Galvanized steel and stainless steel are big in construction circles -- but what about architecture and interior design? Depending on the aesthetics you crave for your next design, either one can make a very specific visual impact.
In other words, we’re not necessarily going to tell you one’s better than the other. You can decide that. What we will tell you about galvanized steel vs. stainless steel, is that there are key properties to think about before you dream up any uses for them.
This is not a science class and you are probably not building a skyscraper from scratch, but it still helps to know a few basics.
Galvanized steel essentially involves adding a zinc layer to a steel surface, which helps prevent rusting. It's created via hot dipping, which involves plopping an ordinary piece of steel into molten zinc; or electro dipping, which involves using electrolysis to create a zinc coating.
Meanwhile, the ever-popular stainless steel contains chromium to give off that famous shine. Chromium, combined with other alloying elements in stainless steel …
… react with the oxygen in air and water to produce a thin oxide layer. The layer protects stainless steel from rusting. The layer is so thin that stainless steel remains shiny.
Wondering when galvanized steel is typically used over stainless steel, and vice versa? Uses vary based on need (and creativity), but generally speaking, galvanized steel is normally used on small-budget projects thanks to its low cost. For large-budget projects that need to stand the test of time, the power of stainless steel usually gets the nod.
Stainless steel makes up the structural and aesthetic components of many building items:
That’s not to say galvanized isn’t or can’t be used as an aesthetic element ...
While galvanized steel is often best associated with cheaper exterior components (because of its inexpensive zinc coating), it can be used for exterior design as well, especially if designers are going for an industrial look or vintage look. Different types of galvanized finishes can even create a matte or spangled look. The zinc surface layer can be easily aged or blackened for a rich historic look to be used indoors or outdoors. Stainless steel, meanwhile, needs no introduction. It’s treasured for its clean, brushed, or mirror-like appearance.
Don’t forget, though, that stainless steel is available in a much wider variety of brushed finishes than galvanized steel, from rough to fine. You can also add layers to give it a nice, polished look to complement its strength and durability.
When a metal moulding manufacturer gets an order for stainless steel with a brushed finish, it may include a PVC layer to protect your mouldings from marks.
Perhaps you want something that’ll resist rusting and denting in a corrosive outdoor or high-traffic environment. Stainless steel is ideal for both. In fact, certain types of stainless steel are the most corrosion-resistant metals in the entire world.
Stainless is also easy to clean thanks to its smooth, shiny finish, though you’ll likely have to perform routine cleaning more often than you would with galvanized steel. Galvanized steel’s genetic makeup means it won't show fingerprints when it’s touched.
In terms of impact resistance, both are good in this category, though stainless tends to be a bit better, especially in high-traffic areas like hotel corridors and airports. (Think of all the feet and rolling suitcases banging against the baseboards. Yikes.)
We already touched on how stainless steel is a stronger material than galvanized. It's worth exploring a bit more if you expect your interior design to bear weight or take a beating (i.e. decorative metal corner trim on furniture).
This difference in strength is largely because galvanized steel is a softer metal. While there are several different grades of galvanized steel available, they're all typically much weaker than stainless steel (however, still much stronger than other traditional trim materials).
In terms of weight, stainless tends to be a heavier steel than galvanized, but the difference is barely noticeable.
Now that you know more about the key differences of stainless steel vs. galvanized steel, what's the better option for your next project? Like we said, it’s up to you!
Stainless is perfect for when you want:
Galvanized steel may still be an option for designs that are:
Let us know what you come up with! And don’t stop at galvanized and stainless steel -- there are many other types of metal trim and interior design elements to play with!