Aluminum vs Stainless Steel: What’s the Right Material for the Job?

quilted-diamond-pattern-stainless-steel-sheet

You’ll have noticed that two of the most popular products on our site are aluminum diamond plate sheets and stainless steel sheets. While both materials are very versatile and work really well, sometimes there will be a good reason to pick one over the other. In this post we’re going to tackle aluminum vs stainless steel: what’s the right material for the job?

Aesthetics and Costs of Aluminum vs Stainless Steel

One of the first things you’ll want to take into account is cost. Though you’d be wrong to make a choice based on cost alone, it’s always an important consideration – any project will have a budget and you won’t want to overspend if you don’t have to. The reality here is that aluminum is almost always cheaper than stainless steel. That’s because it’s a bountiful material, it has a lower melting point (so less energy is required) and it’s easier to shape – especially when it comes to rolling it out into thin sheets. That also makes it easier for you to work with, and you won’t need any specialist tools.

Then there are aesthetics. Hot-dipped aluminum has a great brite shine to it – almost like a mirror. Stainless steel can be mirror finish, too, though it’s more likely to have a slightly duller sheen to it like our #4 brushed finish, which is commonly seen on stainless steel appliances.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how great the finish looks if it’s not going to keep, so if you have in mind a heavy-wearing application you might need to think again.

Material Properties

Choosing the right material always has a trade-off – between price, appearance, properties and more. The truth is that stainless steel costs more, but it’s much harder wearing. It’s also very easy to clean and highly resistant to corrosion. That makes it ideal for conditions where sanitation is critical, and applications where it will often need to be cleaned. Aluminum is similarly easy to clean and won’t rust, but it’s not as tough as stainless steel. It’s a softer metal and will dent and scratch more easily. In extreme conditions, such as marine environments, you’re also better off with stainless steel.

A final factor is how you finish the metal. In many instances you’ll want to keep the plate or sheet metal as it is. At other times there will be a good reason to paint or lacquer it. While aluminum will take finishes well, stainless steel simply won’t. Its surface will not accept a finish reliably, meaning that it can flake off over time. This doesn’t just look unsightly – it can pose a hazard if sanitation is important. The good news is that stainless steel looks good as it is, and you can choose a grade that suits your application.

The bottom line: Aluminum is cheaper, easier to cut and shape, and takes a finish better. Stainless steel is more expensive, harder to shape, has great resistance to corrosion, is extremely hard wearing, and has minimum maintenance. Learn how to maintain aluminum diamond plate and stainless steel.

Where To Buy Aluminum or Stainless Steel Sheets

Here at SizeMetal, our focus is on offering customers across the United States high-quality aluminum sheets and stainless steel sheets. To shop our wide selection, visit our shop. We offer fast turnarounds and flat rate shipping!