304 vs 316: Choosing the Right Stainless Steel Grade for Your Requirements

Corrosion is a costly affair and needs to be factored into any metal fabrication project. Two of the most common stainless grades which satisfy these essential anti-corrosion criteria are 304 and 316.

What are the basic differences between these two austenitic steels and under what circumstances do they perform best?

304 vs 316 Stainless Steel

Chromium is the magic ingredient that gives stainless steel its sought-after anti-corrosive properties. So, while these two grades of steel both contain chromium, it is the addition of other materials that change the structure of the product.

Grade 304

Grade 304 stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel by weight. In addition to these, you will find silicon and manganese in small amounts. 

This alloy composition creates a strong and anti-corrosive material which is used extensively in:

  • Pipes
  • Food processing equipment
  • Heat exchangers
  • Household appliances

Grade 316

Grade 316 will usually contain 16% chromium and 10% nickel, with the addition of 2% molybdenum and small amounts of silicon, carbon, and manganese. 

When molybdenum is added to steel alloys it offers additional strength, hardness, and resistance to corrosion. This unique composition makes it perfect for:

  • Medical devices
  • Chemical processing equipment
  • Marine applications

Grade 316 stainless steel is significantly denser than 304 which makes it more challenging in terms of formability and generally comes at a higher cost.

However, when strength and durability are more important than formability then 316 is going to come out a clear winner. 

Obviously, there is a lot more to this topic, and a conversation with one of the Steelmor engineers will assist you in making the best choices for your next project.

Please feel free to give us a call for the best advice and service.