nail will corrode before a stainless one. When it corrodes, this can affect the fastener's holding power.

An added risk, there's the potential that the tool driving the fastener (or other abrasion) will chip the corrosion-resistant coating and start the oxidation process even quicker. Furthermore, the tannins in certain woods (redwoods and cedar specifically) and the metals used to treat lumber can react to the galvanized coating in fasteners, expediting corrosion.

In many applications, including exterior construction, and in climates with humid, marine or extreme weather conditions, stainless steel is simply the optimal choice for fastener. Stainless steel fasteners aren't just used in construction, many boat and automotive upholsterers use stainless steel staples for their corrosion resistance, too. To learn more about the differences between galvanized and stainless steel fasteners, see our article Everything to Know About Galvanized Nails.

You can check out a growing selection of stainless steel nails and stainless steel staples at Nail Gun Depot.


~ The Nail Gun Depot Team

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  • jim November 2, 2018 at 10:53 PM

    good info people don't understand these facts and educating them is great especially the below the boarder guys that do sheathing!!!!!

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