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Selecting stainless steel hardware for boating applications

Posted: 7/25/2016

By: Terri Shadrix

For boat decks and other marine applications above the waterline, stainless steel hardware is by far the metal of choice. In addition to having a bright finish, stainless steel hardware is strong, and relatively light weight.

Stainless steels are used in marine applications because they are resistant to corrosion, easily fabricated and offer good mechanical properties.

What makes stainless steel hardware stainless?

Stainless steel metal’s lasting luster is created by a thin oxide surface coat that’s restored by contact with oxygen. Since there’s plenty of oxygen in the air it will hold a shine under normal conditions.

But be aware, stainless steel hardware will stain. It will show small amounts of surface corrosion over time. Usually all that’s needed to restore the luster is an easy cleaning with a mild metal polish, or some folks have success with using lemon peel.

Which stainless steel hardware grades are Marine-grade?

Not every grade of stainless steel hardware is appropriate for use in a marine environment. The two most common stainless alloys considered marine-grade are 304 and 316.

• The 304 stainless steel is typically stronger and more often used for hardware such as screws and bolts. It won't rust, but it will tarnish, and it may need occasional cleaning.
• The 316 stainless has greater corrosion resistance and will maintain a brighter finish. It's more often used for cleats, rails and other visible hardware.

While 316 is not completely rust-proof, the alloy is more corrosion-resistant than other common stainless steels. Surgical steel is made from subtypes of 316 stainless steel.

Be aware, several other alloys are also known as stainless steel. The lowest-quality alloy, known as 430, is not suitable for marine use. A 430 stainless is magnetic while higher grades are not so test your sample with a simple household magnet.

Where on the boat can you use stainless steel hardware?

Deck components for boats and ships such as deck eyes, cleats, brackets for anchor ropes, housings for equipment, shackles, handrails, etc. are all good applications for stainless steel hardware.

If part of the stainless steel hardware will pass through the deck or other material it must be sealed to be watertight. Even when properly caulked and sealed, stainless-steel fittings that are embedded in the deck or installed in poorly aerated places should be removed from time to time and inspected for corrosion or cracking.

Get Help Selecting Stainless Steel Hardware:

Contact our WireWright Metal Hardware specialists about your Stainless Steel Hardware needs.

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