Can be anodized stainless steel

Stainless steel vs. aluminum - a comparison

Stainless steel and aluminum are often used in the DIY sector and in self-construction. We will show you the differences and similarities between stainless steel and aluminum.

Weight comparison: aluminum vs. stainless steel

The weight comparison clearly wins aluminum. With the same size, workpieces made of aluminum weigh over 50 percent less than stainless steel products. But this says nothing about the stability and durability of the material.

Resistance to heat: aluminum vs. stainless steel

Aluminum reacts more strongly to heat. The material expands significantly more when exposed to heat. When exposed to high levels of sunlight, aluminum can crack more quickly due to expansion than stainless steel. In particular, soldering and welding points are affected with aluminum. The expansion is also a disadvantage when laying trapezoidal sheets. In order to compensate for the expansion, domes usually have to be used with aluminum sheets. Stainless steel sheets get by with a screw connection in the bead when laying.

Welding: stainless steel vs. aluminum

Stainless steel can be welded with relatively little effort. How well the welding is possible is of particular importance here on the alloy. Aluminum usually has to be preheated before welding. In addition, the tempering color does not indicate whether the material has reached the desired temperature for welding. In addition, when welding aluminum, you must take special care that the material does not "burn through".

Corrosion resistance: stainless steel vs. aluminum

Stainless steel and aluminum both offer high corrosion resistance. Due to its structure, aluminum cannot rust. Stainless steel with its chromium content is only susceptible to rust under certain conditions.

Cutting of stainless steel or aluminum workpieces

When cutting stainless steel, watch out for flying sparks and metal filings. In addition, the saw blade should be sufficiently hard for processing stainless steel. There are no sparks when cutting aluminum and you can usually cut it very easily. You also need protective goggles because of the aluminum chips that are created when cutting. To do this, you have to be careful that the material does not become too soft and deform when cutting.

Cost: stainless steel vs. aluminum

Aluminum as a material is cheaper than stainless steel. This is due, among other things, to the more complex manufacturing process for stainless steels. In addition, there are no alloy elements in aluminum that could make the material more expensive.

Environmental properties: stainless steel vs. aluminum

The production of aluminum requires more energy than stainless steel. According to statistics, around 20 gigajoules of primary energy are used to produce one ton of steel. To get one ton of aluminum, more than 120 gigajoules of energy are required.
When it comes to recycling, stainless steel and aluminum have similarly high rates. Over 90 percent of both materials can be reprocessed and reused without any loss of quality.

How do I recognize an aluminum alloy?

In practice, workpieces made of aluminum or stainless steel cannot always be immediately distinguished visually. This is all the more true if the weight is similar. To check if you have a stainless steel or aluminum pipe in front of you:
  • Test with a magnet: Aluminum is never magnetic. In contrast to stainless steel: it can be magnetic under certain circumstances.
  • Check surface: The surface of aluminum usually becomes cloudy under the influence of corrosion. As a rule, stainless steel does not show any clouding.
  • Spark test: When sawing stainless steel, sparks are generated, aluminum does not. If the material is not magnetic and sparks are still generated, it is stainless steel.

Conclusion: aluminum is significantly lighter, stainless steel is more durable and resistant

If weight is the most important factor in constructions, aluminum is a good choice with the same material stability. The same goes for the cost. However, if you want to rely on a very durable, robust and very long-lasting material, you can use stainless steel for stair railings, for example.